CLASH OF THE CHAM­PI­ONS

O&M pre­mier faces GVL pow­er­house

Kyabram Free Press - - SPORT - By Tyler Ma­her

THE pre­miers of the Goul­burn Val­ley and the Ovens and Mur­ray foot­ball leagues will clash in Kyabram in a mouth-wa­ter­ing open­ing to the 2018 foot­ball sea­son.

Kyabram and Wan­garatta will go head-to-head in a prac­tice match in March in an un­of­fi­cial clash of the cham­pi­ons.

Bombers coach Paul Newman said while there was no spe­cific di­rec­tive to sin­gle out the Ovens and Mur­ray cham­pi­ons, a match like it ev­ery year could help nur­ture the ri­valry be­tween the two com­pe­ti­tions.

‘‘One of their play­ers does a bit of work over here and both clubs were look­ing for a de­cent hit-out so it just kind of hap­pened that way,’’ Newman said.

‘‘There used to be a fan­tas­tic ri­valry be­tween the O&M and the GV.

‘‘Back in the day it (an in­ter­league clash be­tween the two) used to be ev­ery se­cond year at least, but we seem to have lost it over the years, so it would be great to have it back.’’

To gen­er­ate any tan­gi­ble in­ter­est though Newman feels a reg­u­lar clash would have to be staged af­ter the sea­son as a mar­quee event, rather than a prac­tice match the next year.

‘‘I think the only way it would work was if it was done the same year,’’ Newman said.

‘‘Whether the play­ers got a cou­ple of weeks off and then you made it a spec­ta­cle in mid-Oc­to­ber, rather than the next sea­son, be­cause both sides have had a turnover of play­ers.

‘‘I think that would def­i­nitely cre­ate a bit of in­ter­est, and as a club we would def­i­nitely sup­port it.’’

Newman’s opinion that the ri­valry be­tween the GVL and O&M needs to be nur­tured is one many in­volved in both leagues share.

Re­cently ap­pointed Ovens and Mur­ray League chair­man David Sin­clair high­lighted strength­en­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two com­pe­ti­tions as high on his list of pri­or­i­ties.

‘‘The GV and O&M are the two out­stand­ing com­pe­ti­tions out­side of Mel­bourne,’’ Sin­clair said this month.

‘‘It would be great to see them play more reg­u­lar in­ter­league footy, rather than once ev­ery 10 years like they are at the mo­ment.

‘‘It’s some­thing that I would love to see hap­pen.’’

The prac­tice match be­tween the Bombers and the Mag­pies will be at Kyabram on the se­cond-last week­end in March.

‘‘It looks like it will be the week­end of March 24, but we still have to work out a few par­tic­u­lars,’’ Newman said.

‘‘We’ll also have one against Bayswa­ter on the 17th (of March) and Myrtle­ford on the 3rd (of March).’’

Kyabram starts its dual un­beaten premier­ship de­fence with a night match at Mooroopna on April 7, and Newman is con­fi­dent his charges will be just as hard to top­ple as in the past two sea­sons.

While flag he­roes Jake Reeves, Billy Burstin, Rhys Clark and Josh Vick will not re­turn in the red and black this year, Lachie Smith has nom­i­nated the Bombers as his home club when not se­lected to play VFL for Footscray.

‘‘We’ve lost four, but hope­fully we can get a few games out of Lachie and qual­ify him for fi­nals,’’ Newman said.

‘‘We’ve picked up young Bai­ley Bell from Nathalia and Mick Mattingly will be huge as well.

‘‘We didn’t ac­tively go out and try to re­cruit, but we’ve got some ex­cit­ing young tal­ent com­ing through and we want to make sure they get op­por­tu­ni­ties over the next year or two.’’

Pic­ture: Luke He­mer

GVL pre­mier and cham­pion Kyabram is ready to mix it with O&M’s best Wan­garatta.

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