With only one fit player on the bench for most of the second half, the Thunder were overrun by a star-studded Royals side who are tipped by many to lift the premiership come season’s end.
In a gritty encounter, both sides showed great endeavour early but failed to impose themselves on the scoreboard.
The Thunder were decimated with injury to key players early, with Tanner Smith (hamstring), Colin Sylvia (quad) and Max Duffy (shoulder) all going down before half-time.
Despite the lack of rotations, the Thunder battled manfully to stay in touch with the Royals, who threatened to run away with the match late in the third quarter.
A quick snap from Anthony Morabito on the cusp of three-quarter time reduced the margin to 19 points and gave the home side a sliver of hope, but East Perth maintained their lead by the final siren.
Despite the loss, coach Cam Shepherd was proud of the way the players continued to attack the contest regardless of the lack of rotations.
‘To be under siege but keep chipping away and tackling hard, there were some real positives to come out from that point of view,’ he said.
‘It really typified the effort we want from the boys, and when you’re down to one rotation you get to see the type of character in the players and they definitely showed that.’
Despite the fight in the second half, Shepherd said there were still areas for improvement.
‘We recognise that there were periods in the second quarter when they got a few centre clearances where we could have possibly done better, but after that we really knuckled down,’ Shepherd said.
Brendon Jones was outstanding on his return from retirement, gathering a team-high 27 possessions, including a remarkable goal outside 50 in the third term.
Jones’ trademark attack on the ball was pivotal in keeping the Thunder in the match and Shepherd had high praise for the former skipper.
‘The manner that he has presented himself back to the football club has been outstanding and he hasn’t faltered in his preparation,’ Shepherd said.
Josh Simpson was another who would have impressed the Fremantle hierarchy, with 25 touches and showing all the attributes that led the Dockers to secure him with pick 16 in the 2012 draft.
The game also marked the official return from injury for Garrick Ibbotson, who showed some good signs with 18 touches off halfback.
Shepherd said apart from a 15-minute lapse in the second quarter, he was impressed with the way the Thunder matched up with the Royals.
‘We were more than competitive all day and we look forward to the rest of the season with great hope and expectation, based on what I saw,’ he said.
With the bye this weekend, Shepherd said while the side wanted to keep on playing, the extra break would allow for an extensive review ahead of the round 3 clash with Swan Districts.