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KEITEL THRIVING IN WEST PERTH FORWARD-LINE

Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 12:58 PM by Chris Pike
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TYLER Keitel has had two equally outstanding seasons the past two years with West Perth as a defender in 2016 and forward in 2017, but he's happy to have now settled into attack and a premiership with the Falcons is much more his priority than a potential AFL future.

Keitel had a promising junior career and that meant it created quite a stir between the bitterest of WAFL rivals when he wanted to switch from East Perth to West Perth without having yet made his league debut with the Royals.

That meant that he had a slow start to his 2015 season and never really got going, but the improvement and development of the 22-year-old has been rapid since.

For the rest of that 2015 campaign, he split his time between playing as a key forward and defender with stints in the ruck, but in 2016 he settled as a defender and was outstanding.

As an intercept marker and someone who could rack up huge numbers setting up play out of the West Perth back-line, he emerged as one of the strongest key defenders in the WAFL.

But coming into 2017, the decision was made to use him forward and the end result was he took 109 marks for the season to be second among key forwards while having more shots than everyone aside from Subiaco's Bernie Naylor Medallist Liam Ryan. 

Keitel ended up kicking 46.43 for the season, the most of all key forward targets, including a career-best seven in Round 18 against Perth.

It was somewhat a surprise given his age and ability to play at both ends of the ground that he wasn’t given an AFL opportunity at the end of 2017, but that was West Perth's gain and now the past two weeks he's booted six goals against South Fremantle and Swan Districts.

He hadn’t managed to kick a goal in the opening two weeks against Claremont and East Perth, but he has built into the season nicely and is enjoying that the Falcons showed they could still win even without big contributions from him or fellow key forward Michael Lourey.

"It wasn’t ideal to start the way I did individually this season but I think the really promising thing was that first game when myself and Lourey probably didn’t fire and have an impact act at all, so for us to still get a win in that Round 1 clash was fantastic," Keitel told WAFL World on 91.3 SportFM.

"In the last couple of week both me and Lours have found a little bit of form and kicked some goals, but more importantly as a team we have been relentless down forward and we've got an even spread of goals which makes us more dangerous and harder for the opposition to counteract."

Keitel certainly proved he could be more than hold his own down back and has done some good work in the ruck at times over the past couple of years, but he is feelings settled now in the forward-line for West Perth.

He's also enjoying having the likes of Rudy Riddoch, Keegan Knott and even ex-skipper Jay van Berlo alongside him in attack.

"I'm really enjoying my time playing forward and we've got a really good group down there," he said.

"With the  injection of guys like Keegan Knott and Rudy Riddoch is starting to find his feet and even Jay van Berlo has come down there, so it really is a team within a team down there. I'm really enjoying my time there that's for sure."

West Perth returned to the WAFL winner's list last Saturday with a strong 31-point victory against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.

That was a good response for the Falcons from losses to the Royals and Bulldogs as they now head to Lathlain Park on Saturday to take on a Perth team they have beaten 13 straight times.

Keitel also has good memories having kicked seven goals against the Demons last year, but he and his teammates won't be taking the wooden spooners of three of the last four seasons lightly.

"Obviously to start off with it's great to be back in the winner's circle and now we look forward to this week against Perth," Keitel said. 

"But what Perth has done at the start of this year and  back end of last year is definitely gain a bit of respect from the opposition so we won't be taking this game lightly. We definitely look forward to the challenge of hopefully starting to string a few wins together."

Keitel's development since joining West Perth has been tremendous to follow and while someone of his size, age and all-round ability could more than hold his own on an AFL list, it's nothing he is letting occupy his mind too much.

"It's always going to be a dream of mine to play at the highest level, I just need to keep in perspective where I'm at right now and what I need to do to get something more," he said.

"It's all well and good thinking you want to be at that level but I think I am taking the right steps towards that. But really I'm just enjoying my time down at West Perth and the opportunities they have given me. I'm hoping we can win a premiership within the next couple of years more than anything."

Keitel's life off the field has also taken a turn he wasn’t expected as he has moved into a real estate career in 2018.

"I just recently finished a sports science degree but with my commitment to footy that's pretty full on sports wise so I have gone down a different path and am working at Century 21 Gold Key Realty in Clarkson," Keitel said. 

"That has been fantastic and Justin is really good and knows my commitments with footy and lets me leave work early when I need to. It's been fantastic."