Shepparton News

TIME TO RUN RIOT

ATHLETES BREATHE SIGH OF RELIEF AND PUT ON RUNNERS AS RUNNING FESTIVAL FINALLY ARRIVES

- By LIAM NASH

The finish line — or in this case, the starting line — is in sight for entrants champing at the bit to hit the trails at Campbell’s Shepparton Running Festival.

This weekend a mass of participan­ts will descend upon Victoria Park Lake for a running release they’ve so craved for, with festival marketing manager Liz Connick praising its sponsors for helping the weekend materialis­e.

“Our event is growing and so is the support for our long-standing marathon and regional running festival,” Connick said.

“Campbell’s are an iconic brand and have been producing their products in Shepparton for almost 60 years and are committed to community.

“We were so pleased to receive their offer of naming rights.”

In a first for the festival, five courses have been offered to runners this year.

A 7km trail run has been added to the usual 10km fun run/walk and 2km kids’ dash tomorrow, while the following day’s longdistan­ce events remain a 42.2km marathon and 21.1km half marathon.

It’s a welcomed sight for long time supporters of the festival such as Shepparton Runners’ Club president Mathieu Ryan, who, like many others, has waited anxiously for its return after cancellati­on last year.

There has seldom been injury crises as damning as that of Carlton Football Club’s in 2012.

A throng of stars, including current Echuca coach Andrew Walker, found themselves sidelined to see the Blues crash out of finals contention for the first time in three years.

Ironically, Walker’s counterpar­t for this weekend’s Goulburn Valley League football clash — Tatura coach Paul Kirby — finds himself in the same wounding position.

The Bulldogs enter territory uncharted since 2017, that being a spot outside the six, and Kirby is doing his best not to become discourage­d at a season fast fizzling out by looking toward his one saving grace; youth.

“To be honest we’ve got blokes breaking down left right and centre,” Kirby said.

“We’ve had so many injuries to our good players and are very light on again going into this weekend — it is pretty disappoint­ing and frustratin­g, but we have to stay positive.

“Our main focus now is on the young kids; getting them to do the right things and hopefully learning and progressin­g.”

With Mitch Elliott pulling his hamstring against Benalla and Brad Ryan in doubt, the door has been opened for the Tatura’s greener apprentice­s to storm through against Echuca.

Kirby singled out the likes of Sean McCalliste­r, Xavier Hutchison, Morrie Serra and Will Russell as ones to have made the transition into senior football, and to an extent, is giving his youth contingent carte blanche in the hopes of delivering the visitors a shock tomorrow.

“Echuca are a good side with a lot of quality players, so it will be a good experience for our young kids to learn. In saying that, I want us to take the game to them as much as we possibly can,” he said.

“There are probably half a dozen kids who are going to be senior footballer­s, so it’s about providing them with the right education going forward.”

On the Echuca front, there is little to fret about with the Murray Bombers looking ever more likely to clinch the minor premiershi­p.

Though the side looks to be without some of its major players because of Melbourne COVID-19 restrictio­ns, Echuca co-coach Simon Maddox was ready to take the challenge head on and maintain pole position going into finals.

“Whatever barriers they throw in front of us, we’ll knock it down,” Maddox said.

“Whether it’s COVID, the GV, AFL Victoria, we feel we have a really good side, and okay . . . we may not have Melbourne or NSW players.

“But we’ll front up again, find a way and make it happen, and we’ll get the job done.”

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