JASON Akermanis may have been right all along.
After a summer filled with bad press and well-documented problems, the North Albury coach, pictured above, continued to push on untroubled by the off-field dramas engulfing Bunton Park.
He was adamant things would be OK.
Plenty — myself included — weren’t so sure.
The majority of the club’s most talented players walked out, for a host of reasons, and a crisis loomed.
Just about anything that could have gone wrong did.
We’re only one round into the season, granted, but North Albury looked anything but a basket case against Wangaratta Rovers on Saturday.
There’s plenty to like about the Hoppers.
They took the game on, used the football brilliantly in passages and most importantly, played like they wanted to be out there.
Quite a few of them have ability, too.
Josh Minogue has all the tools to develop into a 10-year key forward for the club, while fellow teenage spark Clay Moscher- Thomas looked undaunted by much bigger opposition and isn’t afraid to back himself in.
Ryan Polkinghorne, George Godde, Rory Feltwell, Jordan Harrington and Jesse Wellington all dug in and should be handy foot soldiers moving forward.
Jarrah Makysmow, Jethro Calma-Holt, Daniel Leslie, Kristian Cary and Akermanis ensure there’s still class at the top.
Saturday’s clash against an injury-ravaged Wodonga now looks an interesting battle.
The Bulldogs are still favourites but will be preparing for a much tougher game than they might have been a month ago.
Sure, North Albury may still finish last and cop a few hidings along the way, but what Saturday showed us is the Hoppers won’t go down without a fight.
The Hoppers were a unanimous tip for the spoon in The Border Mail’s pre-season liftout.
Saturday’s performance already has a few of us nervous.
The Roos entered the season with a heap of optimism and, unlike the past few years, they delivered on it.
A new-look team smashed Wangaratta by almost 50 points on Saturday to make an early statement to the rest of the competition.
They did it without new coach Bryce Campbell and star utility Kade Kuschert, too.
Saturday’s clash with a resurgent Wodonga Raiders looks a cracker.
Finals are already well and truly on the agenda for the winner.
AS good as Saturday’s result was for Corowa-Rutherglen, it was equally deflating for the Magpies.
The Pies want to crack back into the top five this season but if they keep dishing up what they did at the weekend, they’ll be fighting a battle down the other end of the ladder.
You’ve got to feel for Mark Knobel, with simple errors costing the Pies time and time again.
Luckily, they’ve got 17 more rounds to get it right.