NORTH Albury’s big-man stocks have taken a hit with ruckman John Willis in danger of missing the season with a knee injury.
Willis went down during the Hoppers’ practice match against Aberfeldie at Howlong with co-coach Clinton Gilson fearing the worst.
He had scans on Monday and is set to find out the extent of the damage in the next 24 hours.
“In cases like this you probably expect the worst case scenario and hope for the best,” Gilson said.
“It didn’t look great but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for some good news.
“I think he just went to step one way and it buckled.”
Willis played 17 matches for North Albury last season after arriving at Bunton Park from Thurgoona.
Jesse Johnston is now likely to take over the ruck duties.
He has trained strongly since Christmas after breaking his leg playing for Murray Magpies last season.
“He’s played the last two practice matches and is going pretty well considering the injury he had last year,” Gilson said.
“Since Christmas ‘JJ’ hasn’t really missed a beat at all.”
Cal Butler played second fiddle to Willis in the ruck last season and, while North Albury has been using him at full-back in practice matches, could be Johnston’s back-up.
The Hoppers will have this weekend off before taking on Corowa-Rutherglen in the season opener at Bunton Park.
Meanwhile, Wodonga will fine tune for round one against Kiewa-Sandy Creek on Saturday.
The Bulldogs played five quarters against Mulwala at the weekend with Tallangatta’s Rory Quinn among a group of youngsters to shine.
”We ran the game out really well and I have a real confidence in the conditioning work Andy Slattery has done with the boys,” coach Dean Harding said.
“Some young fellas got some access to senior footy and Rory Quinn in particular showed that he is a beauty and will play plenty of TAC footy this year.”
Wodonga has a healthy injury list with Josh Hicks likely to miss the first match of the season with an ankle and Charlie Connors (knee) facing five weeks on the sidelines.
Reigning premier Albury faces a fight to secure Yackandandah ruckman Ollie McEwan.
The Tallangatta and District league club has knocked back one clearance and is keen to hold the contracted player.
McEwan played for Albury in its practice match win against Heidelberg at the weekend and shapes as a vital inclusion following the departure of the o’hAilpin brothers.
Ruckman Will Haberecht injured his knee in the reserves at the weekend and could be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines.