Kyabram Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - By Gus Un­der­wood

KYABRAM Bombers can al­most taste it. They are one game away from their third suc­ces­sive Goulburn Val­ley League grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance. But first they had to over­come Shepparton at Mooroopna on Satur­day night. The first fi­nal played un­der lights in the league re­sulted in a 28-point win, their 40th in suc­ces­sion.

KYABRAM is one game away from its third suc­ces­sive Goulburn Val­ley League grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance — but not be­fore some anx­ious mo­ments in win­ning its qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal against Shepparton at Mooroopna on Satur­day night.

The first ever fi­nal played un­der lights in the league re­sulted in a 28-point win — their 40th in suc­ces­sion — for the Bombers but there were pe­ri­ods when they were out­played by the Bears in front of a bumper crowd.

In two pe­ri­ods in the game — in the sec­ond and last quar­ters — Shepparton kicked four unan­swered goals which no doubt will be ob­served with some hope by the re­main­ing fi­nal­ists that this flag fight is not the one team race that it may ap­pear to be.

Even af­ter Kyabram’s six goals to one match-win­ning third term to take a 39-point buf­fer into the fi­nal stanza, Shepparton was still good enough to get it­self back into a po­si­tion where it could have pinched the game.

The Bombers at times were undis­ci­plined which proved costly on the score­board and this is one area where the Bombers need to re­main fo­cused to maximise their in­puts.

The Bears had play­ers in Nik Rokahr, David Stret­ton, Luke Smith, Matt Bret and Jonte Wardell who had the Bombers re­ally stretch­ing at times.

But the two small­est Kyabram play­ers on the ground were the ma­jor rea­son why the Bombers pre­vailed yet again.

Livewire small for­ward Kyle Mueller’s break­out sea­son con­tin­ued with a stun­ning seven goal haul in­clud­ing the first three goals of the game.

He also missed a cou­ple of shots on goal and un­selfishly handed off an­other to Kayne Pet­tifer.

Mueller picked up 15 pos­ses­sions and seven marks in­side the 50 me­tres arc as he led op­po­nents on a merry dance with his sub­lime foot­ball skills.

The other in­spi­ra­tion was big­hearted rover Liam Og­den who was busy all night and kicked the last two goals of the game to seal the Bears’ fate when they were com­ing hard at the Bombers in the last quar­ter.

Kyabram also got top games from ruck­man Jake Reeve and de­fend­ers Liam Bar­rett and Sam Shel­don. Bar­rett kept Shepparton po­ten­tial goal­kick­ing match­win­ner James Wong goal­less and Shel­don was su­perb off of back flank.

Lochie Smith af­ter a quiet first half also stood up again when needed while Rhys Clark, who played on a wing, Aaron Hayes, Brad Man­gan, Tom Hol­man, Axel Childs, Brad Ed­wards and Brad Whit­ford all did some good work at times.

The Bombers played with­out key prime mover Jor­dan Wil­liams and for a greater part of the game Luke Mor­ris was on the side­lines with a foot in­jury.

Wil­liams will be back for this week­end’s sec­ond semi-fi­nal against Sey­mour at Rochester on Satur­day but Mor­ris might have to prove his fit­ness and may not be risked this week­end.

My best for Kyabram were: Kyle Mueller, Liam Og­den, Jake Reeves Sam Shel­don, Liam Bar­rett, Rhys Clark, Lochie Smith.

■ KYABRAM re­serves will also be play­ing for a grand fi­nal spot this Satur­day at Rochester af­ter down­ing reign­ing pre­mier Mans­field in Sun­day’s elim­i­na­tion fi­nal at Be­nalla.

Se­nior Kyabram coach Paul New­man took his place in the Kyabram side and kicked three vi­tal goals and handed off a cou­ple of oth­ers in the Bombers’ 19-point win.

For the first time for the sea­son Kyabram was close to field­ing a full strength side which in­cluded New­man and Josh Pell from last sea­son’s se­nior premier­ship side and other se­nior play­ers in Lochie Dil­lon, Zac Nor­ris and Adam Lo­vi­son.

Kyabram coach Mark Dil­lon was pleased to get the win which se­cures a dou­ble chance and puts his side into the sec­ond semi-fi­nal against Euroa.

‘‘We were undis­ci­plined at times but we got what we wanted at the fin­ish. We led all day but we did let them back in the third quar­ter when we lost the plot a bit,’’ Dil­lon said af­ter the win.

Dil­lon said cap­tain Tom Curnow on the wing as a dom­i­nant player and Lockie Dil­lon was great in de­fence along with Adam Lo­vi­son and Sam Vick.

He said that Adam Lo­vi­son also was able to hold Mans­field po­ten­tial match­win­ning full for­ward Ben Vo­gelzang goal­less.

While Curnow was out­stand­ing on his wing so was Michael Pryde on the other wing while Brad An­der­son in the mid­dle com­pleted a win­ning cen­tre­line which pro­vided the con­stant chances to the team’s for­wards to kick a win­ning score.

Ruck­man Zac Nor­ris was also very good again and was in con­trol of the air­waves.

Only ca­su­alty for the Bombers out of the game was strong util­ity Steve Drake with a sus­pected break in the hand.

■ KYABRAM thirds were on the end of their sec­ond loss to Shepparton United in the space of a week in Satur­day’s qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal at Mooroopna.

The young Bombers didn’t take their chances, par­tic­u­larly early in the last quar­ter when they could have put their ri­vals be­hind the point of no re­turn.

Reign­ing pre­mier United is a not a team you can give any lat­i­tude to and the Bombers paid dearly with a 14-point loss.

Kyabram now meet Shepparton in a first semi-fi­nal show­down with no sec­ond chances this time.

The Bombers played the greater por­tion of the game with­out skip­per Tom Schu­mann who dis­lo­cated a knee in the first term in what is a sea­son end­ing in­jury.

Both teams took it in turns to dom­i­nate in the game but the Bombers were al­ways in the con­test.

On­baller Coby McCarthy, back in the team af­ter miss­ing the pre­vi­ous week, with help from Cade Mueller was able to elim­i­nate the dom­i­nance from the stop­pages United had en­joyed the pre­vi­ous week.

Ruck­men Matt Price and Ben Napier dom­i­nated the hit-outs but Kyabram didn’t al­ways cap­i­talise on their ef­forts.

McCarthy fin­ished with two goals as did Mad­den Ge­nio who was par­tic­u­larly lively in the sec­ond term.

Cur­tis Ryan was Kyabram’s best go-to for­ward while Will McDon­ald with three goals put score­board pres­sure on United.

The Kyabram de­fence was led by Nic Dar­ling while its best prime mover apart from McCarthy were on­ballers Mal Hedges and Billy McLay who both gave their best and got a lot of the ball.

The young Bombers aren’t out of this flag fight but need to take their chances in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions if they are to bounce back.

They now have to beat Shepparton this week­end to progress to the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal with ev­ery game from now on cut-throat.

PHOTO: Holly Cur­tis

Kyabram’s Brad Ed­wards and Pa­trick Wear­den fly high with Shepparton’s Joel Brett in Satur­day night’s Goulburn Val­ley Foot­ball League qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal.

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