The Lakers suffered a heavy loss in their first practice match on Saturday but coach Linc Sullivan said he was not going to ‘‘throw the baby out with the bath water’’.
A mixed side of seniors and reserves hosted the Modewarre Warriors, who made the semi-finals in the Bellarine League last year after finishing fourth on the ladder and recently signed former Geelong and Gold Coast Suns player Nathan Ablett.
While the AFL premiership player was out injured, the Warriors were too fast and too slick for a Lakers team going into its first real hit-out with the scoreline blowing out after the first period.
Sullivan said he wasn’t too concerned by the result, given about 60 per cent of his senior team didn’t play, but he recognised a well-drilled opponent.
‘‘It was our first and only practice match, and they were just a bit too sharp for us at this point. They’re extremely fit at this time of year and they were match hardened as well,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a bit we need to work on, but you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. So we’ll straighten a few little things out in the next three weeks before our first game that we need to adjust and in terms of match fitness the blokes will be better for the run.
‘‘We’re not panicking. They were just a bit too good for us at this point.’’
Sullivan said he was happy to see strong pre-season form in a few players translate into on-field performance.
‘‘It was good to see a few of our younger blokes — Brayden Biggs, Nathan Fothergill and Zac Winter-Irving — get through the game and play well along with Mark Nolan and Michael Roberts,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve done a good pre-season and naturally it showed on game day, whereas the blokes who’ve had a bit of a tentative start to the year weren’t so good.’’
With the loss of lead-up target Kyle Winter-Irving to Seymour, the Lakers are going to have a more mobile forward line structure this season, according to Sullivan.
But it would be no less dangerous, he said, with plenty of options to hit up front. These included Patrick Rattray, who booted 30 goals in just eight games last season, as well as the club’s leading goal-kicker Mathew Waterston (62), Anthony Haysom (32) and Daniel Haysom (32).
Adding to this, Sullivan said new recruit Dan Fitzpatrick, who played for Cobram in the Murray Football League last season, and ex-Laker Jack Williams could go forward, if needed.
Fitzpatrick and Williams join former Tongala premiership player Daryl Harrison and ex-Lakers Josh Comi and Cam Rooney in bolstering the side, which is hoping to turn back-to-back premierships into a three-peat this season.
While Merrigum (1949/50/51) and Shepparton East (1958/59/60/61) achieved premiership streaks, these victories occurred in the time of the Kyabram District Football Association.
So Nagambie is looking to make history in the Kyabram District Football League, and Sullivan said the first step was finishing the home-and-away season in the top-two on the ladder.
‘‘It gives a huge advantage in comparison to third, fourth, fifth or sixth, so we try to finish top two... and then restart and reassess for the finals,’’ he said.
He estimated the club had played finals every season except for two over the last 16 years, meaning both the current playing group and the club in a broader sense had accumulated significant experience.
‘‘I think as a club, not just a playing group, but the committee right through... they just seem to know how and what to do when it comes to finals,’’ Sullivan said.
‘‘It’s sticking to the basics and having everything right — being fit, able and well when you get into the finals. We seem as a group able, even under pressure, to be able to perform, which is the hardest thing to do of all.
‘‘The group that I’ve coached over the last five years, they aren’t deterred by the score board at all — as long as the game plan is working they just believe in themselves. So that’s probably what it comes down to... performing under pressure and belief.’’