Teams locked into hockey finals
The penultimate round of Wimmera Hockey Association’s winter season featured two draws in open competition and solid wins by leading teams in both women and under-16 competitions.
With one round remaining before finals, the teams that will make up the top four in open, women and under-16 competitions have been decided, but there are still some significant games to be played out on the turf at Dimboola Health and Fitness Centre on Friday and Saturday that will shape what happens through the finals series.
Second place on the open ladder is still to be decided, and along with it goes the important second chance in the finals.
Warrack Hoops currently hold this position by two points.
A draw or win will be enough for them to remain there. But if they slip up against Dimboola Burras on Saturday, Kaniva Cobras will be poised to overtake them, if they are able to defeat Horsham Hurricanes.
The other game in open competition will see Yanac Tigers prepare for their attempt at a third premiership in succession, when they take on Nhill Rangers on Friday.
Regardless of this weekend’s results, there cannot be any significant changes in the women’s top four, with Dimboola Roos and Horsham Jets already confirmed as the combatants in the second-semi final, and Kaniva and Yanac women’s teams set to meet in the firstsemi final.
Horsham Jets take on Kaniva Women, with both teams looking to boost their confidence, and Yanac Women take on Nhill Thunderbirds, who need a draw or win to ensure they don’t drop to sixth place.
Once again Warrack Hoops and Yanac Tigers played out a classic encounter last weekend which, on this occasion, resulted in a drawn game.
The Tigers are yet to be defeated this season, but the other three teams that will contest finals in two weeks’ time have shown the reigning premiers will have to play at their best if they are to extend their current premiership run to a record equalling three titles in succession with another title this year.
On Anzac Park on Saturday, Ethan Shilling put Hoops ahead eight minutes into the game. Yanac goaled through Brad Alexander in the second half to even the scores, and the remaining 20 minutes of play was a struggle in the mid-field with both defensive lines holding firm.
This draw has kept Hoops in second place on the ladder, but they will need to draw or win next week if they are to guarantee a place going into the finals.
Dimboola Burras held out for a two-all draw with Kaniva Cobras. The scoring was opened by Cobras’ Mat Mcdonald midway through the first half, but by half time Lachlan Schultz had scored twice to establish a lead for the Burras.
A tight second half yielded only one goal, to Cobras’ Clint Beattie, which left the game as a draw, but this was also enough for the Burras to confirm a place in the finals.
Horsham Hurricanes briefly kept their slim finals chances alive with a confident win over Nhill Rangers.
Will Gulline, Tim Davey and Josh Schwarz all found the goals to create a three goal lead in the first half, and while both teams created many forward opportunities after the break, neither was able to add to the scoring. Had the Burras lost their game, which was played later in the day, this result would have kept the Hurricanes in the finals race, but they will now only be playing for pride in the last round.
The closest game for the round in the women’s competition was fought out by Warrack Women, who were playing for the opportunity to rise from the bottom of the ladder, and Yanac Women, who are trying to find some more consistent form before finals.
Both teams earned short corners and created opportunities to score early in the game, but the scorecard remained blank at half time.
Kelly Krahe opened the scoring with a confident goal for Warrack Women early in the second half.
Yanac forwards stepped up their game but were consistently denied by determined Warrack defence until Sheree Shurdington was able to even the scores with four minutes of play remaining.
Warrack remains in sixth place, but a good showing next weekend could still see it move up to fifth place at the end of the season.
Nhill Thunderbirds took to the field against Horsham Jets with four borrowed players to make up a full complement on the field.
The Thunderbirds were able to put up a strong fight against the Jets. The difference in a very even first half was a solitary goal scored by Jets’ Mia Guest. Goals to Robyn Creek and Ashlyn Allen, and another to Guest created a four-goal winning margin for the Jets.
In the lead-up to their first finals series since 2006, Kaniva Women were not able to defeat Dimboola Roos. Elizabeth Klinge scored once in the first half and Kelly Smithyman once in the second to establish a two goal winning margin for the Roos, but the Kaniva defensive combination led by Rachel Clark repelled many more than the Roos scored.
TAKING CHARGE: Kaniva Cobras’ Luke Shalders manoeuvres the ball away from Lachlan Schultz. Picture: JOHN O’DWYER