Hockey to return
Wimmera Hockey Association will launch its 2017 winter season at Dimboola Health and Fitness Centre on Friday with two games under lights, followed by a full schedule of games on Saturday.
This season will involve competition in four divisions over 15 regular rounds between April and August, culminating in grand finals on September 9, after semi and preliminary finals.
After the success of the first season of under-12 competition last year, it will continue with three games in the prime 12.30pm time slot each week.
Teams representing Wimmera Hockey Association will also participate in the Junior State Country Championships, which will be at various venues in Melbourne on May 20 and 21, with senior championships at Greensborough in Melbourne for male competitors and Geelong for women during the June long weekend.
In the lead-up to the season there has been many rumours about player movements, but the line-up of most teams will not be settled until a couple of rounds into the season.
The first round will start with a women’s division game when Dimboola Roos take on Horsham Jets at 7pm on Friday.
The Jets were not far behind the top two teams last year, and would like nothing more than to get one up on the reigning premiers early in the season.
Dimboola Burras take on Horsham Hurricanes in open competition in the following game in a contest that could go either way.
Since winning its one and only premiership back in 2011, the Dimboola men’s team has remained a serious finals contender, but has been unable to complete the final step into another grand final.
The Hurricanes have lacked consistency in recent seasons, often following a big game with a lacklustre performance. A first-up win would do wonders for their confidence.
Nhill Thunderbirds and Warrack Women fought it out over the closing rounds of 2016 for the last place in the final, and will meet again at 3pm in the first of the women’s games.
Both teams will have some new faces so it is difficult to predict a winner.
Kaniva Women then face the daunting task of taking on Yanac Women, who finished well ahead on the ladder at the end of last season but did not taste victory in the grand final.
After the lights turn on in the evening, Warrack Hoops will be keen to start their premiership quest on a winning note in an encounter with Nhill Rangers, which climbed from the bottom of the ladder late last season.
The round concludes with what is always a tight game when Yanac Tigers take on Kaniva Cobras. While the Tigers have an impressive finals record, the Cobras have always struggled late in the season, but 2017 might be the year for them to take the next step.
Saturday action starts with three evenly matched under-16 games, with Horsham Bombers taking on Dimboola Kangaroos to get the day started.
The Bombers won three games last season, their best performance for several years, but they also came close to getting the points on several other occasions.
If they can put their best team on the field this week, this will be a very close game.
Nhill Leopards dominated under16s last year, but Warrack Revengers were not too far behind, so this should be another close game.
A game between Kaniva Raiders and Yanac Warriors will see another two evenly matched teams from 2016 meet.