Melton South saw first hand what Darley can do in this year’s Ballarat Football League season.
After showing some encouraging signs in the first two rounds, the Panthers were well and truly beaten by the Devils on Saturday.
The Devils put in their best performance of the season, winning 22.18 (150)-5.7 (37).
Panthers coach Heath Pritchard said while they had their worst performance of the season, they were also beaten by a better team.
He said on that form, the Devils should go deep into the season.
“They are the best side that we’ve played and they took us away from the way we want to play,” he said.
“We were very disappointed having played some really good footy in the first two rounds.
“We had a bad day which is going to happen when you have a young side.
“We need to get back to playing how we were in the first two weeks.
“We’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Brody Sullivan was the only multiple goalkicker for the Panthers, while Brian Graham kicked five goals in his first game back for the Devils in a best-on-ground performance.
Pritchard said Paul Bower was their best in the loss. He said Lachie Watkins and Dale Houghton were also good.
A couple of the Panthers’ young guns showed some good signs.
“Cody Chapman and Mitchell Fino both tried hard,” Pritchard said.
“We’re playing a number of 18-19 year-olds which is great for the future.
“It makes it hard sometimes when they come up against bigger bodies.”
Pritchard said the young players getting games were earning their spots, not just playing for development.
He said it was a juggling act to make sure they don’t burn out.
“They have shown a fair bit of a presence so far,” he said. “It is a bit of a long burn with them.”
Pritchard said the key for them this season was to replicate how they played in the first couple of weeks when they took it up to the Sunbury Lions in round two.
The Panthers have two weeks off with the bye and interleague and then face a tough game against reigning premiers East Point.
Melton South will have played the top-three sides from last season in their first four games.
“We would have preferred to have played this week,” Pritchard said.
“After a loss like that you want to get back at it.”
Melton returned to the winners’ list, beating Bacchus Marsh 11.15 (81)-5.13 (43).
Connor Griffiths was best on ground for the Bloods.
The Bloods have two wins but the Cobras are still without a win.