Little sparkle as AFL stars align
Zac Clarke leaps for a mark in the Peel-East Perth contest at Bendigo Bank Stadium. Pic: Sharon Smith

Peel and East Perth both took to the field.

The ball was bounced and the WAFL didn't die.

The first match between the AFL-aligned clubs passed without a tremendous amount of fanfare on Saturday afternoon, with the Royals running out 19-point winners in a scrappy affair.

Last year's beaten grand finalists took to Bendigo Bank Stadium with 11 West Coast players and confronted a Thunder side laced with 15 from Fremantle.

But despite the talent on the ground, the overall quality of the contest wasn't far removed from your usual WAFL match.

Plenty of mistakes were made from both sides and it was only when the Thunder lost Tanner Smith (hamstring), Max Duffy (shoulder) and Colin Sylvia (quad) to injury before half-time that the Royals were able to take control of the match.

A burst of goals to Freddie Clutterbuck and Ashley Smith helped the visitors establish a 19-point lead at the long break, one they would hold on to in the second half to run out 12.11 (83) to 9.10 (64) victors.

Eagles Jeremy McGovern, Brant Colledge and Brad Sheppard finished among East Perth's best, however strong contributions from Craig Wulff and Steven Payne proved the club's existing players weren't ready to exit the limelight any time soon.

Similarly at Peel it was WAFL veteran Brendon Jones who led the way, despite star turns from Dockers Anthony Morabito, Josh Simpson and Alex Silvagni.

Royals coach Brian Dawson said he expected that vocal opposition to the alignment model would diminish.

"I think so. Honestly it's just business as usual," he said.

"It was a great game of WAFL footy and it will be on again next week."

East Perth's adoption of West Coast's game style was not immediately apparent, but Dawson said it was something which would continue to build.

Eagles defender Will Schofield, who played five years with Peel after being drafted, said the alignment model had enormous support from the players.

He said players like McGovern, who had been shifted to the back line under new Eagles coach Adam Simpson, would benefit greatly from playing under familiar structures and personnel.

"It makes all the difference," Schofield said.

"Having not just the West Coast boys but with the guys down here teaching the game style, all the East Perth boys are involved and you can develop your footy so much better.

"It's a shame we haven't been able to do it quicker, but now that it's here we're absolutely rapt."

Three Eagles draftees, Will Maginness, Malcolm Karpany and Dylan Main, played in the reserves for the Royals.

Dawson said the final call on their non-selection came down to East Perth's match committee, which included Eagles development coaches Adam Selwood, Jaymie Graham and Daniel Pratt.

"Our team was picked on merit and it will be picked on merit every week," he said.

Silvagni was placed on report for a scuffle with Scott Lycett, but is likely to have the charge dismissed on review.

… Honestly it's just business as usual. It was a great game of WAFL footy …

" *Brian Dawson *

The West Australian

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