The Border Mail caught up with Corowa-Rutherglen coach Marc Almond ahead of the preliminary final.
1) Which Raider is best equipped to oppose Michael Newton?
With Nick Murray injured I believe the match-up for Newton will go to Zac Rouse and he will have to be brave and play five or 10 metres in front and take away his space and make him change his leading patterns. He’s the league’s best forward and loves hitting up at the ball and the way Wangaratta likes to maintain the ball by foot and hitting up its leading players when going into the front half really suits Newton’s game. So whoever gets the job, if they let him lead them to the ball, it’s going to be a long, long day.
2) Who's Raiders best option for strong-marking forward Jade Cleeland?
Floyd Bollinghaus has come in so this should free up Jordan Rouse to take Cleeland. If this happens both the Rouse boys need to be super aggressive in the air and bring the ball to ground. Alex Daly could also get a crack at him after a breakout game against Albury.
3) How does Wangaratta stop Raiders' wizard Brodie Filo?
As far as match-winning ability and talent goes, Filo is the league’s best, so I would be sending a player to him as a total shutdown player. Nobody can question Brodie’s talent but I think they need to ask him some questions from a mental point of view, because I believe you can limit his output if you are physical with him and get in his head as much as you can. They can’t let him dictate his starting positions at stoppages, they need to bump, hold, push, shove and talk to him all day. When he’s allowed to do his own thing he will have multiple moments within the game where he will change the momentum or add to the Raiders’ surges.
4) Do Raiders have the forward firepower to overcome Wangaratta's miserly defence?
They showed in the qualifying final that if they can play their brand of football and move the ball fast and to space into their forward half they can definitely kick a winning score. Last time they played, the Raiders had eight different goalkickers and they need to do the same, if not more. They need to consistently change the line of the ball so they are constantly shifting Wangaratta’s back six. If they don’t show composure when going inside 50 and just tip it in, expect Dylan Van Berlo to have a field day in the air.
5) How can Raiders rebound psychologically after that gut-wrenching last-minute loss to Albury?
The Raiders will have no problem rebounding from a psychological point of view. Having worked under Cressa for a few years I know come Monday it would of been business as usual. He would have studied the game meticulously and shown some really clear vision to his players with what they did well and what they can do better. It is about the process and method they need to apply to get the result. Cressa will have them in a frame of mind that if they bring their pressure and execute their structures, they will give themselves every chance.
I feel the game will be won and lost in the middle of the ground. On average there is about 70 stoppages and whoever can get the ascendancy and maintain field position will have the advantage. Albury’s small ground won’t favour Raiders and instead will help Wangaratta’s backline as it won’t have as much space to defend, which will allow players to drop off direct opponents more often. This will be another cracker and expect fireworks as the clubs are not fans of each other. I believe the Raiders are a huge chance as the year has already been a success, so they can play with the freedom that is required to play their brand. However, I feel Wangaratta has the upper hand with Newton’s and Bordignon’s inclusions. All the pressure is on Wangaratta as it would be a disappointing season if it doesn’t get to defend the title with the players it has.
Wangaratta by 19 points.
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