Wangaratta has three months to contain the ‘street smarts’ of Albury after falling in the top of the table clash by 17 points.
The Pies produced the season’s most inaccurate performance, kicking 7.18 (60) to 11.11 (77).
Poor kicking is poor footy and while there’s some truth in that, the solution to cracking Albury is more complex.
The Pies couldn’t contain three veterans – Luke Packer, Chris Hyde and Dean Polo.
“Yep, absolutely, spot on,” Pies’ coach Dean Stone said.
“’Hydey’ was terrific, Packer was good at half-back, Polo was in and out, but they set up so much drive from that half-back.”
Wangaratta is so close to playing in a grand final, it can almost taste it.
It has the strongest forward combination in Michael Newton and Josh Porter, who’s the best contested mark in the league, snatching 16, around half of those contested.
The defence is sound, with Michael Bordignon restricting Doug Strang medallist Josh Mellington to three majors.
The midfield is fine, but it’s hard to put an old head on a young body.
“You’ve got players in our side, they want to hunt the footy and they see ball, get ball, they’ve got to be diligent enough not to all go to that contest because Albury always leave one or two out the back and that really hurt us,” Stone said.
“Daine Porter and Matt Kelly understand that, we’ve also got some 18-19-year-olds who are learning that part of the game.”
Hyde, Packer and Polo are all skilful enough to win their own ball, but they’re also smart in knowing when not to commit.
Despite more scoring shots, the Pies never reduced the margin to within a kick after half-time and, at one stage, the Tigers led by 21 points in the third term.
“The 20 minutes in the third quarter cost us,” Stone said.
“They beat us at stoppages, by our calculations we won on the day, but in the third they absolutely annihilated us in and around the stoppages.”
The Pies never kicked successive goals and while Porter was superb and kicked two, he missed a relative sitter midway through the third term, while Newton booted four goals five.
“Opposition pressure can have a say in your execution, but we missed a few opportunities to really put them under pressure on the scoreboard,” Stone said.
“With a side like Albury, that’s what we have to do.”
Tigers’ co-coach Shaun Daly was another veteran to again play well.
“They’re our leaders of the club (Hyde, Packer and Polo) and I guess you expect that from them, you like your leaders to stand up,” he said.