WANGARATTA Rovers coach Paul Maher says Albury can still win the premiership, despite its shock loss against the Hawks.
The Rovers beat Albury for the first time since Barry Hall led them to victory in the 2012 qualifying final, by getting over the line by 16 points in front of a shocked crowd at the W.J. Findlay Oval on Saturday.
It was the perfect send-off for Maher in his final game as coach after two seasons in charge at the Rovers.
Albury now has the week off before its second semi-final, while the Rovers’ fourth win of the season meant they avoided the wooden spoon, which went to Myrtleford.
I think they went into the game to win.Paul Maher
The Rovers are just the third team, alongside Lavington and Yarrawonga, to beat the Tigers since 2012.
“I think they went into the game to win,” Maher said of Albury, which was already guaranteed of finishing on top of the ladder.
“They will still be a solid side in the finals.
“You’ve only got to look at the names in that side, they are extremely professional.”
The Rovers restricted Albury to just eight goals for the game, with Tyson Hartwig and James Smith keeping Albury superstar Setanta O’hAilpin to just one goal.
In a major shock, Hartwig, one of the premier full-backs in the league, also played in the midfield to throw the Tigers off guard.
Maher admitted he went into the game not expecting to win, but hoping to minimise the damage against the reigning premiers.
“I wanted to win a couple of quarters,” he said.
“When we play well we can match it with the best.
“I didn’t want them to get too far away.
“They just couldn’t break our defences.”
Albury won the corresponding fixture by 143 points in round nine and had won its previous three games against the Rovers by an average of 95 points, so a thrashing was certainly expected by most.
“We tried to keep it fairly low key before the game,” Maher said.
“Every week we think we’ve got a side than can be competitive.
“In nine games this year have been lost by under three goals.
“You turn a few of those results around and that certainly changes the face of things a bit.
“We’re very happy.”