Sunbury Lions appear to have turned a corner despite losing to North Ballarat City in the Ballarat Football League.
The Lions have been disappointing in recent weeks, being handed football lessons by Redan and Bacchus Marsh.
On Saturday, against the reigning premier, the Lions showed encouraging signs despite the 19.12 (126) -12.8 (80) loss.
Lions coach Rick Horwood saw the result as a step in the right direction.
“I was pleased with the effort,” he said. “We had six changes from last week and were a very young side.
“There were good signs. I was disappointed after the last couple of weeks, but the players gave the commitment that they wanted to stay in the game, not pick and choose when they want to play.”
Trent Stead, in his fourth game, kept North Ballarat’s Shaun Lyle to two goals, while Dean Muir, in his first senior outing, also impressed.
“For Trent to keep Lyle to two goals was really important,” Horwood said. “Tanner Bell, another younger player, spent time on Derick Micallef, who I think is the best small forward in the competition, and for periods was able to go with him.
“Ben Guthrie played his best game for the season, and Anthony Sammut responded well after being dropped.”
Horwood said the side would be strengthened with the return of several players in coming weeks.
Among those to miss Saturday’s game were Jack Sheahan, with a buttock injury, Greg Hay (hamstring), Josh Guthrie and Matthew Parker.
“Adam Short has been running and will be back on the track this week,” Horwood said. “Jake Steeper trained last week, and Hay and [Nathan] Wood will be assessed. We could have three or four players back.”
Horwood is hoping the Lions, now in eighth spot, can still be in the finals mix.
The Lions play Ballarat, which won its first game of the season on Saturday, and then
have a bye before playing bottom side Sebastopol.
Horwood says this gives the Lions the chance to go 5-5 after having played every team.
“That’s the challenge,” he said.
In A-grade netball, the Lions lost 58-27.
The women’s football side continued its unbeaten start to the season, downing Melton Centrals on Saturday.
In the top-of-the-table clash, the Lions won 10.20 (80) – 1.0 (6).
Lisa Kirby kicked six goals in a best-on-ground performance.