One just missed a premiership, while the other just missed finals. It will be interesting to see if the two Wangaratta clubs meet in a final. The Border Mail's Andrew Moir caught up with the fierce rivals ahead of the season, which starts on March 28.
Pre-season so far:Wangaratta has changed its training. It's moved to game-based simulation rather than fitness-skill execution-based drills. The plan is to become more match-savvy, so the situation which has happened in the first quarter of the past two grand finals, where the Pies have been jumped by Albury and Lavington respectively, doesn't happen a gut-wrenching third time. The Pies also conducted a survey after last year and have used those results as they set about chasing a premiership. The club held its pre-season camp last weekend, starting with a fitness session in Wangaratta, followed by a bonding camp in Tolmie, near Mansfield, and rounding out with a paintball session.
When will we know if the altered training program works?: Unfortunately for the Pies, they won't know for sure until they produce it under pressure in a finals match.
Who's running hot?: Of the more experienced players, captain Michael Newton, Matt Kelly and Matt Hedin. The trio has had its injury concerns in recent years, with the first two, in particular, vital to the Pies' hopes. Of the youngsters, the Saunders' siblings - Luke and Daniel - and Fraser Ellis have been impressive.
The burning question?: Is Newton still capable of tearing the competition apart, like he did against Albury in the 2017 grand final? It's the $64,000 question and even the gun forward wouldn't know the answer after a horror injury year. Newton has changed his training program and whether it works or not could decide whether Wangaratta contests a fourth straight grand final.
Injured list: Daniel Boyle (knee). That is a worry. Boyle is carrying tendonitis with last year's grand final his first game in three weeks. It's difficult enough to produce your best on the big stage, so it was sad to see the bullocking midfielder restricted by the complaint.
New faces: Jack Amery, Frazer Judd (Tarrawingee), Daniel Witham (King Valley).
Recruiting status: Apart from wooden spooners Wodonga, no club has been as inactive on the recruiting front. The Pies have lost three regulars in Ben Douthie, Jamie Anderson and Nick Richards, so there will be opportunities from within.
How much will VFL-listed players Joe Richards and Brad Melville play at Wangaratta?:Given Richards has won the Pies' last two best and fairests, in grand final teams, you would think he will be a regular VFL player. If Melville produces the form he did in claiming four club best-on-grounds in a five-week period around July, the Pies won't see much of him either. But it it's his last month, where he struggled, he will be spend more time in the O and M.
Practice matches: Intraclub (March 5), Benalla (March 14), Yarrawonga (March 21).
Pre-season so far: The Hawks had their training camp last weekend with former Richmond AFL player and now Tigers' VFL captain Steven Morris taking on a mentoring role, particularly with the club's defence, all over the ground. The highly respected Morris, who played 87 games at the elite level, spoke to the group about leadership.
Who's running hot?:Dylan Stone and Jack Gerrish have been outstanding, while Manly Warringah recruit Tyrone Armitage and Jamason Daniels (Tatura) look like terrific midfielders with their strong bodies.
The burning question?:How does 'Crezza' fit everyone into the club's 40 points? The Hawks have the most VFL-listed players with nine. Five of those are linked with either Werribee or Richmond, which have the bye in the first two weeks. That means, potentially, former Gold Coast Sun Max Spencer (Werribee) could play Yarrawonga in round one, while Nathan Cooper and Charlie Thompson could face Myrtleford over Easter. That could be the difference between two wins and two losses. Cresswell says the club's recruits are aware of the situation and understand there could be instances where someone misses out due to points. If 'Crezza' can keep everyone on board, given the potential for heartache, it will only underline his standing.
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Injuries:Ash Pollard had been flying, but nicked his hamstring, which will sideline him for a few weeks.
New faces: Ryan Stone (Heidelberg), Tyson Hartwig (Doncaster), Ben Talarico (Holbrook), Tyrone Armitage (Manly Warringah), Jamason Daniels, Charlie Hill (Tatura), Matt Ivill (Euroa), Xavier Naish (Old Ivanhoe Grammar), Ben McIntosh (Albury), Elijah Amery (Lavington), Kyle Veerhuis (Camden).
Recruiting status: The Hawks certainly can't pick another player carrying multiple points, but they could land a former player.
Practice matches:Intraclub (March 7), Mooroopna (March 14), UNSW (March 21)