The Wimmera Hockey Association has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of their 2021 season, with no finals to be played.
With the current ban on playing community sport likely to remain in place at least until the end of this month and no guarantee it will be lifted at that time, further games could not be planned with any certainty.
It was not considered feasible to extend the season into October, with the risk of clashing with the start of summer sports, should they be able to go ahead and players not having had a competitive hit-out since mid-August. The decision to conclude at this point was thought to be the most viable option.
With ten of the scheduled fifteen rounds completed, it was deemed that enough of the season had been completed to declare premiers. The decision was also made to present all of the individual awards for 2021, including the Best and Fairest, leading goal scorers, goalkeepers, and umpires and the Association encouragement awards.
The winners of these will be announced at a presentation event before the 2022 season when it is hoped that more people can attend than is possible now.
The 2021 premierships will be awarded to the teams that finished on top of the ladders, which sees the Yanac club earn all three titles for the third straight season. The Tigers in the Open, the Yanac team in the Women's and Warriors in the Under 16 competitions all finished undefeated on their respective ladders.
Although it appears that these teams dominated, each division also had a worthy challenger, and it is unfortunate that the circumstances have robbed the competition of what would have been three showpiece grand finals.
In the Open division, the Yanac Tigers won all ten of their games, and this premiership extends their current streak to six titles in a row, equaling the Wimmera Hockey Association record set by Warrack Women between 1991 and 1996.
The second-placed Warrack Hoops only lost one game this year, to the Tigers and finished with five wins and three draws from their remaining eight games. While they were twelve points behind the Tigers, they were ten ahead of the third-placed team on the ladder.
This would have been their eleventh grand final together in the last sixteen seasons. They always put on an entertaining display of hockey and with the form both sides were showing, this would have been no exception.
Yanac earned their third title in a row in the Women's competition and fifth in seven seasons after winning all of their nine games, but in their best season ever, the Kaniva Women finished second with four wins from seven games.
Kaniva's record was even better than it appears as they maintained their form throughout a disrupted season that saw them only play six games because of the way the season panned out. They had three byes and missed one game when an opponent forfeited.
After all of their hard work to qualify, it is unfortunate that they will not enjoy their first-ever grand final this year, but they showed enough to suggest they will be serious contenders again next season.
The Yanac Warriors also enjoyed an undefeated season in the Under 16 Competition and although they finished well ahead of the Horsham Bombers on the ladder, the top two teams were much closer on the field. In their most recent encounter, a converted penalty corner after the final whistle was the only difference between them.
Yanac has been a regular in grand finals, with fourteen appearances in the last twenty years, but this was the highest finish by a Horsham Under 16 team since 2000.
Although this was not the perfect way to end a challenging season, credit must go to the volunteers from the clubs and the Association officials who persevered to keep the competition going as long as they could, particularly for the benefit of those younger participants in the Under 16 competition and Under 12 Development Program.
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