After two practice matches against Goulburn Valley Football League opposition, Barooga is feeling primed and ready for its blockbuster clash with Cobram on Good Friday.
Outings against Shepparton Swans and last year’s GVFL grand finalist Shepparton Bears has allowed the Hawks to fine-tune their game and get a proper gauge of where they are at leading into the Murray Football League showdown against the Tigers.
The first practice match against the Swans turned into a blow-out, with Barooga dominating from the outset.
The senior squad played the first half of the match and the reserves played the second half.
Senior co-coach James Hazelman said plenty of the Hawks’ younger brigade impressed.
‘‘In that game, Matty Demaio’s work rate was excellent,’’ Hazelman said.
‘‘He has had a pretty good pre-season. He is starting to tick a lot more boxes, which is a big positive for us as our main forward.
‘‘He had a bit of trouble last year with a few injuries, so it’s good to see him up and running.’’
After going so close to a grand final appearance last year and keeping virtually the same squad, the Hawks will no doubt be relying on internal growth to take that final leap.
Hazelman said one particular player had caught the eye over the pre-season in terms of improvement.
‘‘Tom Mcneill chipped in with three of four goals against the Swans and I think against the Bears he might have kicked five, so his pre-season form has been excellent for a guy who was in and out of the senior squad a little bit last year,’’ he said.
‘‘He was probably one of our better players in the two practice matches.’’
Hazelman said the second practice match against the Bears, which finished about eight goals to seven in Barooga’s favour, was more of a low-scoring scrap, but it was the type of game his side could expect come finals time.
‘‘It was a really good hit-out against a team who made the grand final last year and was obviously one of the best sides in the Goulburn Valley League,’’ he said.
‘‘It was probably exactly what we were after leading into round one and we got through injury-free, which was a bonus.’’
Hazelman said a couple of facets of the game the Hawks had been working on over the summer were evident in the contest against the Bears.
‘‘Probably our intensity around the contest and our want to work for each other has probably gone up 10 to 15 per cent from last year,’’ he said.
‘‘From a coaching point of view, it is pretty pleasing to see the guys’ attitude in addressing those things and they are starting to get some results which pushes them along a bit more as well.’’
The group is shaping up well for round one in terms of injury.
Hazelman expects almost the whole squad to be available come selection, but the Hawks will be without star turn Tyrone Downie who is recovering from an ankle injury. It is expected he will only miss one to two weeks which is a good result for Barooga considering the initial diagnosis was closer to 12 weeks.
Hazelman said his side would not be underestimating the Tigers on Friday.
‘‘There is no doubt they have picked up some handy recruits with a couple of local boys coming back,’’ he said.
‘‘We know it is going to be a pretty fierce contest. It always is.
‘‘It does not matter where both sides have finished in the past, especially at Easter, I am expecting a ripping contest.’’