West Perth survived a stirring Peel Thunder fightback to open their 2022 account with a see-sawing 11-point victory at Mandurah’s Lane Group Stadium on Sunday.
A thrashing looked on the cards when the Falcons piled on seven of the first eight goals before the home side bounced back to take a shock lead late in the third quarter.
The Thunder came hard again in the last term to get within five on two occasions with prized draftee Jye Amiss booting his fifth goal at the 33-minute mark but his team ran out of time to go down 16.8 (104) to 14.9 (93).
Clever small forward Keegan Knott also stood up late with two of his four goals in the last term to make sure his team didn’t embark on the long drive up the freeway empty-handed.
Hard-running winger Trent Manzone (26 disposals and a goal), ball magnet Shane Nelson (25) and fellow midfielders Conal Lynch (22 and seven tackles) and Tristan Hobley (18 and two goals) all had a big say for the Falcons, while reigning colts fairest-and-best Luke Reilly (two goals) enjoyed a bright start to his senior career.
Nelson was particularly important in the final quarter, winning several clearances to make up for the absence of co-captain Aaron Black and midfield bull Luke Meadows who were both out with COVID.
Top-10 draft pick Neil Erasmus was the Thunder’s best and most consistent player after returning from a two-game AFL stint to help inspire a remarkable turnaround before a head knock in the dying stages.
Erasmus racked up a game-high 34 possessions including the equal-most contested possessions on the ground to go with 11 score involvements, 11 marks, nine clearances and nine inside 50s to put his hands up for an immediate recall.
But his availability for next week will be determined by a concussion test.
Fellow first-round pick Amiss combined with fellow Dockers-listed key forward Josh Treacy for nine majors to highlight the club’s exciting depth, while Ethan Hughes stood tall down back.
Erasmus racked up a game-high 12 disposals in the first quarter alone, more than double any other Thunder player, but had some help from the likes of Mitch Crowden and Nathan Wilson after quarter-time.
The home side produced a spirited revival after trailing by 35 points at the first change.
A pair of Peel debutants from the Northern Territory got on the board in as many minutes with Brodie Carroll pouncing on an errant kick out of defence before mobile tall Wade Derken nailed a beauty to help cut the margin back to 12 by the main break.
Scores were level by the 11-minute mark of the third term with the Thunder leading by as much as seven before West Perth steadied.
Dockers ruckman Lloyd Meek was held over as he looms as concussed Sean Darcy’s replacement against Geelong next round with Falcons big man Troy Yukich racking up 46 hit-outs.
WEST PERTH, 7.2, 9.3, 12.8, 16.8 (104)
PEEL THUNDER, 1.3, 7.3, 11.5, 14.9 (93)
Goals – WEST PERTH: K Knott 4 S Rotham 3 T Hobley 2 L Reilly 2 M Antonio 2 T Manzone S Kernutt M Dobson. PEEL THUNDER: J Amiss 5 J Treacy 4 W Derksen 2 B Carroll B Banfield S Sturt.
Best – WEST PERTH: T Manzone S Nelson C Lynch T Yukich K Knott S Rotham. PEEL THUNDER: N Erasmus J Treacy J Amiss W Derksen M Crowden E Hughes.
Injuries – WEST PERTH: Nil. PEEL THUNDER: N Erasmus (concussion).
Umpires: C Snadden, C Dugan, A Crowhurst
Crowd: About 2300 at Lane Group Stadium.