KOROIT captain Isaac Templeton is expected to bolster a Saints’ side brimming with confidence after dismantling Hampden league premiership rival Port Fairy.
The two-time Maskell Medal-winning midfielder has missed the opening 12 rounds with a serious hamstring problem.
But Koroit coach Chris McLaren backed his premiership teammate to have an immediate impact in his return against Portland on Saturday.
“He’s done a really good month on the track now. He was probably close today,” McLaren said after the Saints’ 18.10 (118) to 7.8 (50) drubbing of the Seagulls on Saturday.
“That will be a great lift for us. He’s our captain and one of our absolute best players.”
Koroit signalled its flag intentions with a dominant display against Port Fairy.
The Saints piled on eight unanswered goals in a second-term blitz and kept the usually high-scoring Seagulls to three goals after the first break.
The result was a complete reversal of the two sides’ opening round clash which saw the reigning premiers cop a 70-point belting.
McLaren was rapt with the Saints’ effort but predicted it would count for little come September.
“We’ll wipe round one and they’ll probably wipe today,” he said. “I don’t think either team gets an advantage heading into finals.”
Port Fairy coach Brett Evans was left searching for answers for the Seagulls’ lacklustre performance.
“There was just no fight in the boys from the get-go,” he said. “I can’t explain it. It’s a bit of a wake up (call) for us. That can happen from time-to-time when you have some big wins but I still would have thought we could get ourselves up.”
Evans believes Port Fairy can recover from the defeat and won’t let it become a mental hurdle if the two teams meet in finals.
“It doesn’t dint my confidence and I don’t think it will for them going forward,” he said.
Picking bests for each team emphasised the gap between the two.
McLaren struggled to fit the Saints’ best into six, with midfielders Damian O’Connor and Brett Harrington, six-goal forward Marcus Darmody and ruckman Jeremy Hausler earning praise.
Evans, on the other hand, was bereft of options.
“We could not find a winner on the park and that goes to show unfortunately how bad a day it was,” he said.
McLaren said the Saints’ intensity and desire around the contest proved telling.
“We’ve actually been pretty good in second quarters this year, to be honest,” he said.
“I have no idea why. Our pressure was fantastic, there was not a lot of free uncontested possession for them and our tackling was really, really good today,
“They’ve got strong onballers with (Daniel) Nicholson and (Jackson) Hollmer, (Dylan) Gunning when he’s in there and Isaac Martin.
“We spoke about not letting them get out of those stoppages and I thought we were able to hold on to our tackles really well.”
Koroit got through unscathed while Port Fairy is sweating on the fitness of Nicholson (soreness), Nick Sheehan (hamstring) and Dylan Herbertson (ankle).