North Melbourne coach Brad Scott has warned his players they need to improve or risk falling out of the premiership picture next season.
The Kangaroos were brave but ultimately outgunned in their 25-point preliminary final loss to West Coast on Saturday night.
The performance was much better than their 71-point flogging by Sydney last year but it’s the second straight season the Roos have fallen short at the penultimate stage.
The core group of North Melbourne’s list are approaching the prime of their careers, meaning the club’s premiership window should be open for a few more years.
But Scott says it doesn’t guarantee anything.
“The main message to the players is you never know when your opportunity is going to come again,” Scott said.
“I reference Boomer Harvey early on in his career.
“He started playing in prelims, grand finals, premierships and thought it would keep going.
“But it’s been a long break in between for him before we’ve got back to this stage.
“We have to use this season as a confidence booster that our best is good enough against the best but also the fact we’ve got to get better because it’s not a given we’ll be back here next year.”
The Kangaroos added talented duo Shaun Higgins and Jarrad Waite via free agency last year, and will explore the option of bringing in more experienced stars.
But Scott said the greatest potential upside lay in improving as a team.
“We had a crack this year. I think it’s a really good platform for us to build on.
“But if we don’t get better again, the competition will get past us.”
Spearheads Drew Petrie, Ben Brown and Waite combined for just one goal against the Eagles in a disappointing display.
But the trio have played key roles this season and loom as a major strength in the Kangaroos’ drive towards future success.
Scott praised the fighting spirit of goalsneak Lindsay Thomas, who was the club’s substitute in each of the three finals as he battled a painful foot injury.
“Lindsay’s been really courageous. He’s had to play with injections for the second half of the year.
“A lesser person would have said `I’m not right to go’ but he kept putting his hand up.”
Scott is confident injury-plagued midfielder Daniel Wells will also be able to play a key role next season.