FOR most of 2017 West Perth looked guaranteed of playing in the AHG WAFL Finals Series and while it was hard work needing to beat Claremont last week, the Falcons are now there and looking to make the most of it.
West Perth's form might not have been as strong as hoped to close the season, but the fact remains that the Falcons put in such a strong first half of the year to be in a good position and that by winning 10 games they were deserving of a finals spot ahead of East Perth and Claremont.
In the end as well it was only just over one per cent that West Perth missed out on hosting this Sunday's elimination final against Swan Districts.
But that game will now take place at Steel Blue Oval with the winner to advance to play South Fremantle in next Sunday's first semi-final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval while the season is over for the loser.
It's best to describe West Perth's season as a rollercoaster ride with things looking good after five straight wins and a 6-2 record after Round 10. There was another win in Round 12 over Swan Districts before the Falcons lost four straight and the injuries were beginning to mount.
West Perth was struggling to get anything close to its strongest team out on the park and it became a real fight to remain in a finals position.
In the end it came down to needing to beat Claremont in the final round last Saturday and despite inaccuracy haunting the Falcons all this season, this time it worked in their favour as they won by four points to claim fifth spot and only narrowly miss fourth.
No matter what has happened to get to this point, Monaghan is now looking forward to Sunday's elimination final with Swan Districts.
"Seasons can seem to drag on for a long time and we've been training since November and then there's 23 rounds plus a round in the middle for the state game so it's a long process to get to where we are now," Monaghan told 91.3 SportFM.
"We were fortunate enough to win enough games to get into the finals but that all counts for nothing now, it's down to five teams and we have a cut-throat final against Swan Districts to prepare for on Sunday. We are really looking forward to that and what's happened over the past month or so doesn’t count for anything, what matters is what happens on Sunday."
It wasn't just the fact that West Perth found some accuracy last week that was important and impressive, it was the fact it had come from some of their key forward options.
Michael Lourey kicked 4.1 having previously booted 18.13 for the season while Tyler Keitel kicked 2.1 (44.42) and Andrew Strijk 3.1 (20.27) to all be important factors in the win.
Monaghan was especially pleased to see his key forward Lourey rediscover some good form after a challenging season and then the hiccup of suffering a broken hand.
"Mike missed three or four games with a broken hand and he played the last couple of weeks back before the weekend when we were experimenting with Nick Rodda forward," he said.
"His return probably hasn’t been as much as we would have liked or he would have, and he is one of the guys who hasn’t kicked on goal as well as we'd hope.
"But his 4.1 on the weekend to go along with 3.1 from Strijky and 2.1 from Tyler Keitel went a long way to us winning the game. Hopefully he has recovered from the hand well and we expect him to compete hard, and provide a target in attack for us."
It has been that inaccuracy that has plagued West Perth all season but it's not something the coaching and playing group hasn’t been working hard on, no player goes out there not trying to kick straight and Monaghan was glad to see it turn around at the most crucial time against Claremont.
"We have been working hard on our goalkicking for a number of weeks and finally it paid off and I feel a little bit for Darren and his crew at Claremont because I know how he feels when you pick up the stats sheet and your gut feel as a coach is that you were on top in most areas but not the scoreboard," Monaghan said.
"We've been through that where we've had our opportunities but haven’t taken them so it's a very frustrating part of the game. But the players never try to miss goals. It was really important that we nailed those opportunities against Claremont because they were limited and now we have to do the same again on Sunday."
West Perth and Swan Districts have a history of playing some fascinating and tight contests, and this season has been no different.
The Falcons did prevail in both but it was by just five points at HBF Arena in Round 6 and then eight points at Steel Blue Oval in Round 12.
Both games were terrific contests and while Monaghan doesn’t necessarily take confidence from winning those games, there's always things you learn any time you play any opponent.
"You do look at those games to some degree because what football coaching is about is recognising patterns, plays and structures from the opposition so we need to look at those games, but not in terms of the score and the result," he said.
"It's more about how Swans move the ball, how we were able to move the ball against them and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
"Both sides are very similar with the back half of our seasons being pretty ordinary in terms of winning games of footy, but you have to sift through that and work on nullifying the opposition's strengths. We will be looking at the things that we need to do well against them."
Neither West Perth nor Swan Districts might be entering finals in great form and considering both won 10 games and were separated by just over one per cent on the ladder, there appears little between the sides.
That's exactly how Monaghan is feeling heading into Sunday's cut-throat encounter.
"They've got a really solid defence with Notte, Ames, Howard, Ugle and they've got some run off half-back and they have some dangerous weapons forward with Cary who can kick a lot of goals, Banfield has got us a couple of times and Nuich or Gault can go forward," Monaghan said.
"Their midfield is led by Riggio too and they are probably a little bit like us through the middle with some blue-collar workers who grind it out without a lot of explosive midfielders.
"They are warriors who like collisions so it's going to be a game where both sides will throw everything at each other. They have a lot of weapons and we just need to be mindful of all of them."