Confidence is one of those intangibles in sport. When those levels are high, it seems anything is achievable, both individually and, in team sports, collectively.
The Western Bulldogs' 2016 premiership triumph was the perfect case in point. They came from seventh, built belief off the back of an elimination final victory in Perth and carried that momentum all the way through to their first premiership since 1954.
Despite a string of injuries to key players, it was a case of one soldier being replaced by another. It appeared seamless.
And there always seemed to be pressure coming from those outside of the 22 from week-to-week. It was the ideal scenario and having that heat coming from beneath was a critical factor.
At the West Coast Eagles, it would be ideal to have that same situation occurring in 2017.
The only problem for those players looking for an opportunity at senior level is that they haven’t been able to create continuity in their form at partner club East Perth. And that’s through no fault of their own.
The WAFL fixtures have conspired against the young – and not-so-young – Eagles building their case for elevation.
When East Perth had a bye last weekend, it was the third time in seven weeks that those players missing selection at West Coast were inactive; forced to sit and watch the 22 players in the senior side represent the club at AFL level.
Generally, youngsters build a case for inclusion through weight of performance at the next level, but it’s difficult to do that when sitting on a couch.
Impressive young defender Jackson Nelson was ready to play last weekend after missing two games with a hamstring strain. It was considered risky bringing him straight back to senior footy despite solid form before the injury, so he was an on-looker on Sunday.
Similarly, Tom Cole was doubtful after missing the bulk of training last week with an ankle injury and he sat it out.
Midfielder Luke Partington and forward Tom Lamb are among the young players looking to build momentum, but continuity has been an issue. Partington was ‘rewarded’ for a solid block of form at East Perth when he travelled as the emergency for the game against the Bulldogs, but no game last weekend means it is three weeks since he last played.
Lamb had 30 possessions a fortnight ago, but last weekend’s inactivity is an unwanted impediment to his chances of getting another opportunity at elite level.
Even the experienced Jack Redden has been trying to contend with a stop-start season. He has played three games in five weeks and has maintained ‘match fitness’ through an arduous training block.
He and Will Schofield, who missed the Bulldogs game with a hip injury, completed a running session after the crowd left Domain Stadium in the wake of the loss to Port Adelaide on Sunday.
The sporadic nature of East Perth’s fixture is not helping those players on the fringe and while West Coast fan forums have called for a number of young players to be ‘blooded’ it is not that simple.
In addition to those players who have been adversely impacted by a terrible East Perth fixture, others who would probably have been injected into the senior team have received untimely injuries.
Daniel Venables, the club’s first selection in the 2016 draft, was on the cusp of senior football when it was revealed he suffered a toe injury; exciting small forward Willie Rioli has been thwarted by two hamstring injuries of varying seriousness and Jake Waterman will likely play his first game for the season this weekend on managed game time for the Royals’ reserves side.
Simon Tunbridge is a week away from his first game of the season, while developing forward Matt Allan will not play again this season after succumbing to a foot injury.
At least there will be an opportunity for those aiming to create a body of work to build momentum over the next seven weeks because no further byes have been scheduled for East Perth.