ANOTHER chapter in one of local football's biggest rivalries will be written tomorrow, with the Cohuna Kangas in its best position to break a decade-long hoodoo against Kerang.
The Blues and Kangas are the only undefeated sides in the Central Murray Football Netball League, and tomorrow's match at Riverside Park will be the biggest battle between both clubs since the 2013 grand final.
Both sides have defeated Balranald, Lake Boga, Nyah-Nyah West United and Swan Hill in the opening five weeks of the season, with the Blues one win ahead of the competition thanks to an opening round win against Woorinen and the Kangas having the bye in round five.
"The Kangas have certainly been impressive so far this season," Kerang coach, Travis Matheson said.
"The return of a number of locals to the club has helped."
Both teams go into the match refreshed following last weekend's AFL Victoria Community Championship, with five Blues players and two Kangas players featuring in the Central Murray side.
Marty Kelly – who was the CMFNL's best player in last weekend's win against Heathcote District – will link up with Ryan Gillingham and Bradlee Pay in the midfield in an effort to help the hosts move to 6-0.
Rhys Bradley and Jack Dehne will have other ideas, with the pair influential for the Kangas in the past month.
Harrison Keely and Brett Collins are two other players who have helped turn the Kangas' fortunes around, with the pair becoming one of the key forward combinations in the competition.
"Cohuna's forward line is clearly one of their strengths, and we will need to shut that down if we are to win tomorrow," Matheson said.
Patrick Taban and Joshua Nitschke will be called upon to stop Collins and Keely, with the likes of Jesse Clark and Brandon Hayes to also provide assistance.
It is a different situation in the forward line for the hosts, with the five-time defending premiers relying on multiple options to produce scoreboard pressure.
Luke Cotchett, Matheson and Caleb Nitschke have been prolific so far in season 2017, but Hayes, Gillingham and Taban can all move forward and be just as dangerous.
This will provide concerns for Clayton Holmes and his fellow Kangas defenders, who will need to keep the Blues in check if the visitor can record their first win against Kerang since round 18, 2007.
"We may also make a few changes. We had Troy Thamm and Troy Davis missed our last match due to injury, but we will know more after training on Thursday night," Matheson said.
Kerang won by 97 points when the teams last met in round four, 2016. A much closer affair is predicted tomorrow.
PREDICTION: Kerang will win by 20 points.
Consecutive wins likely
KOONDROOK/BARHAM will look to record a second consecutive win of the Central Murray Football Netball League season tomorrow.
The sixth-placed Raiders host the winless Lake Boga, with the border side looking to keep in touch with the top five.
Neil Bradley's side recorded a seven-point win against Nyah-Nyah West United 13 days ago, whilst the Magpies lost to the Mallee Eagles by 97 points.
The performance of Dean Limbach will be a key outcome to the result. The Raiders forward has kicked 23 goals so far in season 2017 – the same number as the Magpies' top eight goalkickers combined – and could have a day out in a one-on-one battle with Oliver Rohde.
Cliff Ryan leads Lake Boga's goalkicking this year with six majors, but faces a challenging day against the likes of Marc O'Neill and Nathan O'Toole.
Lucas Matthews and Patrick Goble will be prolific in the midfield for the hosts against Kyle Brawn, whilst Magpie, Cody Mirtschin and Jackson Flisher will battle it out in the ruck.
The Raiders have won their past three games against Lake Boga, with a 36-point result going the border side's way when the teams last met in round 13, 2016.
PREDICTION: Koondrook/Barham will win by 30 points.
Eagles face Swans challenge
ALTHOUGH tomorrow's match between Swan Hill and the Mallee Eagles sees the Central Murray Football Netball League's eighth-placed side take on a fourth-placed team, the result will be much closer than the ladder positions.
The Eagles are two wins off top spot on the ladder, but a win at the Swan Hill Showgrounds will propel the side to at least third, thanks to Woorinen having the bye.
Meanwhile, the Swans have a 1-3 record so far in season 2017, with two of the club's three losses coming in games where the final margin has been less than one goal.
Caine Hillier and Zak Saad showed in the Eagles' 95-point win against Lake Boga 13 days ago that the pair can be a force in front of goal, which will present a challenge for Matt Wade and his coaching team.
Thomas Corridan and Brendan Blackmore will be Wade's first choices to stop the pair, but the visitors can still be potent inside their forward 50, especially if Andrew McDonald is given freedom.
Down the other end of the ground, the Swans will look to their midfielders – including Mitchell Makepeace, Xavier Moloney and Wade – to kick goals, meaning Bo Alexander and Beau Bennett may need to apply heavy tags on the trio.
Swan Hill won by nine points in the only encounter between both sides last year. Another close result is on the cards tomorrow.
PREDICTION: The Mallee Eagles will hold on for a six-point win.