WEST Perth's opening to the finals for 2018 couldn’t have started much worse but with a proud playing group at his disposal, coach Bill Monaghan is confident of a strong response this Sunday in the elimination final against Claremont.
West Perth might have lost its past eight matches against South Fremantle heading into last Saturday's qualifying final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, but after two losses by only a combined 13 points this season, the Falcons had good reason to go into the game confident.
West Perth started reasonably well too and were only five points down when Tyler Keitel goaled at the 10-minute of the second quarter.
But it turned disastrous from there with the Falcons only kicking one more goal the rest of the game as South Fremantle piled on another 16 to win by 98 points.
That certainly left the Falcons rattled but a good home and away season saw them finish in third position and earn a double chance that they look to capitalise on this Sunday against Claremont at Joondalup Arena.
West Perth can take confidence out of having won the last three matches against Claremont too, including both meetings in 2018 as they return home to look to keep its season alive and move into the following Sunday's preliminary final.
While Monaghan was understandably disappointed in his team's performance to lose so comprehensively at the hands of South Fremantle, West Perth's longest-serving and winningest coach in history is confident of a strong response.
With leaders like Aaron Black, Andrew Strijk, Shane Nelson, Jay van Berlo and Chris Keunen, and emerging players Blake Wilhelm, Tyler Keitel, Luke Meadows, Corey Chalmers, Mitch Peirce and Zac Guadagnin, it's a group he has enormous faith in as well.
"One thing for certain is that South were outstanding last week and we were terrible. I've been really proud of the way our players have performed all year and that was out of character, and South might be better than us, but I don’t think they are 98 points better than us," Monaghan said.
"We reflected a little bit on what we did in the bye in the last round but we have probably focused on the things that we've done well all year and refreshed a bit of that through some meetings and a bit of vision.
"Our training program will be tailored around that and we just take on trust that they will come with their best effort this week and we'll see how we go."
Monaghan remains confident that the Falcons will be able to bounce back from that 98-point loss to South Fremantle, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.
Claremont comes into the elimination final on a four-game winning run having beaten East Perth in last Sunday's elimination final at Claremont Oval, so Monaghan is fully aware that even if the Falcons play well, it's going to take their very best to get past the Tigers.
"Of course we can change it around but it's not a matter of just rolling up and doing it. We have to make sure we come with intent and effort, and play our brand of footy and respect what Claremont have done," he said.
"They've been outstanding for a period of time now and their pressure is probably as good as anyone else's in the competition at the moment.
"We have to get our hands on the ball and get it in our front half which we weren’t able to do against South last week at all, and when we did we didn’t score either.
"There's a lot of things that we will do and hopefully do them well like we did over the whole qualifying period. We earned a second chance and we have to cash that in this week and we'll be better."
While West Perth's team has performed admirably well through the challenge times off the field the club is going through, there was encouraging news during the week with the Falcons' creditors agreeing to a repayment plan.
That will mean the club will soon to be back in the hands of the management at the Falcons and out of administration and the future of West Perth in the WAFL does look secure.
Even though Monaghan and the playing group have tried to distance themselves from those issues as much as possible, it's been hard to block it out and the fact that the signs are now more positive in regards to the future is something to allow them to breathe a little easier when thinking about 2019 and beyond.
But for Monaghan, he has just been focusing on the job at hand and has been imploring his players to do the same which is why they've still been successful this season despite that off-field turmoil.
"It's great news that the West Perth Football Club is going to continue but there's a lot of hard work left for the club to do," Monaghan said.
"That's probably the first step in the process but we've been able to push that to the side the whole year or at least the last six or seven weeks the administration has been going.
"We didn’t use it as a positive or negative in that period and it's probably not something we are going to concentrate on this week.
"Our focus is on playing our very best footy against a talented Claremont side and hopefully at the end of the day on Sunday, we come out on top and progress to play in a prelim final."