Only three teams were able to get the better of Nathalia last year.
Moama was one of those sides, and the Purples return to the scene of their round-18 loss at the hands of the Magpies today.
With smaller dimensions than most Murray Football League ovals, Moama Recreation Reserve presents a unique challenge for the Nathalia outfit.
But after the Purples’ tall timber put Tongala to the sword last week — with Brodie Ross (seven goals), Brett Vallender (five) Jason Limbrick (four) and Alex Hicks (four) all dominating — coach Craig Kellow is confident his side has what it takes to turn the tables on Moama.
‘‘It’s going to be a challenge, and it always is on their smaller ground because they play it quite well,’’ Kellow said.
‘‘It showed last year when they got us in the last round.
‘‘We’re still getting everything into place structure-wise and we still have a few things to work on, it really is early days.
‘‘But it definitely makes a difference when you’ve got guys that can take a mark.
‘‘The key is to keep having that spread of goalkickers, having multiple blokes kicking bags is a luxury.’’
Tom Nihill, Bowen Smith and Jared Laffy also stood out last week, while new recruit Adam Jorgensen and returning pair Ash Quinn and Drew Barnes will only get better as the season progresses.
For the Magpies, Angus Grigg (four goals), Tyler Jones (three) and Tom Campbell were impressive on Good Friday, and the trio will look to take control of proceedings against the Purples.
‘‘Nathalia are obviously a fantastic team,’’ Moama coach Mark Lloyd told the Riverine Herald.
‘‘They’ve been the best side in the comp for a while now, but we know that we can be in the game. We’ve shown it before.
‘‘It’s one of the games that you really do enjoy.
‘‘They are the premier side in the competition.
‘‘We go in with an attitude that we have nothing to lose.
‘‘We had a really good win to open our season but you have to show improvement and there is no better opposition to test yourselves against.
‘‘We all want to test ourselves against the best clubs in the competition.’’
Jeremy Pain and Joel Haitsma will look to use their lightning pace to break the lines again today, while Luke Dunham will have his hands full down back trying to contend with Nathalia’s potent forward line.
Numurkah v Barooga
Both Numurkah and Barooga will have to improve from their respective round one performances in order to prevail in this contest.
The Blues struggled to break free from an arm wrestle against Rumbalara last week, but their experience and a touch of class eventually had them in front when the final siren blew.
Nathan Hicks will be looking to replicate his haul of eight goals, while Nick Fothergill, Brad Vassal and Beau McKeown continue to show the way for the rest of the side.
Luke McKeown returns to the squad while Danny Buzza goes out for this clash.
For the Hawks, Will Gorman and Tyrone Downie have been named among a list of five changes to the team which lost to Cobram last week.
With no Barooga player managing multiple goals in that defeat, the return of Gorman (46 goals last season) and Downie (50) should increase the attacking power of James Hazelman and Nick Flanagan’s squad.
Deniliquin v Rumbulara
Deniliquin coach Todd Gallagher was pleased with the efforts of his charges in round one, despite going down to Finley by 43 points.
‘‘The important thing for me was that the intent was there,’’ he told the Pastoral Times.
‘‘The tackling pressure and ability to stick tackles by younger and smaller blokes like Sam Willoughby and Aiden Free was really impressive.’’
John Anstee, Ricky Gittens and Ash Morris were also excellent, but more players will need to stand up and be counted today if the Rams are to get their season started in earnest.
Rumba competed fantastically against Numurkah at Mercury Dve, but in the past have struggled on the road.
Kane Atkinson will have his troops ready and raring to go though, and with recruits Kyal Atkinson, Kian Wise, Jerome Sorgel and Nathan Terlich all impressive in their first clash, Rumba should only get better as a unit as the year progresses.
Congupna v Finley
Congupna continues to add Goulburn Valley League-standard footballers to its line-up. Ayden Fiore (Shepparton United) returned to The Road on the eve of the season, while Mansfield’s Jack Egan will line up for the first time today against Finley.
When the class of BJ Squire and a number of other pre-season recruits is also taken into consideration, Congupna has certainly been one of the more active teams during summer.
But after fading out late in the game against Mulwala last week, David Gee will be hoping his charges can bounce back on their home deck.
Finley’s season got off to a great start with a win against Deniliquin in round one, but a groin injury to superstar Ed Barlow soured the mood somewhat.
Captain Lachie Small, Luke Moore, Mathew Wilson, Jesse McDonald and Paul Massingham were in impressive form to start the year, and will look to lead the way again today.
Cobram v Echuca United
Cobram must manage the hype of defeating arch-rival Barooga in round one in order to avoid crashing back down to Earth today.
The Tigers were certainly impressive on Good Friday, but will look to consolidate that victory in front of a strong home crowd at Scott Oval for the first time this year.
Sam Gemmill, Adam Decicco and Tyron Baden stood out for the young Tigers last week, and will again be crucial to the result today.
For the Eagles, this fixture looms as tricky to overcome.
Last week against Moama, Echuca United battled hard all day but seemed to run out of legs in the final stages after hitting the front early in the last term.
A similar lapse cannot be afforded against the lightning ball-movement of Cobram.
Ruckman Paul Kirby and prolific ball-winner Lance Oswald will get to know each other very well this year, and if the pair can synchronise their efforts it will go a long way to deciding the fate of this match.
Shepparton East v Tungamah
Shepparton East and Tungamah players will finally receive the chance to play for premiership points after a tumultuous off-season.
The Eagles and Bears have moved to the Murray league, along with Katandra which has the bye today, and will ease into the new competition with a fixture against each other.
Duane Hueston, Campbell Marx and Adem Barolli will be among the fresh faces lining up for Shepparton East at Central Park today, and the home side will be keen to stamp its authority as the strongest ex-Picola District Football Netball League team entering the Murray system.
Tungamah’s recruits during summer included Luke Chapman, Dale Powell, Bailey Scott, Craig Whinray and Jarryd Whinray.
This opening clash will be the first of two between the sides this season, and both will be looking to get the wood over the other in the first foray to create momentum for the campaign ahead.