IF you had asked me before last Sunday who would win out of Brock-Burrum and Howlong, I would have said the Saints comfortably.
But after seeing Howlong first hand on the weekend, I find myself second-guessing a bit.
It shapes as an intriguing battle — the defending premier coming up against a hungry Spiders.
If Howlong can apply the blowtorch to the Saints early and maintain a stranglehold on them for the day — I give them a massive chance of springing an upset.
Both teams boast dominant ruckman in Trent Storey and Peter Hancock and it is no coincidence both have won Azzi medals.
The midfields also both ooze class, with Luke Schilg, Nico Sedgwick and Ron Boulton against Steve Fouracre, Beau Walker and James Eastoe.
Both teams also have a good mix of big and small forwards, with Kylin Morey, Darryn McKimmie and Ben Gould dangerous for the Saints and Josh Dicketts, Jesse Dale and Rohan Davies all capable of kicking a bag for the Spiders.
But I think defence is where the game will be won or lost.
Howlong relies heavily on its rebound, while Brock-Burrum backs itself to win the contested ball and spread hard.
The team that executes best when going forward could prove the difference, with both defences prepared to give little latitude to their direct opponents.
Dean Murphy has to line up on Dicketts, who is the Spiders’ obvious matchwinner.
Dicketts proved last week why could still be a topliner in the Ovens and Murray and he loves the big stage.
His biggest asset is his vertical leap and he is nearly impossible to beat in one-on-one contests.
Murphy is the Saints’ swingman and it shapes as a mouthwatering clash between the league’s premier big forward and best defender.
Schilg remains Brock-Burrum’s No. 1 ball winner and if I was Spiders’ coach Joel Price I would assign Jim Scannell the job of curbing the Saints’ ball magnet.
While Howlong have the nucleus to be a great team in the future, the defending premier remains a great line-up and could easily go back-to-back.
Tip: Saints by 24 points