In a different zone

By Lauren Bordin

Almost as much intrigue surrounds a match between sides at the bottom of the ladder, as it does when two top side meet.

Ardmona will host Longwood on Saturday and the Redlegs are well prepared for the challenge.

Having improved this year, despite some heavy losses, Nick Brown’s side had a lull before the interleague bye, dropping off its pressure and struggling with injuries.

But Brown said he was rejuvenated by what his men showed against Stanhope last week as the side adjusts to a tweak to the game plan.

‘‘On the weekend against Stanhope the physicality and pressure was back to where we were earlier,’’ he said.

‘‘Soft is a big word to use, but it’s where we were the last month and you can’t do that when you don’t have the top end talent, so we’ve gone with a bit more of a different zone.

‘‘The last two or three weeks we changed a bit of how we wanted to play in a few areas and so we want to play good footy in the back end of the year.

‘‘It’s a hard game to tackle, we know Ardmona’s effort is going to be there.’’

Braydon Kearns and Ben Tautala are often the barometers for Longwood.

But Brown said there were some younger players starting to look at home in the seniors and aiming to impress at Ardmona Recreation Reserve.

He credited Jack Myers and Justin Baker as a duo holding their own and looking set to become good footballers.

For Ardmona, the challenge remains turning around a string of 300-point or more losses that have occurred across the past five weeks.

The club had Andrew Henning play a one-off game with the Cats, bringing him down from Brisbane after expressing interest to take the field.

Cats president Tim Magann said there would be a few more inclusions on Saturday and player morale remained high, despite the heavy losses.

‘‘We’ve picked up a few players this week and a couple of old players that used to play for us,’’ Magann said.

‘‘I couldn’t be more proud of the boys, even though we’ve been beaten by 300 points and 90 per cent of the players playing would struggle to get a game in a ones side, it doesn’t stop them from trying.

‘‘I can’t fault the boys for the way they tried, they have a crack every week.’’

Nagambie v Merrigum

The Bulldogs have been the side struck by the injury curse at the midway point of this season, with matters not improving when Mitch Younger and Ty Parsons went down last week.

Merrigum would have fancied itself against the Lakers with a fully fit list, but could still push the two-time reigning premier on Saturday.

The Bulldogs will be watching Nagambie’s Matt Waterson closely, with the forward keen to add to his season tally of 24 goals after putting through nine last week.

With Murchison-Toolamba and Dookie United ahead, the Lakers will want to start of their next difficult run with a win.

Tallygaroopna v Lancaster

Lancaster showed plenty of resolve in its win against Girgarre in a match earmarked as an important game for their season.

Taking on the top side in the competition comes at an ideal time, with the Wombats to learn where they fit in this year.

Sitting third on the table, Lancaster has lost just one match and is efficient in attack and defence.

Meanwhile, the Redlegs continue to be a force, but were forced to toil hard last week against Murchison-Toolamba for a win.

Redlegs ruckman Mitch Sidebottom could miss his second straight game while bowling in the Australian Open on the Gold Coast.

Stanhope v Rushworth

Was last weekend an indication of what the Tigers will be bring to the table for the rest of the year?

After not reaching full potential in the first half of the year, Rushworth was always expected to be on the way up following the interleague bye.

In just two games at the club Jacob Thorne has already made an impact and how he performs against the Lions will be an indication of how he will shape Rushworth’s improvement.

While Tasmanian fly-in recruit Rohan Baldock spearheaded Stanhope’s forward line last week against Longwood, 10 other players chimed in with goals to show how potent the Lions’ scoring can be when midfielders contribute.

Undera v Murch-Toolamba

A two-match suspension means the Lions are without Shannon Hockey for a big match against the Grasshoppers, with the result far from certain.

Undera continues to exceed expectations this year, as proven when it knocked off Merrigum last week, but James Milne’s side is on the march.

Having defeated Girgarre and then challenging Tallygaroopna in consecutive weeks, there is plenty to be wary of with Jacob Vraca and Luke Jones in the mix for big games.

But Justin Torney will have his side ready for the challenge as a win would put them in reach of the top six.

The Lions have a healthy percentage of 145, with Avenel the only side below it that comes near that mark.

As a result, the side will be hungry for a win on Saturday with top five sides Lancaster, Girgarre and Tallygaroopna to come.

After a one-off match for Undera, journeyman Damian Cupido will return to play for Henty, but will continue to pass on advice as the former AFL livewire trains at the club.

Violet Town v Avenel

These two sides are in a similar position to each other this year.

After pressing deep in last year’s finals series, the pair have fallen to the bottom six, with the Swans ninth with three wins and the Towners having just two victories.

But Violet Town showed fight against Dookie United, with Rob Wilson,Sean Horsburgh and Nathan Abley each managing two goals.

That pales in comparison to Cael McCarthy’s 12 majors against Ardmona, with Jake Sutherland sensational last week and looking to perform strongly against his old side in the Towners.

The midfield battle between Swan Michael Morgan and McNamara medallist Sam Poole will be worth the price of admission.

Avenel’s decline is perhaps more surprising given coach Don Stirling has the quality of Morgan, McCarthy, Michael Tinkler, Nic Goodwin and Andrew Green at his disposal.

Girgarre v Dookie

Nothing short of a four-quarter performance will get the Kangaroos over the line against Dookie United.

Having led at half-time against Lancaster last weekend, Girgarre let slip the four points, despite Ash Hughes’ efforts.

The loss marked just the Kangaroos’ third of the season and they sit fifth on the ladder.

Keen to move back onto the winners list, United is a difficult threat after re-emerging as one of the dangerous sides in the competition.

Aiming for its fifth win on the trot, players including Brad Ridings, Shaun Monohan and Riley Hamilton have been in good nick.

Wayne Pavitt (23 goals) and Avenel recruit Chris Burton (21) lead Dookie’s goalkicking.

There could be a third option to add to the frame — goal sneak Cameron Hall has kicked 30 majors in eight reserves games and is in contention for a senior call-up.