Albury’s Will Blomeley claimed another big name when he shut down the dangerous Mat Grossman.
He’s one of the few defenders any club would tag but, given his explosive pace, it can prove vital, while Michael Duncan was strong on another profile player in Ben Speight.
“Albury set two players and their role was just to go and defend,” Wangaratta coach Dean Stone said.
“We played around a little bit with ‘Grossy’ and we eventually got him onto the person we wanted in (Chris) Hyde and I thought ‘Speighty’ worked himself into the game, he’s had five shots on goal and if he kicks three or four, he’s had a good day.”
Unheralded Albury defender Simon Thomas played a key role in the Tigers’ win.
Dubbed ‘Sugar’ during his stint at Melbourne University Blacks, due to constantly punching the ball, a la former boxer ‘Sugar Ray Leonard’, Thomas pulled off a crucial tackle on Beau Wheeler when the Pies were surging.
Co-coach Shaun Daly had a number of typical tough moments late, but he also produced a superb goal in the first quarter, intercepting a kick-in.
The Tigers’ John Mitchell is unique in that he often misses a slab of the season with his equestrian events and returns fitter than most who’ve completed a pre-season.
“He’s one of those freaks who’s good at everything,” Daly said.
“He’s good at his horse riding, he’s a gun at cricket and he’s really good at footy.
“Probably a lot of clubs don’t know too much about him.”
Crowds for the second week of finals were up.
Saturday’s second semi between Albury and Wangaratta attracted 1912, while the first semi had 2056, which was a few hundred more than last year.
The qualifying and elimination finals posted 1947 and 1738 respectively, so just over seven and a half thousand have attended.
The Pies and Pigeons should also have strong support for the preliminary final.
Will the O and M host a night final?
The change of the grand final from Sunday to Saturday means there’s now a clash between the second semi and the enormously popular Tallangatta and District grand final.
Interestingly, the Goulburn Valley hosted its first night final in the first week.
Kyabram and Shepparton Bears played at Mooroopna and while the GV doesn’t count the crowd like the O and M, the match attracted a gate of around $18,000.
Last year’s corresponding crowd was about $15,000, but the admission price was slightly higher.
The league had a two-for-one deal, with the elimination final between Seymour and Benalla on the Saturday afternoon.
Yarrawonga’s Tim Cooper and Drew Barnes couldn’t be more different.
Barnes plays like a man possessed, as though he’s just been told every game will be his last.
Late in the third term against Lavington, with the match virtually decided, Barnes threw his hand in front of Matt Sharp and seconds later that desperation resulted in a goal.
Cooper, meantime, never looks flustered and is the Mr Cool of the league.