LAVINGTON coach James Saker says this week’s blockbuster clash with Albury is nothing more than “a chance to get a bit of confidence” after the Panthers’ 61-point win against North Albury on Saturday.
The Panthers sit undefeated on top of the ladder after four rounds but they didn’t have things all their own way against the young Hoppers despite the scoreboard showing a comfortable 14.12 (96) to 5.5 (35) victory.
Adam Flagg was the star up forward for Lavington with five goals as Adam Prior struggled to make an impact in his first match against the Hoppers since a bitter clearance dispute in the off-season.
Prior kicked two final-term goals to take his tally to three after being well held by former teammate Jethro Calma-Holt.
Panther Myles Aalbers went down with an ankle injury in the second term and didn’t return after half-time but Saker was confident he would be fit to take on the Tigers.
The Panthers will also regain former St Kilda star Justin Koschitzke for the clash against the Tigers.
This weekend’s blockbuster will be the first meeting between the teams since last year’s preliminary final which the Panthers lost by a point after leading for most of the day.
Saker said revenge wouldn’t be on the Panthers’ minds.
“It’s just a chance to get a bit of confidence,” he said.
“We’ve got to go there and try and play our style.
“If it works, we’ll get some confidence out of it and if we come up short — we’ll have something to work on.
“The game will get plenty of attention during the week, I’m sure, but it’s just an opportunity to try and get better and learn from it.”
Saker said the Panthers had plenty to work on this week after being pushed by the Hoppers at Lavington.
North Albury won plenty of the ball through the good work of the lively Jordan Harrington and young ruckman Rhys Dempsey, but sorely missed a focal point in attack with skipper Dan Leslie out injured.
Leslie’s absence meant Saker and fellow key defender Brant Dickson were able to have a field day in defence for the Panthers while veteran Matt Pendergast was at his best in and around the packs.
“I thought our best footy was quite good but when we weren’t able to pressure them at the stoppages they were able to run and chain up pretty well, which is how we knew they would want to play,” Saker said.
“We just allowed them to do that too often, I thought.
“We’ve seen how dangerous North can be — we know they like to take the game on and we weren’t able to nip that in the bud.
“We just have to make sure guys are aware of what their job is at any given time.
“It’s about being disciplined and having faith in your mate that he’s going to cover you — we need to do that for four quarters.”
North Albury coach Jason Akermanis was delighted with the under-manned Hoppers’ effort after losing Simon Mitchellhill (finger) just before the match.
“We’ve probably played three of the top four teams and we’ve been great,” Akermanis said.
“The effort was great today.
“I’m never going to be unhappy with young guys having a crack.
“We just let ourselves down going inside 50.
“We know it’s going to turn, we just need a healthy squad ... we’re going to beat some good sides.