Why the Royals have lost two in succession
East Perth's Paul Johnson. Pic: WA News

Two adverse consequences of East Perth's alignment with West Coast have emerged after the Royals suffered comprehensive losses in their past two outings.

The first was foreseen at the start of the season.

Paul Johnson is the WAFL's premier player. He was the Sandover Medal favourite until he copped a reprimand at the tribunal last week and was ranked at No.1 in The West Australian's list of the league's best footballers.

But in a team with two aspiring AFL ruckmen, Johnson's time on the ball was always going to provide coach Brian Dawson with one of his most pressing issues.

He solved it against Subiaco on Good Friday by leaving Johnson in a forward pocket for much of the match, where the big man had little impact.

But it allowed Eagles squad members Callum Sinclair and Scott Lycett to show their wares.

That is alignment Realpolitik, but it was telling that East Perth only found momentum when Johnson was finally swung on to the ball in the second term when he immediately combined an effective hit-out, centre clearance and inside-50 entry to help create the team's first goal.

Johnson finished with just 10 hit-outs - his lowest tally in 51 league and State matches since he returned to the WAFL three years ago. Denied the influence of their most important player, East Perth lost by 24 points.

The second consequence may not have been identified in pre-season, but it is a reality for any team that has a primary or secondary role on the pathway to higher honours.

Like any AFL organisation, West Coast have some players who no longer feature in the club's future plans, but still have to see out their contracts.

Those players may or may not be aware of their fate, but could have issues with motivation when their best efforts aren't rewarded at selection.

The Eagles may have a handful in that boat - Ash Smith, for example, has played 43 games and is in his sixth season as a fringe player, while Jacob Brennan has made 26 appearances in his four years on the list. Neither has cemented their places in the West Coast team and may need to go elsewhere for opportunities.

Under the previous model, those types of fringe players would have been spread across the nine WAFL clubs, where any lack of commitment would have been mitigated by their role as a small fraction of the team.

Yet if there are several disaff-ected players in a team, for whom the call to play for the jumper carries little weight, it provides a nearly insurmountable chall-enge for the coach.

East Perth were widely tipped to waltz to the flag after the addition of a big group of Eagles.

Losing to West Perth by a record 100 points, then being held goalless for two quarters by Subiaco, indicates that talent alone won't deliver success.

The West Australian

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