By Andrew Johnston
ACT Premier League, round 2
Who: Monaro Panthers v Cooma Tigers
Where: Riverside Stadium
When: Sunday, 3pm
MONARO Panthers coach Njegosh Popovich says the club will not abandon its attacking mentality in the wake of its 8-1 drubbing at the hands of Canberra Olympic last Sunday.
But Popovich confirmed players had been put on notice and changes would be made heading into this weekend’s clash against Cooma at Riverside Stadium.
“You can’t lose a game 8-1 and stick with the same team,” Popovich acknowledged following last Sunday’s loss. “We need to make it clear to the boys that they need to step up so yes, there will be changes.
“How many changes will depend on how some of the boys pulled up fitness-wise [after Sunday] but there will be some restructuring.”
Last Sunday’s rout in Monaro’s Premier League season opener was a case of new year, same old result as the Panthers' defensive frailties were thrown into stark relief by title heavyweights Olympic.
The heavy defeat no doubt had players and coaching staff re-living last season’s disappointing campaign that saw Monaro win just one game.
A somewhat shell shocked Popovich said he was still trying to process the heavy first-up defeat when contacted by the Queanbeyan Age earlier this week.
But he was adamant the side would not abandon its forward-first philosophy in favour of a more conservative approach heading into this weekend’s match against last season’s premiers Cooma.
“If we were to change the way we play, we probably could grind out some more results than otherwise but that’s not going to progress this squad,” Popovich said.
“We want to play with a proactive philosophy rather than a reactive one but in saying that, we’ve also got to react better when we lose the ball.”
Heading into Sunday’s match, the Panthers will be sweating on the fitness of defenders Sam Ossato and Jake Stein after both were forced from the field against Olympic.
Monaro will be especially reliant on the key duo coming up against a Cooma outfit that set last year’s competition alight with its goal-scoring exploits en route to claiming the title.
The fitness prospects of talented midfielder Josh Calabria meanwhile, are considered more hopeful after the youngster picked up a minor shoulder injury against Olympic.