“WE’VE got our mojo back.”
North Albury coach Jason Akermanis hit the nail on the head after Lavington’s 10-point win over the Hoppers on Saturday.
The Hoppers seem to be back in business.
While Saturday’s loss was still exactly that, a loss, North Albury looked a far better side than it has over the past month with a super competitive showing against one of the form sides of the competition.
The Hoppers’ spark was back, thanks largely to five goals from Jarrah Maksymow, and they played with the same intent that saw them rocket into top-three contention early in the season.
Saturday’s contest turned into the Maksymow show early, with the livewire forward running rampant with three goals in the first half-hour of the game.
His third, just moments into the second quarter, sparked a run of three North Albury majors that had the Hoppers 16 points clear, 10 minutes into the second term.
An upset was on the cards.
But the Panthers rallied, quickly grabbing back control and were never headed once they regained the lead before half-time.
There were plenty of nervous moments.
The result wasn’t put to bed until Tom Yensch kicked a goal with less than a minute to play.
Senior assistant coach Jason Hollard, filling in for the unavailable James Saker, admitted he wasn’t overly surprised it was a close result.
Hollard said the Panthers’ recent run of form wasn’t as impressive as it might have seemed.
“It was a struggle all day,” he said.
“To be honest, we probably weren’t on the ball from the start and so they hung in all day.
“There were patches where I thought we didn’t tackle well and didn’t do the things that we pride ourselves on and they competed hard all day.
“I don’t reckon we’ve pressed well for probably the past three or four weeks.
“There’s times where we do fall away from it and when we don’t do it and just play on natural ability we are ordinary.
“There’s no other way to put it and we know that.
“We were pretty lacklustre all day, to be honest.”
Akermanis, who withdrew pre-game with hamstring tightness, was satisfied with North Albury’s return to form.
He hit out at critics of the Hoppers’ loss to Corowa-Rutherglen a week earlier.
“Although they’ve been on the bottom, last week Corowa played like they were in third spot,” Akermanis said.
“Clearly the paper and people like that weren’t at that game.
“They say it’s a shock but those boys were up and played well.”
Meanwhile, Akermanis has confirmed he, along with Matt McDonald and Kane Godde, would return for the Hoppers’ final round match against wooden-spooner Wodonga Raiders.
Lavington star Matt Pendergast came off late with hamstring problems on Saturday and Hollard said the Panthers would take no risks leading into finals.
Pendergast will likely sit out Lavington’s final round clash against Wodonga.