WODONGA Raiders co-coach Simon Bone hopes Saturday’s 16-point win over Myrtleford is his side’s first step towards “winning back some respect from the competition”.
Coming off a wooden spoon season which yielded just three wins, the new-look Raiders showed there was cause for optimism this year with a 13.13 (91) to 11.9 (75) victory at Birallee Park.
Queanbeyan recruit Steve Jolliffe had the ball on a string for the Raiders while returning ruckman Luke Visser dominated the stoppages and was dangerous up forward.
“Hopefully we’ve made a little inroad into winning back some respect from the competition today,” Bone said.
“There were some good signs but we’ve still got a hell of a lot of work to do.
“Every game is going to be hard for us, we are coming off a pretty low base.
“We’ve brought in over 20 new faces to the club in the firsts and seconds and there are going to be ups and downs as we get to know how they play.
“We don’t play any of the top three from last year in Lavington, Albury or Yarrawonga until later in the draw so hopefully we can be on the positive side of the ledger by the time we get to them.
“Hopefully we can make a few people sit back and think ‘they’re on the right path’.”
Myrtleford started the match stronger with dual Wangaratta premiership player Jarrod Hayse booting the first two goals as the Saints shot to a 13-point lead before the Raiders had scored.
Things got worse for the home team when tough defender James Dickson was taken from the field after a heavy knock to the head and recruit Joel Newnham tweaked a hamstring — leaving the Raiders with one fit man on the bench midway through the opening term.
The Raiders steadied late in the quarter with goals to Jolliffe, Dean Limbach and former North Albury forward Tim Brook seeing them take a 10-point lead to the break.
Brook started the second term in style with his lethal left boot sending the Raiders 14 points clear before Limbach extended that with a long bomb from a tight angle.
That would be Limbach’s last goal for the day opposed to young Saints’ defender Matt Dussin, who wore him like a glove in Luke Chapman’s absence.
Some undisciplined behaviour from the Raiders helped Myrtleford back into the match with two downfield free kicks in two minutes resulting in goals to Hayse and Saints co-coach Brad Murray.
The impressive Visser steadied the ship for the Raiders before rugged midfielder Michael Steven kicked truly just before half-time to secure a three-goal buffer.
The Raiders threatened to run away with the match when Brook put them four goals up early in the third term.
Compounding the pain on the scoreboard, the Saints lost Hayse (calf) and Hayden Murray (ankle) in the space of a minute and their hopes looked shot.
Big Ben McIntyre, who spent most of the game forward, gave them a glimmer of hope when he booted back-to-back goals as the margin closed to seven points.
But, just as it had done in the first two quarters, the home team was able to rally with late goals to Bodie Hibberson and a beauty from Jolliffe in the pavilion pocket lifting the Raiders faithful out of their seats.
The Raiders looked home when Newnham, who battled on despite injury, put them 28 points clear seven minutes into the final quarter.
But the Saints had one last challenge in them with Kristan Height, who had been well held all day, booting two quick goals before Christian Burgess reduced the margin to 10 points with five minutes remaining.
A tense few minutes followed, with both sides making plenty of errors, before Lockhart recruit Tom Marlow sealed the win for the Raiders with his first goal of the day.
Myrtleford co-coach Leigh Corcoran said it was a missed opportunity for the Saints.
“We are disappointed with the result, we felt like we were in the game all day,” Corcoran said.
“Costly turnovers in the middle of the ground and a bit of indecision have cost us. We were chasing a lot off turnovers and Raiders, credit to them, capitalised on our mistakes.”