We tell ourselves just another game
OVER the past few weeks, I’ve been running into people who wanted to discuss the different finals scenarios that could unfold.
I understand why the fans look at all the possibilities, but everyone in the West Coast Eagles was only ever focused on the immediate future. And that was the next game.
When we played our qualifying final against Hawthorn we were not focused on anything except that game.
We certainly weren’t thinking of the benefit of having a week off from playing. But I have to say it’s a reward all of us enjoyed.
We had a pretty light week on the track, but the good thing was to have a couple of open training sessions so the fans could get down and have a look.
The fitness staff used the week as an opportunity to freshen up and while we trained the same number of times, the volume of work was eased back a bit.
Because we had so much riding on every game in the run home, we couldn’t afford to rest players in the last couple of qualifying games, as Fremantle and North Melbourne did in round 23. So our break came last weekend and it was much appreciated.
There are players who, like me, played every game of the season. That’s a lot of footy. And while it is a demanding game, having that nucleus of players available for so many games is one of the reasons we were able to finish second and earn two home finals.
Now we’re getting ready for a preliminary final and that’s exciting. We know what the prize is, but again we will focus on what needs to be done, play to our game plan and we believe if we do that it will be good enough to win. IMAGINE being a seven-year-old child, going to a qualifying final watching your team, the West Coast Eagles, beat the reigning premiers by 32 points.
Imagine the excitement of cheering your team to victory, being part of a Mexican wave, singing the club song with about 40,000 other fans after the big win and then heading down to the fence.
Imagine, holding out your hand and having the players give you a high-five as they celebrate.
And then, as if it can’t get any better than that, imagine Luke Shuey, one of your heroes, leaning over the fence and asking whether you want to join him on the oval.
And with that he picks you up and says ‘want to come down the rooms and sing the song with the boys?’
Imagine all that – every young supporter’s dream – and bring it to reality. Then you have the night of Jake Smethurst, a devoted young West Coast fan who was at the ground with his grandmother to watch the qualifying against Hawthorn.
One lucky youngster is plucked from the crowd to join Eagles players for the team song each time West Coast play at home.
On this occasion it was Jake who experienced the once-in-a-life-time dream.
Jake was able to head down the race, holding Luke’s hand, and then be part of the players’ circle as they sang together, ‘We’re the Eagles, West Coast Eagles…’
His mother Kellie said he could hardly contain his excitement when he raced through the doors of the family home.
“Jake is an avid Eagles supporter and has been virtually since he was born,” Kellie said.
“My mother is a noteholder, so he went with her and was just so stoked when he came home.
“He was going at a million miles an hour and was absolutely over the moon. He'll never forget it.
“Because it was a final, mum and Jake were not sitting in the usual seats and at the end of the game when he raced down to the fence he was under strict instructions to stay behind it. I guess he figured when Luke invited him over it was OK.”