|Yanac was the host for the fifth round of the Wimmera Hockey Association, which marked the point in the season when each team has now played every opponent, giving an accurate view of where they all sit within their divisions.
In an ominous sign for the rest of the competition, Yanac leads in all three divisions, but several serious challengers are emerging.
The ladders in the Women’s and Under 16 competitions are relatively straightforward, with all teams having defeated each opponent below them but lost to those above, with no drawn games yet in either.
The Open division ladder is more even, with the undefeated Tigers and winless Hurricanes bookending the list, but only two wins separating positions two to five.
The game with the most riding on it in the Open division on Saturday was the clash between the Nhill Rangers and Warrack Hoops. Both teams went into the game level on points, with the Rangers having a tenuous hold on second place courtesy of a marginally better goal difference.
Playing with nine players per side on the field led to a very fast-paced game with plenty of space for players to run into, with the player’s fitness and stamina tested with it occurring during the warmest part of the day.
The Hoops enjoyed the advantage of two extra rotations off the interchange bench, which allowed them to keep constant pressure on their opponents, but the Rangers’ utilised the extra space on the field well with some pacey play.
After a very even start to the game, It took a superb solo run by Ben Williamson mid-way through the first half to outpace the defenders and elude the goalkeeper before launching the ball into the goal with a well-executed tomahawk hit.
Jordan Williamson extended the lead with a goal during the second half to give the Hoops a two goal lead.
Regardless of the scoreline, the standard of play was maintained for the entire game, with the Rangers never conceding the game.
Fullback Cameron Bardell and centre forward Oskar Bennett were judged as the Hoops’ better players, and defender Darren Schwarz and forward Hanish Pearse stood out for the Rangers.
The Dimboola Burras and Kaniva Cobras clash was also significant as the winners would establish themselves in the top four, and the defeated team faced the prospect of losing touch with the leaders.
Both teams scored around fifteen minutes into the game, with Burras’ Tim Jorgensen converting a penalty corner and Dave Cole equalling the scores soon after.
Another Burras’ goal, this time from a solid hit by Zack Collard from the top of the scoring circle early in the second half, put them ahead with an advantage they held until the end of the game.
After a slow start to the season, the Burras now sit in third place on the ladder and will play for second place when they meet the Hoops next Saturday.
The final Open division game for the day saw the undefeated Yanac Tigers take on the winless Horsham Hurricanes, which on paper appeared to be a forgone conclusion, but nobody told the Hurricanes.
The home team established a six goal lead by halftime through a combination of field goals, converted penalty corners, and a penalty stroke, and a seventh goal four minutes after the break set the scene for a huge win.
Despite the dire situation, the Hurricanes maintained the pressure, which began to pay off when they scored midway through the half and followed this up with two more within seven minutes.
Although they didn’t improve on this before the final whistle, they showed enough by pushing the competition leaders late in the game that it shouldn’t be long before they score their first win.
Two goals each by Brad and Todd Alexander highlighted the Tigers’ scoring, and Will Gulline and Tom Roberts were the better players for the Hurricanes.
The Horsham Jets had the daunting task of taking on the undefeated reigning premiers, Yanac, on their home ground, and the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story of the game.
Beginning with the minimum of nine players on the field and none on the interchange bench, the Jets did well to keep Yanac to two goals in the first half, but their task became harder just before halftime when an injury to the Jets’ fullback, Rebecca Batchelor, forced them to play out the game with one less player.
The Yanac forwards capitalised on this to create more attacking moves, and if it wasn’t for the tireless and athletic work of Jet’s goalkeeper Isabella Gulline, Yanac’s final score would have been much more than their tally of eight.
Louise Bone dominated the mid-field for Yanac and enjoyed solid support from Caitlyn Smith and Natalie Harding, and Ellie Morrow played a determined game at centre halfback for the Jets.
The Kaniva Women moved into the unfamiliar position of outright second place on the ladder after they recorded a comfortable win over the Dimboola Roos.
Best-on-Ground Lisa Stimson and Olivia Williams scored twice each to be the multiple scorers in Kaniva’s tally of six, but the game’s highlight was the Roos’ first goal for the season off Tasha Engelbrecht’s stick.
The Nhill Thunderbirds earned two points from the bye, which keeps them in touch with the leaders in third place on the ladder.
The Yanac Warriors took full advantage when the Horsham Bombers could not field their best side for the top-of-the-table clash in the Under 16 competition.
The Bombers were always going to struggle when they had to field several Under 12 players to make up the numbers against the strong Warriors playing on their home ground.
Archie Zanker and Caleb Zanker both scored twice, and five single goal scorers made up their tally of nine goals, keeping the Bombers’ goalkeeper Kai Dodson busy, but he repelled enough scoring attempts to be rated his team’s best player, along with Kristina Schwarz.
The Nhill Leopards had a comfortable victory over the Warrack Revengers, with Isaac Deckert scoring four goals, and Susan Rowe three for the winners, and Leah Eilola and Noah Eilola the better players for the Revengers.
The Kaniva Raiders had the weekend off with the bye, in preparation for taking on the formidable task of taking on Warriors next week.
Round Five Results
Warrack Hoops 2 (Goals - B Williamson, J Williamson; Best - C Bardell, O Bennett, F Eilola, L Klemm) defeated Nhill Rangers 0 (Best - D Schwarz, H Pearse, L Marra, A Albrecht)
Dimboola Burras 2 (Goals - T Jorgensen, Z Collard; Best - D Danisch, T Jorgensen, B Tischler) defeated Kaniva Cobras 1 (Goal - D Cole; Best - C Beattie, L Mills, D Shalders)
Yanac Tigers 7 (Goals - T Alexander 2, B Alexander 2, J Harding, S Alexander, J Cramer; Best - B Alexander, N Alexander, S Farmers, J Cramer) defeated Horsham Hurricanes 3 (Goals - P Mackereth, T Batchelor, W Gulline; Best - W Gulline, T Roberts, J Horsfall, P Mackereth)
| ||Pts|| GD|
|Yanac Tigers||20|| 14|
Kaniva Women 6 (Goals - O Williams 2, L Stimson, Q Pearse, H White; Best - L Stimson, Q Pearse, O Williams) defeated Dimboola Roos 1 (Goal - T Engelbrecht; Best - C Hadzig, A Rintoule, T Engelbrecht)
Yanac Women 8 (Goals - C Smith 2, A Farmers 2, M Farmers 2, L Bone, E Alexander; Best - L Bone, C Smith, M Farmers, N Harding) defeated Horsham Jets 0 (Best - E Morrow, I Gulline, R Batchelor, K Schwarz)
Bye - Nhill Thunderbirds
| ||Pts|| GD|
Under 16 -
Yanac Warriors 9 (Goals - Archie Zanker 2, Caleb Zanker 2, Asher Zanker, A Farmers, H Pedie, R Croot, Chloe Zanker; Best - A Farmers, H Pedie, Caleb Zanker) defeated Horsham Bombers 0 (Best - K Dodson, K Schwarz, N Classen)
Nhill Leopards 7 (Goals - I Deckert 4, S Rowe 3; Beset - I Deckert, D Clark, K Clark, O Bone) defeated Warrack Revengers 0 (Best - L Eilola, N Eilola, J Goodwin, S Goodwin)
Bye - Kaniva Raiders
| ||Pts|| GD|
Under 12 Development Program -
Warrack Avengers 5 (Encouragement Award - R Bish) v. Nhill Bandits 2 (Encouragement Award - O Bone)
Yanac Lowan Stars 0 v. Horsham Black Hawks 4
Dimboola Kookaburras 2 (Encouragement Award - E Ward) v. Kaniva Rampagers 4