WEST Perth coach Bill Monaghan told his players they could “give it up or go down swinging” with his side facing a 45-point three-quarter-time deficit in the WAFL first semi-final against Peel on Sunday.
The Falcons’ mentor knew the team would have to play a high-risk brand of football if it was to have any chance of mounting a miraculous comeback.
Monaghan did not want to see a soft approach to what was likely their final quarter of the season, telling his players to “run into someone” if they got the chance.
“Don’t take any s**t, just go… load up from behind and soon as we get it run, stun, kick it long and deep and try and goal,” he urged.
And the players responded with their highest-scoring quarter of the game, but the attacking approach meant they also conceded more goals than in any other term, with the Thunder stretching the margin to a 15.15 (105) to 7.3 (45) victory at Arena Joondalup.
The loss eliminated the Falcons without a win from two finals games in 2016 and set up a preliminary final clash between Peel and South Fremantle this weekend.
The Falcons had kicked just three goals for the contest up to the final term, but managed four majors to the visitors’ six in a free-flowing fourth quarter.
The fairness of Peel fielding 17 Fremantle Dockers players was questioned long after the contest had finished.
However, the side was not unbeatable – these were not first-choice AFL players after all, they were second stringers.
It was a matter of West Perth not being at the level of consistency it needed to be in a WAFL final and the 10-goal final margin reflected that.
The Falcons often made silly errors in blatantly turning the ball over or putting a teammate under pressure with an errant pass.
The loss was similar to the side’s 52-point qualifying final defeat to South Fremantle, with the team being in the game at half-time but blown away in the third quarter.
The Falcons were only 14 points down into the main break but managed just one point in the third term as their opponents peppered the goal face to kick four goals and eight behinds.
Monaghan’s decision to go without ruckman Chris Keunen raised eyebrows, with Tyler Keitel left to shoulder much of the ruck duties.
Much was made of the work of Peel’s Connor Blakely (35 disposals), but the energetic effort of Blair Bell – a non-AFL player – was exemplary, with the mid-size attacker sending the ball inside 50 a match-high six times and kicking three goals from 18 disposals.
For West Perth, Aaron Black was typically busy with 28 touches and a goal, while Andrew Strijk kicked three majors and set a fine example for his teammates with his use of the ball around the ground from 15 disposals.
Falcons defender Luke Meadows (14 possessions) brought an intensity to the contest unmatched by the rest of his side.