Ex­pec­ta­tions high for Good Friday bat­tle

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.

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