Tigers tick the first of three boxes with Kyabram win

Yellow-and-black: Charlie Ward, Dylan Cuttriss, Mitch Cricelli, Chris Jansen, Jordan Harper in full voice after the win against Kyabram at Moon Oval on Sunday.

Rochester’s three-point win against Kyabram on Sunday ticked the first of three important boxes as the Tigers eye a place in the Goulburn Valley League’s first finals series since 2019.

In the coming fortnight the Tigers face off against fellow finals aspirant Mooroopna (ranked third) and Mansfield (fourth) before they are drawn against the bottom five teams in the final five home-and-away matches.

The July 2 match with Mooroopna is followed by a split round when the Tigers have a July 9 bye before facing Mansfield on July 16 at Moon Oval.

Rochester will be in a dog fight with Kyabram and Seymour — the latter who beat an in-form Mansfield on Sunday — for the final two spots in the GVL finals series.

Echuca and Euroa, judged by many as the best two teams in the competition, are likely to finish with the double chance. Mooroopna has the toughest run to the line of any team in the top six.

It faces the top three teams in the final three home-and-away rounds.

With the cancellation of the 2020-21 finals there is increased excitement about this season’s September action; the Tigers’ narrow win against the Bombers allowing the team to maintain a four-point buffer inside the top six with seven rounds remaining.

The Tigers’ three-point win, 11.12 (78) to Kyabram’s 11.9 (75), came after successive defeats at the hands of Echuca, Seymour and Euroa. Before that run of outs the team had spent much of the season ranked inside the top two.

Four important Tigers returned to Moon Oval for the round 11 Sunday fixture against Kyabram, which had beaten Rochester by 57 points in round two of the season.

That early-season loss was the Tigers’ last defeat before its three successive defeats between rounds 8-10.

Nathan Kay, James McPhee, Will Hamilton and Nathan McCarty, the latter again brilliant with his intercept marking in defence, were all back in the yellow stripe for the match with Kyabram.

And there is more good news on the horizon for Rochester, expecting key defender Hamish Hooppell and gun midfielder Shaun Atley back after long stints on the sidelines.

Jacob Atley, who missed the Kyabram match, will also return this week to strengthen the back end of the Tigers’ line-up.

Colbinabbin’s Hugh Hamilton, brother of GWS Giants debutante Cooper, has changed his alignment to Rochester for the remainder of the season, and is expected to play with the club when available in the second half of the season.

Rochester coach Steve Stroobants said he had been playing as a 19-year-old with the Bendigo Pioneers and with Carlton in the VFL.

“They both have the bye this week, so he will play for us against Mooroopna.

“He will be a midfielder who pushes forward,” Stroobants said.

The return of Shaun Atley, along with the late-season commitment of his younger brother Joe — currently playing in the VFL with Essendon — will mean an embarrassment of riches for the Tigers in the midfield.

Particularly with the brilliant form of Chris Jansen, who was again judged as best afield by many in the win on the weekend.

“If we can get them all playing in the same team it will look pretty good.

“Hugh (Hamilton) may play a few more than Joe (Atley), but Joe will be available for the last two weeks of the season,” Stroobants said.

Stroobants said the weekend's win was in spite of Kyabram coming with a rush in the final term.

“Their last two goals were kicked in the last two minutes.

“There were only a couple of repeat stoppages after they kicked their last goal before the siren went,” he said.

Stroobants, who kicked three goals, returned to attack for the match after spending one week at half-back.

“The return of those injured players meant we could play Mitch Bright the whole game at half-back.

“The backline was super on Sunday, Angus Martin filled the role Jake Atley has been playing at full back and was fantastic,” he said.

Stroobants paid tribute to Chris Jansen, the goal-kicking midfielder who ranks among the top ball-getters in the Goulburn Valley competition.

“When he is up and going he is one of the best players in the competition,” he said.