Expectations high for Good Friday battle
Wimmera Football League plans of establishing tradition with a Good Friday season opener are primed to gain momentum when Ararat and Stawell lock horns later this week.
The league has again designed an opening round to exploit crowd-drawing opportunities and the presence of former AFL players on the ground is sure to draw fans to Ararat’s Alexandra Oval.
Former Collingwood forward key-position player Jack Anthony has joined the Warriors for the season, while the home side will have former high-profile St Kilda star Leigh Montagna in the team on Friday in a one-off appearance.
Ararat and Stawell are among the fiercest of traditional rivals in western Victorian football and Friday’s isolated clash is sure to add a fresh chapter to the continuing battle of the Great Divide.
Ararat is on the hunt for reinvigoration and ultimately consolidation as a league powerhouse and Stawell, also a traditional city-based force, is keen to continue its year-to-year progression up the ladder.
Both camps are motivated under new strategy-based coaches and by the appearance of new or returning faces at training.
Many league insiders would be confident that Stawell, based on last year and pre-season developments, will have greater depth and more weapons to upset the home team.
But it is hard to discount a fresh Rats outfit, especially in the shadows of J Ward at Alexandra Oval.
In fact for the start of the season, The Weekly Advertiser investigations across the league have predictions split squarely down the middle.
There seems little doubt Ararat will be fitter than last season and take greater risks.
Suggestions are that in recruiting it has gone a long way to fill deficiencies.
With Anthony in the team, Stawell has a major on-field opportunity to restructure its line-up and there is little doubt Cody Driscoll from Navarre will help open greater goal-kicking opportunities.
As Warriors coach Colin Macaffer said as part of The Weekly Advertiser Footy Countdown series: “Jack Anthony is certainly someone everyone will look up to and he has fitted in well with our on-field leadership group, particularly in the forward line.”
It remains to be seen what impact Montagna can have for Ararat, but he is straight out of the AFL, which means he will still be super fit and the Rats around are sure to be inspired by his presence.
Stawell won the first of the Good Friday games between the two last year and this year the clash in Ararat is scheduled along a traditional home-and-away timetable, which means the main game will start at 2.20pm.
The fixture, as part of the Easter break, is one of a series of major events in the region, including the Stawell Gift, but is a stand-alone football-netball event, all but guaranteeing a large crowd.
The opening round of Wimmera league is split across three weekends.
After the Good Friday clash, Warrack Eagles will take on competition newcomer Southern Mallee Giants on April 14 in what looms as the launch of a new rivalry.
Minyip-murtoa and Dimboola will then play in a Saturday night match at Murtoa on April 21 before a Sunday Anzac clash between Horsham and Horsham Saints on April 22.