THERE has never been as many stars in the Ovens and Murray than there is right now.Unfortunately, that means a host of players probably don’t get the credit they deserve.
Every club has someone who is held in the highest regard internally but doesn’t get the plaudits from the public. Here are the league’s most underrated players. Unsung heroes keep clubs on the board
BRAD O'CONNOR Yarrawonga
THIS bloke is a genuine star of the competition.
Yes, he plays in a forward line alongside Brendan Fevola and Kayne Pettifer, but you could argue that makes life harder, not easier, for the former Sunraysia league star.
He makes the most of often limited opportunities in attack and it’s hard to think of a more reliable mark on the lead in the Ovens and Murray right now.
O’Connor would kick bags at a club where he was the No. 1 target.
TIM COOPER Yarrawonga
AGAIN, people will mount the case it’s easier to play well in a team full of stars but Cooper wins the hard ball and doesn’t rely on others to help him out.
If anything, he makes life easier for a few of his star teammates.
Cooper won Yarrawonga’s best and fairest in his first year at the club in 2010, but is rarely mentioned in the same company as midfield mates Craig Ednie, Xavier Leslie and Tyler Bonat.
He should be.
JOHN MITCHELL Albury
IT’S only when Mitchell doesn’t play for the Tigers that you notice how valuable he is.
The classy midfielder makes good decisions and rarely wastes an opportunity in front of goal.
Albury has a wealth of quality runners but Mitchell is closer to the top of that list than many think.
He is a seriously good player.
ADAM BUTLER Lavington
I DON’T even think Butler realises how good he is.
The versatile big man keeps a low profile but is one of the Panthers’ most important players.
He has been in sensational form this season and it is critical he stays on the park if Lavington is to break Albury and Yarrawonga’s strangehold on the grand final this year.
LUKE WELLS Albury
IT’S no coincidence Albury has one of the league’s premier midfields when Wells is feeding them with quality tapwork.
The big man hasn’t put a foot wrong since arriving at the Albury Sportsground and was a surprise omission from the Ovens and Murray interleague squad.
The O’hAilpin brothers have understandably gained plenty of attention since joining Albury this year, but Wells is still the Tigers’ most effective big man in the centre of the ground.
SHANE GASTON Wangaratta Rovers
THE Hawks’ tall utility has been thrown all over the ground the past few years but has finally settled into the ruck this season.
It’s made a huge difference.
Being unable to lock down a set position makes it tough to find consistency and Gaston is often the victim of his own versatility.
He has made the ruck his own since the departure of Karl Norman.
Gaston is seen by most outsiders as a fringe player, but he has shown this year he’s in the Hawks’ best dozen.
MITCH PALMER Lavington
IS rarely out of Lavington’s best 10 players each week.
Palmer breaks the lines with pace, puts his head over the footy to win the hard ball and kicks goals.
He’s the complete package for a midfielder but doesn’t get too many accolades.
CHRIS MACEY Wodonga
LOSING Macey for the season was a disaster for the embattled Bulldogs.
The reliable defender is criminally underrated and does his job every week.
He completely blanketed star Lavington recruit Adam Prior in round 1 before going down with a season-ending knee injury.
His absence can’t be overstated.
LEIGH CORCORAN Myrtleford
BRAD Murray is rightfully recognised as the Saints’ best player, but it often means their other coach goes unnoticed.
Corcoran provides experience, reliability and a cool head in defence for the Saints and plays an equally important part in getting Myrtleford up and going each week.
He’s been in great form this year.
HAYDEN SINGE Corowa-Rutherglen
A GOALKICKING midfielder who has made a habit of playing well against the league’s best, which is the mark of a good player.
He’s still only young and has plenty of scope for improvement.
His run and carry is invaluable for the Roos.
BEN MURPHY Wodonga Raiders
THIS kid is one of the league’s best young players but just goes about his business.
After starring in the Raiders’ junior ranks, Murphy has made a seamless transition to senior footy.
He is racking up experience and will almost certainly be the heart of the Raiders’ midfield in a couple of years.
KRIS HOLMAN North Albury
THERE wasn’t much fanfare surrounding Holman’s return from Western Australia over the summer but he’s been invaluable for the Hoppers so far.
He has the frame to compete in the midfield and is a beautiful kick of the football.
Holman has played a big part in easing the exodus of stars from Bunton Park over the summer.
ALBURY’S midfield is on fire.
It’s a no-brainer, but Lavington must limit the influence of Chris Hyde, Dean Polo, Joel Mackie and Brayden O’Hara on Saturday if they want to be any chance of beating the Tigers.
The star quartet dominated against Corowa-Rutherglen on Saturday.
They combined for 42 touches, 11 clearances and two goals in just the first quarter alone.
And that was before O’Hara ran riot with a four-goal second term.
WODONGA Raiders will be filthy with their poor showing at home.
With plenty on the line, the Raiders were put to the sword by a fired-up Wangaratta Rovers at Birallee Park.
They were belted by almost 100 points, which few people saw coming.
The Raiders must bounce back against North Albury on Saturday if they want to keep their finals hopes on track.
But doing that will be easier said than done.