DISMISS Luke Crane’s Portland at your peril.
Belief is building at Hanlon Park after Portland mauled Hamilton Kangaroos by 40 points in the Hampden league’s traditional Anzac Day fixture.
Portland – touted as a wooden spoon contender after several player departures in the off-season – shocked the football world with two gutsy one-point triumphs in the opening two rounds.
On Wednesday, it flexed its muscle. The Tigers now share top spot with reigning premier Koroit after three matches.
“(Belief) has been the big thing,” Crane said after the 16.6 (102) to 9.8 (62) triumph.
“There’s been great composure from our back six – that was probably going to be our weakest area because we lost two or three of our best players that have played down there over the last couple of years.
“I think winning the first game and then again last week has really brought the best out in everyone. They’re all playing their role, working well together and doing things together.
“It’s amazing how they’ve jelled together. It comes back to the pre-season we put in and the work we’ve done. The boys have really bought in the real team culture we’re building.”
Jay Moody was lethal as a crumbing and marking forward, slotting several second-half majors while Crane was also serviceable deep and higher up the field.
Crane said the Tigers’ forward structure was one of the team’s strongest assets.
“I’m really happy with the forwards. Tommy Hernan is a young kid who missed a year of footy.
“We were unfortunate we didn’t have Connor Giddings, who is going to play with (Greater Western Victoria Rebels) this week,” he said.
“Those two have been fantastic the last couple of weeks.
“We didn’t know how it’d work (on Anzac Day) but we left Aaron Shepherd up forward and his second half was just super.”
The 32-year-old, who took the coaching reins from Jake Myles in late 2014, charged his midfield with responding after they were beaten resoundingly in the first quarter.
Crane credited their comeback as key in Portland’s win.
Hamilton Kangaroos coach Matt Dunn described match as “a game of momentum”.
“We started that first quarter so well with three quick goals, but we weren’t able to make the most of the advantage,” Dunn said.
“We had the ball in the forward half of the ground for 75 per cent of that quarter and only managed to score three goals.
“We didn’t put them to the sword when we had the chance.
“We really dropped off in the second half and that was really disappointing.”