East Perth's early-season success continued as expected on Saturday with an 18-point win over Swan Districts at Medibank Stadium.
Less expected, however, was the strong showing from Swans, who led at every break before pouring rain robbed them of a wind advantage in the final term.
The bigger-bodied, more experienced Royals relished the wet conditions, dominating possession in the final quarter and kicking five goals to one to run out 16.13 (109) to 14.7 (91) winners.
But the story of the day was the pluck and polish of a Swans side featuring two debutants and another four players with less than 10 games' experience.
With massive strides clearly being made by midfielders Adam Faulkner (26 possessions, two goals, five clearances), Blaine Boekhorst (20 disposals, two goals) and Aaron Elari (25 disposals, seven clearances) over summer, Swans did enough to show they can prove the critics wrong and avoid the wooden spoon many thought was already heading to Bassendean.
"I see everyone has got us on the bottom and all those sorts of things and we've got a lot of work to do, but our best footy for three quarters was more than good enough," Swans coach Greg Harding said.
"To be honest I reckon it's the best footy we've played since I've been the head coach.
"I reckon the first half, the way we moved the footy was fantastic, it was youthful, it was bubbly footy, it was attacking, the kids bounced back once they made errors, there's just so much to look forward to over the next 12 months and the short to medium term as well."
With the game on the line in the final term, evergreen ruckman Paul Johnson and West Coast pair Will Schofield and Dom Sheed stood tall.
Controlling possession in a manner not unlike the Eagles under Adam Simpson, the Royals took control early in the final quarter with goals to Steven Payne, Johnson and Bernie Naylor medallist Josh Smith. They broke the back of Swans in the opening 10 minutes.
The home side also enjoyed tremendous service from Eagles Sam Butler and Adam Carter, who found space.
Royals coach Brian Dawson said the path to victory was clear after the rain came down.
"When the game is in the balance, as it was, I think the whole thing simplifies," he said.
"Nothing too fancy, nothing too cute, just got to make sure you've got high energy around the ball, tackle really well, see if you can spill the ball from the opposition and get it forward as quick as you can."
"To be honest I reckon it's the best footy we've played since I've been the head coach."" *Greg Harding * * *