In their past five finals campaigns, Raiders have never been a big side and they will be even smaller this year. Can they run their way into the top five?
Jydon and Jaxon Neagle (Central District), Jye Shields, Tim Haines, Tim Hallinan, Joel Merkel (Culcairn), Charlie Hamilton (Howlong), Harry Moxey (Mitta), Riley Stone (Wangaratta)
Ethan Boxall (Canberra Demons), Jordan and Zach Rouse (Mt Eliza), Will Donaghey, Floyd Bollinghaus (Strathmore-Coburg)
WHAT WILL BE RAIDERS' ACHILLES HEEL?
Height. Twins Jordan and Zach Rouse were both 194cms, but they've left. Daniel Bowles (190) is just about to complete yet another stint of year-round football in Darwin, so he will need to be rested. Ruckman Brodie A'Vard's confirmed availability is huge news, but even with him how will they handle a giant team like Myrtleford?
WHAT IMPACT WILL THE ROUSE BOYS DEPARTURE HAVE?
Generally, if you lose your two key defenders and don't replace them, it's alarm bells, but the siblings moved away from defence late. Jordan played largely off the bench, pinch-hitting in the ruck, while Zach played third tall in attack.
IF JYDON NEAGLE SPENDS THE REST OF HIS CAREER AT RAIDERS, WHERE WILL HE RATE IN CLUB HISTORY?
Their best ever. Mark Doolan holds a club record five best and fairest, but Neagle has three at 25. After a solid season with Central District in the SANFL. he could be the difference between Raiders playing finals or missing out. A future Hall of Famer.
RAIDERS HAVE SIGNED FOUR CULCAIRN PLAYERS, HOW WILL THEY GO?
Jye Shields is the fittest he's been and his disposal is elite, on both sides of the body, so given he's likely to be tagged less than he was, he should do well. He will be the pick with Tim Hallinan (midfield), Tim Haines (centre half-back) and Joel Merkel (forward) adding depth.
CAN RAIDERS GAIN AN ADVANTAGE THROUGH THE DRAW?
You bet they can. Unlike Lavington, which has that six-week stretch against the other finals contenders, Raiders never have more than two successive matches against those outfits. In fact, they have five tough mini-bursts of two straight matches. What it allows is breathing space.
ALSO IN SPORT:
Q&A with Lachie Flagg
Q: YOU JUST KEEP GOING BETTER EVERY YEAR, WHAT DO YOU PUT THAT DOWN TO?
A: I think it's just confidence after a while. I moved down here from the Farrer League in 2015 and coming to the O and M, I probably thought I was good enough, but it's probably just believing you can match it with everyone else. I've probably worked on my fitness a bit more too and got a bit more size about me, but I still don't like the gym. I just have a bit of fun with footy now and just try to be as relaxed as possible.
Q: I KNOW YOU LIKE YOUR GOLF, ARE YOU GOING TO START HAVING MORE FUN THERE?
A: (Laughs). It's more just the competitive spirit with my brother (Lavington's Adam). When he beats me, he lets me know about it for a fair while. I'd just like to get the wood on him, I told him before Christmas, you'll never beat me again, I'm going to take over, but ever since I said that, it's been about 10-nil his way, so I've put the moz on myself. Even in golf now, I've just started to chill out a bit more and enjoy it.
MORE FOOTY FORM
Q: WHAT'S YOUR BEST POSITION?
A: I'd have to say down back just because I've played more down there. In 2018, I really enjoyed it when 'Crezza' (former coach Daryn Cresswell) put me forward, by the end of the year I was starting to get used to it. But being a backman, you might play on someone who's quick, another smart and another who's really strong.