Saturday, June 16, 2018 - 8:20 AM by Chris Pike

WEST Perth heads to Claremont Oval for the first time in 2018 looking to continue its good recent run against Claremont and to further close in on second position on the WAFL ladder.

The Tigers and Falcons have built quite the strong rivalry in recent years where tempers have often boiled over and tight finishes have become the expected, and there's little reason not to expect something similar this Saturday at Claremont Oval.

There's plenty at stake for both clubs too with Claremont trying to break into the top five and West Perth attempting to further consolidate their position and close in further on South Fremantle's second spot.

Claremont comes into the game on the back of a stirring 20-point victory last Saturday against Swan Districts also at Claremont Oval on what was an emotional day to farewell 2011 premiership player and Simpson Medallist, and life member, Beau Maister who announced his retirement.

Claremont will have another reason to celebrate further on Saturday with captain Ian Richardson reaching his 200-game milestone in a career that began in 2008 and has already included two premierships, six State jumpers, a Simpson Medal, fairest and best and two leading goalkicker awards.

The 30-year-old will go down as one of Claremont's all-time most decorated players and now in his first season as skipper, becomes the ninth player at the Tigers to reach 200 games and the first since his premiership teammate David Crawford.

While Richardson's milestone is one that Claremont will want to celebrate with a win, the four points are even more important in the context of their season. 

The Tigers have now won two of their past three games, with wins against South Fremantle and Swan Districts who are in the top five, either side of a narrow loss to Peel so they are likely in their best patch of form for the season. 

If they can consolidate that further with a good performance and a win against West Perth on Saturday, then they could even find themselves in the top five by the end of the round if both East Perth and Peel Thunder lose their respective matches to Subiaco and South Fremantle.

West Perth won't be in the mood to hand anything to Claremont, though, with the Falcons not short on motivation themselves with the chance to move a game and percentage clear in third position and to close in on South Fremantle in second spot with a win over the Tigers.

The Falcons might have ended up losing to Peel by three points last Saturday at Bendigo Bank Stadium, but there was plenty to like about the performance particularly coming off the five-day break after beating East Perth on WA Day by 25 points.

The two teams have already met once in 2018 with West Perth scoring a solid Round 1 win against Claremont by 18 points at Joondalup Arena, but going back to recent years and they have played some remarkable contests.

West Perth does actually have the wood over Claremont in recent times having won six of the past seven meetings with the only win for the Tigers coming by two points at Claremont Oval in Round 14 last year when Corey Chalmers had a shot after the siren to win the game for the Falcons.

While West Perth has won the other six meetings from the previous seven clashes, before the three-goal win in Round 1 this year four of those other wins came at a combined 13 points with the anomaly being a 32-point win in Round 10 last year at Joondalup Arena.

In fact ever since Claremont hammered West Perth by 119 points back in Round 18, 2012 on the way to back-to-back premierships, the contests between the Tigers and Falcons have been decided by an average of just 10.6 points.

There have been some stunning finishes along the way with seven of those 16 games decided by six points or fewer while tempers have often blown over whether over Dean Munns' tagging of Jye Bolton or Tom Ledger, some big hits delivered or just the tension produced from constant tight games.

So all signs are pointing to another tremendous contest on Saturday at Claremont Oval with the stakes high for both the Tigers and Falcons.

West Perth will be delighted to welcome back 215-game veteran Andrew Strijk for the clash with the Falcons. He has missed the past two games against East Perth and Peel Thunder since starring with a career-best eight goals against East Fremantle back in Round 7.

Mitch Antonio and Dean Munns have both been added to West Perth's squad as well to face Claremont at Claremont Oval on Saturday with Munns likely to be given the run-with role on either Jye Bolton or Kane Mitchell. 

"The only change that will 99 per cent happen will be that Andrew Strijk will come in after he has missed the last two weeks. He is due to play this week and we are really happy to have him back," West Perth coach Bill Monaghan said.

"Then it's just a matter of looking at Claremont and seeing if structurally we need to make any other changes. 

"Bolton and Mitchell have been on fire so does that bring Dean Munns back in who has been our tagger over the last couple of years, do we try and stretch them forward or do we go for more run, they are things we'll work through. 

"But I'm really confident that Andrew will be back and to add his experience and class to the side will make a difference."

Claremont loses the retired Beau Maister from its forward-line but his place will be taken by another premiership player and former St Kilda AFL player, Tom Lee, who had kicked 11 goals in three games before missing the clash with Swan Districts last Saturday.

Morgan Davies, Matthew Palfrey and Eddie Simpson have all been added to the squad for the Tigers as well.

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