DID THE PIES BLOW IT LAST YEAR?
You bet they did.
Look, Wangaratta has done a heap right on and off the field in recent years, but the first quarter against Albury was one of its few failures.
The Pies were kicking with a three-goal breeze, yet the Tigers carried a three-goal lead to quarter-time.
It was inexcusable. The home team stunned Albury in the previous grand final and the Tigers were filthy, so Wangaratta had 12 months to prepare for an onslaught. It failed the test miserably.
Wangaratta out-scored the Tigers after that and it was a crackerjack grand final, but you can bet if the pair meets in this year's decider, Albury will be ready for an ambush.
WHAT CAN STOP THE PIES?
Given that above finish to last year, it won't be an ambush.
On paper, it looks like 2017 deja vu with Wangaratta's tall timber up forward too much for anybody else.
The club lost the grand final by eight points and has picked up three guns in giant centre half-forward Josh Porter, classy goalsneak Ben Speight and one-time Goulburn Valley Morrison medallist Luke Morgan as coach.
Premiers Albury has lost more than it's gained.
Wangaratta looks as likely to win as the Tigers have for most of the past decade.
COULD JOE RICHARDS GET ON AN AFL LIST?
Only if he becomes a sharpshooter for goal.
As a small forward, Richards has to nail any opportunities.
He missed a crucial chance in the grand final but you wouldn't hold it against him because even the league's best kick - team-mate Michael Newton - missed chances in that strong wind.
Richards is a good finisher. He needs to be a great one to reach the elite level of AFL.
Q&A WITH JOE RICHARDS
Q: Did you have any thought of playing VFL this year?
A: Yeah, I gave it a bit of consideration, a few clubs contacted me, but in the back of my mind, I was always going to stop at 'Wang'. Obviously not having success last year, it made me want to stick around.
Q: You're only 19, do you still have AFL dreams?
A: I haven't thought about it that much, I'd obviously love to, anyone would.
Q: What area/s are you working on to improve your AFL chances?
A: Mainly to build up my body a little bit, I've been in the gym. I was close to 70kgs at the end of last season, but I've put on three or four kgs.
Q: As a small forward, your bread and butter is nailing those half-chances, are you looking to improve your finishing?
A: Yeah, I missed a few goals last year, so I'll look to improve on that and maybe spend a bit more time through the midfield.
Q: What's it like having two big gun forwards around you in Michael Newton and Josh Porter?
A: It's awesome, it takes the pressure off. There were games last year that 'Juice' (Newton) missed and you noted the difference, even with leadership and with Josh coming back this year, it will be even better.
Daine Porter (Tarrawingee), Josh Porter (Werribee), Luke Morgan (Benalla), Ben Speight (Bacchus Marsh), James McClounan (Milawa)
Jade Cleeland (West Adelaide), Mitch Jensen (Romsey), Matthew Suckling (University Blues), Aiden and Daniel Bihun (Milawa)
Daniel Sharrock (Williamstown)
B: Jamie Anderson, Dylan Van Berlo, Michael Bordignon
HB: Ben Douthie, Mathew Grossman, Daniel Boyle
C: Brad Melville, Luke Morgan, Will Reilly
HF: Ben Speight, Josh Porter, Nick Richards
F: Joe Richards, Michael Newton, Frazer Dent
Foll: Zac Leitch, Daine Porter, Matt Kelly
Int: Jessie Smith, Matt Hedin, Mark Anderson
SO: Corowa-Rutherglen (h)
R1: Wodonga Raiders (h)
R2: North Albury (a)
R3: Yarrawonga (a)
R5: Lavington (h)
R6: Albury (a)
R7: Wodonga (h)
R8: Wangaratta Rovers (a)
R9: Myrtleford (a)
R10: North Albury (h)
R11: Wodonga Raiders (a)
R12: Yarrawonga (h)
R13: Corowa-Rutherglen (a)
R14: Albury (h)
R15: Lavington (a)
R16: Myrtleford (h)
R17: Wangaratta Rovers (h)
R18: Wodonga (a)
2018 BEST & FAIREST
1st: Joe Richards
2nd: Daniel Sharrock
3rd: Jessie Smith
2018 MOST GOALS
1st: Michael Newton 81
2nd: Mitch Jensen 35
3rd: Frazer Dent, Joe Richards, Jessie Smith 26
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