|The Wimmera Hockey Association has just clicked over the half way point of its regular season and whilst some teams are in a position to start plotting their assault on the finals in seven weeks’ time, others still have work to do before they begin to plan that far ahead.
With Yanac teams currently filling the top spot in each of the three competitions, the challenge for the rest of the competition is to stop them winning a second ‘triple crown’ after they became the first club to win all three premierships on offer last season.
There was no local hockey last weekend but the action will resume with a full round of matches at Dimboola over Friday evening and all day Saturday.
The Yanac Tigers remain undefeated although they played out a draw with the second placed Hoops last round, and only took the points in their latest game against the third placed Dimboola Burras with a goal in the last minute of the match.
This suggests that they may not be invincible so will have to continue to play at their best if they are to extend their remarkable run of thirteen consecutive grand finals and four consecutive premierships.
The Hoops are yet to play their best hockey this year but will need to do so soon if they are to fight off the challenge for second place from the Burras who on the right day are capable of beating any opponent, although on their off days they are not quite so potent. In an ominous sign for the rest of the competition, they are now stringing together more good days than bad.
The Nhill Rangers had a good start to their season but their form has slipped recently, and the Kaniva Cobras started slowly but are now finding form, and these two are currently swapping fourth and fifth place on the ladder. Both also have to face the daunting task of taking on the Tigers twice more in the run into the finals, so it will be important for them to score some wins against the other mid-table teams if they want to play finals.
Their clash in round 12 at Nhill could determine which misses out on the finals.
There always has to be a team filling the last place on the ladder, and currently that is the Horsham Hurricanes, but their position does not fully reflect their abilities. Any team to dare to not take them seriously could find their finals aspirations dented. The Hurricanes are still well in the race for a top four finish and have plenty of time in the last seven rounds to make a move.
This week the feature game in the Open division will be the clash between the Dimboola Burras and Nhill Rangers on Friday evening.
The Nhill team began this season well but have lost some form recently, but they often put a stronger team on the field for Friday evening games, so should put up a solid challenge for the Burras who need to keep winning if they are to break into the top two.
On Saturday the Yanac Tigers take on the Kaniva Cobras and the Warrack Hoops play the Horsham Hurricanes, and whilst recent form suggests that the results should reflect their ladder positions, both the Cobras and Hurricanes are capable of causing an upset.
Despite suffering one loss in the first eight rounds, Yanac remain the benchmark of the Women’s competition, and when playing at their best, the Dimboola Roos can match them, as they demonstrated in round five when they defeated the reigning premiers.
These two teams appear to be set to fight it out for the minor premiership over the next seven weeks, with their match up on the turf at Dimboola at the end of this month shaping as a highlight of the season.
Third place is currently held by the Nhill Thunderbirds who are within reach of challenging for a place in the top two, should either Yanac or the Roos falter. They will meet the Roos twice more before the finals, which makes these games, in rounds 9 and 15, very important for the make up of the final four.
Kaniva are in fourth place but they too have looked dangerous on occasions and are very capable of holding that spot.
Fifth placed Horsham Jets are struggling to display consistent form, but if they ‘click’ enough in the next seven weeks, they could win enough games to climb into the top four.
Warracknabeal has been hit hard with injuries and player unavailability this season and will need a significant change in fortunes if they are to challenge for a place in the finals. It is encouraging to see many of the younger players stepping up to fill the vacant positions and they are gaining experience which will prove valuable in the coming seasons.
The highlight of this weekend in the Women’s competition will also be played on Friday evening with the clash between the Dimboola Roos and Nhill Thunderbirds. There is currently only one win separating these two teams on the ladder, and if the Thunderbirds believe they can finish in the top two, a win in this game is essential.
The game between the teams outside the top four will also be a pivotal clash for the two teams involved. This is a good opportunity for Warracknabeal to score their first points for the season whilst the Horsham Jets will need to win if they are to remain in touch with the leading teams.
Although they take on Yanac, Kaniva need to keep winning if they are to remain in the top four, so a good showing against the reigning premiers is vital for their confidence going forward.
With an average winning margin of over nine goals per game so far this season, the Yanac Warriors are dominating this competition and are in a prime position to defend the premiership they won last year.
At present the Kaniva Raiders are sitting comfortably in second spot on the ladder, but will need to maintain their form if they are to fend off any challenges by the teams directly below them, as they have to face up to the Warriors twice more before the finals.
The Warrack Revengers, Nhill Leopards and Horsham Bombers are all within four points of each other which sets up a fascinating battle over the next seven weeks with these three teams fighting for two places. Nhill has the daunting task of playing the Warriors twice more, and the Bombers have an easier run to the finals, so are well placed to challenge for a place in the finals for the first time in a number of seasons.
The third-placed Revengers play Kaniva twice more and Yanac once so will need to find some consistent good form if they are to hold that ladder position or improve.
Despite regularly taking to the field with less than eleven players for most of their games this season, the Dimboola Kangaroos are still capable of defying their current last place on the ladder and causing some headaches for the teams higher on the ladder.
On Saturday morning, a win by the Horsham Bombers could see them climb back into fourth place, whilst the Warrack Revengers will be looking to earn the points to reinforce their claim for a top three finish.
The Dimboola Kangaroos will feature in the match of the round in this division as they welcome the Nhill Leopards to their home ground and could earn their first points for the season, and the top two teams, Yanac Warriors and Kaniva Raiders, should also put on a good display of hockey in the first game on Saturday afternoon.
Round Nine Fixture
- at the Dimboola Health and Fitness Centre
Friday 12 July
7:00 pm - Women - Dimboola Roos v Nhill Thunderbirds
8:30 pm - Open - Dimboola Burras V Nhill Rangers Dimboola
Saturday 13 July
9:30 am - Under 16 - Horsham Bombers v Warracknabeal Revengers Dimboola
11:00 am - Under 16 - Dimboola Kangaroos v Nhill Leopards
12:30 pm - Under 12 Development Program - Dimboola Kookaburras v Nhill Bandits
12:30 pm - Under 12 Development Program - Horsham Black Hawks v Warracknabeal Avengers
12:30 pm - Under 12 Development Program - Yanac Lowan Stars v Kaniva Rampagers
1:30 pm - Under 16 - Yanac Warriors v Kaniva Raiders
3:00 pm - Women - Yanac Women v Kaniva Women
4:30 pm - Women - Horsham Jets v Warracknabeal
6:00 pm - Open - Yanac Tigers v Kaniva Cobras
7:30 pm - Open - Horsham Hurricanes v Warracknabeal Hoops