Here’s what some of the coaches had to say.
A tall ask stands ahead of Benalla as it travels to Kyabram to square off against a mighty Bombers side, but hosting coach Paul Newman is not inviting complacency into his camp as it seeks to go top of the table.
“Benalla has actually been going well, they’ve got experience and have some of the great players of GV footy back at the club and all that sort of stuff,” Newman said.
“We go in with no preconceived ideas about what’s going to happen because that’s where you get into trouble.
“We’re going to concentrate and continue to work on the things that we’ve been working on over the last couple of months and hopefully finish this block off before the bye well.
“With our team structures and the way we defend the ground, I feel like we’ve been taking steps forward every week in that regard.
“So just working with that – a bit of belief and trust within each other and guys playing together more and more.”
Injury plays a massive factor in continuity and performance in such a cut-throat competition and Newman didn’t dance around the fact his list has got away largely unscathed throughout 2023.
“We’ve had three or four out every week, but they’ve been minor. We’ve got a few unavailable this week, but we get a few back as well,” he said.
“In terms of health and all that sort of stuff we’ve been really lucky to date and every successful side needs luck with injuries and stuff like that, so touch wood it can continue.”
Shepparton United v Seymour
Fresh off an inspired win over Rochester, Shepparton United welcomes juggernaut Seymour to town ― but the Demons may have some expert help, with former Fremantle and Gold Coast talent Michael Barlow hinted to play.
“At this stage we’re planning to have Michael on field with us and helping us out which will be invaluable experience for our young group, to have a guy of his calibre, coaching and playing background out on the field to help and support,” United coach Duane Hueston said.
“As soon as they hear the news that he’s available, they walk a little bit taller at training, they train a bit harder – they’re wanting to impress and show him what they’re capable of as well.
“They’ll probably have a bit of pride in their performances and how they go about it. Obviously a lot of our players will almost be like sponges and try and ask him lots of questions and learn from him.”
However, Hueston had no reservations beating Seymour will be nothing short of gargantuan after the Lions felled Echuca in round 10.
“They’re coming off beating Echuca, so we’re expecting a really hard contest,” he said.
“They’re a really strong contested possession team that move the ball well from one end to the other.
“We’re going to have to be very switched on if we turn the ball over, we’ve got to be able to defend really quickly and spread from the contest and make sure they don’t hurt us the other way.
“But we’re looking forward to it, just to see if we’ve improved and responded to certain areas that we didn’t do well against Mansfield, Echuca and Kyabram.”
Hueston also stated Adam Pigatto would miss the weekend’s action through a knee injury, while Riley Onley skips the clash due to Vic Country duties.
Euroa v Shepparton
Shepparton will be hoping to earn its first win over a top-six opponent when the Bears travel to take on Euroa on Saturday, riding the wave of an after-the-siren match-winner against Tatura.
“We are certainly really eager to put in a really good shift against a top-six side,” Bears coach Ted Lindon said.
“We have been able to do it for a quarter or half or three quarters, but we haven’t been able to really put it to a top-six side yet, so that is the aim.
“Clearly, Euroa is a good side. On the flip side we are coming off two wins in a row and harnessing a lot of good energy with how it panned out last week with the kick after the siren on Nick Allan’s 350th.
“Vibes are high, regardless of the result. There is no doubt with how the narrative played out last weekend that there is an extra buzz. But we move on quickly, we won’t be thinking about it come 2 o’clock on Saturday.”
With Shepparton having won its past two games, Lindon said there were a couple of things in particular that had stood out about the team’s playing style
“As a collective over the last two weeks, the no talent areas have increased. Team-first acts and overall intent has been better and that has been a link with how we have gone,” he said.
“Our ball movement has also improved, so those are two areas which have been a spike in recent weeks.”
Lindon also praised club stalwart Noah Esam, who will play his 50th reserves game this weekend for the Bears.