Tigers prepare for ‘pain before gain’
Rochester is preparing to drop out of the Goulburn Valley League’s top six for the first time this season as it faces a three-week stretch of matches against three of the top five teams.
The Tigers, fresh from a 82-point loss against second-ranked Euroa, are preparing to face fourth-ranked Kyabram this weekend and fifth-placed Mooroopna a week later, prior to a split-round bye on July 9.
A week later they are drawn against third-ranked Mansfield, which could mean three successive losses — given recent results and the Rochester injury list — entering the last five weeks of the season.
The good news for supporters of the club is that the final five weeks of the season are against teams ranked from eighth to 12th on the ladder.
If the Tigers are to repeat their early season form, when they won five straight games between rounds three and seven, they will play finals this season.
Those five successive wins came against the same teams they play in the final five rounds of the home-and-away season.
Rochester is teetering on the edge of the top six, just a game clear of seventh-ranked Seymour and with an inferior percentage to the Lions.
Seymour has strung together four successive wins and, after tackling Mansfield this week, confronts second-bottom-placed Benalla and ninth-ranked Shepparton Swans.
It’s likely they could replace Rochester inside the top six with five rounds remaining. Seymour faces three of the top five teams in its run to the finals.
There was a significant reshuffle of playing personnel — due to injuries — at Euroa on Saturday. Among those, an unfamiliar defensive role for coach Steve Stroobants.
He was forced to play at half-back against Euroa on Saturday, and with several key forwards still on the sidelines, the Tigers managed just four goals from eight scoring shots.
Euroa piled on six first-quarter goals to the Tigers’ solitary goal, which was its only score of the opening half — Euroa leading by 52 points at half time.
A more respectable second half of eight goals to three saw a final scoreline of 17.8 (110) to Rochester’s 4.4 (28).
The loss is the third straight defeat for the Tigers, who have lost to top-of-the-ladder Echuca and seventh-ranked Seymour in the last two weeks.
In spite of the difficult month of football, Rochester has debuted five players in the last two weeks. Against Seymour last week Declan Pearse, Nate Rasmussen, Darby Wileman and Darcy Myers all played their first senior matches.
Aginst Euora on Saturday it was ruckman Jarrad Kyne who debuted, sharing duties with Dan Russell.
The Tigers have missed the drive of Shaun Atley, who has been missing for the last month of football, travelling internationally.
He is expected to be back for the Mansfield game, while others on the way back are Nathan McCarty, Nathan Kay, James McPhee and Isaac Johnson.
Key forward Will Hamilton is also close to a return from a serious knee injury.