Avenel fell just shy of making a big statement by knocking off Kyabram District Football League premiership contender Lancaster on Saturday.
Down by three goals in the second quarter, the Swans made a spirited come back in the second half to turn the contest into a good old-fashioned arm-wrestle, despite missing seven players from the starting side in James Ingham, Angus Durnan, Lachy McKenzie, Mitch Thomas, Nathan Thomas and Xavier Dowling.
Led by Michael Tinkler, who broke lines and demonstrated his strong ball use in the midfield, the Swans played a positive brand of football to match the uplifting weather, but ultimately fell short by two points.
Avenel assistant coach Kasey Duncan said it was disappointing to let the game slip after getting a few kicks ahead with 10 minutes to go but remains optimistic about what his side can achieve this year.
‘‘Dropping games like those can hurt in the back end of the year, but we will learn from it, get together at training and move our focus to Girgarre at home this weekend, which is now a very important game,’’ he said.
‘‘There is still a belief in this group that we can go all the way, we just need to start putting together those four-quarter performances and get more of our list on the park, with seven starters missing on the weekend. Not taking anything away from Lancaster though, they have showed some good early season form and have really improved.’’
Duncan acknowledged the best-on-ground performance by Tinkler, but also heaped praise on the Swans’ leadership core.
‘‘Scotty (Tyers) is an every-weeker for us in the back half, he is our vice-captain and really leads the way on the field and is without a doubt one of, if not the best defender in the competition,’’ Duncan said.
‘‘Michael Morgan was again outstanding as was Nick Goodwin with a couple of crafty goals. Cael McCarthy was a good target up forward booting four and as usual ‘Subba’ (Paul Arandt) and Don (Stirling) stood up when they were needed.’’
Duncan said new recruit Scott Taylor, who joins the Swans from Essendon District Football League side Maribyrnong Park, was another standout.
But the next generation looks bright too, Duncan said, with 16-year-old Chayse Thomson clocking up more experience in his second game at the top level, while Connor McCloy made his seniors debut.
‘‘Chayse is still finding his feet, he was a bit sore after last weekend so we worked him into the game as a forward and through the middle,’’ Duncan said.
‘‘We can see him and Connor being real assets for us.’’
Avenel, now sitting seventh on the ladder with a 1-2 record, takes on fifth-placed Girgarre on Saturday, with Duncan confident Angus Durnan will make his Swans debut in the crunch game after battling a niggling hamstring injury.
Lancaster: 2.3, 5.5, 7.9, 11.11 (77).
Avenel: 1.2, 3.3, 8.5, 11.9 (75).
Zachary Cerrone 2, Michael Hill 2, Luke Donnell 2, Chris Eddy 2, Drew Barrett 1, Rikki Busch 1, Samuel Vick 1.
Cael McCarthy 4, Nicholas Goodwin 2, Michael Tinkler 1, Cody Hogan 1, Michael Morgan 1, Paul Arandt 1, Andrew Dowling 1.
Nathan Torney, Andrew Douglas, Luke Donnell, Liam Nedeljkovich, Drew Barrett, Michael Hill.
Michael Tinkler, Scott Tyers, Michael Morgan, Paul Arandt, Donald Stirling.