EAST Perth made a horror start to the 2021 season but once they settled into things the Royals showed enough to suggest the future can be bright under re-signed coach Jeremy Barnard.
The Royals hadn’t made finals since 2018 and still haven’t, and still haven’t won a final since the first semi-final of 2015 but they do appear to be closer to fixing that after the second half of 2021 and having now re-signed Barnard to continue as coach in 2022 and beyond.
The season couldn’t have started worse for East Perth with five consecutive losses including a record 105-point defeat at the hands of Peel Thunder.
They broke through to beat West Coast in Round 7 but then two more losses to Claremont and West Perth meant they sat at 1-7 and finals were virtually out of the possibility already once again.
However, East Perth were starting to find some impressive form and went on a run of winning five of seven matches including an impressive win over the finals bound South Fremantle.
By the end of Round 18, the Royals had given themselves an outside chance of returning to finals action and while it didn’t happen with three losses to close the campaign, they have plenty to build upon moving forward.
The midfield at East Perth is their great strength. With Scott Jones in the ruck, a midfield consisting of Angus Scott, Jackson Ramsay, Angus Schumacher, Aidan Lynch and Christian Ameduri moving forward will give them a chance even with the retirement of Rohan Kerr.
The East Perth back-line stood up well through most of 2021 as well with the growth of Kye Willcocks, Jacob Msando and Brad Fullgrabe, but they will miss the retired Nathan Blee moving forward.
Eddie Simpson and Nick Merritt showed enough to suggest the Royals can keep their forward-line focused around them as targets too with Simpson kicking 29 goals, Merritt 11 and then Jayden Magro 24 and Matthew Young 20.
The pieces appear mostly there for the Royals in 2022, add a couple of recruits and there's no reason they can't be part of finals action.
COACH: Jeremy Barnard (Third season, 15-29 record)
CAPTAIN: Jackson Ramsay
FINISHING POSITION: Eighth, 6-12, 84.2%
BEST TEAM PERFORMANCE: It took until Round 7 for East Perth to get its first win of the season but they were able to string some impressive form together from there, highlighted by a stirring come from behind five-point win against reigning premiers South Fremantle in Round 10 at Leederville Oval.
Christian Ameduri might have won the FD Book Medal as the fairest and best for the 2021 season, Aidan Lynch might have been mighty impressive in the midfield and down back Nathan Blee, Kye Willcocks and Jacob Msando were standouts, but you can't go past Angus Scott as the standout Royals player for 2021. He got the most votes in the Sandover Medal, was runner-up in fairest and best voting and named in the WAFL Team of the Year for his outstanding and consistent form on the wing for the Royals. Played all 18 games in 2021, averaging 28.6 disposals and 5.6 marks with his work rate and ability to run all day a particular standout.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Aidan Lynch made the move from West Perth to arch-rivals East Perth for more midfield opportunities and he continues to take full advantage of that as a leader on the ball for the Royals. Lynch is now a 97-game WAFL veteran and while he would rightfully feel a big chunk of those 70 reserves games could have been at league level too, he is showing his full array of abilities now in the midfield at East Perth. He was especially outstanding in the Round 18 win over Perth finishing with 32 possessions, 10 marks, six tackles, four entries inside the forward 50 and a goal.
Harley Sparks – Round 2 v Peel Thunder
Jack Cooley – Round 6 v South Fremantle
Adam Boules – Round 8 v Claremont
Josh Underwood – Round 8 v Claremont
Kade Dittmar – Round 19 v Swan Districts
Nathan Blee would never be accused for being the loudest of East Perth footballers, but there have been few better or more reliable than him over the past decade. He broke into the team firstly back in 2011 earning a regular spot in the back-line which led to him being drafted to Port Adelaide and spending two years there. He returned to East Perth in 2014 and has remained ever since, a remarkably reliable and consistently outstanding defensive player. Always capable of winning plenty of the ball too and setting up play from the back 50, he averaged another 20.2 disposals a game in 2021. He now moves into retirement a life member and fairest and best winner for East Perth following his 159-game career.
Winning the fairest and best award says it all about the improvement that Christian Ameduri has made with the Royals. In the same season that his older brother and fellow FD Book Medal winner Julian retired, the younger Ameduri brother became a regular member of the midfield at East Perth and performed so strongly he beat out strong competition for the fairest and best award. Was always a promising talent coming through the colts and now is realising that potential having averaged 14.0 disposals and 5.3 tackles a game in 2021.
The East Perth midfield was without doubt their great strength in 2021. Led by ruckman Scott Jones and with Christian Ameduri, Aidan Lynch, Angus Schumacher and at times, Nick Robertson and Jackson Ramsay around him, and Rohan Kerr and Angus Scott out on the wings, that was an impressive combination. You would be a hard marker too if you didn’t admit their back-line stood up well for the most part led by Taylor North, Jacob Msando, Nathan Blee, Kye Willcocks, Nathan Eaton and Brad Fullgrabe. The Royals also finished off games well throughout the season, ranking second for last quarters where they outscored their opponents by 79 points.
WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
Averaging just 69.8 points a game for the season was always going to make life difficult for East Perth. While having Eddie Simpson and Nick Merritt as targets with Jayden Magro, Shayne Hille and Matthew Young around them give them good goalkicking options, they simply need to find at least two or three more goals a game next year. Starting games better will be a focus too with the Royals finishing 2021 ranked last for first quarters, being outscored by 160 points across the season for opening terms and by 209 points in first halves. In general, they just need to bring in a bit more talent across the board and their couple of early signings are encouraging.
OUTLOOK FOR 2022
The re-signing of coach Jeremy Barnard provides East Perth with some stability and the recruitment already of Elijah Taylor, Hamish Brayshaw and Tom Wallis is a good start, but the retirements of Nathan Blee and Rohan Kerr will take some replacing. But overall throughout the middle part of the season once the Royals got settled, they showed their best football was capable of being finals contenders. Getting full seasons out of Jackson Ramsay, Nick Robertson and Angus Schumacher will be key to their prospects too, but the signs for the best post-alignment season in 2022 are good.