LAVINGTON coach James Saker has jumped to the defence of star forwards Justin Koschitzke and Adam Prior after the pair failed to fire in Saturday night’s season-opener against Wodonga.
Koschitzke went kickless in the 62-point win, while Prior battled until his opponent Chris Macey was forced off the ground in the dying stages of the third quarter with what looks a season-ending knee injury.
Despite the underwhelming start, Saker said the star signings had played their part.
Myles Aalbers booted five goals as Lavington’s small brigade took control of the contest at ground level.
“Ask a guy like Jay Banks how he thought Kosi played and he’d be stoked,” Saker said.
“We didn’t help them much with our entries.
“In the second half they sort of sacrificed a bit of their own role for structure’s sake and got our smalls dangerous and they did the job.”
Wodonga young gun Jack Russell did a stellar job on Koschitzke, with the former St Kilda star only able to impact the contest by crashing packs.
The Bulldogs, who led by 10 points at quarter-time, stuck with the Panthers for all but 15 minutes of the game.
Lavington romped home with eleven of the game’s final 12 goals to finish the contest.
“It was an ideal start for us,” Saker said.
“We were a little bit slow at the start and couldn’t match the intensity that Wodonga showed.
“To our credit, we were able to wrestle our way back into the game.”
Aalbers, Jay Banks and Mitch Palmer did the bulk of the damage at ground level, with Adam Butler a standout across half-back and providing plenty of drive along the wing.
Youngsters Jack Nunn and Tom Yensch also had their moments.
Saker said the Panthers’ attitude changed after a sluggish first quarter in slippery conditions under lights.
“We didn’t work hard enough for long enough and were picking and choosing when we were going to work hard,” he said.
“In the second half I thought we all had a crack and on a night like this you can talk about all the airy fairy stuff as much as you like but you’ve just got to get in there.”
Wodonga coach Ben Hollands said the difference came down to his team’s last-term fadeout.
“I was really disappointed with the last 10 minutes,” Hollands said.
“Half-way through the last quarter there was still three goals in it and I thought we had a genuine sniff.”