“BIG E” – North Ballarat Roosters’ new primary ruckman – was curious to find out who this “Big O” was that the club kept talking about leading into a practice hit-out against Richmond at Punt Road Oval.
Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald told his towering American import Eric Wallace he would soon find out.
And so, Wallace came face-to-face with Orren Stephenson – a triple Roosters’ premiership player and Roosters’ great – in the ruck on Saturday.
This was the first tme Stephenson has met his old team on field since he was drafted to Geelong’s AFL list after the 2011 Victorian Football League season, then drafted to Richmond as an AFL rookie, now upgraded, last season.
It highlighted a massive changing of the guard for the Roosters with Wallace, an AFL international rookie for North Melbourne, stepping up from one season with the Roosters’ development league team.
Wallace shared ruck duties with Sam Conroy helping the Roosters amass 43 hit outs to the Tigers’ 38 – those counting had Wallace with 33 taps, beating Stephenson’s 30.
FitzGerald said the match, which the Roosters won 19. 13 (127) to the Tigers 11.8 (74), was a great test for his entire team that took them out of their comfort zone.
“Eric showed us a bit. We’re still not sure if we’ll go with one ruck or two and it might come down to the level of (running) fitness of that side of (Wallace’s) game, but he is much fitter than he used to be,” FitzGerald said.
“The most pleasing thing is the things we were disappointed in against Geelong (in practice last week) we were able to rectify.
“Our ball movement back of centre against Geelong was too predictable and we were far more imaginative. We changed angles.
“We were much more committed to implementing the things we had been working on over the summer.”
North Melbourne-listed midfielder Leigh Adams had 21 touches, ball magnet Liam Anthony had 32, and pleasingly Roosters’ onball recruit James Tsitas had 26 disposals and made five tackles.
Richmond sported 15 AFL-listed Tigers, including Jake King (17 disposals), Dylan Grimes, Jake Batchelor, former North Ballarat Rebel Matt Dea and former Kanga-Rooster Aaron Edwards, who booted six goals from 10 disposals.
The Roosters’ final practice match is against fellow North Melbourne partner Werribee at Eureka Stadium on Saturday from a new time of 1pm.