WHILE four-time premiership star Darren Rumble is just happy to be back playing after his illness scare earlier in the season, he was left frustrated that Subiaco couldn’t finish the job last Saturday against Claremont to make it hard for the new-look Lions of 2012 to now make the finals.
Rumble has only been back for three games after being struck down with the serious bacterial meningitis, but his Lions are now facing a big challenge just to remain in the finals race following last Saturday's tough-to-take loss to Claremont at Medibank Stadium.
Subiaco found itself 40 points up against Claremont and playing tremendous football, but the momentum began to turn and eventually the Tigers kicked 10 of the last 11 goals of the game to win by 13 points and leave Rumble gutted afterwards.
"It was probably one of the hardest losses I've played in for a while. Being so far up and then losing it, I don’t really know what happened. It's frustrating," Rumble said.
"The same thing happened last week as well but we got over the line because they couldn’t kick straight. It's just a mental thing. You can't play two and-a-half quarters the way you want to and then not do it for the rest of the game.
"It's definitely a mental thing, it's not that we don’t have the talent or anything. It's a mental and attitude thing, and it's happened to us a few times this year now."
Subiaco has now played two improved games since a disastrous 70-point loss to Perth.
A win over fourth-placed East Fremantle put the Lions back in the finals hunt and they could have been just two points behind Claremont with a win last Saturday, but the loss leaves them three games out of the four and facing a must-win clash at Medibank Stadium with East Perth this Saturday.
"We did have to take stock after that Perth game and then I think we learned a bit from the East Freo win that we took into this week, but we only played well for two and-a-half quarters. It's something that we have to try and rectify now and until we do, it's going to be hard work," he said.
"We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater after losing, but it's going to be hard. We were in a similar position last year and you just never know. We still did play pretty well the last two weeks and if we can now put together four quarters from now onwards we are a chance, but if we turn up like we did again in the second half this week it's going to get ugly and we won't make the finals. Hopefully we learn from it and get on with it."
From last year's team that made a stunning run all the way to the grand final against Claremont, Subiaco is currently without Shaun Hildebrandt, Brad Stevenson, Danny Hughes, Adam Cockie, Ben Randall, Kyal Horsley, Allistair Pickett, Ben Keevers and Michael Rix.
That sort of turnover has become a regular thing for Subiaco since the hat-trick of premierships in 2006-07-08, and Rumble admits it is a sense of frustration having to try to gel from year to year all over again.
"It does take time and it's one of the most frustrating things about playing. Apart from those premiership years when we didn’t have too much turnover, the last few years the turnover has been ridiculous and it is hard," Rumble said.
"If we had a team on the park every week and from year to year, it would make things a lot easier and you could get used to playing with blokes. But when you get a huge change in personnel each year, it takes time."
Subiaco's defence has long been the club's strength and while some of the faces have changed, that has continued this year now that Rumble has returned.
He enjoyed yet another battle with Claremont's Chad Jones last Saturday while also glad to have help from Fremantle pair Antoni Grover and Jack Anthony with captain Aidan Parker spending more time in the ruck this season.
"He's (Parker) actually all right in there because he uses his body well, but losing Rixy this year was massive. We've got some blokes here that can do the job though," he said.
"They've (Grover and Anthony) both obviously got plenty of experience and I'm pretty sure Jacky started down back in his career so it's not like it's foreign to him. They both were good last week and pretty good again this week, it's definitely handy having them down there to help out.
"He (Jones) is always a good opponent to play and he showed it again this week kicking important goals towards the end there, and even taking some good marks. He's always a tough opponent and especially when Claremont start to get on the end of a lot of footy and get their players running forward. He's pretty hard to stop with an open forward-line."
Rumble played well in Subiaco's Round 1 win over West Perth, but then was rushed to hospital and later diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. There were some scary times there and it took months to get over, but the 27-year-old is now glad to be back healthy and playing again.
"It was pretty scary, but at the time I didn’t really know what it was or what bacterial meningitis really was. It didn’t really dawn on me what was going on until the doctors told me after I had started to recover a little," Rumble said.
"I found out it had a pretty high mortality rate so I guess I was pretty lucky, but being fit and healthy definitely helped me recover and get over it. It took 11 weeks until I stopped the medication and then it was just a slow progression, but it was hard because you kind of felt OK until you started running again.
"There was a couple of times I pushed myself too hard trying to get fit and back quickly, but I had to learn when to pull back and go as my body told me and pick it up slowly. I'm just enjoying being back and playing again now. It's frustrating, though, with the losses we've had so hopefully we can turn it around for the rest of the season."