SOME improvement, but some disappointment.
That was the verdict from Maryborough coach Ben Lavars after his side's 32 point loss to South Bendigo in their season opener at Queen Elizabeth Oval on Saturday.
The second-year coach conceded the Magpies were poor at times against the Bloods, but was heartened in the knowledge there was scope for plenty of improvement going forward and that expectations around Princes Park had changed after a vibrant pre-season and recruiting campaign.
"South Bendigo played really well and I want to make sure I take nothing away from them - they were harder and tougher at the contest a lot longer than we were," a candid Lavars said.
"But I just felt in that in parts of the first half and probably the first 10 minutes of the last quarter, I don't know whether we were a bit sluggish, or just not switched on, but we just didn't play well.
"They kicked five goals in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter and we lost by 30 points.
"You look at those things and you think we could have competed better and longer.
"I thought our first half was pretty bad - especially compared to the third quarter when things clicked.
"Taking all that in, it was pretty encouraging. I think last year if we had have had 30 or 40 point losses to South Bendigo, we probably couldn't have played better.
"But I think there is lots to improve on. I feel the expectations this year are a lot higher.
"We have bought in a lot of guys and we have got a lot more experience. The structure stuff is what we need to work on.
"Our intensity and our contested ball lifted in the third quarter and things changed dramatically, we just couldn't do it for long enough."
Bright spots for Maryborough included Lachlan Crameri, who battled strongly in the ruck, Aidan Hare's marking and rebound off half back, Lachlan Butler on-ball, and Luke Bucknall.
The Magpies will look to regroup this week against Castlemaine, another team which has struggled in recent seasons, but has similarly raised the bar in terms of its 2019 season hopes.
The teams will meet on Good Friday in Maryborough, with Lavars targeting improved ball use and a lift in intensity as a means of curtailing Castlemaine, which opened the season with a 93 point loss to expected big improver Gisborne.
"They are probably in the same situation as us and hopeful of getting a win given they have a fair few recruits," he said.
"Against South Bendigo, our intensity and contested ball wasn't good enough and that's what we will focus on this week.
"I am really big on not talking purely about wins and losses, I'm really big on talking about the way we play.
"If we can improve those things, we should be able to walk away some wins, not just this weekend, but through the year as well."
Lavars admitted it was a tough day at the office for star Magpie Stewart Crameri (two goals).
"We didn't use the ball particularly well through the middle of the ground and that makes it pretty hard for a big forward, especially when he had a few guys on him most of the time," he said.
"But the good thing was we used a couple of the other forwards, especially in the third quarter, in Jayden Templeton and Jake Postle, which was encouraging."
Templeton finished as the Magpies top goal scorer with three, while Crameri added two.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.