The Rock-Yerong Creek are preparing for a Coleambally counter-attack in Saturday’s qualifying final at Gumly Oval.
The Blues were humbled at the ground last Saturday in a 98-point thrashing by minor premiers East Wagga-Kooringal – their second straight loss after a 12-game winning streak.
Magpies midfielder Tom Yates said they’re expecting to face the backlash.
“They’ll be coming over to Wagga again to make a statement, I reckon,” Yates said.
“They’ll be disappointed with how they played on the weekend against East Wagga.”
As well as bringing a different attitude, the Blues could field a significantly different side, with captain Mitch Carroll (quad) and forwards Nathan Jones (calf) and Dean Pound (compartment sydnrome) all named on an extended bench.
“They’ve got a good midfield and they've pretty well got a good side all over the park this year,” Yates said.
Yates himself is in the driver’s seat of one of the league’s best midfield line-ups, which includes Dave Pieper and Josh Ashcroft.
Yates’ stellar season was recognised when he won his first club best-and-fairest award since juniors.
“It was a bit of a surprise, I thought maybe Pieps (Pieper) might’ve taken it out to be honest and Ashy’s (Ashcroft) had a good year too,” he said.
Ashcroft was runner-up and also took out the club’s Super Magpie award, in honour of Mark O’Leary.
“It’s been a good year and it helps when (ruckman) Josh Meiselbach is playing,” Yates said.
“He’s had a good year as well which really helps us.”
Yates was honoured but left little doubt that what matters is the weeks ahead.
“It’s good to get recognised but you play a team sport for team success,” he said.
“This is the time of year you play footy for and hopefully we can have some wins in the next few weeks.”
The Pies have one eye on the expected wet weather given a mid-season loss to Coleambally in the rain at Victoria Park.
“They’ll be pretty confident coming into the game, obviously they rolled us in the first round at The Rock,” Yates said.
“It was pretty bad conditions but they were a lot better side on the day, so it’ll be good footy.”
Co-coach Andy Carey is the Pies’ only change, returning from a week's rest.
His last game was their win at Coleambally two weeks ago, when a flying start set up success.
“We’ll take a bit out of that first half from last time – we didn’t play too bad but we just seemed to lapse in stages, especially in the second half,” he said.
“But I was pretty happy with how our guys held up and withstood the pressure.”
Carey said they’ll rely on the tried and tested midfield trio to lead them through the next month, saying Pieper and Yates were in better form than last year.
“They make up a lot of our play and run,” he said.
“And just their skills and ball use and decision making, they’re a class above and we’ll need them to play well in finals, if we’re going to go places.
“Ashy has had a standout year as well – he feeds off Pip and Yatesy and if they’re playing well, Josh seems to play well.
“They’re all important to our side.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Jets have named their strongest line-up for Sunday’s elimination final against Marrar, with Justin Mesman, Chris Bell and Jack Fisher returning.
The Bombers welcome back experienced defenders Clint Taylor and Daniel Burkinshaw as well as Cal Gardner and Rory Block for the do-or-die encounter at Robertson Oval.