The Wimmera Hockey Association season drew to a close on Saturday with three worthy premiers crowned, but only after three intense grand final games.
The current Yanac Tigers continue to build on their club’s record with a third consecutive Open division title and the Dimboola Roos survived extra time and a penalty stroke shootout to win back to back Women’s premierships.
The Warrack Revengers were playing in their first grand final in six seasons but were able to defeat the defending champions in a close game.
The Kaniva Cobras came agonisingly close to their first premiership on Saturday when they were able to push the vast finals experience of the Yanac Tigers for the entire match only to finish one goal short of the title.
The Tigers were playing in their 12th consecutive grand final and had to call on the experience of all of those games to overcome the enthusiastic Cobras who were playing in their first.
Kaniva made a strong start from the first hit off, but the Tigers soon exerted the dominance that they have shown throughout the season which allowed them to come into the season decider undefeated and mid way through the first half they found the back of the net following a great passage of team play.
Kaniva replied with a scrappy goal six minutes later, but the Tigers had extended their lead to three goals to one by half-time.
Eleven minutes after the break the Cobras narrowed the lead with a converted penalty corner, and this was followed by 20 minutes of intense hockey with both teams earning multiple penalty corners but solid defence prevented any further scoring.
With this win, the Yanac Tigers legend continues to grow, with the team’s 15th premiership from 25 grand finals in the 29 seasons that the competition has been contested.
Luke Shalders of the Cobras was awarded the Life Members Medal for the best player in the game, with team mates Lachlan Clark and Lachie Mills also playing well.
Bradly Alexander, Jamie Harding and Seth Croot were named as the best players for the premiers.
Open Grand Final Result
Yanac Tigers 3 (Goals - S Croot, T Alexander, L Wheaton; Best - B Alexander, J Harding, S Croot) defeated Kaniva Cobras 2 (Goals - L Clark, S Mitchell; Best - L Shalders, L Clark, L Mills)
Life Members’ Medal for Beston the Ground - Luke Shalders (Kaniva Cobras)
After winning the title last year the Dimboola Roos also set the pace this season and went into the last game of the season having won 15 of their 16 games, including two comfortable wins over their grand final opponent.
The Roos approached this final stage of their title defence with the same confident mindset they tackled the entire season, and earned their first penalty corner within three minutes of the start of the game.
The reigning premiers dominated play early with the Yanac Women unable to curtail the Roos’ strong long passing game.
Captain Elizabeth Klinge converted a penalty corner after 10 minutes of play to take the lead for Dimboola, which they maintained through some scrappy play up to the half time break.
A slick passage of play involving Susan Hedt, Mikayla Famers and Louise Bone resulted in a goal to Yanac soon after the re-start which evened the scores and set off an intense period which saw the play swing from one end of the pitch to the other with neither team yielding a score.
A penalty corner awarded to Dimboola in the dying seconds of the game presented them with the opportunity to snatch the game after the final whistle, but the Yanac defenders held strong and prevented any score which forced the game into extra time.
The additional 20 minutes of play saw more of the same intensity with both teams earning a penalty corner each but neither was able to convert and the scores remained deadlocked.
The next process to find a winner involved a series of five penalty strokes by each team.
The scores were still even after the first pair of strokes, with Vicki Smithyman for Dimboola and Shanaye Alexander both scoring.
Yanac took the lead after the next pair when Kelly Smithyman’s attempt was fended off by the goal keeper but Erin Alexander’s was successful.
Jennifer Klinge held her nerve and was able to keep Dimboola in the game with a goal, and when Mikalya Farmers attempt was unsuccessful the scores once again drew level.
A goal to Brooke McMaster put the reigning premiers ahead when goalkeeper Ange Keating blocked Louise Bone’s stroke.
Appropriately it was Roo’s captain, and winner of the Jane Gregson Memorial Medal for the best in the game, Elizabeth Klinge, who sealed the game with a fourth converted stroke. Although it would no longer change the result, Anne Blackwood took the final stroke for Yanac which went wide and left the final scores at a five goals to three victory to the Roos.
Forward Jennifer Klinge and fullback Ellie Woods were also named amongst Dimboola’s best players and Louise Bone, Shanaye Alexander and Kaitlin Miller played well for Yanac.
The Roos have now won back to back premierships and their fifth title in seven seasons and are establishing an enviable record rivalling the Warrack Women of the 2000s.
Women’s Grand Final Result
Dimboola Roos 5 (Goals - E Klinge 2, V Smithyman, J Klinge, B McMaster; Best - E Klinge, J Klinge, E Woods) defeated Yanac Women 3 (Goals - L Bone, S Alexander, E Alexander; Best - L Bone, S Alexander, K Miller) after penalty strokes (1-1 at full time)
Jane Gregson Memorial Medal for Best on Ground - Elizabeth Klinge (Dimboola Roos)
Form during the home and away season suggested that the Under 16 grand final would be one of the closest in recent history, and this proved to be the case.
Both the Warrack Revengers and the Nhill Leopards had spent half the season each on top of the ladder, with the Revengers just edging ahead late in the season and finishing as minor premiers. They then earned direct entry to the grand final with a three goals to one win over the Leopards in the semi final.
The game started at an intense pace right from the start and it was the Revengers who opened the scoring after only five minutes of play when an Oskar Bennett shot dribbled off the goalkeeper’s pads towards Ben Williamson who was able to control the ball and score a goal.
The Leopards fought back hard and mid way through the first half evened the scores from a free hit taken by Blake Miller to Emily Koop who then passed to Jason Reichelt waiting in front of the goals.
Even play highlighted the remaining time in the first half, with the scores even at the break.
The second half continued as the first half finished with both teams attacking strongly and earning short corners, but defiant defenders fended off all attempts to score.
At the twenty minute mark Sandon Schultz played on from a free hit, and after running the ball forward his attempt to pass was deflected off a Leopard’s player but he again gained control of the ball and eliminated a further two defenders before launching a sweetly timed tomahawk hit from the top of the attacking circle to score and put the Revengers ahead.
A third goal resulted from a passage of play started by Heath Johns from a free hit in the mid field to Leah Eilola and Bennett who then passed into open space in front of Lachie Klemm who sweetly hit the ball along the ground, eluding the goalkeeper and scoring.
The game was played out in an intense manner, with both teams creating chances but strong defence prevented any further scores at either end of the field, giving the premiership to the Revengers with a three goals to one final score line.
Schultz was awarded the Peter Colbert Medal as the best player in the game, and his team mates Oskar Bennett and Ben Williamson also catching the eye of the umpires for all the right reasons.
The ever reliable Sharma Delaney was named as the best player for the Leopards, along with Ellie Murden and Reichelt.
After a lean patch since the team’s last premiership in 2011, this win gave the Revengers team its fifth title from nine grand finals since first qualifying to play in a season decider in 1989.
Under 16 Grand Final Result
Warrack Revengers 3 (Goals - S Schultz, B Williamson, L Klemm; Best - S Schultz, O Bennett, H Johns) defeated Nhill Leopards 1 (Goal - J Reichelt; Best - S Delaney, E Murden, J Reichelt)
Peter Colbert Medal for Best on Ground - Sandon Schultz (Warrack Revengers)