Yarrawonga captain Tyler Bonat is banking on the team’s ability to conform this season as it heads into Sunday’s first semi against Wangaratta as rank outsiders.
The Pigeons are missing four of their best players, including Morris Medal runner-up Mark Whiley, for the sudden death clash against the premiers at Wangaratta Rovers’ WJ Findlay Oval.
“This year, probably more than any, we haven’t been able to get our best side on the park and I just think we’ve been able to adapt,” Bonat said.
“I think the guys who have played here have played well and got the best out of what we’ve had.”
The Pigeons are also missing three of the league’s most exciting youngsters in Ely Smith and Bailey Frauenfelder (Murray Bushrangers) and James Jordon (Oakleigh Chargers).
However, another key player considered certain to miss a month ago in defender Logan Morey has been named, despite still being overseas this week with university commitments.
“Logan will play, yes, he’ll play,” Bonat stressed.
It hands the Pies another option in shutting down Doug Strang medallist Michael Newton.
Lightning defender James Elliott played superbly on the spearhead when the teams met in round 13, although Newton still kicked four on his undersized opponent.
Elliott injured his shin though in the four-point elimination final win over Lavington and was extremely proppy, so given his game is based on pace, a full recovery from that is crucial.
The Pigeons belted the Pies by 41 points in July, with both teams missing a stack of stars.
Bonat himself exploded in the final quarter with 17 touches.
The inspirational leader has bounced back after missing around three months last year following a horror work accident involving fencing equipment.
“It’s (the knee) been giving me a little bit of grief still, it just gets stiff, but I just try and manage it,” he said.
“Probably in the last few weeks it’s starting to feel pretty good.
“It’s good to be able to get the ball inside and then on the outside as well.”
The 2016 Morris medallist maintains he’s returned to his best.
“I’ve played every game this year, so I’ve been pretty happy with that,” he said.
The winner of the first semi will face the loser of Saturday’s Albury-Wodonga Raiders grand final qualifier.
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