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Lions start flag defence on right foot

April 14, 2024 9:00 am in by
Former president Richard Hockley and wife Shelley unfurl Leopold's 2023 premiership flag. (Leopold FNC)

To the outsider, Leopold is the best team in the GFNL.

The reigning premier after a comprehensive grand final win over South Barwon, the Lions enter the 2024 season as the team to beat, a position further reinforced by a 35-point victory over Geelong West at Memorial Park.

However, coach Garry Hocking believes it’s not that simple.

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“We finished fifth in 2022 (and) made the grand final, finished fourth (in 2023) and won the grand final,” Hocking said on krockfootball.live.

“So, we know that we’re still chasing the better teams.

“People think you’re the best team, but we still think we’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of growth and development in the group.”

One area in which Hocking will be keen to see improvement is goalkicking.

Leopold kicked 13.23 (101) to 10.6 (66), with the 35-point margin not truly reflective of the home team’s dominance.

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“If you kicked 23.10, it looks pretty good,” he said.

“(We had) 54 inside 50s, 36 shots on goal, so (we were) getting the ball in there.

“It’s probably about cleaning up the conversion.”

Star midfielder Tom Feely, Team of the Year defender Tev Nofi, and returning forward Jake Pitt, who kicked three goals, all finished the game on the bench for Leopold.

“Feels is a bit of a head knock, so we’ll get proper clarification around that,” Hocking said.

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“He’ll see a clinician; we don’t do that sort of stuff. There’s protocols around that.

“Tev rolled an ankle; (he) should be right. And Pitty’s done a calf.

“We’ll get a scan on that and see how bad it is. He’ll possibly miss (Round 2 versus St Mary’s).

Giants coach Greg Mellor says Leopold stopped his team from playing the way they wanted to.

“They threw an extra one and then two up around the ball … and that stopped us getting some outside run,” he said.

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“And then they just took off and sliced us open.

“If they kicked straight, it (the margin) could have been a lot further.”

One positive for Geelong West was the performance of youngster Lachie Horniblow up forward.

After 14 goals in his first four games to end the 2023 season, he managed three goals against the Lions.

“We think he can really be a target for us going forward,” Mellor said.

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“He’s physically strong. He had (Jye) Cross at the start and kicked a few on him.

“It was certainly positive.”

Koroit recruit Frazer Robb was lively inside forward 50 with two goals for the Giants, while defender Titit Nyak worked hard after being shifted onto Lions’ forward Connor Giddings.

Giddings kicked three goals, but two came on Jayden Symes in the opening three minutes.

Leopold recruit Tate Porter showed why he’s so highly rated in the Hampden region, while dynamic Marcus Thompson and 100-gamer Logan Wagener racked up plenty of possessions.

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Leopold’s Round 2 meeting with St Mary’s will be broadcast live and exclusively at krockfootball.com

GFNL: SCOREBOARD, LADDER, LEADING GOALKICKERS

South Barwon has retained the John Nankervis Shield with an impressive 85-point hiding of Grovedale at Burdoo Reserve.

The Swans took charge of the contest in the opening term, slamming on seven goals to one to lay the foundation for an 18.16 (124) to 5.9 (39) victory.

Last year’s grand finalists had too many forward options for the Tigers to contain, with six players kicking multiple goals.

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Captain Matt Caldow, Lachie Noble and Jonty Broughton each finished with three majors.

South’s standouts were midfielder Doyle Madigan, star defender Jack Driver, and newcomers Blair Huggins and Paddy Kelly.

However, a shoulder injury suffered by Jake Peters took some of the gloss off the win.

Recruit Ajoung Maker kicked two goals for the Tigers, who were best served by Brady Ferguson and Brady Campi.

Highly touted recruit Ollie Bridgewater has wasted no time making an impact on the competition with an impressive display as Bell Park outlasted Colac by 17 points at Hamlyn Park, 9.11 (65) to 6.12 (48)

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Leading by three points at three-quarter time, the Dragons kicked the only two goals of the final term to snap an eight-game losing streak against the Tigers stretching back to the final round of 2017.

Former Geelong VFL-listed duo Ben Lloyd and Ben Worme also impressed, with Willson Mack working hard for his two goals.

Veteran Joffy Simpkin kicked four goals in a lone hand up forward for the Tigers.

The McMahon brothers honoured the memory of their late grandmother, Judy, with strong performances as St Mary’s beat Newtown and Chilwell by 58 points at Elderslie Reserve.

Harry kicked three goals, and Damian was among the best players in the 14.12 (96) to 5.8 (38) result.

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Two-time Mathieson medallist Harry Benson and young defender Sam Bourke also impressed for the Saints.

Gennaro Bove was the only multiple goalkicker for the Eagles, with Flynn Young held goalless after his seven majors the previous week.

In their first games for the season, Braden Hocking and Ned Harris stood out for Newtown & Chilwell.

North Shore regained the Paddy Chair Cup by winning its first game since Round 12 last year, with a 31-point victory over Lara, 13.16 (94) to 9.9 (63).

The Seagulls led by three points at quarter time and extended that margin at every change.

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Harry Purcell added three goals to the six he kicked in the opening-round loss to Newtown & Chilwell.

Veteran Aaron Seller also scored three goals to be among North Shore’s best, along with Nathan Arbon, Cam Primmer, and James Chadwick.

Missing co-coach Dev Smith and veteran forward Mitch Day, the Cats were best served by Connor Linehan-Cunningham and Geelong Falcon Daniel Lowther (three goals).

Reigning Rookie of the Year Hunter Lewis made an impressive return from a broken leg that prematurely ended his 2023 season as St Joseph’s proved far too strong for a young St Albans outfit.

Lewis kicked four goals in the 20.11 (131) to 6.9 (45) victory.

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Max McLachlan also kicked four goals, with Oscar Morrison and returning junior Joel Edwards each kicking three.

Although the Northern Bullants did not require Sam Donegan for their clash with Geelong today (Sunday), he showed why he’s on a VFL list with a lionhearted performance for the Supersaints.

X: @krockfootball

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