On the back of the high of ending their finals drought in 2020, the season 2021 couldn’t have gone worse for Perth and at no point at all did they field anything close to what they would consider their best 22.
The Demons became one of the stories of 2020 when they reached the finals for the first time since 1997 in remarkable fashion. The challenge was there to back that up with a new coach in Garry Moss in 2021, but they were just never given a genuine chance.
The season didn’t start too badly with a Round 1 win against the West Coast Eagles for the Demons and then following losses to Swan Districts and Claremont, they beat East Fremantle, South Fremantle and West Perth so things were looking promising.
Especially when you consider they defeated the reigning premiers and broke a 19-game losing run against the Falcons. However, after beating West Perth the Demons wouldn’t win another game for 2021 and finished the season with an 11-game losing streak.
Perth avoided the wooden spoon by percentage with a 4-14 record and there were some genuine personnel reasons for it.
Key players Dakota Baldwin-Wright, Haydn Busher, Fraser McInnes, Chris Masten, Christian Eyres, Doulton Langlands, Brant Colledge, Conor McPartland and Brady Grey all missed at least seven matches for the Demons throughout 2021.
There were still some positives including the further growth of Corey Byrne into a leader in the midfield while Kristian Cary was outstanding kicking 27 goals on limited opportunities for the most part in the forward-line.
Sam Stubbs, Austin Davis, Jacob Coniglio, Kasey Nicholas, Zac Hill, Regan Clarke, Jack Avery, Jordon Reid, Jye Clark and Brodie Gray all showed they are players they can bank on moving forward, and their reserves winning the Grand Final is something they can build upon.
COACH: Garry Moss (First season, 4-14 record)
CAPTAIN: Michael Sinclair
FINISHING POSITION: Ninth, 4-14, 72.1%
BEST TEAM PERFORMANCE: Beating the reigning premiers. 11.8 (74) v 7.12 (54) v South Fremantle, Round 7 at Mineral Resources Park
The Perth midfield looked capable of being their great strength coming into the season, but unfortunately for the Demons the likes of Brady Grey, Chris Masten, Corey Yeo and Brant Colledge weren’t able to get on the field as much as they hoped. However, Corey Byrne took his game to the next level and became the Butcher Medallist as fairest and best for the first time as a result. He became one of the most consistent and hard working midfielders across the competition, and will be at the forefront of what the Demons do in the middle moving forward.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
The amount that Perth missed Brady Grey for much of 2021 was illustrated with the brilliant form he started the season with in the midfield for the Demons, highlighted by his best on ground performance in the Round 5 victory against East Fremantle. It was an impressive five-goal win with Grey at the forefront of it with his ferocious attack on the ball, the contest and opposition. He finished with 29 possessions, 11 marks, 10 inside-50 entries, nine tackles and a goal. It was as good an all-round performance you'll find, the only problem for Perth was he managed only seven more games for the season.
Doulton Langlands – Round 1 v West Coast
Jye Clark – Round 1 v West Coast
Jaiden Hunter – Round 1 v West Coast
Jordon Reid – Round 2 v Swan Districts
Christian Martin – Round 7 v South Fremantle
Corey Hitchcock – Round 7 v South Fremantle
Brodie Gray – Round 8 v West Perth
Simon Hayward – Round 8 v West Perth
Jack Avery – Round 9 v Subiaco
Jack Steel – Round 9 v Subiaco
Oscar Bird – Round 15 v East Perth
Zac Sanderson – Round 18 v East Perth
Kane La Fontaine – Round 19 v Claremont
Tarkyn Brogan-Henry – Round 17 v West Coast
Nyika John – Round 21 v Peel Thunder
It's fair to say the Perth back-line was under siege for a lot of the 2021 season making the performances of Clayton Giblett as the centre piece of the defensive unit all the more impressive. He was regularly giving the job of playing on the spearhead of the opposition and not only did he do as well as possible limiting their influence, he was a rock down back for the Demons to work around. He was rewarded for his efforts with a third place finish in fairest and best voting behind Corey Byrne and captain Michael Sinclair.
The Perth back-line was where a lot of the standout performers for the season came and Kasey Nicholas was another to emerge as a player to be relied upon for a long time to come. Versatile of a defender enough to play on opposition forwards of differing types and sizes, he stood tall under attack impressively throughout the season. Not only was he strong defensively, but showed himself a good intercept mark and could be creative to set up play out of the defensive 50 too. Has that extra bit of aggression and competitiveness that every team needs too.
They didn’t have much choice but Perth was able to get plenty of games and game time into new and young faces in 2021 which should only hold them in good stead moving forward. Jacob Peletier, Simon Hayward, Zac Sanderson, Oscar Bird, Brodie Gray, Sam Perkusich, Austin Davis, Connor Sing, Jack Steel, Jye Clark, Jordon Reid, Jack Avery and Sam Stubbs are among the group who will only be better for the chances they got in 2021. The reserves winning the premiership will give a confidence boost to everyone at the club too given it's their first flag in any grade this century.
WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
The Demons just need more depth in their club so if they do get a bad injury run like they suffered in 2021, they are better equipped to have enough players to call upon to remain competitive across the three grades. While the reserves won the premiership, the colts and league teams only won four games between them. Now building that depth is easier said than done and it's going to be tough for anyone from that colts group who struggled to step up to senior football. Bringing in some outside talent will help but keep holding of their own talent and trying to limit the departures will be key to improving sufficiently in 2022.
OUTLOOK FOR 2022
A strong recruiting class and getting a healthy list over summer is going to be critical to whatever success Perth is able to have in 2022. Improving from a four-win season and the worst attack in the competition is going to take some doing, but there is light at the end of the tunnel for coach Garry Moss. There will be players who grow in confidence from being part of the reserves premiership and a core of Corey Byrne, Kasey Nicholas, Clayton Giblett, Andrew Fisher, Jacob Coniglio, Zac Hill, Kristian Cary, Matt Taylor and michael Sinclair is good to build around. If Fraser McInnes, Brady Grey, Dakota Baldwin-Wright, Haydn Busher, Doulton Langlands and Conor McPartland can have more impact in 2022, they could be back in the finals race.