Fremantle have declared this year's finals finish in Ross Lyon's first season at the helm is only the beginning, despite fading out against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium on Friday night.
Defender Michael Johnson refused to be downcast after the Crows outlasted the Dockers to win by 10 points to book a preliminary final against Hawthorn at the MCG on Saturday night.
Johnson lamented Adelaide had been able to get on top in the third term, where they turned a 13-point half-time deficit into a five-point lead with a quarter to play. The Dockers had led by as much as 29 points early in the second quarter.
But he believed the disappointing loss would galvanise Fremantle and send them into a strong 2013 campaign. He also called on his teammates to return for pre-season training in good physical condition.
"It's disappointing to lose tonight but the boys can get around each other and pick each other up because it's going to be another big season next year," Johnson said.
"It's only two games away from the grand final. We had our chances and the boys should be happy … for the year.
"I'm positive, I'm really keen to start pre-season. We've got a young side and a lot of boys will get a lot of experience out of this finals and this season. Hopefully, the boys can look after themselves and come back in the right shape."
Lyon refused to be drawn on how much benefit his team could derive out of two finals this year.
"I think there's plenty of teams that do a lot of talking ... I think that's yet to be proven," the Dockers coach said.
"I've got a simple philosophy - go away, review it, failure is feedback, we clearly need to improve and we've got plenty of work. We all start equal next year.
"History is a guide, but it's not a precursor to anything, so we really need to roll up our sleeves and do the work."
While Lyon wrote off the tough travel schedule and limited rest time as "irrelevant" and a "non- issue", opposition coach Brenton Sanderson admitted it had given Adelaide an edge.
"I do feel for Freo because they certainly threw everything at us," he said.
"They've had the back-to-back six-day breaks and all that travel, it has to take its toll. I didn't tell the players, but I did feel that if we could just keep in the game and keep the momentum rolling that eventually they would tire.
"I have to admit, I do admire what Freo have done. Their form in the second half of the year has been outstanding … unfortunately for them, we just had the run a bit late in the game."
Sanderson did not want to focus on the standout performance of key forward Taylor Walker, who kicked 5.2 and had two scoring assists. Rather, he was feeling a mix of relief and joy, but also perspective on what lay ahead.
And he admitted the Crows would need vastly superior composure to challenge the Hawks on Saturday.
"You enjoy it, we review it and then we get on with our next opponent," he said.
"The season is not over for us. As happy as we feel now and as relieved as we feel after that first quarter … it's important to get back to business now.
"I've got tremendous belief in our playing group and the assistant coaches that we've got have been fantastic this week in, I guess, reminding our players that their best is good enough.
"We'll certainly have to be at our best next week. You know, Hawthorn with the week off in Melbourne … we'll certainly be the underdogs, so it's really important that we get over there and hopefully we get tonnes of support.
"We'll certainly go over there really confident after our second half tonight."
Adelaide have proved to be rebound kings this season. They have not lost two games in a row all season, bouncing back immediately from all of their six losses.
But they will need to reorganise their key defensive set-ups to combat Hawthorn's powerful attack, led by Lance Franklin, after losing Sam Shaw to a hamstring injury in the first quarter against Fremantle.
The Crows will also anxiously await a medical report on the shoulder small forward Jared Petrenko injured in the dying minutes of the match.
Many of Adelaide's match-ups against the Dockers, however, gave Sanderson great joy.
Ben Rutten was a clear winner against Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich, skipper Nathan van Berlo was effective on Stephen Hill and veteran defender Michael Doughty blanketed Hayden Ballantyne to the point where Sanderson said he was moved to try to "call off his retirement" at season's end.Ruckman Sam Jacobs also played a crucial role in battling against Aaron Sandilands, particularly in the second half.
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