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Yanac Tigers, Warrack Hoops to face off in Wimmera hockey grand final

CONTEST: The tussle between Warrack Revengers’ Oskar Bennett, left, and Kaniva Raiders’ Luke Shalders was a feature of Wimmera Hockey Association’s under-16s preliminary final at Kaniva.  Picture: SIMON KING

CONTEST: The tussle between Warrack Revengers’ Oskar Bennett, left, and Kaniva Raiders’ Luke Shalders was a feature of Wimmera Hockey Association’s under-16s preliminary final at Kaniva.

Minor premiers in each of Wimmera Hockey Association’s three divisions were the first to qualify for respective grand finals, but each will encounter a worthy opponent on Saturday at Yanac.
A men’s or open division in the association has been contested for 27 seasons and Yanac Tigers have played off for the title 24 times.
The Tigers’ grand-final opponent on Saturday, Warrack Hoops, will play in their 15th grand final.
In a rivalry that goes back to the early 1990s, this will be the 12th time these teams have met in the last game of the season. Both teams will feature a wealth of finals experience and none of the players should be overwhelmed by the occasion.
For the past 18 seasons these two teams have rarely played a one-sided game and their fourth meeting for the season on Saturday afternoon should be no different.
The Tigers have had 12 goal-scorers this year, with Bradley Alexander and Kim Croot leading with 10 and nine goals respectively. Both have to feature if they are to hit a winning score.
Defender Vern Wheaton will add experience to the Tigers’ backline, while Luke Reichenbach and Jamie Harding provide big hitting to propel the ball into attack where Simon Farmers and the Alexander brothers Brad, Nathan, Shaun and Todd, can all be dangerous.
The Hoops also feature match-winners all over the field with Stephen Laverty and Will Hewitt forming a formidable backline, with goal-keeper Russell Brown and Darius Cosgrave, Royce Bennett, Jarrod Knoop and Marcus Williamson providing firepower in the forward line.
The midfield boasts Brad McKenzie and Paul Slater who have both been in good form.
It is difficult to pick a winner because both have what it takes to win. So their slender win in the semi-finals is the only reason to tip the Tigers.
Whatever the final scores, fans will witness a top-quality game between two of country Victoria’s best teams.
In the women’s division grand final, Yanac has earned the right to go into the grand final as favourite against Dimboola Roos after only one loss since last season’s premiership.
Significantly, this loss was to the Dimboola side in round 11.
Association best and fairest player from last season, Louise Bone, will be a key player for Yanac, and Erin Alexander and Carmel Beattie will also be important contributors. Anne Blackwood will lead a strong defence.
Since returning from an injury that kept her out of the team for the first half of the season, Elizabeth Klinge has once again taken control of the Roos’ midfield and is also capable of scoring, particularly with her strong hits on short corners.
Adina King, Vicki Smithyman and Jennifer Klinge have scored the bulk of the Roos’ goals this year, and Brooke McMaster and Rebecca Lovett have provided pace through the midfield.
A strong defence of Cassie Withers as goal-keeper and full-backs Ellie Woods, Zoe Aitken and Cara Hadzig will make Yanac work hard for their goals.
With their record so far this season, Yanac Women will be hard to tip against, especially given their 3-1 win over the Roos in the semi-final two weeks ago.
But the Roos will take advantage of any opportunity and are capable of an upset.
In an under-16 grand final Nhill Leopards will play Kaniva Raiders.
The Leopards have lost one game so far this season, and that was to Warrack Revengers, now out of the premiership race having gone down to Kaniva Raiders on Saturday.
History awaits the Kaniva Raiders as they are now the only under-16 team to have qualified for five season deciders in a row. If they can win they will extend the record to five consecutive premierships.
All three games between these teams in 2016 have finished in a comfortable win by the Leopards, but the Raiders’ form has been improving in recent weeks and they will be capable of matching most of their opponent’s moves.
Leopard’s captain Blake Miller and Ellie Murden are two of the leading goal-scorers in the competition and will need to find the goals more than once if their team is to build a winning score. Sharma Delaney and Emily Koop will also be pivotal players in the midfield.
Raider Luke Shalders has played inspiring games and, with Fraser Bothe and Jemima Bothe, will be instrumental in getting the ball into their forward zone.
Tyson Mitchell is another who has stepped up to give the Raiders drive out of the backline.
The Leopards will be favourites going into this game and after losing the 2015 grand final to the Raiders, will be determined to continue their recent dominance over this opponent.
But with the lure of a fifth premiership in a row, the Raiders will not be without motivation.

Grand finals: Saturday: 10.30am,under-16s, Nhill Leopards v Kaniva Raiders; noon, under-12s, Yanac Lowan Stars v Kaniva Rampagers, Dimboola Kookaburras v Nhill Bandits, Warracknabeal v Horsham Blackhawks; 1pm, Women, Yanac Women v Dimboola Roos; 3pm, Open, Yanac Tigers v Warrack Hoops.
• All finals played at Yanac.

The entire August 31, 2016 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online.

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Posted on Aug 31 2016

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