The first quarter of the WAFL season was marked by the tightness of the contests, the uncertainty over results and the logjam on the ladder.

Not any more.

Round 6 was notable for the best teams running away from the lesser ones and a clear distinction between the genuine premiership contenders and the rest of the pack.

Peel have suddenly emerged as the most imposing team in the league.

Driven by the size and impact of giant ruckman Liam Reidy, and the prolific presence of Will Brodie who would be playing seniors at half the other AFL clubs if he were not on a Fremantle list jampacked with midfield options, Peel have just had one of the best days of their mostly challenging history.

They have never kicked a bigger score than the 25.14 (164) against a surprisingly inept West Perth.

They have never won by more than the 113-point margin of that brutal encounter.

If they can beat a plucky Swan Districts on Saturday, and that is a decent if given how much spirit Swans can produce at home, would entrench the Thunder in top spot.

They were in the same position this time last season, but have a stronger combination now.

East Perth were promising this time last year; they are a significantly more potent outfit now.

As Wednesday WAFL noted last year, the introduction of the top five system means the top teams at the one-third mark of the season usually get through to the grand final.

And finishing on top is the easiest path to the flag given the prospect of two byes during the last month of the season.

A Thunder-Royals play-off is a long way off but looks more likely than any other match-up.

South Fremantle have also responded to their first finals absence in nearly a decade with canny recruiting, a handy crop of youngsters and newfound resolve.

The opposite of those three teams rising is the unexpected decline of two sides that have been powerful contenders in recent seasons but are within a week or two of becoming also-rans this year.

Claremont have suffered two galling grand final losses in the past five seasons; West Perth have won one and lost one in the past seven.

Both teams entered the season full of hope but neither appears close to contending this year.

Percentage is the only thing keeping West Perth out of the top five but that percentage is only 80 which provides a telling insight into their problems – they can’t score enough and can’t prevent their opponents from doing so.

Claremont are in every murkier waters. They are below Perth on the ladder, though remarkably, they have identical for (311 points) and against (400) records as the Demons.

But there is a disconnect at the Tigers. They have led late into the last quarter in three of their four losses but have not had the capacity to hold on when the game was on the line.

A loss to Perth on Saturday would virtually end their finals hopes.

The midrange teams – East Fremantle, Swans and Subiaco – are all on eight points and have had mixed results.

Their best has been outstanding; their worst has been mystifying.

You don’t know what you are going to get with any of those teams.

They might challenge the top teams or they might just be spoilers in the lower reaches of the ladder.

Come to think of it, the ladder might be fragmenting but there is still substantial interest over who is going to finish where.