West Perth midfielders cut a dash

John Townsend
West Perth midfielders cut a dash

West Perth's rise from September pretenders to premiers was built on the efforts of a group of dangerous midfielders, including several who had been converted into dashing defenders.

Prime rebounders Andrew Strijk and Steven Browne had recently returned from AFL ranks and their impact was instrumental in the Falcons qualifying for the grand final against East Perth.

The duo's strong efforts were also recognised with their debut selections in The West Australian's annual WAFL team of the season.

Like fellow newcomer Aaron Black, selected for his prolific work on a wing for West Perth, the trio were part of the State team that beat Victoria for the first time in 22 years and lined up for West Perth in the decider.

In one of the most even spreads of players in the 11 years that _The Weekend West _ has been naming its annual team, every team but Subiaco was recognised, while six clubs had either three or four selections.

The Royals trio of ruckman Paul Johnson, power forward Josh Smith and centreman Brendan Lee were mandatory picks after stellar seasons in which they helped drive East Perth up the ladder.

Lee had more clearances (130) and tackles (106) than any other player in the league, was second on the possession count (552) and proved a superb foil to his dominant big men.

Smith won the Bernie Naylor Medal as the league's leading goal kicker with 62 goals in the home-and-away season and Johnson, who captained WA to the State win in Northam, was the WAFL's premier ruckman.

Johnson's 625 hit-outs and 66 contested possessions were second only to Claremont recruit Mark Seaby (706 and 69), but the big Royal's mobility, which saw him win 121 clearances and deliver the ball inside 50 on 90 occasions, won him the berth as the No.1 ruckman. Minor premiers Claremont had four players named, including lively forward Ian Richardson for the third time after a season in which he kicked 45 goals in the home-and-away campaign and won his sixth State jumper.

Veteran defender David Crawford and the league's second best clearance player Jake Murphy were named for the first time.

The side was selected by _The Weekend West _'s panel of WAFL writers, with the only criteria being that players were picked in their usual positions.

AFL players and rookies were eligible, but had to have played a minimum of 10 WAFL matches.

Classy Fremantle midfielder Viv Michie was the only AFL player selected after a breakthrough season for Peel when he revealed he had overcome chronic foot injuries to play 16 matches and win the club's best and fairest.

Thirteen players were picked for the first time, including 24-year-old East Fremantle defender Tom Howlett, who remains a strong AFL draft prospect.

Perth forwards Paul Bevan and Brennan Stack were recognised for their 50-goal seasons, while mercurial Swans forward Dayle Garlett forced his way into the team, kicking 45 goals in the home-and-away rounds and giving recruiters at every AFL club cause to consider him for the national draft.

Brett Hodge, of Perth, and versatile Swans player Ryan Davis were important midfield contributors for their clubs and saw off the claims of a series of worthy candidates such as West Perth duo Shane Nelson and Rohan Kerr.