MONTROSE lost the battle but new coach Brett Johnson believes his side is well equipped to win the war.
The Demons lost their first meeting of the season with Eastern Football League division 2
rivals Rowville by 19 points on Saturday yet remain confident that with a few adjustments they could still beat the Hawks later in the season.
"I was very impressed with Rowville and the way they went about it," Johnson, a former AFL player, said. "Our slow start in the third quarter cost us and they managed to hold us off in the end. There were a lot of upset players in the group, [but] the boys will keep getting better. Hopefully, we get it right come finals."
Johnson said the Demons were still learning his game plan but he had seen solid improvement.
"It's going to take some time. We are implementing a new game plan and have a few new players, so we are still to get used to playing with each other. Also, our defensive attitude has to pick up - we have given Rowville 17 goals which is too much.
"Defence was a focus in pre-season, it will take some time to come in."
While the Demons forwards also struggled with accuracy against the Hawks, Johnson is confident his forward line based around former Williamstown VFL forward Adam Cook and small forward Billy Schilling will become potent.
"Cook had an ankle reconstruction 18 months ago and is coming back to full fitness," Johnson said. "He mixes it up with Billy Schilling, whatever match-up works we go with.
The Demons wore two black armbands on Saturday in honour of a past Demons player and the father of assistant coach Andrew Gibson.
Mooroolbark moved to equal top spot on the division 2 ladder after beating Bayswater by 23 points with Trent Georgiou named best player.
In division 1, Lilydale's Ash Davies was best player as his side scored its first win back in the top division beating Croydon by 48 points.
■ It appears the formula to beating two-time Eastern Football League division 1 premier Noble Park involves one key area - winning the contested football.
That was the plan Norwood took into its clash with the Bulls at Mullum Reserve last Saturday and it proved telling, the Norsemen scoring a five-point win.
Norsemen coach Kevin Tibaldi said his side wouldn't get too carried away with the result and he also put paid to any talk he had devised a master scheme to beat the Bulls.
"I don't think I will be getting a heap of calls from other coaches," he said. "There was no secret formula, nothing secret we just stayed competitive all day and won the contested football." Tibaldi said his players provided a focused and tireless effort against the Bulls forcing them into a poor start before the reigning premiers stormed into life in the second half and almost snared a win.
Tibaldi said his side could have sealed the win late in the game but missed a few scoring chances in the final minutes.
In the end, it came down to stopping the highly-respected Bulls midfield from moving the ball into their forward line.
"Noble Park is very good at running the ball, if let them run and carry the ball they will get it to their forwards quick and they have a very good forward line," he said. "You've got to make sure the ball is held up through the midfield, so players can help out defenders by getting back. That's the theory and we did it."
The Norsemen midfield had a day to remember from ruckman Jonathan Wynn right through veteran star Shane Clayton and the rest of the onballers with Jake Ford playing a key tagging role on Bulls captain Craig Anderson.
"It sounds silly but it was a very even effort," Tibaldi said.