ALBURY midfield star Joel Mackie has labelled Saturday’s blockbuster against modern day rival Yarrawonga as the biggest home and away encounter in his five seasons at Albury Sportsground.
The stakes don’t get any higher with the top-of-the-table clash to decide the minor premier and the benefit of having the week off during the first week of finals.
Mackie said recent history suggested having the week off to freshen-up before the second semi-final had proven to be a massive advantage.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than Saturday,” Mackie said.
“We were discussing it at training the other night and you have to go back to Lavington in 2005 as the last side that won the flag after not finishing on top.
“While having the week off doesn’t guarantee success, history says it’s a huge advantage.
“There’s no doubt both teams will be doing everything in their power to get that week off.”
Mackie said whoever lost on Saturday would be wary of facing a red-hot Lavington in the qualifying final at Birallee Park the following week.
“Lavington has proven itself to be a legitimate flag contender and is a well-coached and well-drilled side.
“They have already beaten Yarra once and pushed us both times we met this season.
“So it’s not going to be a walk in the park for whoever has to play them.”
Mackie said he was close to peak fitness after recovering from stress fractures in his foot which had plagued the reigning Morris medallist during the first half of the season.
“I’ve been able to train consistently for the past five to six weeks and have been able to get some miles into the legs,” he said.
“I was a bit worried about being fit for finals but the last couple of weeks the fitness has been good.”
Albury is expected to have a full list to choose from with Andy Carey, Josh Dicketts, Matt Fowler and Josh Maher all likely to be available.