History puts Peel in box seat to win premiership
Peel are set to be the team to beat for the 2023 premiership if the objective and unblinking eye of history is as focused this year as it has been ever since the Thunder entered the WAFL more than a quarter of a century ago.
Peel should celebrate their 500th home-and-away match on Saturday with an easy kill over a sub-league standard West Coast that are achieving little other than boosting the percentage of their early season opponents.
A Thunder win by about six goals more than however much Claremont manage to outscore Swan Districts on Saturday – that is if Claremont manage to outscore a mostly gallant Swan Districts – will steer Peel to the top of the ladder for just the third time in their home-and-away history and first this deep into a season.
More significantly though, it will provide them with the historic credentials that the flag is theirs to lose.
This round marks the one-third point of the season.
And as much as the WA Football Commission would like to think that numerous finals candidates exist as teams jostle for positions in the opening month or so of the season, the reality is that little changes after the one-third milestone.
That means there is enough evidence to suggest ‘Sayonara Swans’ and certainly sufficient proof to say ‘See you later South Fremantle’.
Sixth-placed East Perth remain alive for the moment because history indicates that teams out by percentage at the one-third mark are as likely to make finals as the fourth or fifth teams. But that luxury will not last much longer.
PIC: Geoff Valentine, right, in his West Perth coaching days, is in a nice place to win a flag at Peel and emulate his great mates Todd Curley and Darren Harris.
Peel, should they belt the Eagles at home on Saturday, will have history on their side when it comes to foreshadowing the result in the last match of the year.
In fact, their experience in 2016 – when they became the first WAFL team to win four finals in a season – indicates the near impossibility of winning the flag from anywhere below the top three without unprecedented assistance.
In their case, it came in the form of a near first 18 of AFL-listed players who were dropped into the team late in the season
That is why the ladder after this weekend’s matches will provide the surest picture of the outcome of the season.
In the 26 years that Peel have been in the league, the team sitting on the top of the ladder exactly one-third into the season has won half the premierships.
The second-placed team has won seven and third has won four.
Only Peel (2016) and West Perth (1999), in an unusual season when the AFL alignments sapped the life of the host clubs, have come from outside the top three to secure the cup.
So Peel, most likely on top on Saturday evening, will be favoured to win the flag this year.
Claremont, probably second after round six, are not far off the pace.
And Subiaco, who have come back hard this season under fifth-year coach Beau Wardman who has either won the flag or missed finals in his previous four years, will take some beating.
It is not over for the other teams but Peel coach Geoff Valentine, who is trying to win his own flag to emulate his great mates and 1995 West Perth premiership team-mates Darren Harris and Todd Curley, is nicely placed to make his own history.
Michael Sinclair has experienced numerous lows and few highs during a barren decade at Perth but his endurance, resolve and outstanding loyalty to the Demons will be rewarded on Saturday when he plays his 150th match and qualifies for life membership. Perth’s plight is underlined by the absence of any other playing life members since Willie Dick was inducted nearly a quarter of a century ago. If Perth had more players like Sinclair, their many dark days would have been much fewer and lighter.