Lions will ‘lick their wounds’ and learn from lessons: Hocking

GFL premier Leopold suffered his first hiccup of the 2024 season against a tough opponent. Coach Garry Hocking reveals where they went wrong and how they’ll move forward.

The reigning premiers lost to St Mary’s in Round 2 by 43 points, but after dropping both regular season games to the Saints in 2023 (by 34 and 46 points), the Lions know the games that matter most come September will take place.

“They taught us a few lessons, we’ll lick our wounds and move on,” Hocking said after the game.

“And we have done that (before). Last year they beat us convincingly twice, but in the end they didn’t make it to the grand final.”

The Lions were the better of the two sides early on Saturday, their pressing blocking the ball in their half, although a lack of polish meant they couldn’t capitalize nearly as much as they could have. “We were in the game for a while but they (St Mary’s) just got moving again,” Hocking said.

“They are a good team but we have given them some sort of momentum with a few turnovers in dangerous areas of the pitch but they have also got their game going.”

Hocking said the first quarter was indicative of the way the Lions wanted to play.

“We just have to do this longer,” he said.

“(But) we gave them some holes to sneak through and they took them.

“They kicked the ball well, they were outnumbered and we lost a little bit of shape on the ground.”

Leopold’s Mitchell Burgess was dangerous against St Mary’s. Photo: Mark Wilson

Leopold captain Marcus Thompson worked hard all day, with new recruit Tate Porter showing he would also be a hard-working midfielder this year, while Mitch Burgess was vital at halfback, producing several highlights with his agility and pace.

Leopold had reason to be confident it could beat the Saints in the second half, having previously cleared deficits – although on this occasion it failed to deliver.

“We are the reigning premiers so we have done a lot of things right, but it’s just a matter of staying more consistent around the ball, behind the ball and in front of the ball,” he said.

Hocking expected Riley Stone (back) to be available for Round 3 against Colac, although he admitted Billy Ritchie (hamstring) could be a few more weeks away.

Meanwhile, Jake Pitt is also a few weeks away from a return, while Tom Feely (concussion) goes through protocols.