MFL | Tongala call on AFL experience to grab Lions’ scalp
Tongala faces a stiff task against a Mulwala side coming off its first defeat of the season, but the Blues have recalled a star duo for the big job out at Lonsdale Reserve.
Tongala welcomes back former Fremantle player Ryan Nyhuis for his first game since round four, while star midfielder Cam Ilett makes his return to face the second-placed Lions.
However, one of the instigators in the Blues’ 104-point win over Barooga, Darren Ewing, will not take part in this week’s game after booting nine goals against the Hawks.
The Blues are primed to attempt an upset in round 12, and Tongala coach Jordan Souter is under no allusions the clash will be won in the midfield.
An exciting battle looms on the smaller pastures of the Lions’ home ground, with the ilk of Nicholas Jamieson and Jack Hammond set to do battle with Mulwala’s prime movers of Sean Johns and Bodhi Butts.
It also shapes as a battle of the league’s two most recent O’Dwyer Medallists — Coby McCarthy and Jackson Gash.
“On small grounds you want to be getting forward entries out of the stoppages and in the midfield,” Souter said.
“Because (Lonsdale) is so short you can get inside 50 pretty easily and it’s easy to score from there.”
Souter said he’d back his midfield brigade to get the job done but would be keeping close tabs on Mulwala’s personnel.
“We probably won’t start with a heavy tag on any of their midfielders; we’re going to back in our midfield,” Souter said.
“If one of their midfielders in Gash, Johns or Butts start to get away then we have a couple of blokes up our sleeve who can run with them.”
A win before the league bye would provide the perfect platform for the Blues run into finals, currently the owners of an 8-3 record in fourth spot.
Mulwala, meanwhile, is licking its wounds from a 71-point defeat in last week’s clash against flag favourites Cobram after both teams went into the clash undefeated.
“It’s going to be tough, we know that,” Souter said.
“(Mulwala) will be pretty excited for another challenge and raring to bounce back.”
Tongala’s run home will be bolstered by having Nyhuis for the next three games, Souter confirmed.
With six rounds to play in the home-and-away season, several round 12 clashes look poised to have huge implications in the race to finals.
Moama (third) and Deniliquin (fifth) go head-to-head out at Hardinge St, while Nathalia, after conceding its first four games, sit on the doorstep of the top six.
A win over Congupna (sixth), who are currently on a six-game winning streak, would see the five-time reigning premier draw within a game of the MFL top echelon.
Tied with Nathalia on five wins and six losses is Numurkah, with the Blues looking to square their ledger this weekend against 11th-placed Echuca United.
Ladder leaders Cobram face Finley, while Rumbalara and Barooga go head-to-head to round out the weekend’s action.