Claremont got so much more than just four premiership points this weekend and it has coach Ash Prescott buoyed for the rest of the season.
The successful returns of ruckman Oliver Eastland and midfielder Bailey Bennett added further depth to the already loaded Tigers side, while reigning Sandover medallist Bailey Rogers showed the disappointment of again being overlooked in a draft was not going to affect his performances with another stellar game.
It could mean Claremont’s 16.6 (102) to 11.2 (68) defeat of Perth at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday is the game that shapes their season.
Prescott went as far as to label the win as “brilliant” as he looks to take his side further than last year’s preliminary final effort.
“I was rapt with our intensity… across the board. I thought some of the young fellas really stood up,” Prescott said.
“Our tackle, our chase, our ability to win the contested ball was really good and then we also moved it quick, long and direct at times.”
Eastland showed he’d lost no touch in his first league game since last year’s preliminary final after dealing with stress fractures in his back last year and throughout the pre-season.
The 24-year-old dominated the ruck contests with 40 hit-outs to go with 15 disposals and six tackles.
“Just the way he approached his rehab and getting his back right was super impressive. And he’s been building strongly,” Prescott said.
“What Ollie does bring is obviously his ability to tap the ball is good, but he’s like an extra midfielder on the ground with his tackle and his hunt at ground level.”
Dual Sandover medallist Jye Bolton was arguably best-on-ground with 38 disposals and 10 clearances, but his partner in crime in Rogers was equally as impressive.
Rogers had 27 disposals, two goals, six inside-50s and four clearances to show AFL recruiters who ignored him at this week’s mid-season draft what they’d missed out on.
“Bailey’s got such a growth mindset around improving and getting better. He’s so coachable and he’s just continually looking at ways he can improve as a midfielder and as a forward,” Prescott said.
“He had to help us out late in the game and go across half-back and he was pivotal there too.
“His ability to try to improve and better himself is outstanding and that’s why I believe he continues to get better and better as he gets older. He’s got such a great attitude towards his footy.”
Forward Max Spyvee had a career-best day with three goals, 20 disposals and seven tackles, while Ben Edwards continued his break-out season with 27 touches and nine clearances.
Perth will sweat on the availability of forward Fraser McInnes, who injured his Achilles late in the game to leave the Demons short of tall forwards.
Leading goalkicker Sam Stubbs is already sidelined for two months with a fractured tibia but Kristian Cary (three goals) and Demons debutant Jordan Busher (two goals) showed signs they can fill the hole.
Sam Perkusich was also good with two goals and 19 disposals in just his 15th league game.