Hockey to re­turn

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport - BY SI­MON KING

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.

Women

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.

Juniors

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.

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