Wangaratta will unleash the league’s most dangerous forward line for the first time in two months in Sunday’s preliminary final against Yarrawonga.
Michael Newton, Josh Porter and Tom Whittlesea will look to terrorise the Pigeons’ defence at North Albury’s Bunton Park.
“We did play two games before Josh left with all three boys and that’s what we’ve worked on and how we’ve prepared to play,” Wangaratta coach Dean Stone said.
On paper, it’s a potent combination, but the $64,000 question is how will Newton and Porter play after extended periods out?
Newton has played just over half a game of football since first injuring his hamstring on July 29.
“Yes, at this stage, he’s playing,” Stone said.
And Porter hasn’t played since July 16, returning on Friday in a quick hit and run mission from his university studies in the US.
“I just thought last week we missed that key position forward who could really straighten us up and we had someone long to kick to, when we didn’t have a short option,” Stone said.
“Michael gave us that in the first final, until he was injured.”
“We don’t expect Josh to come in and make the difference between winning and losing.”
Porter’s return and the continuing improvement in former SANFL forward Whittlesea provides a safety crutch should Newton have any hamstring issues at the final training session on Saturday.
The dangerous James McClounan has been named as an emergency.
“All three emergencies (Beau Wheeler and Joe Richards) are really tough to miss out and it was a tough conversation, but they took it really well,” Stone said.
“’Macca’s’ (McClounan) not a huge accumulator, but he can bob up and kick three goals in five minutes and that’s what we had to weigh up.”
Wangaratta is looking to contest its first grand final since 2008, while Yarrawonga played in 2014.
The Pies belted the Pigeons by 76 points a fortnight ago.