Peel Thunder president John Ditchburn has welcomed a WA Football Commission plan to formally align with the Fremantle Dockers from 2014, saying the move will create greater depth at the Mandurah club.
Under a proposal agreed upon by WAFL presidents on Monday, Peel and Fremantle will join forces for at least five seasons.
An identical arrangement was struck between East Perth and the West Coast Eagles.
The alignment, which had been the source of growing speculation in recent weeks, effectively ends the AFL clubs’ long-running push to have standalone WAFL sides.
West Coast and Fremantle will pay the WAFC $450,000 annually for the right to have their players at a single club, while Peel and East Perth have accepted a reduced grant of $350,000 a year.
AFL-listed players will remain at their allocated WAFL clubs next season, with the exception of those at Peel and East Perth.
It is understood the arrangement will see Zac Clarke, Jayden Pitt and Hayden Crozier at Rushton Park in 2013, while Thunder would lose Scott Lycett and Blayne Wilson.
Peel will also secure all interstate players selected by Fremantle in the 2012 national, rookie and pre-season drafts.
Ditchburn welcomed the partnership as a way of bolstering the club’s roster while allowing it to retain more locally-produced players.
‘‘A few of the other clubs haven’t hesitated in trying to recruit our players, so we think that this might be a way we can retain those players at our club and get a bit of extra depth through the Fremantle players we get,’’ he said.
‘‘Depending on the quality of the Fremantle players and the quality of the players we can retain at our club who are locally grown, I’ve got no doubt it will help our depth and help us climb up the ladder.
‘‘We won’t be a superpower by any means, but we will be a lot more competitive.’’
When in effect, the agreement also gives Fremantle the power to choose Peel’s coach.
However, Ditchburn said this would not impact newly-appointed coach Cam Shepherd, who is contracted until the end of the 2014 season.
‘‘We have Cam in the role at the moment and he’s on a two-year contract and we expect Cam will be fulfilling that contract,’’ he said.
‘‘The benefit is that Fremantle will be paying for our coach and we feel Cam is an ideal fit for both us and the Fremantle Football Club going forward.’’
The seven non-partnering WAFL clubs will each receive $525,000 a year from the WAFC—an increase of $100,000 on its 2012 contribution.
Peel and East Perth will both retain their logos and names.
‘‘We have been starved of on-field success for a long time and we believe there will now be an opportunity to improve our overall performance and move up the ladder in the long-term,’’ Ditchburn said.
‘‘The board of directors and management considered the proposal very carefully before any commitment could be given.’’