MARIO Antonello has taken over as Wangaratta coach and says his team is on the rise.
He took over from Craig Cartwright after just seven rounds and a week after Cartwright was red-carded in the 3-1 loss to Albury United.
In his first week in charge, Antonello conjured a draw against Albury City.
His second game saw the Red Devils a goal up on short-priced title favourites Twin City at the 60-minute mark before losing 2-1.
He said Cartwright’s departure was a mutual decision.
“Craig has big commitments with his own company and was finding it increasingly difficult to give it 100 per cent,” Antonello said.
“There is no ill feeling and it may be that he comes back and makes himself available to play reserve grade later in the year.”
Antonello said the plan was to continue to blood junior players with an eye to the future.
“We have some great talent at the club and they will provide the foundation for future success,” he said.
“We have also had to change our game plan from last year when we had the firepower of a Steff Joseph and Richard Hodgeman in the attacking third.
“That means building a culture and work ethic that denies the opposition the chance to score.
“Last year we had no trouble scoring three or four goals.
“This year we can’t expect to do that.”
Antonello has made some key positional changes.
Last year’s goal scoring option Jake Giannakis has gone into central defence with Hamish Busk.
The stalwart believes he now has the ammunition to target positions five to seven for the cup play-offs.
“We have Mike Ritter, who has come to the club from Germany, and English import Elliott Jones adding to our depth,” Antonello said.
“I’d be surprised if Jones isn’t inside the top three for the star player award this year — he has been outstanding.
“And in coming weeks we will get back Riley Pasquali and Mark Waddington from injury and Jon Shaw from overseas.
“So that’s three ready made senior players.”
Antonello admits they took a defensive structure against Twin City.
“They’re a quality side, even without Zac Walker and James Coutts out there,” he said.
“But we are not locked into that structure, we’ll mix it up depending on the opposition.”