There’s never room for excuses.
But there is a tinge of ‘what if?’ after Fremantle’s 2022 season ended at the hands of Adelaide on Saturday.
Taking to the field in a preliminary final for the first time in the club’s history after the 2020 season was cut short, the Dockers bowed out 14 points short of a grand final berth.
However, Trent Cooper’s side was dealt a dodgy hand, overcoming a range of obstacles to record their best-ever finish.
A five-game stretch interstate, an availability crisis against Melbourne which required top-up player Mikayla Western to debut, and All-Australians Janelle Cuthbertson and Kiara Bowers missing a combined 12 games all threatened to curtail the Dockers.
Captain Hayley Miller said she believed her side had developed a new level of resilience as a result.
“If we can keep our team together, keep building on what we’ve done this year… it’s been a pretty tough year,” Miller said.
“There’s been a lot of obstacles in our way which to the girls’ credit, they’ve done a great job overcoming.
“You never use any of that as an excuse. It’s a massive learning curve for a lot of girls and we hopefully won’t ever have a season like that again.
“To go away for four weeks, to think we were only going away for two and then the borders change and you’re there and have to quarantine. The way the girls got on with it… to sacrifice what they did to play footy was incredible.
“As captain, I’m so proud of how everyone went about it.
“There are positives and negatives to everything that happened this year. I wish we could’ve gone further than we have but it’s all a learning curve and we’ll be better for it.”
Miller also took confidence in the fact that Fremantle was able to field all but one listed player this season, with the exception Philipa Seth, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury during pre-season.
“30 girls managed to get games under their belt this year which is massive from a young team,” she said.
“They’re an experienced finals team. You could really feel that out there today. They were smart, composed and relaxed whereas we were a little bit too frantic at times.
“Unfortunately for us, there were a few things injury-wise and just parts of play that didn’t clique. It just didn’t go our way in the end. I thought the girls put up a good fight but the Crows were too good.
“Hopefully next season isn’t as far away as it usually is. I’ll take a look at the game in a couple of days, let it settle for a little while. I can think we can learn a lot from what Adelaide achieved.”