The scene is set for an epic encounter in the middle at Gumly Oval on Saturday as the form ruckman of the competition goes up against the reigning league medallist.
In a year disrupted by injury, East Wagga-Kooringal’s Nick Hull is getting back to the football that saw him claim a runaway victory in the Clear Medal last year.
While The Rock-Yerong Creek’s Lachie Hunter hasn’t missed a beat in his first season in the Farrer League.
“It’s been really good,” Hunter said.
“It’s a good side. Everyone’s got plenty of potential. Just a lot of us haven’t played together before but it’s starting to come together, slowly.”
On a personal level it all came together very quickly for the former Narrandera footballer.
Hunter sits second in the player of the year award (behind North Wagga midfielder Lachie Highfield) and has polled votes in all 11 games.
“Oh yeah, it’s been pretty good I guess – getting a touch,” is all Hunter says of his form.
But the change has been good, particularly after lean times at the Eagles.
“I had a great time at Narrandera and played a lot of footy there,” he said. “But it’s always good to have a win. You get a bit down and out if you’re losing.”
Yates has been rapt with Hunter’ who had arguably his best game last week.
“He’s been unreal,” Yates said. “He’s obviously a big, mobile bloke who gets around the ground fairly well, takes good strong grabs, and goes forward and kicks a few goals.”
It’s a description that applies equally to Hull and Hunter admits he’s keen for the occasion at Gumly.
“I treat every game as a big occasion but playing against him is a big one,” Hunter said.
“He’s a big unit, he can get around and do a bit of damage. I’ll be set for the game for sure.”
Hawks coach Gavin McMahon admits Hunter dominated the ruck contest when the teams met in May but says Hull is on the way back.
“Hully is definitely getting back into the form we saw of him last year,” McMahon said. “He’s not quite there but he’s been improving massively in the last few weeks.”
But the Hawks face a huge challenge to turn the tables on the Pies with Joel Stankiewicz, James Scott (both unavailable) and Jake Robinson (suspended) sidelined, along with Ben Absolum, Luke Cuthbert and Chris Jackson.
Two more Hawks will debut, with Kyle North-Flanigan and teenager Harrison Leddin coming in.
“He’s completely fearless and he’s hard at it,” McMahon said.