Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron is adamant a second preliminary final exit in a row will ultimately be the making of his young team.
The Giants trailed Richmond by just one point at halftime at the MCG, but couldn’t go with the Tigers in the third quarter and fell to a 15.13 (103) to 9.13 (67) loss.
It followed last year’s preliminary final defeat to the Western Bulldogs.
“I said to our boys that I’d prefer to playing in prelims every year because it means you’ve finished in the top four, which we have two years in a row, and we’re playing in the second-last week in September,” Cameron said.
“I’ll take that any day (but) the challenge for us is to go one step better and we didn’t, but we learnt a lot this year.
“Like every team we’ll lick our wounds and acknowledge that the opposition were better than us, but we need to improve.
“If we don’t improve five or 10 per cent next year then we’ll be left behind.
“But if you keep on rocking up you’ll get through and we’re a club that plans to rock up.”
Cameron admitted some of his young players wilted under the pressure of a parochial crowd of 94,258 fans – the vast majority of whom were Richmond supporters.
Steve Johnson didn’t feature prominently in his last AFL game before retirement either.
He was left out of the Giants’ first finals loss to Adelaide due to a knee injury and form concerns but kicked six goals in his return against West Coast last week.
The decision to stick with the former Geelong premiership star over Devon Smith was a talking point in the lead-up to the clash, but Cameron defended his selection.
“People are always going to judge him … but we didn’t get beaten because Steve Johnson’s knee might have been at 90 per cent,” he said.
“He’s a triple-premiership player who wanted to come to our club to see if he could help us take the next step.
“Clearly he’s been hampered by his body over the last year but we like his spirit and that’s rubbed off on our players.”