SOUTH Croydon was short on the bench but not short on spirit, clinching a 14-point win over rival Croydon to begin the Eastern Football League division 1 season on Saturday.
The Bulldogs entered the last term down four points without Cam Stone (concussion), David King (corked thigh) and Zac Higgins (knee) but managed to step up their play, kicking key goals to claim the win.
Bulldogs coach Ben Delarue said his side pulled together at the key moment of the game.
"It was a fantastic effort from a determined group of people," he said.
"We were a couple down on the bench although all those injuries were minor. They should be right for next match."
Delarue said the difference in the game came when his side began to play more direct football in the final term, a mindset he hopes his side will continue over the season.
"In that last term we were more direct and made the most of the opportunities we created. We were also lucky they missed a couple of their chances.
"We have to encourage it [direct play] more and more. When we stick to our structures we look quite good so we have to make sure we continue to do it."
Young Bulldogs flanker Dylan Marshall was named best player for his efforts up forward and a second-half defensive job on dangerous Blues forward Justin Ficorilli (three goals) while Nick Molnar and Michael King (four goals) were also among the best.
The Blues' best was Daniel McConnell along with Brad Kelleher and Paul Thatcher.
Delarue said Marshall was one to watch.
"He is a young kid who has been around for a few years and he is getting more and more confidence in his footy because he can play."
In other division 1 clashes East Ringwood had a 17-point loss to Vermont in its season opener at Vermont.
Roos coach Bernie Dinneen said Vermont ran over his side in the final term after injuries to Greg Bartling and Chris Cerni and a neck injury to vice-captain Matt Sharpe had left the side undermanned. "It was a really hard, physical but fair encounter," Dinneen said.
"We ran out of legs. Two of the three injuries were to on-ballers."
He said all three players should be right for the Roos' first home game this Saturday.
The Roos had their chances in the third term to take control of the game but were unable to break away as both sides struggled in front of goal. "They were inaccurate in front of goal but I think that was due to our pressure," Dinneen said.
"You can't prepare for the intensity of round 1 and in the end they were too good.
"We have some work to do but I still think we could go a fair way to troubling a lot of teams."
Norwood also notched a round 1 win, beating Blackburn by 46 points.
Jake Ford, Jon Wynn and Matt McCormack were named best players for the Norsemen.