Sport

Not giving Cole shoulder

By Alex Mitchell

The Benalla Showgrounds will be pumping this afternoon when the home side welcomes Seymour to town for a Good Friday Goulburn Valley League classic.
Both The Saints and Lions are seemingly in the hotly contested finals mix and a win against the other could prove vital in the back half of the campaign.
And each welcomes back some midfield silk for the showdown; Benalla gun Will Martiniello is back after missing last round, while Seymour welcomes VFL-listed duo Josh Prudden (Footscray) and Jack Murphy (Coburg) to its ranks.
It was welcome news for Lions coach Ben Clifton, who said his midfield crew had not impressed him during last round’s 43-point loss to Echuca.
‘‘They’ll be straight in the midfield with Jase (Jason Cole), which will really strengthen us up,’’ he said.
‘‘I think our backs have been sensational and done really well. With Ando (Jake Anderson) back in up forward with Phil Soloman and (Kyle Winter-Irving), we should be pretty potent.
‘‘Our skill level was terrible against Echuca and our inside 50 kicks were really wasted opportunities.
‘‘We’ll look to improve at the clearances, we got absolutely smashed in that area. And that was in the ruck too, we’re looking for a big lift from all on-ballers.’’
Sitting 1-1, the Lions face Euroa and Shepparton following the Saints before Mooroopna away from home.
Clifton said banking some early wins would be huge for the season’s fortunes.
‘‘We’ve emphasised to our blokes that our first six (games) are our biggest six,’’ he said.
‘‘Six or seven of our last nine or 10 are at home, so those first six before the interleague bye are very important. If we can even the ledger for those first six, we’ll reassess, so this game is massively important.’’
For Benalla, coach James Martiniello hoped to see a big crowd for the Saints’ first home game of the season as they look to build on a 2-0 start to the year.
‘‘We’re keen for Good Friday football and it’s our first home game, so we’re really excited we get to play at home in front of hopefully a big crowd,’’ he said.
‘‘Seymour will be a fantastic challenge, traditionally they’re always thereabouts, they never seem to drop off at all so it will be a tough challenge.’’
The last time the sides met was Cole’s famous 61-disposal, six-goal in round 12 last season, but Martiniello said focusing on the jet engine too closely could cost his side plenty.
‘‘Jason is obviously a fantastic footballer, he had a pretty big day against us last year over there,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got some plans in place, but it takes more than one player to beat a side, so we can’t focus too much on just him. We’ll stick to our structures and focus on shutting them down as a whole.
‘‘The key to stopping Seymour is slowing Jason down, but if you focus on him too much, others will get off the leash and beat you.
‘‘We want to be a bit better with the football to generate better scoring opportunities, our overall team defence needs to be better because we let the Swans move the ball too easily, we need to bring a lot more pressure.’’