REIGNING premier North Wangaratta faces the first big test of its premiership defence tomorrow when it takes on perennial finalist and flag contender Tarrawingee.
The Hawks opened their 2013 campaign with a crushing 45-goal win over Swanpool last week with Matt Smith (11 goals), Dylan Ward (seven goals), Michael Voigt and Phil O’Keefe (seven goals) all prominent.
Coach Jamie Bell said while the magnitude of the victory was disappointing
for Swanpool, he was delighted with how his side kept to its game plan.
“The midfield and forward line was very pleasing because we had so many multiple goal kickers,” he said.
“Swanpool are obviously struggling but we can only play what we’re up against.
“I was pretty happy with the performance.”
The Hawks will head into tomorrow’s clash close to full strength with Chris Stubbe set to replace the injured Ricky Petts and new recruit Matt Howard could make his debut, leaving Mick Naish (ankle) the only Hawk missing.
Tarrawingee has added plenty of quality to its side over the off-season but Bell said that provided the Hawks with a chance to test themselves early.
“Playing Tarra at Tarra is as tough as it gets,” he said.
“But as I said to the boys on Tuesday night, it’s a great chance for us to go there and knock them off.
“No doubt they are going to be a top four team with the quality they have picked up.”
But while the Bulldogs have added some quality recruits, North Wangaratta also unveiled its new stars with Ward, Voigt and Liam Ashworth drawing plenty of praise from Bell.
“They are very good players and they proved that on the weekend,” he said.
“Wardy wasn’t going to play – he was pretty crook but he was really good still.
“Liam Ashworth was great as well and those three guys are players that can play anywhere.”
With both teams gunning for early season wins, the battle of the midfield will be crucial to the outcome of the match.
However, the midfield isn’t where Bell expects the match to be won.
“I reckon we are pretty similar in the midfield so I reckon it could come down to which defence gets on top and stops more goals,” he said.
In other matches, Glenrowan plays host to Moyhu, Tatong travels to Goorambat, Greta tackles Whorouly, Bright faces Milawa and King Valley