KIEWA-Sandy Creek defeated Mitta United for the first time since the 2011 preliminary final when it held on for a thrilling 13-point win at Kiewa on Saturday.
The Hawks refused to use the unavailability of Jason and Scott Bartel, Adam Telford, Callum Turner, Steve Jamison and Ryan Richardson as an excuse as they led from start to finish.
Ruckman Luke Norton-Smith led the way with a strong performance on debut while Dane Hallinan showed he’s going to make a big impact by dominating in the midfield.
The performance of Norton-Smith was even more critical after Mark Hortle injured his ankle in the opening term.
Richardson said he was pleased for his players after a big pre-season.
“We’re rapt,” Richardson said.
“Early wins in the bank are going to be very important this year.
“They took it right up to us and it was good to be able to respond the way we did.”
Mitta United, who also went into the clash without several key players including Jeff Cox, Tom Turner and Danny Hales, were dealt a blow during the second term when Tyson Gorupic was sent off.
Danny Stewart was outstanding early across half-back before Hawk Travis Jones curbed his influence while Yarrod Hamilton, Darcy Eaton and Dugal Paton also made major contributions.
Dederang-Mount Beauty accounted for Yackandandah by 32 points.
The Bombers skipped clear early with Andrew Hill, Dale Lappin and Matt Lee winning plenty of ball and responded each time Arden Greiner, Scott Fraser and Kyle Roberts mounted a challenge.
Beechworth shapes as the league’s big improver after defeating Tallangatta by 24 points.