Close one feeds Hoppers’ hopes

North Wangaratta’s Jamie Berry swoops on the ball on Saturday. Picture: Wangaratta Chronicle

North Wangaratta’s Jamie Berry swoops on the ball on Saturday. Picture: Wangaratta Chronicle

AN old-fashioned ruck battle in the centre of the ground typified the battle Bonnie Doon and Moyhu staged in the Ovens and King League.

There was nothing in it before the Hoppers prevailed 16.8 (104) to 17.10 (112) at Bonnie Doon.

“We’ve lost a couple by a kick so it’s good to come out on top in one of those,” Hoppers’ coach Joel Fisher said.

“They’re the kind of games we have to win. There’s a group of evenly matched teams all going for that top-six.”

Fisher said the Hoppers’ endeavour had been more intense than in some previous games and his team was starting to live up to its potential.

In the end, it came down to long and direct kicking in heavy conditions.

“If you stuff around with the footy you can get turned over easily,” Fisher said.

“Our midfield was really good, our backs were good — it was a team effort.”

The duel of the day was between ruckmen Anthony Welsh and the Bombers’ Mark Ryan.

“Neither was better than the other,” Fisher said.

“They were both very good.

“Whoever got out of middle usually scored and it was a high-scoring game.”

Nathan Waite and Ryan Craig also played important roles for the Hoppers.

If there was any down side, it was the way the Hoppers’ intensity dropped off in patches, particularly in the second quarter.

“We probably stopped running and it’s been a bit typical of us, unfortunately,” Fisher said.

“Spots are tight in the six so you can’t have those lapses against good sides.

“We’re sitting eight right now which is probably where we’re at.

“But we can still get into the top six if we play our style of footy.”

The Hoppers are also looking forward to several top players returning — co-captain Leroy Dowling could be back soon after a broken finger, while Cheyne Gilmore is expected back later in the season after a medial knee ligament injury.

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