22 April, 2024

Hockey season to commence with Friday night action

Wimmera hockey will launch a big season this weekend with the return of two teams from the Dimboola club who will mark their return with the first Friday evening matches in five years and on Saturday, and two big clashes between the reigning grand finalists in two divisions.

By Simon King

In last year’s Women’s grand final, Hanna Braisby controls the ball despite pressure from Mikayla Mackley, while Jules Braisby (rear left) and Tempany Croot look on.
In last year’s Women’s grand final, Hanna Braisby controls the ball despite pressure from Mikayla Mackley, while Jules Braisby (rear left) and Tempany Croot look on.

This year also marks fifty years since the formation of the Wimmera Hockey Association, which took over from the old Horsham Women’s Hockey Association in 1974 after that competition had been going since the early 1950s.

Having been unable to field an Under 16 team since 2019 or the Women’s since 2021, Dimboola will be represented in both competitions again this year, eliminating the bye in these competitions, although a bye remains in the Open division.

Season Preview

The big question as the season begins is who will step up to challenge the dominance of the Yanac club, which earned the premiership trifecta last year by winning all three titles for the fourth time since 2018.

The Yanac Tigers have dominated the Open competition for much of the time since it began in the mid-1980s, and with the incentive of a record-extending ninth consecutive title, they will be hard to beat again this year.

The Warrack Hoops have been their closest rival for much of this time, having been their opponent in thirteen of the last seventeen grand finals, and will once again be a serious contender.

The Kaniva Cobras and Horsham Hurricanes have both shown glimpses of good form over recent seasons, and if they can find some consistancy could also be in the mix for the title by September, and although they are coming from further behind, the Nhill Rangers who have not enjoyed much success over recent seasons, could spring some surprises this year.

Kaniva won their maiden Women’s premiership two seasons ago and missed achieving back-to-back titles by one goal last September, so they should remain a team to watch.

When things come together, the Nhill Thunderbirds and Horsham Jets can also challenge the top teams and should be able to win enough games to play finals.

Although the Warracknabeal Women made it to the finals last year for the first time in five seasons, they did so with the assistance of several players who will return to the re-formed Dimboola Roos.

This leaves both teams with a core of experience that will be supplemented with some novice and junior players, and it will be the performance and consistency of this latter group of players that will determine where these two teams finish on the ladder.

The Under 16 competition is the most difficult to predict as top-age players move on to the senior ranks and are replaced with youngsters from the Under 12 Development Program.

Last year’s grand finalists, the Yanac Warriors and Kaniva Raiders, will have a core of experience that should see them perform well, while the Horsham Bombers and Nhill Leopards were not far behind last year, so should also remain competitive.

The big unknowns will be the reformed Dimboola Kangaroos and how much the Warracknabeal Revengers can improve from last season. Both should do more than just make up the numbers, capable of staging the occasional upset to keep the more fancied teams on their toes, but it will take a few games to gauge their potential to feature in the finals.

Round One Preview

The returning Dimboola teams will open the season, hosting their Warracknabeal counterparts under the lights at the Dimboola Health and Fitness Centre on Friday evening.

The young Warracknabeal Revengers will be eager to improve on their fifth-placed finish last season, but with no form line for the new Dimboola Kangaroos combination, this game could go either way, but none-the-less it should be a great match to kick off the season.

The Women’s match will also be difficult to predict, as both the Dimboola Roos and Warracknabeal Women take to the field with untried combinations, but they should be evenly matched and will put on a good show.

The first of the feature games on Saturday is a replay of last year’s Under 16 grand final at 11am when the Yanac Warriors will be out to repeat their success from last season, but the young Kaniva Raiders impressed last year, and with them all a year older, they will be a team to watch this year.

An even bigger clash will see Yanac, the reigning premiers in the Women’s competition, meet Kaniva, the team they defeated by just one goal in last year’s grand final after a penalty shootout. As they were almost inseparable then, another close and entertaining match is expected.

The other two Under 16 finalists will meet in the early game on Saturday morning, while in the remaining Women’s match, the Horsham Jets, still smarting after dropping out of the top four after the last game last season, will be out to impress against the Nhill Thunderbirds.

The action in the Open competition takes off under the lights on Saturday evening with two teams that showed glimpses of good form last season but struggled to consistently play at their best, the Horsham Hurricanes and Nhill Rangers, will look to make a positive start to 2024 at 4.30 pm.

The last match for the round will feature the Yanac Tigers, embarking on the quest for a record-extending ninth consecutive title, and it will be the Kaniva Cobras who have the first opportunity to attempt to inflict the Tigers' first defeat since 2019.

With the Warrack Hoops having the bye this week, they will open their season in the rematch of the 2023 season decider against the Tigers in round two the following weekend.


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