West Coast coach Adam Simpson was torn.
On one hand, he wanted to acknowledge the giant steps taken this year by the Eagles, who came all the way from ninth in 2014 to a spot in the grand final.
But there was no sugar-coating what happened at the MCG on Saturday, when the Eagles were thumped by 46 points by Hawthorn – a margin which, if anything, flattered the losing team.
A few minutes either side of halftime aside, the Hawks dominated a match in which several of West Coast’s biggest guns including 2014 Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis, Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy and ruck star Nic Naitanui failed to fire a shot.
“(I don’t know) whether it was that we got overawed or that they were just too good and we didn’t take our chances,” said Simpson, a former Hawthorn assistant coach now in his second year in the top job with the Eagles.
“I must admit there was a moment there in the third quarter where we really started to get some momentum but they make you pay.
“We missed an opportunity, kicked a point or dropped a mark and then straight up the other end (Hawthorn kick a goal through Ryan Schoenmakers) and that’s what great teams do.
“They are the moments you need to take.
“We are going to go through this together.
“It’s a really tight group and we’re hopeful that there is more success to come.
“But there are no guarantees that you can get there every year.
“We will improve. We need to improve, but we let an opportunity slip today.”
In search of a role model for what West Coast should aspire to, Simpson said they needed look no further than Hawthorn, who claimed a third straight flag for the first time in their history and a fourth in eight years under the stewardship of master coach Alastair Clarkson.
“We had a bad day but it’s also a reflection of what Alastair has built up over the last 10 years,” Simpson said in the aftermath of the 16.11 (107) to 8.13 (61) loss.
“Now they are in that mode of finals and grand finals on a yearly basis, they’ve got the week down pat.
“That’s the challenge for every club, to get into that space where you are consistently playing in prelims and grand finals and their players can draw on that experience.”
Just three members of Saturday’s West Coast team – Sam Butler, Xavier Ellis and Sharrod Wellingham – had played in a grand final before, a stark contrast to a Hawthorn outfit where James Frawley and Schoenmakers were the only first-time flag winners.
The only likely departee of note is midfielder Scott Selwood, an emergency on Saturday, who is expected to join older brother Joel at Geelong.