A SIX-goal masterclass from North Albury livewire Jarrah Maksymow inspired the Hoppers to a crushing 71-point win over Wodonga Raiders at Bunton Park on Saturday.
With the Hoppers leading by just three points at half-time in slippery conditions, Maksymow turned the match on its ear after the break.
All six of his goals came in a blistering 35-minute burst as the home team ran out 19.8 (122) to 8.3 (51) winners.
The victory propels North Albury above the Raiders on the ladder.
The pre-season doom and gloom surrounding the Hoppers seems a distant memory with a winnable match against Wangaratta to come this weekend ahead of the inter-league bye.
Coach Jason Akermanis, among the Hoppers’ best players, said the victory would fuel belief in his young team.
“We’ve been pretty good all year but we were better again today,” he said.
“The opposition came to play and their tackling pressure early was great, so we had to react to that and we did.
“We’re a shorter side than most sides – really agile and really quick.
“Being a heavy-set body is really not that advantageous any more – it’s a running game.
“The opposition were really big and have obviously done lots of weights so we had to spread them and eventually they were going to drop off.
“Once we started running and linking we were always going to look better.
“It’s round five and finally after all that work, we’re starting to get reward for the game we’re wanting to play.
“I think we’ve got a better team this year than last year for lots of reasons.
“We’ve changed our game plan, which suits the players we have now.
“We’ve been able to develop our young guys again for another year in our program.”
The Hoppers were on the back foot early in the match with star Raiders forward Dean Limbach booting three first-term goals as the visitors took a 10-point lead to quarter-time.
Akermanis helped claw back the ascendency for North Albury in the second quarter.
He kicked the first goal of the term before setting up exciting youngster Jordan Harrington at the 12-minute mark as the Hoppers regained the lead – something they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the day.
The third term started brightly for the Hoppers when Maksymow goaled in the opening minute after some smart work from Akermanis.
From that moment on, it was the Maksymow show.
The Hoppers star shone in the greasy conditions, booting four goals for the quarter as he continually found space among the Raiders’ defence.
When the impressive Kris Holman goaled on the three-quarter-time siren, the lead was out to a game-high 20 points and all the momentum was with the Hoppers.
Maksymow kicked the first two goals of the final term as the fleet-footed Hoppers booted 8.4 to 0.1 for the quarter as the Raiders slumped to their second crushing loss in as many weeks.
On-baller Steve Jolliffe (43 possessions) and Limbach (five goals) tried hard for the Raiders but lacked support once North Albury took control.
Wodonga Raiders co-coach Simon Bone said the Hoppers taught his team a lesson.
“We are coming from last on the ladder but at the moment it looks like a few of our players think we are up there with the Alburys and the Yarrawongas,” Bone said.
“It’s very disappointing to have 19 goals kicked against you on a day like this.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do.”