ALBURY tightened its grip on a seemingly inevitable fourth premiership in six seasons by inflicting a 62-point whitewash on its modern day challenger Yarrawonga at J.C. Lowe Oval on Saturday.
The red-hot Tigers were on the cusp of another crushing victory when they kicked the first seven goals of the match before storming to a 10-goal plus lead at half-time.
AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick was an interested onlooker as the Tigers underlined their dominance before the Pigeons halted the onslaught with a plucky second half.
Fitzpatrick was the guest at a fundraiser for injured Tiger James McQuillan, which raised more than $40,000.
The Tigers-Pigeons encounter was the first since the fateful day McQuillan was seriously injured in round one.
The two fierce rivals took the field side by side in a mark of unity in support of McQuillan, but for the next two quarters the Tigers were in a class of their own.
The 62-point final margin brought an end to a record-breaking run of three matches where Albury has scored 200 points or more.
Co-coach Daniel Maher played down suggestions the Tigers were already over the line in the premiership race.
“We are not home and hosed by a long shot. You don’t win finals and flags in June ” he said.
“The media and everyone outside this group can say what they want.
“It’s worth four points next week and the week after.”
Albury livewire John Mitchell dropped out of the selected team and was replaced by Caleb Simmonds.
The Tigers have back-up, with senior regulars Will Smith and Josh Gaynor trying to force their way back via the reserves and former Wodonga star Matthew Shir still in the mix.
A surprise starter in the reserves on Saturday was 1995 Morris medallist Ken Howe.
Yarrawonga co-coach Chris Kennedy said the Pigeons would take heart from their second-half showing.
He said the Pigeons showed they could fightback from a similar mauling at the hands of Albury, pointing to the round 18 loss last season.
“The last half was as good a footy as we’ve played for six weeks,” he said.
“We lost the game, but maybe it was a bit of a turning point.
“They (his players) knew they got belted on their home deck for a half.
“But I think it was more pride and I didn’t sense Albury’s intensity drop either.
“That effort has been lacking for a long time.
“The first quarter was an indication of where we were at and an indication of how Albury has been going.”