Wangaratta is set to unleash its strongest line-up since the season-opener at home against Wodonga on Saturday.
Midfielders Ben Douthie and Matt Kelly will join pacy utility Mat Grossman and former VFL forward Josh Porter for the first time since round one against Lavington.
“You tell me a side in the Ovens and Murray that wouldn’t welcome those four back?” coach Dean Stone said.
“Not just for their playing ability, but for their leadership and playing direction.”
The quartet’s return means the only player missing from the Pies’ best team is vice-captain Matt Hedin, who will miss the year with a knee injury.
“They’ve got those eight or nine absolute top-liners, we’ve got to put a lot of time into a lot of different guys,” Wodonga coach Dean Harding said.
“Their front end is probably the best in the comp and their midfielders, when you put Grossman and all those boys in the mix, ‘Kel’, who always does damage against us, they’re as good a midfield in the comp as well.”
That’s enormous praise from Harding, given the quality of Albury’s midfield.
Wangaratta started the season with three straight wins, but have fallen to Yarrawonga (37 points) and Albury (68) to drop to sixth on percentage.
But Stone says the confidence hasn’t taken a hit.
“Even though we haven’t been able to sustain our best as much as what our opposition has, we know we can compete with the best, we’ve just got to be able to do it for longer,” he said.
“We probably could have rushed our injured players back and played them and potentially had better results against the top sides, but it was more about the longevity of our players.”
The Pies’ depth can be shown by the fact forward Darcy Laffy, who kicked six goals in only his second game against Yarrawonga, has been named as an emergency.
The pair shares the same win-loss record of three-two.
And while the Yarrawonga-Albury clash will command most of the limelight, the Pies-Bulldogs’ match could be just as close.
A number of the players involved in last weekend’s thrilling interleague win over Goulburn Valley will take added confidence into the game, particularly defender Michael Bordignon.
He’s highly rated within the Pies’ camp, but the rest of the league will take more notice after his five-star display.