Clancy handles Royal overflow
Subiaco’s Jason Bristow lays a firm tackle on East Perth’s Callum Sinclair. Picture: Michael Wilson/WA News

Clancy Wheeler's dogged and inspirational display deep in Subiaco's defence has provided a strong parallel to the Lions' emergence as premiership contenders.

The gap between top-placed East Perth and their nearest challenger is barely discernible after the Royals' 10-match winning streak came to an end on Saturday when they suffered their second defeat this season to their Medibank Stadium co-tenants.

Had Subiaco kicked just one more behind in their comprehensive 15.7 (97) to 10.9 (69) victory, they would have overtaken the Royals on percentage on top of the WAFL ladder.

Subiaco are coming while East Perth have waned during the past six weeks, a period that included a fortunate win over the then eighth-placed Claremont, a Foxtel Cup loss to a Williamstown team that took 24 hours to get to Perth, a five-goal display against West Perth and then their first league defeat since Easter.

The most disturbing element for East Perth coach Brian Dawson was the failure of virtually any player, bar West Coast ruckman Callum Sinclair and big forward Josh Smith, to stand up when the game was on the line.

Wheeler, by contrast, set a standard of commitment and ferocity from the first bounce.

The Esperance recruit had a huge challenge - he stood key forwards Sinclair, Paul Johnson and Fraser McInnes on the last line - but responded by harassing and spoiling so effectively that he gave up just one goal all match and provided a sure avenue from defence.

"I tried to lock down as hard as I could and spoil aggressively and just do a role for the side," Wheeler said.

"I tried to do my bit.

"If the other boys thrived on that, that's a good thing."

Wheeler may have been modest about his own performance but coach Jarrad Schofield had few doubts about the impact of a player versatile enough to start as a key forward and lead ruckman in recent games.

"He was fighting against guys who are much bigger size-wise and weight-wise and produced probably his best game for the year," Schofield said.

Sinclair was dominant in the ruck and around the ground but East Perth were not able to take advantage of their big man's influence against an opposition that had a winning midfield division and a vibrant forward line.

East Perth won 17 more clearances but their five best midfielders produced only 15 inside-50 entries while Subiaco's best five had 28.

Kyal Horsley set the standard for the Subiaco on-ballers by winning 27 possessions and his second goal, delivered midway through the last term, guaranteed the victory.

Brett Mahoney also produced his best effort of the season but it was his fluent running in the second half, which helped him equal Horsley's game-high tally of seven inside 50s from 21 disposals, that proved his most significant contribution.

Chris Phelan and the evergreen Shaun Hildebrandt were equally impressive while the Subiaco players were lifted by the performances of debutant Declan Jackson, who had the better of McInnes, and second-gamer Jordan Bestry who had a successful cameo in the ruck in the third term.

East Perth had cut the margin to one point as Smith produced three rapid goal assists before Bestry went up against Sinclair and won two centre contests that led to Subiaco replies.

He was fighting against guys who are much bigger size-wise … " *Jarrad Schofield *

The West Australian

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