COROWA-Rutherglen expects to roll out its strongest team of the season against Yarrawonga next round after a scrappy 23-point win against Wodonga Raiders at Birallee Park.
The Roos are entrenched in fourth spot, but the debut of Jack Oatey medallist Brett Zorzi and return of coach Bryce Campbell, Mick Mattingley and Sean Kelly bolsters their chances of an upset win over the reigning premiers after the bye.
Corowa-Rutherglen went a long way towards winning Saturday’s game in the first quarter when it kicked 5.0 to 2.1 against a stiff breeze.
It had the Raiders on the back foot from the moment it kicked the first three goals.
Roos’ spearhead Luke Gestier was a handful for the Raiders with three early goals, opposed to interleague defender Jack Di Mizio.
Corowa-Rutherglen capitalised on its early ascendancy in the middle of the ground and the hard work in the clinches by Luke Prescott, Jamie Seymour, Chris Marshall and Hayden Singe.
Dean Limbach brought up his 50th goal of the season in the first term, but had to work hard for his touches on the close-checking Al Austin.
One-off inclusion Chris Tarrant started forward for Raiders opposed to Kade Kuschert before being swung on to Gestier after half-time.
Despite playing in defence, Tarrant kicked his only goal for the match from a strong pack mark in the third term.
Jydon Neagle was the Raiders’ best with 30-plus touches.
But his season is set to end prematurely to have shoulder surgery.
Other bright spots for the Raiders were the efforts of Dylon Simpson and former Roo Nick Shelley.
The third quarter didn’t reach any great heights in the tough conditions, but exploded at the break, with the Roos riled by an incident between Gestier and Michael Steven.
Roos coach Bryce Campbell vented his anger at Steven and opposing co-coach Ben Klemke at the break.
No reports were laid, but a video referral could be on the cards this week.
“There was a bit of mayhem,” Campbell said.
“I didn’t see too much, but it was really important we got the side in quickly to concentrate on the last quarter.”
Campbell and Klemke again had a long chat after the final siren.
“We started really well and caught the opposition off guard,” Campbell said.
“It helped that we won the footy around the stoppages.
“Our contested footy was really high in the first half.”
The Roos had some anxious moments when young gun Joe Hansen left the ground before half-time with a shoulder injury, but he returned after the break.
Raiders co-coach Simon Bone said his team had failed to cash in on the breeze in the first term.
“We haven’t won for eight or nine weeks,” he said.
“They kicked five goals in that first quarter and it was close to the difference in the end.
“It is unfortunately reflective of where we are at.
“We had enough of the footy to be in the game, but coughed it up too much — it is a matter of perseverance from here.”