Finals race will go down to wire

Yarrawonga’s Sarah Vagg and the Hoppers’ Kimberly Opdam at full stretch in their round 7 clash that saw the Pigeons outlast North Albury 50-49. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

Yarrawonga’s Sarah Vagg and the Hoppers’ Kimberly Opdam at full stretch in their round 7 clash that saw the Pigeons outlast North Albury 50-49. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

HOPPERS coach Fiona Boyer says the instructions are simple — keep winning.

North Albury is back in the top five after a four-quarter demolition of fellow finals aspirant Corowa-Rutherglen last weekend that included a 20-goal to six last quarter.

But it could have been so much better.

The Hoppers fought out a draw with Wodonga in round 2 and have lost by one and two goals to ladder leaders Yarrawonga and Lavington.

Boyer said the addition of Kimberly Opdam, Culcairn teenager Emma Schulz and the emergence of Jacqui Newton and Alana Wilson had brought a new dimension to their game.

In the goal circle Jess Fisher-Curnow has also been in outstanding touch — leading the shooting percentages for the competition with close to 90 per cent.

But Boyer fears the lower ranked teams could decide the top five — teams on the finals fringe with the firepower to knock over the big guns on any given day.

“It is possibly the most even competition we have had for many seasons,” she said.

“This year there are going to be some quality sides that miss out on finals and at the same time have the ability to beat anyone of the top five on their day.

“That will be crucial come the second half of the year, you want to make sure you are in the finals and finish as high as possible to give yourselves the double chance and the possibility of a week off.

“You just need to win every week and then how first, second and third pan out will be decided by one of those sixth to ninth teams upsetting one of your rivals.”

Boyer said their speed in the midcourt was a key to the Hopppers’ game.

“Certainly our speed through the midcourt sets the momentum for the rest of the team,” she said.

“We have worked hard on that at training and it is an obvious strength.

“New to the group this year is Kimberly Opdam, Jacqui Newton, Emma Schulz and Alana Wilson.

“Adding those four to the mix has changed the dynamics and it has definitely improved everyone else’s game through the new combinations and speed — everyone has had to step up to play at that level, that speed and intensity.”

Boyer said North Alb-ury needed to turn those narrow losses and draws into wins in the second half of the year.

“We need to ensure the pride we have in our own game allows us to finish off those games,” she said.

“We have only had the one poor performance, and that resulted in a loss, after eight rounds which is pretty good.

“But the draw and those one- and two-goal losses could really hurt us at the end of the year.”

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