Missed opportunities in the first half, and early injuries to two midfielders, came back to haunt the Bendigo Pioneers in their NAB League boys season-opener at the QEO on Saturday.
The Pioneers trailed by one point at the final change, but the Greater Western Victoria Rebels dominated the last quarter to win, 13.12 (90) to 8.11 (59).
"We had plenty of opportunities to win the game... we could have put the game away early, but we didn't convert our chances,'' Pioneers' coach Danny O'Bree said.
"In the second and third quarter they started to overlap us, they were impressive with their ball movement and we couldn't stop it at times.
"We lost our composure a little bit, but full credit to them they deserved it.
"The big thing we took out of today was what we call our attention to detail.
"Our shape around the ground and attention to detail wasn't to the level we expect."
The Pioneers' cause wasn't helped by injuries to Noah Long (broken collarbone) and skipper Harvey Gallagher (knee), while Hugh Hamilton didn't play at all after being called-up by Carlton's VFL team.
Their absence through the middle of the ground took its toll, particularly in the final quarter when the home side ran out of legs.
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"Noah was Vic Country under-17 captain last year and he started the game really well,'' O'Bree said.
"To lose our captain (Gallagher), another on-baller who had started really well, meant we needed to find some extra mids.
"We couldn't match it with them (the Rebels)."
O'Bree said it appeared there was no structural damage to Gallagher's knee and he could return for next week's clash with the Geelong Falcons.
Corbin Anderson, Michael Kiraly, Charlie Barnett, Benjamin Cameron, Joshua Goss and Oskar Faulkhead were named the Pioneers' best, while forward Harley Reid showed why he's regarded as one of the best players in Australia for his age with some flashes of brilliance.
The Rebels scored a clean sweep of victories over the Pioneers in the triple-header after winning the NAB League girls and under-16 boys games.
In the final NAB League girls game of the season, an inexperienced Pioneers' outfit went down 6.11 (47) to 1.6 (12).
Drew Ryan, Scarlett Orritt, Nadia Peebles, Lila Keck and Sienna Hobbs were best for the Pioneers.
"We've gone with the younger side the last few weeks in an effort to give some experience to our 2023 group,'' O'Bree said.
"I'm super proud of them for their efforts.
"We had eight Vic Country or VFL-listed girls that didn't play, so that experience would have been really good, but on the other side of the coin what a great experience for the younger girls to play together on the QEO.
"They'll be better for the experience."
The Pioneers' under-16s, coached by Dean Sheldrick, jumped out to an early lead, but were overrun in the second half and lost by four goals.
"From what I saw of the under-16s it was a high-standard game,'' O'Bree said.
"The Rebels won the hunt for the footy, but I thought our pressure was really good and created plenty of chances.
"It stood out across all three games that the Rebels' showed us how to play a hard-nosed, contested brand of footy."
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