EAST Perth looks to make it two from two in first semi-finals at East Fremantle Oval in Saturday's cut-throat clash with the Sharks and coach Tony Micale points to three main factors for the Royals returning to finals action in 2012.
Micale led East Perth back into the finals in 2010 and that saw the Royals beat East Fremantle by 14 points in the first semi-final at East Fremantle Oval before a competitive outing in the preliminary final at Steel Blue Oval against eventual premiers Swan Districts.
The Royals now are back into the finals after a strong season and having beaten Claremont, Swan Districts and East Fremantle at different points during the year, East Perth certainly can't be taken lightly despite finishing in fourth position and having to do it away from home.
Micale points to three main reasons for the Royals being back in the finals hunt with the most obvious being the recruitment of ruckman Paul Johnson, who has had such an outstanding season that sees him a chance to add a Sandover Medal to his state game Simpson Medal.
Then there has been the strong leadership provided by Michael Swan and Craig Wulff, and the continued development of the likes of Freddie Clutterbuck, Ryan Maldenis, Nick Kommer, Steven Payne and Kyle Anderson.
"Our recruitment initially helped and Paul Johnson has been a great asset for us throughout the year. He is an obvious contender (for the Sandover Medal) but there would be a number of them particularly in the top sides who would all be within a chance of winning it," Micale said.
"But really our leadership group has played extremely well and been very consistent right throughout the year. Our 10 to 25-game players, particularly in the time when we won eight straight, provided us a very even contribution as well. Those things have been our main strengths."
East Perth looks set to welcome back Josh Smith, Michael Swan, Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls, Kyle Anderson and possibly Dylan Roberton to face the Sharks.
Swan, in particular, is someone that Micale will be glad to welcome back as long as he gets through the week of training unscathed after missing the last two weeks.
"At this stage, he has to get through training and he will be certain to play. His leadership is invaluable to us and he is an outstanding leader both on and off the footy field," he said.
"Our inconsistency over the last month has been contributed to from him not being there for a couple of weeks."
East Perth has only won one of its last four games heading into the finals but Micale is not concerned about that form as over that time he hasn’t had his best team available and has been working on some different things.
"We've been focusing on a number of areas that we wanted to work on and get right in time to be playing in the finals. We've made subtle changes to the way we have wanted to play and based that around who we were likely to play in the finals," Micale said.
"We've been practicing that but personnel-wise we haven’t had a full squad available to us over the last month. We are hoping that with the addition of four or five players who we haven’t had playing consistently over the last month is going to help that."