THERE was a lot to like about the first game of the year against East Perth. All three grades recorded a hard fought victory.
Senior coach Bill Monaghan had his 100th victory as Falcons coach; this is the first time that this has been achieved. It confirms how good a coach he is as the players do give their best for him. Scott Nelson and Nathan Alexandre made their debuts. The local products more than held their own.
Experienced Victorian big man Scott Simpson also debuted and showed that he is going to be a valuable acquisition. It was also pleasing to see younger players Tyson Moulton, James Batterham, Dean Munns, Corey Chalmers and Kris Shannon rewarded for their pre-season form and perseverance by being chosen for the season opener.
West Perth kicked to the city end to start the game; this was into a swirling breeze. They made all the running early but were unable to kick the first major until the 16-minute mark. This went to Chalmers who was on the end of a long pass. He converted from 30. The second followed shortly after when Moulton finished from a sharp angle 30 out. This gave West Perth a 13-point lead going into time on. From this point in time the Royals settled and they attacked consistently. Their first major came at the 22-minute mark courtesy of Kurt Mutimer. The Falcons defended hard but a goal after the siren by Tom Lamb gave the visitors a four-point lead going into the first change. The scores were East Perth 3.1 (19) to West Perth 2.3 (15).
The second quarter continued to be a hard fought contest with each side gaining the ascendancy for short periods. West Perth hit the scoreboard first courtesy of a second to Moulton. He finished from the square after a clever kick forward by Andrew Strijk. The next 10 minutes belonged to East Perth and they kicked two goals, including a second to Lamb, and led by nine. West Perth, who had been doing little wrong as they tried to move the ball on at all costs, then steadied to momentarily wrest back the initiative.
A wonderful left foot pass by Trent Manzone hit Michael Lourey on the chest 50 out. He went back and kicked the first of his three. Manzone also kicked two goals on his non-preferred left foot. The first of these came at the 18-minute mark when he finished from just on 50. The Falcons now led by four but shortly after a major to Luke Partington gave the advantage back to East Perth. But the Falcons weren’t done with yet. The impressive Luke Meadows launched a terrific 50m pass to James Batterham. He marked 20 out, on an angle, and his accurate kick gave West Perth a three point half time lead; 6.5 (41) to 6.2 (38).
A highlight of the game was the high number of lead changes and the third term was no exception. Lamb kicked his third at the nine-minute mark to regain the lead for the Royals, Lourey got it back for the Falcons with his second but a fourth to Lamb saw the lead, once again, in the visitors hands. At the 18-minute mark good hands from the skipper, Jay van Berlo, enabled Steve Potente to kick the first of his two from the square. This gave West Perth a three-point lead; one that they didn’t relinquish for the rest of the day.
It continued to be a tight contest with the Falcons kicking three behinds before Lourey kicked his third. This was a wonderful effort with him carrying the ball a long way, taking three bounces and finishing on the run from 30. The lead was now 12 but as had been the case all day East Perth rallied and at the final change had narrowed the margin to just four; 9.8 (62) to 9.4 (58).
The game was up for grabs going into the last quarter. Play opened up and scoring became easier. Tyler Keitel, who had looked dangerous up forward, kicked his first from 30 and a strong tackle laid by Chalmers enabled him to kick his second. At the nine-minute mark the lead was out to 23 when Manzone scored his second left foot major. West Perth had all of the momentum and were playing strong, team football. East Perth kicked two of the next three goals and had reduced the margin to 19 midway through the term. The West Perth goal was a second to Potente and occurred within seconds of an East Perth major with the ball coming straight out of the middle. As the game moved into time on East Perth rallied for the final time and they narrowed the margin to just 13 before West Perth had the last three scoring shots to run out 21-point victors. The 14.15 (99) to 12.6 (78) was a great start to the season.
As a result of the victory West Perth are the winners of the inaugural Polly Farmer Shield. This was recognised with a presentation at the end of the game.
Congratulations to Ryan Lasscock who scored a first up victory as colts coach and to Paul Sanzone who did the same back in the chair as reserves coach. Sanza coached the reserves to a premiership in 2014; their first since 1960. Players in the reserves to receive awards included the returning Mitch van Berlo, Conal Lynch, Brayden Antonio and best was Aidan Lynch who will soon force his way back into the league side. Best for the league were Kody Manning, Trent Manzone, Shane Nelson and best was Luke Meadows. It was a very even team performance. Another big challenge lays ahead next week with the Falcons taking on Subiaco at HBF Arena. Be there to help get the teams over the line.
BY DARRELL KENT
PHOTOS BY BELINDA TAYLOR