The Rock-Yerong Creek expect they’ll head into Friday night’s Anzac Challenge against Marrar as underdogs with Pies assistant coach Andrew Saddler declaring their rivals the team to beat this season.
What little hope the Bombers may have had of flying under the radar was destroyed by Saddler’s assessment in the build-up to their Robertson Oval encounter.
“They’ve picked up a heap and the majority of their players are pretty handy players, plus you add Sparks (coach Shane Lenon) to that and I think they’re premiership favourites this year,” Saddler said.
“They probably deserve that title, they’ll be hard to beat.”
Saddler and his Marrar counterpart Cal Gardner came together on Thursday afternoon to promote the Farrer League’s annual tribute to the Anzacs.
The now traditional encounter is one of the highlights of the season.
“It’s a game we look forward to every year, as I’m sure The Rock do,” Gardner said. “It’s a massive honour playing in front of the veterans who come out and watch us.”
Both teams are coming off first round wins – the Pies held on against a fast-finishing Northern Jets, while Marrar won a high-quality thriller at home against Temora.
Gardner said Lenon has had a big influence already at the Bombers but they’ve identified plenty of room for improvement after the first win.
“There’s a few areas, probably our ball use into the forward line will be the main focus this week,” he said.
Gardner believes the Pies are still an unknown quantity this year but expects danger lies in the familiar form of their coach Tom Yates.
“I think Yatesy through the middle – if we can shut him down that’ll go a long way to helping us win the game,” he said.
Saddler says Yates has wasted no time stamping his mark on the Pies since taking over as coach. They’re also hoping for improvement after almost giving up a 28-point lead in the last quarter against the Jets
“It was a pretty physical game, I think we just ran out of gas a bit towards the end, and first-game jitters,” Saddler said. “It’s a pretty new-look forward line this year with Derek Murray and Ferg (Inglis) up there as well.
“And the midfield’s got Matty Murray in there and Lachie Hunter, they’re really handy pickups. So it’s just a matter of us gelling I suppose, and how we’re going to run these four quarters out.”
The ruck battle shapes as a highlight with Nick Molkentin returning for Marrar while Hunter turned heads for the Pies in their win against the Jets.
TRYC will also be playing for backman Casey Hillary in his 50th appearance.