Royals Dare to Dream in Premiership Race; Brayshaw
East Perth co-captain Hamish Brayshaw says the premiership-contending Royals are daring to dream big as the WAFL season enters its final stage.
The Royals have not featured in the finals since 2018 but a star-studded midfield featuring Brayshaw, Angus Schumacher, and Mitch Crowden has driven them towards the top of the ladder in Ross McQueen’s first season as senior coach.
Brayshaw, who spent three seasons with West Coast, told Sports Breakfast the feeling around the Royals was similar to that of the Eagles’ premiership-winning season.
“I remember in 2018, it was about this stage of the year they reflected on their 2015 experience. In 2015, they kept the elephant in the room quiet for as long as they could and then they made the grand final and got overawed by the whole situation,” Brayshaw said.
“They accepted they were a pretty good football side and with belief and with gameplan and trademarks they could do something pretty special. It wasn’t them saying ‘we’re going to win the grand final’, it was just along the lines of ‘we’ve got ourselves into a position to do something special, we’re embracing the opportunity.’
“I shared that experience with the boys last night … I think for us, the mindset going into the next few weeks is that it’s very much in our control. If we win this week, if we win the next two weeks, we get the week off because we definitely finish first, and then if we win again, we go through [to the grand final].
“We’ve beaten every team at least once, I think we’re the only club to do that. Our best football, we believe, is certainly good enough, and we just want to inspire a bit of belief in the group that anything’s possible.”
East Perth’s most recent September appearance came in the final year of their alignment with West Coast and none of the players who featured in the elimination final loss to Claremont in 2018 remain with the club, but Brayshaw said his team had enough players who had been on the big stage before.
“You look at teams like Richmond and Hawthorn in the AFL who had prolonged success, played lots of finals and won lots of big games, but then you see teams like the Western Bulldogs who, out of nowhere, just pop up and win one,” he said.
“We played a game earlier in the season against Claremont earlier in the season where we were fighting for top spot, that felt like a final to us. The first time we played against East Freo, we lost to them a couple of times last year and we wanted to prove something, we built that up as a final.
“Finals experience probably helps, but I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all.”
The Royals will look to consolidate first position in a top-of-the-table clash with East Fremantle at the WACA Ground on Saturday, with the winner set to go a game clear atop the ladder while the loser will drop back to the chasing pack.
Brayshaw said he expected a similarly physical contest to round nine when the Royals beat the Sharks by 38 points at Leederville Oval.
“It’s obviously a massive game. We beat them earlier in the season, I don’t think they’ve lost since that game, so they’re in really good form,” he said.
“We’re coming off a pretty disappointing game against Subiaco, so we’re looking to bounce back.
“One versus two clash, we had another one of these games earlier in the season against Claremont but with three rounds to go in the season, this one holds a little bit more importance. It’s certainly going to be our biggest game of the season.”
The clash between the Royals and the Sharks gets underway at 2:10pm and is being broadcast live on 91.3 SportFM.
IMAGE: The West Australian.