LAVINGTON champion Matt Pendergast believes the Panthers will have to withstand a physical barrage from reigning premier Yarrawonga to win today’s qualifying final at Birallee Park.
With the Pigeons coming off their biggest defeat since losing the 2009 grand final against Albury by 77 points, Pendergast said it was crucial the Ovens and Murray club wasn’t blown away in the opening quarter.
“We’re under no illusions that Yarra will bring its best footy,” Pendergast said.
“They are a side that hasn’t been beaten by a big margin like last weekend for a long time so I’m sure they will come out and be pretty ruthless.
“Hopefully we can stay in the game, absorb the pressure and go on with it.
“If they get their swagger up they can do some damage.”
Pendergast, who declared himself a starter after passing a fitness test on his hamstring on Thursday night, was one of six inclusions to the Lavington side which fell over the line against Wodonga last weekend.
Pigeon star Xavier Leslie is expected to undergo his own test this morning after injuring his ankle in last weekend’s blockbuster against Albury.
Pendergast said Lavington had added incentive to perform well in the finals series after bowing out of the finals with heart-breaking losses in their past two campaigns.
They went down to Albury by four points in the first semi-final at John Foord Oval last season and surrendered a big lead in losing to Yarrawonga by three points in the 2011 preliminary final.
“It burns and cuts you deep especially that loss to Yarra a couple of years ago,” he said.
“I think it hurts the older blokes like me more who have been around for a while.
“But we have a young group now and our personnel has changed a bit.
“We’re just focused on playing well in this game.”