Telegraph journalist Lewis Fischer takes a look ahead at this weekend’s local derby between Nagambie and Avenel, which will be played at Nagambie.
Last time the side’s met — in round one — Nagambie was an easy winner in football, and Avenel were far too good in netball.
But both clubs have dramatically different line-ups this week, and anything could happen.
Round one score: Avenel 9.11 (65) lt Nagambie 15.19 (109).
This week’s tip: Nagambie, but only just.
When Avenel and Nagambie last met in round one it was the 2016 grand final rematch.
With emotion still raw and expectation heaped on both sides, some rose to the challenge while others faltered.
It was the beginning of a slow start to the year for the Swans which struggled to find their form among new players and injury.
‘‘We had around seven new faces in the team,’’ Avenel coach Don Stirling said.
A disjointed pre-season, thanks to opposition teams pulling out of scheduled practice matches, also contributed to the Swans’ woes.
‘‘We’ve played about half of the year now, we’ve gotten to know each other and how we play a bit better, and we’re coming into some good form,’’ Stirling said.
With Kasey Duncan out for the year while others are on overseas holidays escaping the Victorian winter, Stirling is confident in the side he intends to field next Saturday.
‘‘With the guys we’ve had coming up from the reserves, they’ve been putting on some great performances and getting noticed, there’s a lot of pressure for selection at the moment which is always good,’’ Stirling said.
Nagambie, with the exception of a few recruits such as Michael Roberts who set the ground ablaze in round one, has been fortunate to have a pretty settled line-up for the past few years.
‘‘They’re obviously the yardstick of the competition, and have been for the past few years, but this week will really show us where we’re at,’’ Stirling said.
‘‘We expect a good fiery footy game against a side who probably started the year off not exactly how they wanted but have obviously worked themselves into some really good form,’’ Nagambie coach Linc Sullivan said.
Sullivan expects the Swans to be there come finals time and doesn’t doubt they’ll be there right to the end either.
Nagambie has had its own injury woes too.
Ruckman Alex Tattersall has been out for weeks and is unlikely to be back in time for the big clash.
Backman Mark Nolan has been a good replacement in the role but whether he can match it against the in-form Paul Arandt is another story.
Round one score: Avenel 64 d Nagambie 46.
This week’s tip: Nagambie in a major upset.
When Avenel hosted Nagambie in round one they were a completely different side.
After 12 rounds, four points and a 31-point goal difference is all that splits the two sides.
Season-ending injuries have thrown a spanner in the Swans’ campaign and yet they still remain unbeaten.
With the core of that round-one team either injured or unavailable, it’s unknown whether the Swans will be able to continue their unbroken run.
‘‘The three games I’ve played in against Nagambie have always been very competitive and highly skilled games and we’re really looking forward to the challenge,’’ Avenel defender and stand-in coach Laura Mundy said.
‘‘We have a few players on holiday and a few injuries. We’ll see what we’ve got on Thursday night and pick the strongest side available to us but I’m confident that with our best seven out on the court can get the job done.’’
Nagambie has built steadily over the course of the season.
Since its round-one loss to the Swans, it has improved dramatically as coach Abby Misiti has built her side and strengthened her combinations.
The Lakers have welcomed back Elizabeth Fuhrmeister, who’s been a damaging force in the midcourt as well as in her regular defensive role.
New recruit Danica Worthington has bolstered Nagambie’s defence while Morgan Zotti, who crossed over from Seymour, has proven a force when in-form in wing defence.
Bianca Willis has continued to shoot brilliantly for the Lakers while Avenel will have had to do battle without star shooters Kate Bishop and Kathryn Hard, who are both sidelined with injury.