NORTH Albury has put the rest of the Ovens and Murray on notice with an inspiring 20-point win against Ainslie.
The Hoppers downed the Canberra powerhouse on Saturday in a result that will have plenty talking as their season-opener against Myrtleford fast approaches.
Ainslie easily accounted for an under-strength Lavington a week earlier and has traditionally had the wood over visiting O and M teams during the pre-season.
In a further boost to the win’s credibility, North Albury was without star forward Adam Prior and four-time best and fairest winner Brandon Ryan.
Hopper champion Dan Leslie, who is set to spend the season in defence, said the win was as good as he’d been involved in during a pre-season campaign.
“You never know how things will go until you actually get out there so it was good to see all our structures come together,” Leslie said.
“It was great to have a win over good, quality opposition and really finish the game off.
“We need to build on that now, though, and make sure performances like that become regular for us.”
Kane Godde and Brian Durbidge proved a handful up forward on Saturday, with Godde finishing the game with six majors.
Durbidge, locked in a clearance wrangle with former club Chiltern, kicked four goals in a stunning third quarter burst that gave the Hoppers momentum.
However, in a blow, promising recruit Shane Munro popped a shoulder and could miss the start of the season.
He will have scans this week to determine the damage.
Matt McDonald was a standout in the midfield, with former AFL stars Jason Gram and Jason Akermanis also showing positive signs.
Leslie said he was enjoying life in defence.
“We’ve got plenty of forward options but probably lacking a bit of experience down back,” he said.
“It’s good to not have three blokes hanging off each arm and it gives me a bit of freedom.
“I’m happy to play wherever the team needs me.”