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Round 18 Preview – Peel Thunder v East PerthFriday, August 3, 2018 - 2:49 AM - by Chris Pike

PEEL Thunder and East Perth meet for the first of two times in the last month of the 2018 WAFL season at Bendigo Bank Stadium this Saturday in what could very well determine which of them takes part in the finals series.

It is difficult to imagine there is room for both Peel and East Perth in the top five come a month's time considering they have to play each other twice in that time adding some extra spice to contests already with plenty of intrigue considering their links to Fremantle and West Coast.

There is always that little piece of added interest and intrigue when they do battle on the same weekend as the Western Derby and this weekend the Thunder and Royals clash on Saturday in Mandurah ahead of the Dockers and Eagles doing battle on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

Peel has won the past two WAFL premierships but comes into Saturday's home clash against East Perth in eighth position with a 6-9 record coming off a loss last weekend to West Perth where they were overrun despite having led all afternoon.

So the Thunder have lost three of their previous four matches but remain a chance of playing finals and they will likely enter the top five with a victory on Saturday.

East Perth returned to fifth position on the WAFL ladder last Saturday when they scored a heart stopping win over Perth at Leederville Oval. 

The Royals led most of the day before Perth finished full of running and snatched the lead at the 30-minute mark. But East Perth responded and co-captain Kyle Anderson marked just before the siren and then goaled after the siren to win and improve to a 6-8 record and move back into fifth position.

The teams have met just the once so far in 2018 and that was back in Round 5 with East Perth thumping Peel by 66 points.

Despite that, Peel has won five of the past seven matches against East Perth including the 2016 elimination final.

Peel and East Perth have met 15 times now since being officially partnered clubs of Fremantle and West Coast respectively since the start of 2014. Over that time, East Perth has won eight of the matches and Peel seven so not match has separated them over the journey.

With both Fremantle and West Coast making plenty of changes at the selection table for Sunday's Western Derby at Optus Stadium, that filters down to Peel and East Perth heading into Saturday's contest in Mandurah.

Peel missed a chance to move into the top five last week but has another opportunity with a win on Saturday but it's going to be a vastly different looking Thunder line-up.

Some of the changes are forced and will be felt significantly especially the loss through injury of both Harley Bennell and Ben Howlett.

But on the more positive side Peel will welcome back Fremantle-listed players Michael Johnson and potentially Stefan Giro, Darcy Tucker and Tom Sheridan.

Matt Taberner looks set to earn a call up for the Dockers to play the Eagles on Sunday but there's every chance that Hayden Ballantyne, Mitch Crowden, Brady Grey and Cameron McCarthy will remain playing for Peel – or at least the majority of them.

That leaves room for a whole host of local Peel players to earn an opportunity too with Kaine Ah Chee, James Kirby, Haydn Matthews, Brad McGowan, Jacob Perry, Keegan Power, James Sturrock, Michael Tassone, Calvin Thorne and Oliver Walton added to the extended squad.

East Perth deserves to be chock full of confidence coming out of last week's after the siren win over Perth that returned them to the top five, and from that team they have some handy inclusions to face Peel with on Saturday at Bendigo Bank Stadium.

Sharrod Wellingham could be the most significant of those inclusions with the Collingwood premiership player of 2010 and AFL veteran of 171 games returning after missing the past three games through injury.

West Coast-listed midfielder Brayden Ainsworth will return for the Royals too having averaged 24.1 disposals in his nine appearances for East Perth in 2018.

Tarir Bayok, Tom Gorter, Kurt Mutimer, Taylor North, Tony Olango and Asher Samelko are the other potential inclusions for East Perth on Saturday.

Mitch Fraser goes out of the East Perth side with a knee injury having only returned this year from a knee reconstruction.

Jackson Nelson is also out through suspension with Fraser McInnes in doubt through injury while Brendon Ah Chee and Liam Ryan await the news on whether they will be playing for East Perth or West Coast this weekend.

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