Western Bulldogs will feel the sting of their 58-point elimination final loss to GWS Giants at Giants Stadium on Saturday for some time.
Once the pain subsides from their out-of-character performance, experienced campaigner Matt Suckling believes the team will eventually look on the 2019 AFL season as a stepping stone.
However, the hurt of such a heavy loss will linger for some time.
“It’s obviously disappointing and it’s going to be a tough week,” Suckling said post-game.
“There wasn’t too much of a deep post-mortem.
“We’ll have our exit interviews during the week, go away and mentally refresh and look to improve.”
Suckling kicked the opening goal of the game with a long bomb just 21 seconds in and it looked like the Western Bulldogs were on.
It was one of only a few highlights on a dirty day for the Bulldogs, who could only manage 37 inside 50s to GWS Giants’ 76.
The Bulldogs were beaten in nearly all of the key statistical categories as they could not re-capture their scintillating late-season form.
Suckling has played as a utility for the Bulldogs this season, but spent most of his time down back and was one of the players in the firing line of a Giants onslaught.
“Going from in-season to finals, the intensity lifts up,” Suckling said.
“We expected that, but to their credit, they probably got the game on their terms.
“I know down back, we were under siege there, especially in the first half.
“We did a good job of holding up, but it’s hard when you concede that many inside 50s and you’re not getting the game on your terms.”
It should be a valuable learning curve for the young Western Bulldogs team.
Few would have expected the Bulldogs to even reach the finals when they were down in 12th place after round 18.
“It’s a great experience for a lot of guys playing in their first final today and now they know what it’s all about,” Suckling said.
“It can be a real strength for us if we take this opportunity to learn and grow from it.”
The back half of the season was a fun ride for the Western Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs had massive wins over Essendon, GWS Giants and Adelaide to bypass a scrum of teams fighting it out for a top eight berth.
“Plenty of positives from the second half of the year I suppose,” Suckling said. “I don’t think we used age as an excuse, but most weeks we were putting out one of the youngest teams.
“If everyone comes back in good nick, we’ll give ourselves a good opportunity going into next year.”