Ovens and Murray grand final 2016: Albury and Wangaratta Rovers undisputed powerhouses of the O and M

THEY might be spaced by almost four decades, but the similarities are scary.

Wangaratta Rovers' success in the Ovens and Murray Football League in the 1970s remains the stuff of legend.

Seven flags from 10 grand final appearances between 1970 and 1980.

An era which produced one O and M legend, four Hall of Famers, two Morris medallists and a full-forward who kicked more than 1000 goals.

Albury is lining up in an eighth successive grand final on Sunday and has won five premierships with no sign their reign is coming to a close.

The Tigers' time at the top has produced one Hall of Famer, two Morris medallist, including a dual winner, and two forwards who have kicked 100-plus goals in a season.

The Hawks played 232 matches in their golden era for 163 wins, seven draws and 62 losses.

They won 26 of 34 finals matches with an overall winning percentage of 71.7 per cent.

The Tigers record from 2009-2016 to date is better, 145 wins, one draw and just seven defeats.

They've won 14 of 18 finals for a stunning overall winning percentage of 89.8 per cent.

But the obvious point of difference is how the two teams won their flags.

Neville Hogan, who coached the Rovers from 1970 to 1976 before passing the baton to Daryl Smith, said he only coached one truly dominant team in 1975.

The rest were a case of peaking in September, beginning with the first of three flags in four years against Yarrawonga in 1971 when the Rovers came from the first semi-final.

"A lot of the time it was line ball and we were battling," Hogan said.

"But in my opinion we trained better, were fitter and more disciplined than the other sides we came up against.

Wangaratta Rovers coach Neville Hogan and president Jack Maroney after one of the Hawks' wins in the 1970s.

Wangaratta Rovers coach Neville Hogan and president Jack Maroney after one of the Hawks' wins in the 1970s.

"When I went and coached Myrtleford and later on Wang, the Rovers were training better in 1963 then what they were in 1980 and 1983.

"But sides starting catching up beginning with Martin Cross at North Albury and then others followed suit and Rovers lost their advantage."

The Rovers coaching great was also ahead of his time when his teams used to do a warm-up around 11am on match-days come finals.

The tactic had its origins when Hogan selected Phil O'Keefe for his first match and took him down to the College Oval for a limber up which included some ball work, but also doubled in releasing some nervous energy for the young debutant.

"It made me feel so good so I put it in the memory bank for important games after that," Hogan said.

"We didn't do it for home and home games, but come finals time we went to another ground away from everybody else.

"The first objective was to finish where you could give yourself a chance and finals were a separate bit."

The 1974 premiership remains a cherished memory for Hogan.

Wangaratta Rovers were thrashed in the second semi-final by the Pigeons and scraped home against North Albury in the preliminary final after kicking only one goal to half-time.

Late in the match Hogan swung himself forward and moved Tony Hannan into the centre in a move which went unnoticed by the Pigeons.

Seven days later Hogan started up forward and kicked six goals and centreman Hannan starred with the match over by quarter time.

The Rovers had great recruiting success with players from Ovens and King league clubs including Leigh Hartwig and Paul O'Brien (Greta), Merv Holmes, Barry Cook and Gary Allen (Milawa), Eddie Flynn (North Wangaratta) and the late Mick Nolan from Tarrawingee who later played in premierships for North Melbourne.

The Hawks also struck gold with recruits, Smith and Andrew Scott, and champion goal-kicker Steve Norman finished the decade with a record seven premiership medals.

O and M Hall of Famer Jack Clancy coached against Wangaratta Rovers in the 1970s and remains in awe of their record.

He was appointed coach of Albury in 1976 and experienced first hand how the Hawks lifted in September with a preliminary final defeat which still haunts him 40 years later.

The Tigers finished on top, but lost the second semi-final to eventual premier Wangaratta.

They met the Rovers who had earlier played in an elimination final draw and won the replay to stay alive.

"We were five goals in front and got beat by six," Clancy said.

"I was the only coach in the comp who tipped Wang to win the grand final.

"But I only did that out of spite because I just couldn't tip Rovers after what happened.

"I thought we had their measure, but we just weren't mentally tough enough and consequently went out in straight sets.

"I stand corrected, but the Rovers of the '70s had the most successful decade of any footy club in Australia at the time.

"The similarities with Albury of today is there for all to see."

MAGIC MOMENT: Albury players celebrate 2014 premiership with injured team-mate James McQuillan.

MAGIC MOMENT: Albury players celebrate 2014 premiership with injured team-mate James McQuillan.

The Tigers assembled the core of its all conquering line-up in the pre-season of 2008 when Paul Spargo returned for his third stint as coach of the club.

Chris Hyde, Shaun Daly, Andrew Carey, Joel Mackie and Michael Thompson all arrived at Tigerland in a signature Spargo recruiting blitz.

The Tigers went through the 2009 season undefeated and won the next two flags against Yarrawonga despite some anxious moments on grand final day.

The only season when Albury didn't look like grand final certainties was in 20102 when Brendan Fevola arrived at Yarrawonga and Barry Hall played some cameos at Wangaratta Rovers.

The Pigeons won back-to-back flags against Albury in 2012-13.

But the losses only served to poke the bear as the Tigers rebounded strongly with the addition of the o'hAailpin brothers, Dean Polo, Brayden O'Hara ,more recently Josh Mellington and Daniel Cross and the return of Shaun Daly from a successful coaching stint in Queensland.

Clancy is in awe of how hard the Tigers train and convinced they are the best team he has seen in the O and M.

"I was fortunate enough to see a lot of Jeff Gieschen's Wodonga teams train in the 1980s and they trained very hard," he said.

"But this Albury team has taken it to another level.

"I was there one night in pre-season when they were doing this short-kicking drill and in a 16-minute period I didn't see the ball hit the ground once.

"With balls flying all over the place that is almost impossible."

The Tigers are on a 21-match winning streaking heading into Sunday's grand final with their most recent defeat being to Hogan's club in round 18 last season.

"They have got the six best players in the comp on what I've seen," he said.

"They all play on-ball and I reckon it would be just as hard to get a kick for Albury then playing against them."

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