Round 17 - Preview 2012
OSBORNE veteran Anthony Armstrong’s list of achievements during his 360-plus games are almost as long as one of Brendan Fevola’s booming drop punts.
Eight premiership medallions from 14 grand final appearances in a career spanning over two decades has most players green with envy.
Throw in three best and fairest awards and two Des Kennedy medals for best-on-ground efforts in grand finals and you can see why Armstrong has one of the most decorated careers in country football.
Armstrong, who turns 39 on Saturday, said he was quite content to run around in the seconds at the start of the season.
He spent the first 10 matches in the reserves before forcing his way into the senior line-up for the Cats round 12 encounter against Rand-Walbundrie and has played seniors for the past month.
Now that he has broken into the senior line-up and can sniff another flag — it’s where he intends to stay.
“I was lucky enough to get back in and have played seniors the last month,” Armstrong said.
“I got my fitness level up by playing the first 10 rounds in the reserves before an opportunity opened up in the seniors after a few injuries.
“At the start of the season I was just happy to have a run around in the two’s and see how the body felt and how the fitness was going.
“I have probably been a bit lucky that I have had a good run with injuries again this year and have enjoyed my time back in the seniors.”
After missing finals last year for the first time since 1996, the Cats are purring along nicely this season with a 13-1 record including the prized scalps of Howlong, Henty and Holbrook.
The Cats’ only hiccup came in round 10 when they lost to Brock-Burrum by four points.
Armstrong has played in some outstanding sides during the clubs golden era including the Cats four-peat in 1998-2001 and back-to-back triumphs in 2005-06.
Armstrong rates the current crop of Cats the equal of any in his time at the club.
“I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting that bit older and slower but I look at the side we have got this year and I think it’s up there with the best Osborne sides that I have played in,” he said.
“Just the young blokes are exciting.
“I suppose that’s because I have been sitting back and watching the seniors this year more than playing but it is definitely one of the better sides I have been involved in.”
While Armstrong has carved a reputation as a speedy and skifull wingman throughout his career, this season he has transformed himself into a crafty back pocket.
“I’m just trying to do what’s best for the team and play my role,” he said.
“I have lost a yard or two in pace and now rely more on my ability to read the play.”
Armstrong attributes the return of former players Luke Heyme, Matty and Andrew Clarke and Marty and Jeremy Bahr to the Cats amazing turnaround in fortunes this season.
“Half a dozen quality players into any side makes a massive difference,” he said.
“Last year we pushed the good sides but lacked the polish when the pressure was applied.
“But with the recruits this year we have got a lot more depth.
“Former juniors Daniel, Tom and Nicholas O’Connell have also really stepped-up this year and benefited from playing seniors last season.
“Rory Muggivan and Trent Perczyk travelling from Melbourne each week also can’t be underestimated.
“I went down to Melbourne on the weekend to watch a bit of footy and you don’t realise the travel that these guys do every Saturday just to play.
“Our guys really appreciate the effort they go to and they are another one of the driving forces behind our turnaround in fortunes this season.”
Armstrong couldn’t split the Clarke brothers, Stephen and Trevor, as the most talented players he had played with at the club and Culcairn speedster Scott McGrath as his most respected opponent.
He hasn’t ruled out playing again next season.
“I’m planning an overseas holiday with the family in March or April so this could be my last season, but I still haven’t ruled out having another run,” he said.
“I’ve got two young boys so I might help out with the junior sides and just enjoy watching them play.”
HENTY v CULCAIRN
THE Lions finally found form to claim their biggest scalp against Howlong last week. Co-coach Leigh Baker, Graham Fruean, Ben Schulz and Jarrah Maksymow shone and Travis Gardiner is expected to return this week to stiffen the defence. The second-placed Swampies were great in their miraculous comeback against Holbrook last weekend and are leaving no stone unturned in the chase for their first flag since 1996. Five-time Albury premiership coach Paul Spargo took training last week.
BILLABONG v RAND-WALBUNDRIE
THE Crows are always tough nuts to crack at home and will fancy their chances against the disappointing Tigers. The Crows best effort was against Culcairn in round 14 when they were unlucky, allowing the Lions to escape with a draw. After only two wins and a draw, the Crows are out to finish on a high with wins against the Tigers, Magpies, Walla and CDHBU. The Crows biggest issue is finding another reliable avenue to goal to complement Josh Evans (58) and Matt Toohey (16).
JINDERA v HOLBROOK
MASSIVE danger game for the Brookers who are expected to be without vital cogs Michael Lamb and Mikal Bloom with Aaron Baker and Aaron Pitson and Luke Bloom under an injury cloud. The struggling Bulldogs are still playing with spirit and claimed the scalp of Howlong three weeks ago. After seven wins, the Brookers have fallen twice, against contenders Howlong and Henty. Another loss and they will be under pressure to play finals with games against Culcairn and a resurgent Brock-Burrum to come.
LOCKHART v OSBORNE
LAST roll of the dice for the Demons — a seventh straight loss would kill any hope of an unlikely finals berth. Their task has been made more difficult with spearhead Tom Marlow banned for a week at the tribunal this week. They will also be without dangerous goalkicker Jacob Wooden (hamstring) and will struggle to kick enough goals. The Cats are flying and should be refreshed after a bye. Matt Clarke, Luke Heyme, Peter Heath and Trent Perczyk have been in touch and will ensure a comfortable victory.
CDHBU v MAGPIES
LAST versus second last and the Magpies best chance to avoid a winless season. They must travel but will still fancy their chances. They were only 10 points down at the final change against Walla last week before losing by 23 points. CDHBU has struggled with Doug Lavis battling injury and Phil Dudley leaving the club. The biggest threat to the Power will be Magpies’ spearhead Tony Pierri. His biggest haul so far this season is four goals. If he can better that on Saturday he will give the visitors a shot at victory.