KOROIT coach Adam Dowie is playing down growing expectations after the Saints won the Hampden league’s footy pre-season cup for the first time with a tight victory over newcomer Hamilton Kangaroos at Port Fairy on Saturday.
In the Saints’ first competitive hit-out under Dowie, they produced a come-from-behind triumph over the Kangaroos, 5.4 (34) to 4.6 (30).
“I wouldn’t read a lot into it,” Dowie cautioned after his side emerged from the taxing round-robin tournament undefeated with three wins.
“We played a practice match a few weeks ago which we would have lost and we played one against Beaumaris.
“It wasn’t in our plans to win it.
“I looked at some of the other teams playing and they are well set up and well organised.
“I’m sure North Warrnambool is going to be hard to beat. Cobden, Camperdown and Warrnambool will be strong.”
Check out our gallery of the weekend's HFNL pre-season action.
Dowie said that while the win counted for little once the regular season begins, it was significant for the club.
He said the club had shown a great deal of faith in him since he accepted the job as non-playing coach by agreeing to more resources.
Dowie said he found himself for the first time in a pre-game address talking about money.
“The $4000 (winner’s prize) means a lot to the Koroit club,” he said.
“To some clubs they can raise $4000 pretty quickly but to Koroit it’s a lot of meat raffles, a lot of wood cutting.
“I said the football club has been terrific to us.
“We had a high-performance camp in Melbourne and the footy club has spent a lot of money on resources we’ve wanted.
“This was as good an opportunity we would get to repay that support.”
The Saints achieved the win without first-choice midfielders, captain Ben Goodall, Isaac Templeton and Brett Harrington and key defender Chris McLaren, who were rested from the final.
Dowie, who hadn’t been involved in the pre-season cup before, said he had found it difficult to know what line-up to go with in its preliminary matches against Portland and Port Fairy.
“We didn’t come to win it but then we thought now we are here ... we still had guys not available.
“It was really encouraging for the young guys.”
New midfield recruit Eli Barker was impressive while Nirranda teenager Morgan Van Der Mark, who is yet to commit to the Saints, was a livewire across half-forward, kicking one goal and dishing off a slick handball that sent Ben Dobson running into an unmarked goal.
Dobson was good up forward and in the midfield, while his younger brother Sam was prominent in the first half, kicking a goal, and Alex White was good across half-back.
Dowie’s former coach Mick Edmonds, who is in charge of the Kangaroos, was upbeat about his side’s debut in the competition.
Like Koroit, the Kangaroos were without several first-choice players, including key forward Hugh Douglas, who was rested for the final.
Edmonds said the newly-formed Kangaroos had exceeded expectations in their first competitive hit-out.
“As I said to the players, you get some reward for your hard work,” he said. “We’ve had a bloody good pre-season and the boys are fit.
“The thing I’m really rapt about was how they embraced the game style.
“There were a few hiccups but the best thing is they see it does work now and it’s not a matter of me saying ‘trust me’.”
Despite leading 2.2 to 2.0 at half-time, Edmonds wasn’t satisfied with his side’s performance, urging them to limit Koroit’s marking and be prepared to run to create more handball receives.
Kicking against the wind in the second half, the Kangaroos did carry the ball better, giving impressive key forward Thomas Waters opportunities to shine.
He snapped two goals, including one with about 60 seconds remaining in the match.
He had a chance to steal the match when he gathered a quick centre clearance at half-forward, evaded two would-be tacklers and prepared to kick the ball forward when he was pinned by a third tackler, causing a turnover moments before the siren sounded.
Hard-charging Kane Uebergang was impressive off half-back, leaving Koroit’s Karl Dwyer with a sore shoulder after a heavy bump early in the contest, while Matt Newell was also classy in defence.