Around The Grounds with Steve Tervet - Wodonga Raiders Opening Weekend

It is a sign of the times at Birallee Park that no club won more games on the opening weekend of the season than Wodonga Raiders.

Marc Almond may have finished Good Friday with more grey hairs than he began it, Raiders having coughed up a 37-point lead to trail Lavington late, but having overseen just three wins in his first two years at the helm, the relieved senior coach was roaring in delight at the final siren.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Almond said. “Last year, we probably lose that game by five goals.

“We were down late in the game by seven points so to come back and win it, they’ll learn more from that last 10 minutes of football than they will from five games of footy.

“It’s really important for those guys to understand what it feels like to be in those situations.

“When I got here, three years ago, we were on our knees.

“We lost a lot of local players and we knew it’d take three, four five years.

“But I’m really pleased where we’re at in the third year. We’ll take all the wins we can get because it’s been pretty lean in the last couple of years.”

Raiders captain Brad St John knows that all too well.

“To get a start like that is unbelievable,” St John said.

“For us to go behind, come forward and still get the win, all credit to our boys.

“Lavi were on top but I got around our leaders, Sam Darley and Cam Ellis-Yolmen, and said ‘boys, we’ve still got half a quarter left, there’s still plenty of time, we just need some cool heads, find a couple of marks, get the ball forward and we’ll get back on top.

“It’s massively important to start with a win, especially for our young group.

“We’ve only got five boys over 22 so for us to get a win like that and some momentum and confidence among the group, to get the feeling we actually can win, that’s going to pay dividends.”

Confidence certainly isn’t lacking on the netball court either, where Raiders swept to victory in all five grades against the Panthers.

The club played in four grand finals last season, winning two, so what’s behind the Raiders renaissance?

“Two words: Jodie House,” shooter Emily Stewart laughed.

“She’s put such effort and work into developing the juniors. We keep our juniors and they are incredible.

“Day in, day out, Jodie puts time and effort into making this club the best it can be.

“Last year was wild. I had the best netball year I’ve had in a very long time.

“Obviously we had a great result but the friendships made and the club culture… it’s an experience to be in that club and it’s actually beautiful. We all love each other.

“We all showed up for each other and I think that’s why we got so far.”