A LAST gasp goal to Mitch Antonio has seen West Perth prevail over Swan Districts by four points in an epic elimination final at Provident Financial Oval on Sunday.
With his side trailing by under a goal with less than a minute remaining, Antonio got on the end of a Rudy Riddoch forward entry and converted from 20 metres out on a slight angle to seal the 14.6 (90) to 13.8 (86) victory.
It was a pulsating final term, with multiple momentum swings and lead changes but the Falcons ended on the right side of the ledger when the siren sounded, and will progress to face Claremont next Sunday in the first semi-final at Revo Fitness Stadium.
Swan Districts was playing its first final since 2017 but going back to that season they did beat West Perth in an elimination final, and the black-and-whites started impressively on Sunday at Joondalup to lead by eight points at quarter-time and 14 points at half-time.
West Perth was always going to fight back and it set up a remarkable goal-for-goal finish to the contest after Swan Districts pegged back a 16-point deficit early in the last term with the next three goals.
Aidan Clarke put Swans in front before former Swan Districts powerhouse Rudy Riddoch goaled for West Perth. A hobbled Lewis Jetta then converted a set shot to appear to kick the winner for Swans at the 30-minute mark, but there was still time for West Perth and Antonio proved the hero.
It's hard to imagine a more feel good story either. Antonio was a bright talent coming through the ranks at West Perth in the colts but it did appear for a while he lost his way with his football after an unfortunate incident with East Perth's Beau Chatley.
But Antonio has proven he can still be a difference maker this year with the Falcons and he lived out a dream on Sunday afternoon while breaking the hearts of the ever so brave Swan Districts in the process whose season is now over.
Small forward Keegan Knott was electric for West Perth, coming to life after a quiet first-half to boot four second-half goals and inspire his side. Bernie Naylor Medallist Tyler Keitel also kicked three goals, Rudy Riddoch two and Tom O'Donnell two.
Skipper Aaron Black was also excellent for the Falcons with 29 disposals as he willed his side over the line, while Trent Manzone (29 disposals) and Blake Willhelm (26 disposals) were influential.
For Swan Districts, young ruckman Matthew Germs (40 hit outs) impressed with his athleticism and ability to get first hands on the ball as Swans dealt with the continued absence of dual Swan Medallist Corey Gault.
Jesse Palmer was lively up forward for Swan Districts with four goals from six kicks with Nathan Ireland adding two goals while 218-game veteran Matt Riggio played an impressive cameo with two goals from 13 possessions and six inside-50 entries
Aidan Clarke provided plenty of run to go with his 18 disposals and Brandon Erceg was typically solid in defence with 19 possessions, seven marks and six tackles.
Midfielder Frank Anderson was also prolific with 23 disposals but left the field in the last quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Sandover Medallist Sam Fisher had 20 possessions and Josh Cipro 18.
The visitors made a strong start at Joondalup, using precise kicking to move the ball quickly through the corridor and give their forward line plenty of space to move.
Former Port Adelaide-listed forward Jesse Palmer was looking particularly dangerous, booting two first quarter goals as the Swans went to the first change with an eight-point lead.
Palmer kicked his third goal to start the second stanza as the Swans upped their pressure game and locked the ball in their front half for the opening stages of the quarter.
Aaron Black would respond for the home side with a superbly executed set shot from the boundary, before Rudy Riddoch brought the crowd to life with a stunning snap from the pocket to keep the Falcons in touch.
The sides traded majors before rangy forward Nathan Ireland got on the end of some coast-to-coast ball movement to kick a critical goal on the half-time siren to give Swan Districts a 14-point lead at the main break.
West Perth made the perfect start to the second half, with Keegan Knott kicking a crumbing goal to get on the scoreboard after being well held by Anthony Stephens.
The star small forward booted his second soon after before Conal Lynch kicked truly to cut the margin back to three points. Palmer booted his fourth major from long range against the run of play to give the Swans some breathing room.
But Knott bobbed up once again on the stroke of three quarter-time to kick a magnificent running goal to cap off a sensational individual term from him and bring the margin back to two points at the final change.
The Falcons continued their momentum to start the last, with Knott giving them the lead for the first time since the opening quarter. That lead would extend to 16 when spearhead Tyler Keitel booted two goals in quick succession.
But Swans produced a terrific fightback and looked as though they would clinch a famous upset victory when Lewis Jetta kicked truly from a free-kick to snatch back the lead at the 30-minute mark of the final term.
But there would prove to be one last twist in the tale, with Mitch Antonio marking strongly and kicking the winning goal.
RIDDOCH MAGIC LIGHTS UP FINAL
Rudy Riddoch is the type of player who doesn’t need a huge number of disposals to have a massive influence on the game and the Falcons crowd favourite proved just as much in the elimination final against his old side. While having dealt with his demons off the field, he remains a game changer on it and on Sunday with his side under the pump in the second quarter, Riddoch snapped a wonderful goal from deep in the pocket. Then in the thrilling final term, Riddoch produced a series of moments to help win his side the game. He put the Falcons in front at the 24-minute mark with a running goal and then produced the goal assist in the dying stages for Mitch Antonio’s match-winner.
HEARTBREAK FOR SWANS AFTER EPIC CONTEST
The agony and ecstasy of an elimination final was on full display at Provident Financial Oval, with the jubilant scenes of Falcons fans a stark contrast to the despondent faces of the Swans players after coming up short after a thrilling contest. Despite the heart-breaking result, Swan Districts coach Adam Pickering would be proud of the performance his side put in, especially the resilience they showed to comeback in the last quarter when the Falcons seemingly had the game in hand.
The colts elimination final began the day's action at Provident Financial Oval on Sunday with East Fremantle keeping its season alive by defeating West Perth 7.13 (55) to 3.8 (26).
East Fremantle gave up home ground advantage but still proved too strong with Jackson McManus kicking three goals and Richard Bartlett two.
Josh Browne racked up 32 possessions for the Sharks, Jed Hagan 27, Corey Warner 27, Rory Williams 25, Taj Woewodin 23, Sam Emery 19 and Josh Cripps 19.
West Perth's goals came from Zarne Robis, Jasper Scaife and Mitchell Lonnie. Kane Bevan finished with 31 touches, Griffith Julian 23, Daniel Gathercole 22 and Harrison Baxter 21.
Subiaco also gave up home ground advantage despite finishing fourth in the reserves against the fifth placed West Perth, but the Lions proved too strong in the elimination final to keep their season rolling with the 10.12 (72) to 4.4 (28) victory.
Jack Mayo kicked two goals for Subiaco as did Bailey Holt with Mayo also delivering 22 possessions, 12 marks and nine hit outs.
Matthew Johnson gathered 23 disposals as well for the Lions, Corey Robinson 22, Nick Martin 22, Noah Ash 19 and Patrick Mullane 17.
Koopah Todd kicked two goals for West Perth while Nathan Murray had 31 touches, Callum Johnson 22, Matthew Lloyd 20 and Alec Johnson 18.
OPTUS WAFL FINALS SERIES – ELIMINATION FINAL
WEST PERTH 2.1 5.3 9.5 14.6 (90)
SWAN DISTRICTS 3.3 7.5 9.7 13.8 (86)
WEST PERTH: Goals – Knott 4; Keitel 3; O'Donnell, Riddoch 2; Black, Antonio, Lynch.
Best – Black, Wilhelm, Knott, Manzone, Keitel, Riddoch, Peirce.
SWAN DISTRICTS: Goals – Palmer 4; Ireland, Riggio 2; Jetta, Clarke, Reidy, Noble, Watson.
Best – Anderson, Erceg, Fisher, Clarke, Palmer, Cipro, Riggio, Riley.