CLAREMONT has suffered two tough-to-stomach losses the last two weeks leading into this Saturday's Foxtel Cup clash on the Gold Coast, but coach Marc Webb knows his team has a lot of work to do heading into the second half of the WAFL season.
The reigning premiers have been on top of the ladder for the majority of the first 12 rounds, but a 14-point loss at home to bottom-placed Peel and then a heartbreaking after the siren defeat to East Perth has seen the Tigers slip to 7-4 and third position on the table.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Peel, Webb certainly expected the Tigers to bounce back hard against East Perth last Sunday even if they were without key players including David Crawford, Tom Lee, Andrew Browne, Andrew Foster and James Thomson.
The Tigers looked in control at times and still led by 15 points at three quarter-time, but the end result was a one-point loss thanks to an after the siren goal for the Royals to leave Webb frustrated at his side's last two weeks heading into the Foxtel Cup quarter-final against Mt Gravatt.
Webb was disappointed his team didn’t find a way to hold on for the victory and he knows there is plenty of work for the Tigers to do after losses to fellow top-four teams Swan Districts, East Perth and East Fremantle in the first half of the year.
The only win came in Round 2 by four points against the Royals.
"I thought they would have bounced back with a win. When you are a good side you can just find a way to win and this week East Perth just found a way to win, and we have to find that ability. It's obvious that a couple of close games this year that we haven’t won we haven’t done that, and we have to find the right mix to find a way to win," Webb said.
"We are positioned I guess where we should be and that would be third or fourth. The reality is that we've played Swan Districts, East Perth and East Fremantle, and won one game out of four against those teams.
"The players need to understand that wherever they thought they may be or think they are, the reality is that we've beaten the top-three teams once out of four games. The ladder doesn’t lie and neither do those results. We have to start to change a few things to be more competitive against the top teams."
Even though Claremont put in a pretty solid performance against East Perth in tough conditions on Sunday, Webb knows that counts for nothing if you don't get the four points.
"It was very disappointing. I think there were a few key times in the game that affect you and obviously a couple of decisions that you can't really do anything about, but that's football. We've just got to learn from it and it gives us a good idea of where we are at," he said.
"It means jack if you don’t win the game. I don’t care what position they were in at three quarter-time or halfway through the last. All that matters is the position you are in after the game. You have to be able to hold your resolve and win the game of football, it's as simple as that.
"I was very disappointed because I think there were a few things that were poor and out of our control, but a few things poor that were in our control. I was just telling them that I was very disappointed there and the things out of our control we will address with the powers that be, but we had a chance to win the game and should have won it."
While the absence of a host of key players last week and of late with the likes of Foster and Browne been out for much of the season, and then Lee, Thomson and Crawford joining them on the sidelines last week, there have been opportunities for others.
Debutant Sam Fong was one that took his chance last Sunday doing a good run-with role on East Perth's Garry Moss, but with those players working their way back and with others deserving an opportunity, Webb knows it's time to work out what Claremont's best 22 will be.
"We should get a fair few back I would say after the Foxtel Cup and there could even be some playing next week. It's competitive for positions, but I think that we have to find the right mix. The challenge starts this week and the reality is that we've got to start to find the best team that we can go into the back half of the year with," he said.
"It gives us an opportunity for some players to show their worth and there are a few players to be rested who have had a pretty heavy load. You won't find any of the state boys going over and I think they need a good break, but there's still a lot of players fighting for their position. We've lost two in-a-row and we could have won both, and the reality is that finals football is going to be very similar and good sides find a way. I've got to find the right mix that wins those games.
"There's opportunities and a chance for us to see players. We had Sam Fong who played on Moss this week and did a good job so that was good to get a bit of a look at a player there. There are opportunities, but we want to make sure we judge players on the games where you really need to judge them, and that's in close games against tough opposition. I will be judging a fair bit of what goes forward and on a game like this."
Two experienced campaigners that haven’t played for Claremont's league side yet this year, but will make the trip for the Foxtel Cup and then potentially face Subiaco next week are Rory Walton and Andrew Ruck.
Walton has played 102 games as a prolific ball winning midfielder before taking off 2011 to travel, but he has picked up 59 possessions in the reserves the last two weeks, while Ruck is also building form nicely on his return from a knee reconstruction.
"Rucky played in the twos and he's getting very close. I definitely think he will be playing next week," Webb said.
"That's the second game Rory has strung together now so he is one that we have to look at. It's important that we start to give these blokes opportunities and that will happen."