Wangaratta is searching for a forward replacement with the hard-working Josh Porter set to leave in a month for a US university.
Porter was tremendous against premiers Albury, taking easily the most marks with 16.
The former VFL forward doesn’t kick a lot of goals, but he plays a Nick Riewoldt-type game, roaming up the ground and is pivotal to the Pies’ hopes of snapping a nine-year grand final drought.
Porter told The Border Mail last week he was hoping to return for finals, but the logistics of a 32,000-kilometre round trip is problematic.
“Josh’s last game is against Lavington on July 22,” Pies’ coach Dean Stone said.
“He’s actually into now (examining) whether there’s any opportunity to come back, if we get to finals, or even win a couple of finals.
“We’ll just have to wait and see with Josh and his timetable whether he’s able to make a 15-hour journey back, that’s the unknown.”
It’s a difficult situation for the Pies as Porter first applied for the teaching studies last November.
But his absence could be the difference between a grand final berth and an earlier exit.
“To be honest, we don’t stop communicating with players,” Stone said.
“I can’t say definitely there will be a replacement or not, but we’re certainly working on it.
“The chance of finding a replacement are remote.”
I can’t say definitely there will be a replacement ... we’re certainly working on it.Dean Stone
The Pies have the league’s most potent forward combination in Doug Strang favourite Michael Newton and Porter.
Wangaratta has an in-house replacement in Frazer Dent, who kicked six goals against North Albury a fortnight ago.
The lightly-built Dent is a unique player, with a tremendous vertical leap, but he doesn’t have the physical presence of Porter.