New look WAFL in 2014

THE 2014 WAFL season begins on Saturday 22 March. There’s a spectre hanging over the season with the AFL alignment coming into full swing.

By 2012 almost all east coast based AFL clubs were aligned to clubs in second tier competitions. The Dockers and Eagles took a joint case to a reluctant WAFL and after considerable negotiation it was decided that Peel Thunder would be aligned to the Dockers and East Perth would play host to the Eagles.

In 2013 any Fremantle player assigned to East Perth moved to Peel and any West Coast player on the Peel list went to East Perth. All the new interstate recruits to the AFL clubs also went to the aligned WAFL club. This year every Docker will have Peel as his WAFL club and every Eagle is now with East Perth.

The consensus among the experts is that East Perth, runners up in 2013, will win the premiership and Peel will at least go very close to making the finals for the first time since their introduction to the competition in 1997.

As with many new things this one has been tried before.

In 1999 the WAFC launched a host club arrangement where all Fremantle players were aligned to South Fremantle and West Coast players with Claremont. South Fremantle coach Tony Micale was also a part of the Fremantle coaching team, attending all training sessions and football related meetings. South Fremantle won 15 games straight from April to August and won the second semi final before losing the grand final to West Perth. South Fremantle’s grand final team included Dockers Peter Mann (from Claremont), Garth Taylor (Swan Districts), Tony Delaney (Claremont), Paul Maher (Perth), Ashley Clancy (South Fremantle), Justin Longmuir (West Perth), Antoni Grover (Subiaco) and Michael Clark (Swan Districts). It’s fair to say West Perth, under coach John Dimmer, traded heavily on their team unity and the fans were armed with anti-AFL barbs. It’s impossible to say whether the Falcons felt more like a ‘team’ but Peter Mann told me recently that he enjoyed his season as a Bulldog and was bitterly disappointed at the grand final loss. Claremont’s full alignment with the Eagles didn’t go quite so well – the Tigers finished fifth and the relationship was not harmonious.

A host club review conducted for the WAFC by Brian Atkinson (WAFC historian), John O’Connell (Claremont FC president 1992-1997) and Alan East (football writer) after the 1999 season concluded the arrangement was a “… significant and serious impost on the integrity of the WAFL competition.”

The system was watered down slightly in 2000 and 2001 with only interstate recruits being required to play for the host club. East Perth, now under Micale, became West Coast’s host club and won consecutive premierships. They defeated East Fremantle in 2000 and beat Fremantle’s host club South Fremantle in the 2001grand final. The system was abandoned in 2002 and East Perth again won the premiership with a win over West Perth in the grand final.

The feeling is that the AFL clubs are better resourced and more sophisticated in 2014 and the flow-on effect to the aligned WAFL clubs should be even more significant than it was in past attempts. Recent news that West Coast are paying the full-time wage of East Perth coach Brian Dawson is evidence of the kind of benefit aligned clubs can gain – especially as some other senior coaches are part-time.

However there are some real and possible shortfalls for the aligned clubs.

• The loss of senior players who believe their opportunities will be restricted and a feeling among young players that they’re moving into a crowded system.

• An injury hit AFL team. In 2011 Fremantle’s injury list was so bad that almost every fit player was playing in the senior team. These things happen and if they do the question for the aligned WAFL club will be where will our players come from?


A look at the teams – in alphabetical order.

CLAREMONT Coach: Michael Broadbridge. Captain: Jake Murphy. Last year: Third.

The Tigers have lost a load of premiership players to retirement and travel. Tom Ledger and Matt Orzel have returned. They will play home games at the Showgrounds for the next couple of years while Claremont Oval goes through a Waverley-style redevelopment.

Broadbridge (speaking at the season launch at Subiaco Oval on Tuesday 18 march): “It’s a massive year of change for us with the redevelopment of the oval. It’s important to make the transition smoothly.”


EAST FREMANTLE Coach: Steve Malaxos. Captain: Last year: Fifth.

The Sharks are probably the hardest hit by players moving to East Perth and Peel under the alignment. Jamie McNamara is back along with Brock O’Brien.

Malaxos: “We’re getting some ex-AFL players back. They have jobs and their lives are organised so they’re ready to go.”


EAST PERTH Coach: Brian Dawson. Captain: Brendan Lee & Craig Wulff. Last year: Second.

The Royals have kept their four best players Lee (out with an injured finger for the early weeks), Wulff, Paul Johnson and Josh Smith and gained a truckload of Eagles. Nathan Blee is back from Port Adelaide. Paul Seal, Aaron Sweet and Ryan Maldenis are among those who have headed off while Michael Swan has retired.

Football manager Mark Winnett: “We’ve had a positive summer. There’s a burning desire to improve.”


PEEL Coach: Cam Shepherd. Captain James Flaherty:. Last year: Last.

For the first time the Thunder go into a season with expectations. Brendan Jones has decided not to retire and the depth of the Dockers is good news for Peel. They’ve lost last year’s fairest and best winner Viv Michie, leading goal scorer Brad Holmes and former AFL players Paul Bower and Marlon Motlop.

Shepherd: “We’re not the Freo reserves we’re Peel Thunder. We want to improve and be competitive each week.”


PERTH Coach: Damien McMahon. Captain: Paul Bevan. Last year: Sixth. The three Morton brothers, Mitch, Jarryd and Cale will be Demons in 2014, Gerard Ugle is back from GWS and Paul Bevan and Chance Bateman are staying on. That means that Perth has three AFL premiership players on their list. Kyle Reimers and Ali Smith have gone.

McMahon: “We’ve had some losses but we’re very happy with our inclusions.”


SOUTH FREMANTLE Coach: Paul Hasleby. Captain: Ryan Cook. Last year: Seventh.

Notable recruits include James Sellar from Melbourne and Brock Higgins from East Perth. Sean Tighe and Mitch Banner are major losses.

Hasleby: “There’s plenty of young talent coming through. Our colts system is good; they’ve made the last three grand finals winning two. I think the alignment system could be good for the WAFL – we’re getting players from other competitions.”


SUBIACO Coach: Jarrad Schofield. Captain: Kyle Horsley. Last year: Seventh.

Shaun Hilderbrandt and Kyal Horsley are back and Wayde Twomey is a significant recruit. Aidan Parker has retired along with Antoni Grover and Mark Nicoski while Ben Randall is taking a year off.

Schofield: “I think we’ve made some inroads. I feeling a bit more relaxed going into my second season as coach. There will be gains and improvement. The alignment system is what it is, we just have to get on with it.”


SWAN DISTRICTS Coach: Greg Harding. Captain: Tallen Ames. Last year: Fourth.

The popular tip for the wooden spoon, Swans have lost Hilderbrandt and Twomey to Sub and Charlie Cameron, Rory Lobb and Dayle Garlett to the AFL draft. They didn’t have the money to recruit players over the summer.

Harding: “We don’t have a lot of expectation but we have some serious players coming through from our zones from places like Port Hedland, Bunbury and locally.”


WEST PERTH Coach: Bill Monaghan. Captain: Luke Tedesco & Jan Van Berlo. Last year: Premiers.

Andrew Krakouer is the big the recruit and he’ll be ready to play within a month according to the coach. The Falcons have lost Jason Salecic, Josh Mellington and Michael Pettigrew.

Monaghan: “We are looking to improve. We’ve programmed our preseason to get it right and be ready to go.”










About Les Everett

A Footy Almanac veteran, Les Everett is the author of Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football and Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History. He is the WAFL correspondent and uses the money he makes from that role to pay for his expensive websites and and fund the extravagant Vin Maskell at


  1. I reckon ‘our’ Eagles will thump those Peel Dockers today.
    Here we go:
    “We’re the Eagles,
    The East Perth Eagles,
    And we’re here to show you why”
    Actually my Swan Districts are looking a basket case on and off the field this year.
    Now that I am working south of the river I am looking to attend quite a few South Freo home games starting next Friday night.
    Any chance that the Griff John Room could become our own Panmunjon – a little Demilitarised Zone for meeting over an ale to enjoy some local footy???

  2. Dennis Gedling says

    Great review. That west perth premiership in 99 is still my favourite. Can always remember the souths fans with premiers 99 t shirts walking to the ground. My brother and I ran in to them after the game offering 20c for the shirts.

    Peel are a basket case and won’t achieve anything. A relative of mine who is ex afl went back to them and was only paid for the season a week or so before Christmas which saw some decent players walk out. They’re coach is a cross of mark need and Damien drum and they promised insentives such as apprenticeships and other such things to get players which they never came through on.

    Hopefully west Perth can put in a decent effort in what is now a rigged competition. The wafc reall are a bunch of clowns.

  3. sean gorman says

    Good work Les. PB try not to make a spectacle of yourself at Freo oval? In saying that wear all your Toaster gear and test the waters!

Leave a Comment