The battle for the early season lead in both Wimmera Hockey Association’s Open and Women’s competitions took place on the Dimboola Health and Fitness Centres’ turf pitch on Saturday, and in both cases, the fast-improving Nhill teams took on their Yanac counterparts with the outright place on top of the respective ladders the prize for the victors.

Open

The Yanac Tigers and Nhill Ranges put on a great display of hockey, featuring two strong teams that kept up the pressure on their opponents from the start whistle to the end.

Yanac earned a succession of penalty corners in the first half but failed to capitalise, due significantly to some great saves by Nhill’s goalkeeper, Kayden Rowe and solid defending by David Reichelt and Lee Marra.

The sheer number of Tiger attacking moves eventually paid off when Jasper Croot got his stick onto a solid pass from Todd Alexander to get the ball past the goalkeeper and earn the lead at the break.

The second half was more even, with solid Nhill defence thwarting all attacks by the strong Tigers defence, while up the other end of the ground, the Rangers’ forwards were also giving the Tigers’ defenders a hard time. Finally, with neither team able to score again, the Tigers earned the win and have now taken a six-point lead on the top of the ladder after just four rounds.

The umpires voted Simon Farmers as the best player for the Tigers along with Brad Alexander, despite appearing to be hampered with a leg injury, and Jamie Harding, with goalkeeper Rowe, Blake Miller, and Jason Reichelt, the better players for Nhill.

After a fine morning, the weather turned overcast before the Hoops and Cobras’ clash, and then a shower of rain just after half time forced the teams to master a variety of conditions, but this did not diminish the intensity in which the game was played.

The Cobras had confidence in their quick, long-hitting game, which contrasted significantly with the Hoops’ shorter possession style of hockey and combined to make for a thrilling match.

In the dry conditions of the first half, both teams put on an energetic display of hockey, with the ball regularly moving from one end of the ground to the other, and it took until the last five minutes for Sandon Schultz to break the deadlock with a goal in favour of the Hoops.

The rain began ten minutes into the second half, forcing players to adapt their game to a different set of conditions, but this did not reduce the game’s intensity.

A field goal off Jarrod Knoop’s stick extended the Hoops’ lead during this period, while several great saves by his goalkeeper at the other end of the field maintained this advantage in the face of some solid Cobra attacks.

Half-back Royce Bennett was amongst the Hoops’ better players, as was Cameron Bardell and Ben Williamson, and for Cobras, it was Clint Beattie, Lachie Mills, and Max Goodwin.

The final Open division game did not provide the same spectacle as the first two but was still an entertaining game to watch for the hardy band of spectators who braved the cool conditions on Saturday evening.

Both the Dimboola Burras and Horsham Hurricanes were vying for their first win for the season, and after a very even start, Zack Collard gave the Burras the lead after ten minutes of play, to which Fraser Cullen and Cory Youngson added one more goal each before half time.

With more options off the interchange bench, the Burras maintained pressure on their opponents for longer and ended the game with eight goals, although Stu Hoffman and Tom Batchelor both scored for the Hurricanes to give them some positives from the game.

The result reflected Dimboola’s depth on the day rather than the Hurricanes standard of play.

Jason Harris, Fraser Cullen, and Zack Collard were amongst the Burras’ best, and William Gulline, Colin Williams, and Tom Batchelor tried hard all game for the Hurricanes.

Women

Another top-of-the-table clash was played out in the Women’s division, with the Nhill Thunderbirds challenging the Yanac Women for the competition lead.

The game started very evenly as both sides settled, with the ball spending significant time at each end of the field, but both teams failed to capitalise after earning several penalty corners each. Some great saves by Yanac’s goalkeeper Natalie Farmers repelled a few solid Nhill attacks.

Long hitting and fast runs characterised Nhill’s moves into attack, which contrasted with Yanac’s effective use of short, square passing, which paid off late in the second half when Charlotte Dickinson swept the ball into the goals. Erin Alexander followed this up another goal to create a two goal margin.

Mikayla Farmers played a solid game on Yanac’s forward line, while Kellie Farquharson did well for the Thunderbirds.

The Horsham Jets opened their account for the season with a win over the Dimboola Roos, scoring twice in each half which has kept them in fourth place on the ladder and in touch with the leaders.

The top players for the Jets included Clarie Barnett, Alana Morrow, and Launa Schilling, while sisters Faith and Leah Eilola both played strongly for the Roos despite both having already played a full game earlier in the day.

Under 16

A win by the Yanac Warriors over the Nhill Leopards has elevated them to the top of the Under 16 ladder, equal on both points and goal difference with the Horsham Bombers, with only a superior percentage giving them the higher spot after four rounds.

Two goals to Rourkey Croot and one to Archie Zanker of the Warriors was enough for them to finish ahead of the Leopards, who registered one goal courtesy of Issac Deckert.

Warriors’ half-backs Hayden Pedie and Lexi Farmers combined well with forward Rourke Croot and the Leopard’s Kendra and Deegan Clark and forward Issac Deckert caught the eye of the umpires for all the right reasons.

Neither the Warrack Revengers nor the Kaniva Raiders had enjoyed a win yet this season before they met in the opening game of the round, and it was the former team that had the better of the match.

A very even first half was followed by more of the same after the half time break until Jack Di Pietro, on loan from the Horsham Bombers, scored for the Revengers. This gave them a second wind, and they began to dominate the play as the Raiders began to tire, despite some determined defence from goalkeeper Connor Tink and full-back Logan Krelle.

The match finished with Clarice Bennett scoring again for the Revengers, and Charlie White scoring a consolation goal for the Raiders.

Leah Eilola, Bennett and Noah Eilola were the better players for the Revengers, and White, Krelle, and fill-in player Tom Batchelor from Horsham stood out for the Raiders.

The two points they gained from the bye was enough for the Bombers to remain tied with Yanac on the top of the ladder.

Under 12 Development Program

The next generation of hockey players took over the turf pitch at Dimboola for an hour on Saturday afternoon, learning the skills of the sport and the cooperation required to participate in a team sport.

This program also provides the perfect opportunity for new umpires to gain experience officiating in a game situation without the pressure of it being a competition match.

Horsham Black Hawks and Dimboola Kookaburras scored twice each in their game, the Nhill Bandits had four goal scorers, and the Yanac Lowan Stars one in their match, and the Warrack Avengers came out one goal ahead of the Kaniva Rampagers.

Round Four Results

Open -

Warrack Hoops 2 (Goals - S Schultz, J Knoop; Best - R Bennett, C Bardell, B Williamson) defeated Kaniva Cobras 0 (Best - C Beattie, L Mills, M Goodwin)

Yanac Tigers 1 (Goal - J Croot; Best - S Farmers, B Alexander, J Harding) defeated Nhill Rangers 0 (best - K Rowe, B Miller, J Reichelt)

Dimboola Burras 8 (Goals - Z Collard 3, F Cullen, J Harris, C Baldock; Best - J Harris, F Cullen, Z Collard) defeated Horsham Hurricanes 2 (Goals - S Hoffman, T Batchelor; Best - W Gulline, C Williams, T Batchelor)

 Pts  GD
Yanac Tigers16  10
Nhill Rangers102
Warrack Hoops100
Dimboola Burras61
Kaniva Cobras6-3
Horsham Hurricanes0-10

Women’s -

Yanac Women 2 (Goals - C Dickinson, E Alexander; Best - M Farmers, E Alexander, C Beattie, S Hedt) defeated Nhill Thunderbirds 0 (Best - K Farquharson, K Murden, J Hauselberger, C Kesler)

Horsham Jets 4 (Goals - M Guest 2, L Schilling, C Barnett; Best - C Barnett, A Morrow, L Schilling) defeated Dimboola Roos 0 (Best - F Eilola, L Eilola, N Kuhnell)

 Pts  GD
Yanac Women1411
Kaniva Women103
Nhill Thunderbirds83
Horsham Jets60
Dimboola Roos2-17

Under 16 -

Warrack Revengers 2 (Goals - C Bennett, J Di Pietro; Best - L Eilola, C Bennett, K Schwarz, N Eilola) defeated Kaniva Raiders 1 (Goal - C White; Best - C White, L Krelle, T Batchelor)

Yanac Warriors 3 (Goals - R Croot 2, Archie Zanker; Best - H Pedie, A Farmers, R Croot) defeated Nhill Leopards 1 (Goal - I Deckert; Best - K Clark, D Clark, I Deckert)

Bye - Horsham Bombers

 Pts  GD%
Yanac Warriors1411  1200%
Horsham Bombers1411375%
Nhill Leopards62129%
Warrack Revengers6-820%
Kaniva Raiders0-1611%

Under 12 Development Program -

Horsham Black Hawks 2 v. Dimboola Kookaburras 2

Nhill Bandits 4 (Encouragement Award - A Albrecht, E Woodward) v. Yanac Lowan Stars 1

Kaniva Rampagers 0 v. Warrack Avengers 1