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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

East Perth blueprint starting to take shape

When East Perth and West Coast abandoned their marriage of inconvenience five years ago, powerful Royal president Bronte Howson identified a simple blueprint for his club’s return to glory.

“We will have one season in the bottom three, one season in the middle three and then one season in the top three,” he said.

“Our goal is to compete for a flag within three years.”

That goal appeared overly optimistic at the time but even taking into account the disruption of the Covid-ruined 2020 season, it now has prophetic elements.

East Perth were competitive but an unsurprising third-last in their first year out of the malignment, improved three places in the false economy of 2020 to finish mid-table in their second season, then discovered the weight of football gravity to revert to eighth in the each of the past two years.

Only the dysfunctional Perth and West Coast finished lower in those seasons.

Yet on the evidence of the opening three rounds, there is a lustre about the Royals this season that has been lacking for the best part of a decade.

They are unlikely to maintain their hold on top place – their unbeaten streak includes successes over two sides without a win and their next block of matches before the State bye is against teams with strong finals credentials – but they have the weapons to trouble all opponents.

The make-up of the State squad is indicative of East Perth’s strengths.

They start with the best centre-square combination in the league and it was a no-brainer that ruckman Scott Jones and on-ballers Angus Schumacher, Hamish Brayshaw and Mitch Crowden were named in Cam Shepherd’s initial squad.

And don’t discount that foursome providing a rare piece of interstate football history by starting at the first bounce against South Australia at Adelaide Oval next month.

Add prolific wingman Angus Scott, who could hold down a place against the Croweaters, and the Royals have an engine room unmatched in the league.

The origins of that group provide clear evidence for East Perth’s strategic approach in their bid to live up to Howson’s ambitions.

Jones is the only locally produced player in that quintet with East Perth going on a recruiting spree to bolster the small but valuable home-grown cohort developed under previous coach Jeremy Barnard and allowed to flourish under his successor Ross McQueen.

The Royals could field as many as 14 interstaters or rival club products in a few weeks’ time when former Carlton defender Harrison MacReadie recovers from a hand injury and Michael Randall completes his drug ban.

Still, recruits have to live up to expectations and it takes a solid club to identify characters capable of fitting into their methods and adapting to the new environment.

Many a player with a substantial reputation has lobbed in the WAFL and found it impossible to meet the demands of the league.

Given that East Perth’s player points cap has been increased to 110 this season – 20 more than the standard limit – it is clear that the WA Football Commission has pointed the Royals towards the east in a bid to fast-track the club’s recovery from the Eagles era.

The East Perth locals include five players who progressed from the 2020 reserves premiership team – Christian Ameduri, Jacob Msando, Taylor North, Jordan Hayden and Nathan Eaton – while more recent junior graduates include promising forwards Sam van Diemen, Mitch Schofield and Tom Graham.

Add seasoned 25-year-olds Shayne Hille, Stan Wright and Kye Willcocks, and East Perth have a list profile that might lack the array of 100-gamers boasted by their archrival West Perth but is still as balanced as any in the competition.

The Royals have considerable upside as they emerge from the shadow of the alignment.

It is still a fair way away but their tantalising clash with West Perth on WA Day, given that both clubs sit one and two on the ladder, should provide more clarity on which of the Howson tiers they belong.

IMAGE: WA Football


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