Cox has faith in the system
Cox has faith in the system

Dean Cox says he may never have achieved his 273-game career at West Coast without the strong links with East Perth during his early playing days.

The six-times All-Australian ruckman made his senior debut with the Royals in 2000 - the first year of an arrangement that involved the club hosting the Eagles' interstate players.

And Cox said the lessons passed on to him by West Coast assistant Tony Micale, who doubled as the Royals coach under the contentious partnership, had fast-tracked his development and played a major role in the Eagles elevating him to the senior list at the end of the season.

Cox was just 19 at the time and his rapid improvement at East Perth in 20 league matches won over West Coast coach Ken Judge.

For that reason, the man poised to become the Eagles games record holder is a major supporter of the alignment model that again intertwines the clubs.

"It was the best thing for my development," Cox said. "Tony Micale was the head coach at East Perth and he was an assistant coach at West Coast.

"It was my first year of senior footy and with the system in place I got to train with West Coast, really develop under an AFL system.

"But the whole time I was able to speak to Tony about my role on the weekend, what he wanted me to do, how I could develop and play to be a successful WAFL ruckman at the time.

"I would go back really relaxed with my role."

It has been more than a decade since Cox last played for East Perth - round 14, 2003.

"It's a jumper I still love," he said. "I got the opportunity to start my WAFL career and have the ultimate success of winning a WAFL premiership in it.

"Hopefully our boys get the opportunity to go one better and experience that this year."

Several big men on West Coast's list, including back-up ruckmen Scott Lycett and Callum Sinclair, are expected to spend time with East Perth this year.

"We've got three development coaches that are assisting Brian Dawson at East Perth," Cox said.

"We've got a number of young kids who can spend all week talking to them, with the same game plan and terminology. If they do come in to the AFL side, nothing changes."

East Perth, who reached the grand final last year, are considered favourites for the premiership this year, with the young talent of West Coast's list expected to complement a core that includes Josh Smith, Paul Johnson and Craig Wulff.

But Cox said the WAFL club's premiership era in 2000-02 had been driven by the "old guard" rather than the handful of Eagles players involved.

"Us young blokes didn't win the 2000 East Perth premiership," he said.

"It was players like Devan Perry, Jeremy Barnard, David Swan, Ashley Hutchinson, Shane Nani, Andrew Waller who won the premiership.

"We just followed in their footsteps."


The West Australian

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