SUBIACO has made the past three WAFL grand finals and despite losing plenty of premiership experience, coach Jarrad Schofield is looking forward to seeing how his retooled Lions shape up in 2017.
Subiaco went ever so close to securing a premiership hat-trick last year. Coming off the triumphs of 2015 and 2016, the Lions again finished the home and away season as minor premiers and then advanced straight to the grand final after beating South Fremantle in the second semi-final.
Peel Thunder ended up prevailing denying Subiaco a third straight flag and despite losing experience and talent since, the Lions have also brought in plenty and have some good youngsters coming through giving Schofield reason for optimism.
From that grand final team, Subiaco will be without Simon Moore, Brett Mahoney, Greg Broughton, Brett Robinson, Daniel Leishman and Hamish Shepheard in 2017.
However, there are plenty of players that the Lions have signed who Schofield is looking forward to seeing play but internally premiership forward Kyle Halligan and ruckman David Madut are among the natural additions on return from injury.
Angus Litherland is also on board from Subiaco along with former West Coast-listed pair Rowen Powell and Corey Adamson.
Bailey Matera has also arrived from South Fremantle, Dylan Nelson from Swan Districts, Daniel Perkins from East Perth and Nick Menegola from East Fremantle who all look capable of making an impact.
Schofield knows that it's not going to be easy to maintain their high standards from the past three years, but they have every intention of giving it their best shot.
"We'll be hoping to continue on with that success of the last few years, but it will be a challenge for us because there has been a real transition of a lot of those core type players leaving the competition and we're no different," Schofield said.
"We've lost some experience over the pre-season and we'll be a young squad, but we'll look to develop and bring through some young kids who have been around the mark the last couple of years. It's going to be an interesting year."
Schofield is certainly noticing the trend of it becoming more difficult to retain WAFL players with the increased commitment the clubs require and life outside with work, study and family beginning to take over on top of the other avenues available to play football.
However, Schofield is happy with the group he has at his disposal heading into 2017 both in terms of his experienced brigade and the young crop coming through.
"Most clubs are trying to bring through the young colts boys and fast track their development to hopefully get some of them drafted if they are good enough, and you also have to deal with strong competition in the amateurs and country that can attract them away," he said.
"It gets to a point where it gets tough through work commitments as well because we've lost players who just can't commit the time that we demand of them. It can be a real balancing act to retain players but it always can provide other opportunities for the players who remain and come in."
Schofield is confident the forward-line will find a way to get the job done again in 2017 despite the loss of spearhead Shepheard.
They had to cover the loss of Matt Boland, Shane Yarran and Chris Deluca from the previous season last year, so he is confident that Liam Ryan will have plenty support around him and that will be helped if the ruck division proves stronger like he hopes too.
"We had Matty Boland and Shane Yarran a couple of years ago but we rebuilt on that pretty well last year, and now we have a few more ruckmen to pick from as well," Schofield said.
"We are looking to young fellas like David Madut, Jordan Bestry and Damon Guiness to hopefully hold up the fort up there to allow us to play (Lachlan) Delahunty and (Clancy) Wheeler forward more.
"Obviously Liam is well documented as a talent, but it will be a challenge to back up his performance last year when he was in the competition for the first time. We are looking at Kyle Halligan as a new recruit after 12 months out so that's a real positive for us. We'll have a different mix in there for sure."
One recruit for Subiaco who could have a significant impact is Adamson. The former baseballer had developed nicely on West Coast's rookie-list considering he had come from another sport and some of the football he played last year with East Perth was outstanding.
He played a variety of roles and never really settled into one, but Schofield will look to give him a more stable look in 2017 and is excited at the potential he possesses.
"Corey's an interesting one. Obviously he hasn’t played a lot of footy in terms of his knowledge of the game, but he was probably a little unlucky to be delisted and he wanted to come to us as an opportunity to further himself," he said.
"I look at someone like him who is still raw in the game but he is an explosive type player who can play various positions, but we feel like we want to settle him down and give him the opportunity to showcase his natural talent."
While it's never fun to lose a grand final especially one where you finish on top of the ladder to earn a break in the first week of the finals, win your second semi-final and have another week off awaiting your opponent.
But for Schofield he gives Peel the credit for being too good on the day and has simply moved on to focus on how to give his team another chance to go all the way in 2017.
"Obviously it's always disappointing to lose a grand final, but we just weren’t good enough on the day. We put a lot of time and effort into the season, and gave ourselves an opportunity to win another flag but we weren’t good enough," Schofield said.
"It's well documented how many players they had from Fremantle, but we didn’t use that as an excuse. We just purely weren’t good enough on the day and now we want to improve again this year.
"The pleasing thing for me at the end of the year was knowing we gave our all and stayed strong, and had five or six guys who were local products playing in their first grand final. We've moved on pretty quickly from it, the boys have trained hard over the pre-season and hopefully we'll be around the mark again."