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Pettit backing Panthers to hit back hard in GFL preliminary final

Railways coach Rhett Pettit is backing a talented squad that claimed the minor premiership to rebound strongly in this Saturday’s Goldfields Football League preliminary final.

The Panthers led the qualifying series with 14 wins, but fell short by 10 points against Boulder in last Saturday’s second semifinal.

Pettit, however, said a double-chance was a luxury well-earned after losing just two games in the run to the finals, and was confident his group would move on quickly.

An official opponent was still being determined on Tuesday, as while Kalgoorlie easily beat Mines Rovers in last Sunday’s first semi-final, they took the field with an ineligible player.

The official GFL draw on the Play HQ website on Tuesday had Kalgoorlie as being disqualified and the preliminary final match-up being Railways against Mines Rovers.

But the Roos have taken their case to the WA Country Football League to argue why they should not be stripped of the win.

Pettit said being minor premiers “puts a fair target on your back”.

“For anyone outside a footy club, they probably think it’s a given that if you finish on top you go straight through to a grand final.

“But we’ve never thought that and respect the competition too much to think that.

“We’ll recover as well as we can and focus on what we can control.

“That was pretty much the theme after the game, that the work we’ve done throughout the year has given us an opportunity to have a second chance.

“The objective is cash that in now and hopefully we can improve.”

Injury-wise, Pettit was confident everyone had pulled up well from what was a hard slog in the toughest conditions of the season.

“As far as I’m aware, we’re all good,” he said.

“If anyone’s injured or sore, they’re keeping it to themselves at this stage.”

Pettit expected his players had learned valuable lessons in the wet.

“Field position is the most important thing and they (Boulder) got it,” he said.

“The benefit of that is it creates opportunities.

“It was a tough slog, but we knew what we were up for at the beginning of the week and did our best to plan accordingly.”

It has been a challenging month for Railways, who breezed through the earlier rounds with 12 successive wins.

But they hit a snag with a 56-point loss to Mines Rovers in round 16 and six days later, lowered their colours to Boulder by 61 points.

The Panthers, however, are desperate to atone for last year’s finals exit when they bowed out against Boulder by 27 points in the preliminary final.

In just his second season as a league coach, with the 2020 campaign cancelled because of COVID-19, Pettit took the group from just two wins in 2019 to 10 last year.

They finished the 2022 qualifiers two games and percentage clear of second-placed Boulder in pursuit of the club’s first flag since 2017.

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