Strong showing at championships
Two teams representing Wimmera Hockey Association in Victorian Country Championships at the weekend performed at a level complementing the standard of hockey in the region.
The open team finished preliminary rounds in equal second place in division two, but a countback relegated it to contesting the third-place play-off game.
The play-off proved to be a tough high-scoring match against pre-tournament favourite East Gippsland, which won by a goal.
The women’s team played in an A2 division and finished runner-up, having risen from fourth place after early games to play off in a grand final against Geelong.
The results were a credit to the players, coaches and support staff.
Wimmera senior open team ventured to Greensborough hockey centre in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs for its matches.
A first-up five-goal loss to East Gippsland was followed by a threeall draw with Sunraysia, represented by a North West Lightning under-17 development squad. Cameron Bardell scored a hat-trick of goals in the second game. The team was fourth on the ladder after the first day.
Sunday yielded three Wimmera wins, with victories over eventual premier Latrobe by two goals, Warrnambool 3-2 and by five over North Central. Aaron Carter and Darius Cosgrave shared goals against Latrobe, Brad Mckenzie scored twice and Will Gulline, in his first senior championships, once against Warrnambool.
The equation going into the final pool game against neighbouring association North Central was for a sixgoal victory margin to ensure a berth in Monday’s final.
In a fast and competitive game, Wimmera defenders prevented their opponents from scoring while forwards scored five goals, to take the team agonizingly close to a place in the championship decider.
Although Wimmera finished equal on both points and goal difference with the second-placed team, the next criteria considered when ranking the teams was the number of goals scored. This led to Wimmera being relegated to third place with 13 goals to Sunraysia’s 15.
In the play-off for third and fourth against East Gippsland, Wimmera started strongly with Marcus Williamson converting a penalty stroke early in the game.
Teams then went goal for goal until late in the game when East Gippsland took the lead.
Williamson scored a second goal and Ethan Schilling and Jarrod Knoop scored one each to make the final tally of four goals.
Sunraysia won the division-two title, beating Latrobe Valley in the final 6-4. North Central finished in fifth place.
Warracknabeal’s Sandon Schultz, who has been selected in the North West Lightning under-17 squad, played for Sunraysia.
Wimmera association entered one team in the women’s A2 division at Stead Park, Geelong.
The team opened the tournament with victory over Goulburn Valley, when Kellie Farquharson and Sophie Robinson scored in the first half to establish a lead.
Goulburn Valley scored through a lucky deflection but determined defence prevented it from scoring an equalising goal.
Wimmera encountered a tougher opponent in Sunraysia, which moved out to a two-goal lead by half time. In a hard and fast game with both teams creating opportunities and solid defence at both ends, Sunraysia scored once more in the second half.
At the halfway point of preliminary games, Wimmera was third on points with the second-placed team.
On Sunday morning Wimmera took on Latrobe Valley and was unable to convert. Latrobe Valley won the game.
Wimmera’s final preliminary game was against Geelong.
The defence performed well under pressure but Geelong found the goals three times, including a penalty-stroke conversion.
After losing to its semi-final opponent by three goals in preliminary rounds, Wimmera slowed its game which proved effective in catching Sunraysia off guard.
Intense marking also failed to allow Sunraysia to take the initiative, and a converted short corner by Ellie O’connor established a one-goal Wimmera lead by half time.
Sunraysia lifted after the break but the Wimmera players were able to respond and progressed to the ultimate game of the tournament.
Geelong proved to be a challenging opponent in the grand final and although Ellie O’connor scored twice and Maddy Clugston once, three goals were not enough and Wimmera finished runner-up.
INTENSE: opponent. Wimmera’s Ethan Schilling puts pressure on a Latrobe Valley Picture: SIMON KING