IS this the best midfield in country footy?
The statistics suggest it is.
Albury stars Chris Hyde, Dean Polo, Brayden O’Hara and Joel Mackie have taken the Ovens and Murray by storm this year.
There’s no other way of putting it.
All four of them are averaging more than 30 disposals a game in the opening month of the season.
Hyde racked up 40 touches against North Albury on Anzac Day, while O’Hara should have three Morris Medal votes in the bag with his 37-possession, two-goal touch-up of Wangaratta Rovers in round 2.
The former SANFL star tore Corowa-Rutherglen apart last Saturday with 18 touches in the first half before he booted four goals in the second term.
The Border Mail can reveal the Tigers are averaging 128.7 disposals, 20.5 clearances and 5.3 goals a game out of their fabulous, fearsome foursome.
Those numbers are as impressive as they sound, a fact not lost on Panthers’ coach James Saker.
“They’re huge,” Saker said yesterday ahead of today’s blockbuster at the Albury Sportsground.
“It’s going to be a great test for our midfield.
“We obviously know how Hyde, Mackie and Polo play but it’s the first time we’ve seen O’Hara.
“He’s probably the unknown in terms of what to expect.
“Look, clearly they’re really dangerous.
“If they get out of the contest easily and get the running game going, we’ll be in all sorts, I’d have thought.
“We’ve got to back our guys in to get the job done.”
O’Hara and Hyde push forward with great effect and it’s rare for the Tigers to enter their attacking 50 without Hyde or O’Hara involved.
Mackie is the workhorse in the middle, churning out the clearances, while Polo runs to the right places and is equally damaging in the trenches as he sweeps across half-back.
Saker can’t split their influence.
“It’s probably dangerous to try to tag one of them,” he said.
“How do you separate which one is more important than the other?
“They’ve got too much quality to try to tag just the one guy.”
Wangaratta Rovers coach Paul Maher saw what can happen firsthand last month.
“They’ve just got so many options, Maher said.
‘They can all run through there, and that makes it difficult to hold them all.
“The three who start in there can change at any time.
“Mackie didn’t play against us but O’Hara showed us just how strong he can be.
“They are really strong at holding their ground and you can’t afford to chase the ball too much because they’re very good at pushing you under the ball and getting out over the back.”
While the Tigers are littered with stars across the park, it is Hyde, O’Hara, Polo and Mackie who Lavington must stop today.
But as the numbers show, that’s easier said than done.