TIME TO DARE AT BEARS’ LAIR

The Riverine Herald - - SPORT - By An­drew John­ston

ONE more stand.

A chance at the ul­ti­mate prize is what awaits.

The Echuca Mur­ray Bombers will make the voy­age to Deakin Re­serve in Shep­par­ton on Sun­day to face the Bears with the op­por­tu­nity to play in a Goul­burn Val­ley League grand fi­nal on the line.

Both sides would have some feel­ings that — if they do get there — maybe they are more of a chance to break the mighty Kyabram down.

In fact, per­haps the GVL premier­ship is not that far out of reach for the re­main­ing teams.

Kyabram have twice showed mor­tal­ity this sea­son and it’s come in their past two games.

Who­ever en­ters the grand fi­nal will have some se­ri­ous be­lief that they can fi­nally get the win.

But two strong teams will have to butt heads first to get the chance.

The Shep­par­ton Bears were not the same side in 2018 they were in 2017.

They dropped games they weren’t ex­pected to, they didn’t al­ways pro­duce their best foot­ball.

But they were still the sec­ond best side in the com­pe­ti­tion in 2018.

Only two weeks ago, the Bears sent a hell of a fright through Kyabram at Vic­to­ria Park.

Af­ter a slow start last week, Shep­par­ton dis­patched of Mans­field to get one more shot.

In Echuca and Shep­par­ton’s sole meet­ing for the year, things went badly for the Mur­ray Bombers.

The Bears handed out a 57-point thrash­ing in their round nine meet­ing, keep­ing Echuca out of the game af­ter quar­ter time.

Since that day, the Bears are nine from 11, with just two losses to Kyabram as marks on their record. Sound fa­mil­iar? It should, be­cause that’s Echuca’s ex­act form line since that day.

And both teams were blown out in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and massively reigned in the mar­gin come fi­nals. So, what has changed in that time? Echuca has gained a num­ber of play­ers back from in­jury.

So these teams will now line up in­cred­i­bly well against one an­other in this com­ing match.

Echuca’s young brigade will be a con­cern for Shep­par­ton.

Noah Wheeler has been elite in his ap­pear­ances for the club this sea­son, be­ing named in the best in all seven of his ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing a three-goal ef­fort on Satur­day against Kyabram.

Cameron Valen­tine has proved to be one of the best de­fend­ers in the com­pe­ti­tion in re­cent weeks, with his in­ter­cept mark­ing against Kyabram play­ing a key role in slow­ing the Bombers down, while his per­for­mance against Tatura ar­guably won the game for the Mur­ray Bombers.

At the other end, cen­tre half­for­ward An­gus Byrne will be a mas­sive headache for the Bears as a di­rect match-up, as well in al­low­ing Tim Al­lan into the game.

This will be noth­ing like play­ing Echuca in round nine.

This team is far bet­ter than they were at that stage, and ar­guably bet­ter than any­one ex­pected them to be this quickly.

The cream re­mains as good as ever, the youth has more than stood up. This is Echuca’s mo­ment. And we ex­pect them take it. Pre­dic­tion: Echuca by 10 points.

Photo: Luke He­mer.

LET’S GO: Kane Mor­ris and his Echuca team­mates are mak­ing a path to the GVL grand fi­nal with only Shep­par­ton Bears stand­ing in their way.

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