Wangaratta Rovers ability to match the league's 'big two' in Ovens and Murray football could well depend on the COVID situation in the northern states.
The Hawks were joined by Myrtleford on seven wins and four losses after falling to Wangaratta by 35 points on Sunday.
The miserable conditions ruined any hope of repeating the crackerjack round three clash, which remains the season's standout clash after 11 rounds, although a strong crowd still attended, which is a credit to both clubs.
Playing in the rain can be tricky to read the result, but what it showed is that Rovers desperately need their Sydney-Gold Coast contingent to match the Pies.
The Hawks have three Gold Coast products in Tyler Cornish, Tom Thynne and Todd Grayson, who's yet to play a game, while Ryan Hebron, Cal McFadden and Sam Thorne are based either in Sydney or Wollongong.
Those two areas are still in lockdown, so it's difficult to see that trio playing in the coming weeks.
Gold Coast is now out of lockdown, so that trio should be available soon.
Now Rovers won't be able to fit all six in at the one time under the players points system, but Hebron, Thynne, Cornish and McFadden are in the club's best 12 players.
Rovers' coach Daryn Cresswell did not offer any excuses for the loss, but he was quizzed on the impact of having those players out.
"Just leadership, they're just leaders, we were very young out there, it's just that ability to change game modes," he explained.
We went fast when we should have went slow and went slow when we should have gone fast.- Daryn Cresswell
"That's what we lacked, we went fast when we should have went slow and went slow when we should have gone fast."
To beat Wangaratta and Albury, a team must be at or near full strength.
ALSO IN SPORT
In the battle for the double chance, Rovers now face just two top five sides, while Myrtleford meets four.
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