SIMON O’Keefe knows the number of doubters is growing. He doesn’t share their lack of faith.
The Panmure coach this week insisted his side could still win a third consecutive Warrnambool and District league flag, despite two defeats in the past three weeks.
An injury-riddled side succumbed to Kolora-Noorat by 55 points on Saturday, two weeks after losing a Sunday showdown to Merrivale by 39 points.
O’Keefe acknowledged the week off football, courtesy of finishing on top, would benefit his men, some who have been underdone in recent weeks.
But he was confident he would have a full list at his disposal come the second semi-final against either Merrivale or Dennington in a fortnight.
“I’ve seen the brand of footy we can play. That will match any side. We’ve probably had a flat spot where we’ve been working hard,” he said.
“We’ll freshen up. We’ll get six of the top 10 players into the side in two weeks’ time. We get to watch the opposition. I think we’ll be fine.”
O’Keefe said a combination of factors conspired in the loss to the Power, which left the Bulldogs with a 16-2 record from 18 rounds.
Alex White, Tommy Jones, Tim McPherson and James Keane missed with injury. Andy McPherson (unavailable) and Tom Wright (suspended) also didn’t play.
“They came out and played exceptionally well. We knew they were going to,” O’Keefe said.
“Our starts have been a little bit ordinary of late. They came out and dominated us in the middle. Their skills were really good as per usual.
“At the end of the day, it was their last game, they were up and about. A few of our boys were flat, were trying to get through unscathed.”
Panmure has looked better positioned to win the premiership in 2014 than at any point in the past two years, although O’Keefe said comparisons were irrelevant.
He noted Kolora-Noorat suffered consecutive defeats in the 2013 finals series after a flawless regular season, reinforcing the anything-can-happen notion.
“Every year is different and every side you play is different.
“If you asked that question last year, I would’ve said Kolora-Noorat would’ve been hard to get and they went out in straight sets.
“It just starts again, to be honest. Home-and-away is done. We’ve got that top spot we aimed for. You’ve just got to take each side as they come.”
Merrivale meets Dennington in the Warrnambool and District league qualifying final at Allansford Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The winner plays Panmure while the loser meets Allansford or Old Collegians, who face off in the elimination final at Merrivale Recreation Reserve on Sunday.