Despite easy-going reputation, Justin Koschitzke brings steely resolve to Lavington

Panthers recruit Justin Koschitzke.
Panthers recruit Justin Koschitzke.

HE’S yet to pull on a jumper, let alone play a game for the Panthers, but Justin Koschitzke’s impact on Lavington has already been profound.

There was always going to be interest when the former St Kilda star joined the club.

Internally, just as much as there has been externally.

What was Koschitzke going to be like?

Fans have seen him play on television, and many knew him as the easy-going mate of Kade Stevens who hung around the club socially every now and then.

But what is he like as a teammate?

Well, it hasn’t taken them long to work out that Koschitzke means business.

“Justin is really intent on success,” coach James Saker said.

“He’s motivated and that message has filtered through and rubbed off on the group, particularly the younger guys — and even our leaders.

“He’s doing it for the right reasons and is 100 per cent behind Lavi as a person and as a player.”

Training has reflected that.

With a buzz surrounding Lavington that hasn’t been felt in years following Koschitzke’s arrival, Saker is happy to admit things are different.

Not so much with attitude — the players are fully aware the hard work is still to be done — rather, the intent and belief they have about doing it.

This is a chance they don’t want to let slip.

“There’s been a real emphasis on building that competitive nature in our group,” Saker said.

“We would like to think there are spots that are going to be up for grabs this year, which is most encouraging.

“It has created an intensity at training that has been pretty impressive.

“They aren’t just going through the motions and things have really fired up.”

Despite the summer hype, Lavington is still the hunter — at least in their coach’s mind.

Albury and Yarrawonga, not Lavington, have played in the past five grand finals.

That point hasn’t been lost on the Panthers.

“From our end, that’s still the case,” Saker said.

“Maybe there’s been a little more anticipation but it’s really just business as usual for us.

“There’s enough natural talent there, but if we don’t have that culture of working hard for our mates and playing with a defence-first attitude, it’s been shown in the past that we’re susceptible to anyone.

“It may sound corny but I honestly haven’t looked past Wod-onga in round 1.

“We’re going to have to be on our game.”