Intrigue surrounded the lead up to round one of the Wimmera Hockey Association's 2021 season, with clubs more focused on getting their own teams on the field than speculating on the off-season recruiting of their opponents.
After a year-and-a-half with no competition games, a day at the hockey looks different this year with two fewer teams than 2019, creating a bye in both the Women's and Under 16 divisions, and playing with only nine players per side on the field, down from the usual eleven.
The feature game of the first round saw reigning premiers Yanac Women take on their last grand final opponent, Dimboola Roos, but its status as a replay of the 2019 grand final was not the focus. There was more interest in the makeup of the teams, with both rumoured to be struggling for players and Dimboola even relying on the services of the Warracknabeal players who no longer had their home club fielding a team.
Yanac made the stronger start on the field, having four goals on the scoresheet by halftime, and although the Roos played with more composure as the game progressed, Yanac still doubled their score by the final whistle
The second Women's game was a much closer contest, with neither Kaniva nor Nhill Thunderbirds having scored by half time. Kaniva scored mid-way through the second half, and although Nhill kept up the pressure with three unsuccessful penalty corners in the next few minutes, they were unable to even the scores.
Kaniva earned three penalty corners in the last two minutes of the game, but strong Thunderbirds' defence prevented them from extending their lead, and the result remained a one-goal victory.
Horsham Jets had the bye and will start their 2021 campaign next week.
The Open division season started with reigning premiers Yanac Tigers meeting the Dimboola Burras, and although they dominated the play, neither team scored in the first half. Two Yanac goals in the first minutes of the second half gave them some breathing space, to which they added another goal before the end of the game.
In the second game, the Kaniva Cobras took the lead three times, but on each occasion the Nhill Rangers fought back to even the score, and by the last whistle the scores remained locked at three goals each.
The day concluded with the Warrack Hoops scoring a two-goal win over the Horsham Hurricanes, which wasn't an accurate indication of the evenness of the game. The first half was very close, with both teams earning several short corners, but neither could convert, and it took until five minutes after the break for the Hoops to score, and they extended their lead with a successful scoring shot towards the end of the game to establish the two-goal winning margin.
In the Under 16 competition, the Nhill Leopards scored a five-goal victory over the Kaniva Raiders, and the Horsham Bombers scored three times whilst holding the Warrack Revengers scoreless.
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