CHRIS Keunen has seen a lot of West Perth football as he heads into his 200th game, but there’s never been a situation quite like the current one where the future of the club’s existence is uncertain.
The Falcons’ dire financial trouble, which forced them into voluntary administration with about $800,000 in debts last week, seems like it would be an unavoidable distraction to a team looking to hold onto a top-two spot with WAFL finals approaching.
Media crews hovered around the ground while the players trained last Thursday night as the club held an emergency members’ meeting to outline its desperate position.
But to a seasoned campaigner like Keunen with 199 games to his name, it had not been too difficult to block out the noise.
“It hasn’t really played on us at all… we’ve spoken about bits and pieces,” he said.
“As a group we’ve just tried to stay focused on what we can control and that’s how we play on the field and what we do at training.
“So we leave all the finance stuff in the hands of the board and they’ve let us know in terms of our payments it’s not going to affect us.
“We’re just leaving that in the background and letting our performances do the talking.”
Keunen’s journey to a 200-game career began slowly in 2006 given the Falcons had the AFL talents of Mark Seaby, Quinten Lynch, Kepler Bradley and Robbie Warnock.
Coach Bill Monaghan, who arrived at the club in 2009, said he had a “frank” discussion with him when his position in the side was not guaranteed.
“He got shafted a few times… and I said ‘Chris, if you play well, it doesn’t matter who drops back from the AFL side, you’ll hold your spot’ – and that’s what he’s been able to do,” Monaghan said.
“He’s a tall fella, but there’s not much of him and he’s constantly up against big-bodied ruckmen – sometimes two, sometimes three,” he said.
“He does it pretty much solo and has done for 10 years.”
Keunen is enjoying one of his more consistent seasons in recent years after injury interrupted his 2016 and 2017 campaigns.
He said his footy was still “just as fun as it was at the start” but the enjoyment had changed from a learning environment to one of teaching the next generation.
The Falcons have this season moulded a significant group of youngsters into a reliable complement to their senior players and it has helped the side to second spot on the ladder as finals near.
There were not many pundits who considered West Perth a chance in 2018, but Keunen said this group of players did not feel too different to the one that won a premiership in 2013.
“The team is obviously not made up of superstars but even 2013 and 2015 (when West Perth made the grand final), we weren’t really a team of super players,” he said.
“We were just a hard honest working group of blokes who followed the structures and did what was needed for the team – I think that’s happening again this year.”