Having achieved almost all there was to in their debut A-League season, Western Sydney skipper Michael Beauchamp feels Sunday's grand final loss now gives them something to target next year.
The Wanderers went down 2-0 to the Central Coast in front of more than 40,000 fans at Allianz Stadium, ending an astonishing maiden season with their first loss since January 6 when, ironically, they went down to the Mariners by the same scoreline.
They entered the title decider on the back of a 13-game unbeaten streak and as minor premiers having created Australian sporting history as the first start-up club to clinch silverware in their first year.
Accomplishments made even more remarkable when you factor in that it was all achieved under a first-time head coach, 39-year-old Tony Popovic, who was in charge of a side that had been hurriedly thrown together just weeks before the season started.
With the championship trophy the only thing to elude them, Beauchamp feels it now gives them a focus for next season. "It definitely hurts and that's going to be a factor next season - we don't want to feel that again," he said yesterday.
The Wanderers had fielded several players who either weren't regular starters or had just come back from injury.
Popovic conceded maybe they weren't "match hardened" and "weren't as sharp as they could have been". He said he now had an appreciation of how the Mariners feel to have lost three grand finals in the past seven years.