NORTH Warrnambool Eagles' confidence-building win over previously undefeated Koroit has come at a cost with three key players suffering injuries.
Tom Batten (hamstring), Dylan Parish (hamstring) and Bailey Jenkinson (arm) were casualties in the 8.19 (67) to 4.12 (36) win at Bushfield Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The 2019 grand final rematch - some 20 months in the making due to the coronavirus-enforced 2020 layoff - also saw the Saints add to their injury list with key defender Tim McPherson (head knock) and Dallas Mooney (neck/shoulder) wounded.
Batten limped off the ground in the first term after juggling a mark in the Eagles' forward 50.
He gave the ball to teammate Jarryd Lewis who kicked a goal.
Parish, in his first match since round one, was also sidelined before half-time.
He'd looked imposing in his return and had kicked a classy goal from long range.
Jenkinson came off second best after Koroit's Tim McIntyre laid a bump in the fourth quarter.
He jogged from the ground cradling his arm with a suspected AC joint or collarbone injury.
Eagles coach Adam Dowie said all three were likely to miss multiple games with Greater Western Victoria Rebels-listed duo Ben Kellett and Jett Bermingham to return to the NAB League after its four-week break.
The injuries were the only sour note in an otherwise uplifting performance for the Eagles, who improved their win-loss record to 4-1.
"As long as I have been here that is probably as good a win as we've had against the odds a bit," Dowie said.
The Eagles got the first two goals on the board through Lewis and Felix Jones, the latter captialising on a downfield free kick.
They never relinquished the lead and kept Koroit, which had averaged 133 points across its first four matches, goalless after half-time.
Dowie said the result gave his team belief.
"The good thing about playing Koroit, you find out where you are a bit," he said.
"All of a sudden you go, we've lost some good players (during the COVID-19 break) but we've still got some good players and we're still good enough to compete against anyone."
Dowie said the Eagles' ability to use precise kicking, smart handball and be versatile helped unpick the Saints who were unusably fumbly.
Adam Wines, who has been playing forward, was thrown back to play on the in-form Sam Dobson.
"Adam was originally a defender and today he was so good," he said.
The James twins - Sam and Tom - impressed Dowie.
Sam's fitness stood out while Tom in defence had his "best game" for the club.
Callum Grundy's shutdown role on Koroit goal sneak Will Couch and Jett Bermingham's ability to run into space also caught the six-time Hampden league premiership coach's attention.
Koroit coach Chris McLaren was disappointed with the Saints' efforts and conceded he was "really not looking forward to watching the vision".
The multiple premiership-winning coach said a lack of work rate and sloppy disposal hurt.
"I don't think we could play any worse than that," he said. "That was as bad as we've played in my time coaching.
"There was definitely elements of that because of North and what they were able to do.
"Fundamentally we gave the ball back to them far, far too easily and too often. We didn't try and get the ball off them - uncontested marks would be a world record against us."
The Saints, who were without number one ruckman Jeremy Hausler (appendix), came off a two-week break but McLaren said it was no excuse for their performance.
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