FOOTBALL can be a funny old game and on Saturday a tenacious North Albury was making a mockery of the recent noise and rumblings about an uneven Ovens and Murray competition.
For a fleeting moment early in the second half, a huge upset was looming as the Hoppers did what was thought impossible — lead Albury.
North Albury fans dared to dream at the five-minute-mark of the third term when a Josh Minogue goal put the Hoppers in front amid the cheers of a raucous core of supporters.
Despite missing team leader Jason Akermanis and Dan Leslie, the young Hoppers concerned themselves with the contest at hand and did it very well.
The response from Albury was that of an awakened giant from a deep sleep — angry and brutal with the game’s final 10 goals reading nine to Albury and one to North Albury.
None was more responsible than veteran Tiger Andy Carey who booted eight goals on the back of strong marking and accurate kicking.
Acting Hoppers’ coach Craig Mannagh, who was sharing roles with Leslie due to Akermanis being interstate with Australian Super Kart Championships commitments, was forthright after the game.
“We just try to instil confidence into the players and get them to back themselves against their direct opponent,” Mannagh said.
“There is no point in worrying about Albury’s dominance.
“Our aim is to get like them by developing our players to handle the higher standards they have set.
“Our commitment was always there today.”
Albury made a flying start with Carey (two), Brayden O’Hara and Setanta O’hAilpin kicking the first four goals of the match.
The Hoppers, with Jordan Harrington, Luke Holman and David Miles doing well in the midfield, then mounted a sustained patch of competitive football.
Six of the next eight goals had them hit the front in a ripping local derby contest.
Simon Mitchellhill was sup-erb in defence for North Albury against his old club, while Rory Feltwell and Kris Holman were providing the run from half- back.
It was at this point that the Tiger midfield clicked into gear.
Albury’s Joel O’Connell wore guernsey No. 41 in a tribute to his 2010 reserve grade premiership teammate Braedon Hensel who passed away late last month.
Hensel’s father Neville, who was a premiership player at Alb-ury, presented the jumper to O’Connell on the ground.