Deer Park is taking a standing eight count in the Western Region Football League division 1 finals.
The six-time defending champions took a few blows in a 19-point loss to grand final-bound Altona at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, but they will live to fight another day.
“Altona’s pressure was red hot,” Lions coach Marc Bullen said.
“They’re a very good side, well-drilled side, well executed.”
Even though Bullen praised Altona for securing the minor premiership and the first grand final berth, he believes his side has tremendous upside for the rest of the finals.
Bullen felt like the Lions were their own worst enemy in the loss to the Vikings.
His team is normally the calmest under finals pressure and has shown that repeatedly over the years, but not on this day.
Elementary skill errors in attack hurt Deer Park’s chances of victory.
“We’re never going to win a final when we butcher the footy like we did forward of centre,” Bullen said.
“Our execution by foot was deplorable.
“The third quarter, we probably went in 10 times and six or seven of them were kicked straight to the opposition.”
That third quarter was the killer for Deer Park.
While they could not execute forward of centre, Altona was ruthless going the other way.
The Vikings banged on six goals to one in that quarter to all but secure the victory.
Ill-discipline crept in at times for Deer Park as for the second week in a row, the Lions gave away two 50-metre penalties.
In a close game, those could have been costlier.
“Ill-disciplined acts can really hurt us,” Bullen said.
“Last week we gave away two 50-metre penalties and this week I think the same.
“Our blokes have to tighten up a bit because it’s an area opposition clubs can target and only one or two per cent can cost you games.”
It was not all bad for Deer Park.
The Lions ticked a lot of boxes, in particular the success of their defensive assignments.
Tim Quick and Jackson Barling were colossal in the backline for the Lions.
“If you had’ve said before the game we’d keep [Elliot] Cavallaro to two goals, [Patrick] Rose to one and [Mitch] Turnbull to none, I thought we’d win the game of footy,” Bullen said.
Another positive was the game of Deer Park teenager Aaron Britten who swooped on every ball in his direction on the half-back line.
“He was our best player on the park,” Bullen said.
“He just continually stood up in key moments and used the footy well.”
Spirits among the Deer Park players were still high on Saturday night despite the loss.
Cub president Mark McGoldrick invited the players and coaches around to his house for pizza and beers following the game for team bonding.
The Lions will prepare for a preliminary final date with Spotswood at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.
In division 2, Wyndhamvale has set up a grand final showdown with Yarraville Seddon at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.
The Falcons advanced to the big one with a hard-fought seven-point win over Parkside.
Glen Orden is through to the division 3 grand final after pummelling Sunshine Heights by 62 points in the preliminary final at Pennell Reserve.
The Hawks will meet Albanvale in the season decider at the VU Whitten Oval on Saturday.