East Perth Football Club - Westar Rules Premiers 2000
2000 was a year of double celebration for the Royals. Not only did the League team break a 22 year premiership drought, but the Colts came from fourth position on the ladder to win the Royals' first Colts Grand Final since 1980.
And to top it all off the Reserves also performed admirably enough such that the Royals also took away the Rodriguez Shield for the first time since 1976.
But let's start at the beginning of what would be a very interesting year for the Royals.
2000 didn't begin with the greatest amount of hope for the Royals. The 1996 Grand Final loss to Claremont could still be felt around the club, and the previous three seasons had seen whatever momentum gained apparently fall away as they finished 4th, 4th and 8th respectively.
The coach of the last 4 years, Kevin Worthington, left the club amidst obvious disharmony within the player group and a replacement proved hard to find as two first choice applicants ended up finding jobs elsewhere.
It seemed the Royals would never break their Premiership drought and the dank unsuccessful era of the 80's and 90's would continue into the next century.
The club then entered new territory when it agreed to be the West Coast Eagles aligned club for the next three years (the WAFC would scuttle the idea after two years however).
Claremont had previously been the WCE "host club" in 1999, a one year experience they'd quickly want to forget.
In Claremont's case all reserve WCE players were available to them - a situation which saw a number of disgruntled Claremont players leave the club (the Royals picked up Rhys Croxford), and cause former turmoil as players produced by rival WAFL clubs ended up at the enemy.
The Eagles had also assured them that their membership would easily increase as a number of WCE fans would go to watch the "reserves" side. This of course failed to happen and if anything a number of Claremont fans went the way of the disgruntled players.
Claremont also failed to succeed on the park, and ironically the most memorable win for the Royals in 1999 was when they beat Claremont in the last round to deny them a place in the finals.
In East Perth's case however they'd only be host to the Eagles' non-West Australian recruits. This failed to placate a number of members though, and quite rightly despite the optimisim of the board a faint feeling of doom and gloom was in the air as the club was seen to have sold out to the Eagles and three players were quick to depart the club feeling their place in the side in jeopardy.
Of course the members got their say at the AGM, however East Perth were careful to check attendees at the meeting were all paid up and this further disgruntled some fans who were hence turned away. This of course caused some controversy as it was seen that the board were trying to push through the Eagles decision without interference, but the club was fully entitled to act in such a way.
Those thinking more rationally didn't see it as selling out anyway. East Perth's recruitment zone was not what it used to be hence the club was always on the back foot in trying to find quality players. A handful of young Eagles recruits would make up the shortfall in East Perth's alloted zone that the WAFC at the time didn't seem to want to address.
In fact if anything it was a sign that the club was entering a more professional era, which indeed it was. The reality was the East Perth board had begun to instigate a five year plan which was aimed at making the club more professional at all levels.
As the dust began to settle on the decision East Perth finally announced that Tony Micale would be their coach whilest also being a part time assistant coach at the Eagles.
Whilest the further Eagles connection may have left a bitter taste in the mouths of some, no one could deny the positives of having a coach who'd taken East Fremantle and South Fremantle to the previous three Grand Finals - and indeed Micale would prove to be yet another former East Fremantle coach who would lead the Royals to glory - the previous two being Jerry Dolan (1936) and Jack Sheedy (1956,58,59).
East Perth then began some intelligent recruiting and the coup of the season was no doubt snaring West Perth star Troy Wilson who would team up with Ashley Hutchinson to provide an interesting dual full forward attack for the Royals.
Some at the club had also recommened to Micale that due to the player disharmony he should seriously consider clearing out a number of the old guard in the player group who'd been causing trouble. But after talking to new captain Jeremy Barnard he felt all existing players should be given a chance to prove themselves, and this decision would prove the cornerstone to the coming success.
Indeed the senior players at the club took it upon themselves to make sure that all the players felt part of the team whether they be West Coast Eagles players, local boys, Victorians, whatever. When you put on the mighty Blue and Black you were East Perth and that was that as far as they were concerned.
Yet with the positives came seemingly more negatives.
The decision was made to play games at Leederville Oval rather than Perth Oval due to continuing complications caused by Perth Glory's presence at the Royals' traditional home - complications that saw East Perth's 1999 pre-season severely compromised and no doubt play a huge part in their lowly 8th place finish.
This was only seen as a minor problem at first as a Perth Oval return was expected to occur after 6 weeks. And indeed as the first Royals home game at Leederville Oval was against former tenants and arch rivals West Perth, the day was treated as something of an event.
The (seemingly) unexpected Royal victory over the previous season's Premiers was only marred by a security guard's failure to recognise special guest (and former player of both clubs) Graham 'Polly' Farmer.
East Perth were back. Micale had brought a new level of professionalism to the player group and that combined with the new found player unity and team spirit saw the Royals looking as good and hungry as they did in 1996.
The season continued and the Royals amazingly won 8 games in a row before being stopped by West Perth up in Joondalup. A minor bump though as they continued to play great football and easily pick up the minor premiership 3 wins ahead of 2nd-placed Subiaco, a side that beat the Royals towards the end of the season in a close encounter.
Indeed a great rivalry would develop with Subiaco over the next 3 seasons and this was cemented when in the 2nd semi final the Royals overturned the Subiaco result to earn a Grand Final berth.
As the winning continued it almost went un-noticed that the club was still at Leederville Oval - the move back to Perth Oval aborted until next season as it was simply easier to stay where they were.
And in the two weeks break leading up to the Grand Final, nervous Royals' fans waited to see if Charlie's Tree would bloom or not.
Grand Final day arrived and it East Fremantle who'd beaten Subiaco to play the Royals.
The opening 10 minutes of the first quarter was dominated by the Sharks. The Royals' players worked overtime to clear the ball out of the back line and were rewarded with a 15 point lead at the quarter time break.
The Royals kicked the first four goals of the second quarter to lead by 41 points 11 minutes in. Royals' supporters were feeling quietly confident. East Fremantle was getting beaten in the centre square. Callum Chambers, Rod Wheatley, Josh Wooden and Devan Perry were leading a midfield dominance for the Royals.
To East Fremantle's credit they switched Jason Morgan into the ruck and this move brought instant success and lead to a second term revival for the Sharks. At the 13 minute mark Tregenza kicked his first goal (after four behinds). The ball then rebounded between the respective halfback lines until the Sharks kicked five of the last six goals, to trail by just 11 points at half time.
The third quarter was a bruising affair and the term went 33 minutes after play was held up several times for the blood rule and the stretcher, which was required to take Rod Wheatley from the ground after being knocked out from a soccered ball which hit him in the face. Kaine Marsh was also forced to leave the ground after suffering a suspected broken jaw. East Fremantle kicked 1.6 for the quarter two of which hit the post. The Royals had steadied to lead by 19 points at the last change.
Grant Holman kicked accurately from 25m out nine minutes into the last term. The lead was 26 points. The Royals went forward to register another five goals as the fans began a loud "Royals! Royals!" chant around Subiaco Oval.
The drought was over and the Royals had won their first premiership since 1978 and erased the bitter memories of the 2 point loss to Claremont in 1996. Charlie's Tree had not bloomed and this Premiership win had evidently destroyed this myth for ever.
Sadly Kaine Marsh's jaw was broken in two places and he was taken to hospital and was unable to accept his premiership medallion or join in the after match celebrations with his team mates.
And those celebrations at Leederville Oval were attended by a huge enthusiastic crowd that reminded many of the good old times of the WAFL.
It didn't take long for rival fans to complain bitterly that the Royals only won due to the Eagles players in the side, but the reality was a new coach, a more professional attitude at the club and a number of senior players stepping forward were the keys to turning around 1999's 8th place.
The likes of Jeremy Barnard, David Swan, Devan Perry, Rod Wheatley amongst others had finally come of age and set the right example for the newer recruits and young players from the Eagles in the side.
Rival fans who continue to whinge about it all are still yet to explain how Claremont (with ALL reserve Eagles available), and South Fremantle (temporarily the Dockers host club) failed to win Premierships during respective periods.
Meanwhile all involved at East Perth could finally bask in some Premiership glory, and would get to do so again in 2001 and 2002.
Goals: Ridley 3.2, Wilson 3.2, Hutchinson 3.0, Chambers 2.1, Munro 2.0, Knights 1.1, Marsh 1.0, Holman 1.0.
East Perth 4.1 9.6 12.8 18.11 (119)
Captain: Jeremy Barnard
Coach: Tony Micale
def. East Fremantle 1.4 7.7 8.13 11.14 (80)
Captain: Stephen Bilcich
Coach: Wayne Blackwell
Best Players: Rod Wheatley, Dean Cox, Josh Wooden, Callum Chambers, Devan Perry, Grant Holman.
Simpson Medal: Dean Cox (EP)
Backs: Andrew Waller David Antonowicz Jeremy Barnard (C) Half Backs: David Swan Aaron Marley Grant Holman Centres: Andrew Worland Rod Wheatley Callum Chambers Half Forwards: David Haynes Shane Nani Paul Ridley Forwards: Ashley Hutchinson Troy Wilson Kane Munro Ruck: Dean Cox Devan Perry Josh Wooden Interchange: Travis Knights Kane Marsh Troy Butcher Michael O'Brien
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