East Perth star Paul Johnson's defence of the new AFL alignment system has sparked an ugly WAFL row, with Swan Districts furious over a perceived slur against the club.
The former Melbourne, Hawthorn and West Coast ruckman, who will play alongside Eagles-listed footballers this season, has sparked outrage in discussing the merits of the new partnership for young Royals.
Johnson told _The West Australian _that players on East Perth's list were already benefiting from direct exposure to West Coast development coaches Adam Selwood, Jaymie Graham and Daniel Pratt.
"If you were to go and throw it in and play with a Perth or a Swan Districts, you're not going to have that input from AFL players and it makes it very hard," he said.
Johnson played 32 league matches for Swans while on West Coast's playing list.
His comments triggered a fiery response from the black-and-whites yesterday, with Swans president Peter Hodyl labelling them "completely disrespectful".
"We have an extremely talented and proven ex-AFL player as coach in Greg Harding, who is doing an outstanding job developing our own home-grown talent, AFL-experienced ruck coach Travis Edmonds, AFL-experienced players in Tony Notte, Kirk Ugle, Matt Riggio, Ryan Davis, Travis Casserly and the most accomplished defender in the WAFL in Tallan Ames," Hodyl said.
"Add the fact we have probably the most experienced football operations manager in the country in Phil Smart, who has been in the AFL environment for 15 years. It is completely disrespectful of Johnson to make derogatory comments about the Perth and Swan Districts football clubs.
"We all have to work within the alignment model, but just because East Perth has been flooded with West Coast Eagles players, numerous coaches, physios, trainers and other technical resources does not mean it is the best place to go to become a good footballer and citizen."
Brett Raponi, the chairman of the WAFL's council of presidents, was also disappointed at Johnson's comments.
"It is highly unusual that a player of Paul Johnson's standing and experience would make such a comment about another club," Raponi said. "The seven traditional WAFL clubs have agreed that in the best interests of WA football that we would embrace the spirit of the partnership."
Swans open their 2014 campaign against East Perth at Medibank Stadium on March 29.
East Perth said yesterday Johnson had not meant to cause offence. The WA Football Commission declined to comment.