INGLEWOOD coach Darrell Billett spoke with confidence in the pre-season of his belief that the Blues would be a vastly improved side in the Loddon Valley Football-Netball League this year.
While it's only one round into the season, the Blues have given their first glimpse of strong improvement with the snapping of a 42-game losing streak at the expense of Calivil United.
Before Saturday the Blues hadn't won a senior game since April 28, 2018.
That had also been against Calivil United 1435 days earlier when they won by five points.
On Saturday, with an injection of new talent after a prosperous off-season recruiting campaign, the Blues opened their 2022 season with a 30-point victory over the Demons, winning 15.4 (94) to 9.10 (64) at Calivil.
"We did what we thought we could, so it was a really good result for the club," Billett said.
"We're really happy for the people who have stuck around the club and done it hard through a long period and have got a bit of reward.
"The feeling after the game was just sensational and I don't think I've heard a footy club sing their song as loud and proud as these boys did, so they really enjoyed it and that's the main thing."
The Blues' superior accuracy proved telling in the result, with both sides having 19 scoring shots apiece, while Inglewood got the jump on the home side and forced Calivil United to play catch-up football.
Inglewood, which lost Jaxon Billett (concussion), led at every change, including by a commanding 37 points at half-time, 9.2 to 2.7, to set up the long-awaited victory and the Blues' first 1-0 start to a season since 2008.
"Our midfield was really good and we did well with our centre clearance work," Billett said.
"Alex Lowe, one of our new players from Melbourne, was exceptional all over the ground and another of our new players, Bregon Cotchett, was a tackling machine.
"What we've got this year is the young kids who we had playing through the midfield last year who weren't quite ready can now push out to a forward pocket or forward flank and take that pressure off.
"As well as our midfield group being exceptional, our defence held up really well.
"Calivil challenged us a few times, but our defensive structure held up well led by Cody Stobaus and Luke Matheson was really good also."
With win No.1 on the board, the Blues will now turn their attention to making it two in a row - a feat the club hasn't achieved since 2016 - when they host Maiden Gully YCW next Saturday.
"It was a good win, the monkey is off the back and, hopefully, we can get a few more," Billett said.
Calivil United squandered opportunities in the first half with its return of 2.7, before straightening up after the break and adding 7.3.
However, by then the damage had been done.
Four new recruits featured in Calivil United's best players - Ben Daley, ruckman Alex Daniels, new coach Jack Daley and Jack Burns, while Jake Lawry kicked three of the Demons' nine goals.
Marong is the first team to sit on top of the ladder in 2022 following a crushing win over Maiden Gully YCW.
Expected to be one of the top premiership fancies, the Panthers were ruthless under lights in their 144-point hiding of the Eagles, 28.13 (181) to 5.7 (37).
The Eagles had no answer to the Panthers' star forward trio of Brandyn Grenfell (eight), Adrian Pappin (six) and Kain Robins (five), who combined for 19 goals in an ominous start.
The Panthers raced out of the blocks superbly, piling on 7.6 to 0.1 in the opening term to lead by 47 points at quarter-time before extending their advantage to 66 points at the main break.
And there was no let-up from the visitors, who added a further 16 goals after half-time.
Robins, athletic big man Richard Tibbett and Jimmy Gadsden led the best players for the Panthers.
"It was a really good way to start the year after a big pre-season," Marong coach Linton Jacobs said.
"What was most impressive for us was the impact our kids had; Sam Taylor in his first game in the ruck gave us first use and Ryley Taylor, Jack McCaig and Jimmy Gadsden all gave us a bit of electricity and speed around the ball."
New full-forward Jason Butty kicked two of the five goals for Maiden Gully YCW, which named veteran defender Steve Turner its best player on a tough night to start the season.
Pyramid Hill grinded out a 20-point win over rivals Bridgewater in the closest game of the opening round.
The Bulldogs won 9.14 (68) to 7.6 (48) at Bridgewater.
"It's obviously good to get an early win on the board and start the season well," Pyramid Hill coach Nathan Fitzpatrick said.
"It was quite windy today, so the game was a bit of a scrap, but I thought we moved the ball well at times and were good around the stoppages.
"Bridgewater got in front during the third quarter, but we held a two-goal or so lead for a lot of the game.
"It definitely wasn't easy... on a smaller ground it was a very contested game, but with a young side in it was good to start the season with a win.
"Ryley Dickens in his first game for the club did really well through the midfield and Steve Gunther coming back to the club was really good as well.
"Ben Dalton was good in tight, Bailey George did well across half-forward and Zac Dingwall did well in defence when he was playing on Andy Collins."
Centre half-back Tom Brennan (hand) is an injury concern out of the game for the Bulldogs, who with the bye next week and then the league break over Easter don't play again until April 23 against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.
As well as starting the season with a loss at home, Bridgewater also had key playmaker Andrew Collins (one goal) yellow carded and reported during the third quarter when the game was in the balance.
"The effort from the boys was there today, but we just let ourselves down in patches with some free kicks and ball use," new Bridgewater coach Rick Ladson said.
"Pyramid Hill was classy enough to capitalise on our mistakes; there's a bit for us to work on, but it is a new side and is going to take a bit to get used to playing with each other."
The best for the Mean Machine was returning player Callum Prest.
"Cal was unbelievable for us; he just grinded away for four quarters on the inside and outside," Ladson said.
"Big Cameron Ross did a great job in the ruck, Josh Martyn (two goals) started well up forward, but we let him down with our ball use in the second half, Harry Donegan was handy and Jake Rusbridge down back did a great job on Braidy Dickens."
Following an undefeated 2021, Mitiamo picked up from where it left off with a comfortable 84-point win at home over Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.
The Superoos - missing seven of their best 22 - held the Bears goalless after quarter-time in their 15.16 (106) to 2.10 (22) victory.
"Missing a few blokes and not knowing what Serp was going to serve up, we were always going to be happy just to come away with the four points today," new Mitiamo coach Marcus McKern said.
"It's always good to start with a win. We were good defensively and were able to dominate through the midfield and in the ruck.
"The conditions were tough with the wind and I couldn't have asked any more of the boys.
"Our A graders all really stood up... Carl Nicholson was classy, Lee Dale was great, Doug Thomas played well, Ross Turner through the midfield was solid and Michael I'Anson was great for us in the ruck."
New forward Jay Reynolds kicked four goals for the Superoos and Lee Dale slotted three from the midfield.
The Bears copped a major blow early in the game when reigning best and fairest Darcy Poulter suffered a broken arm, robbing the home side of one of their prime movers.
"We knew it was always going to be a big challenge up at Mitiamo; they are a quality side and still probably the benchmark of the league," new Bears coach Justin Laird said.
"Inaccuracy hurt us a bit today; if we kicked a few more goals than behinds then the scoreboard obviously looks a bit different for us."
James Bailey and Ryan Prendergast, who both played in defence, were among the best for the Bears.
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