|The Yanac Hockey Club’s quest for consecutive triple premierships is back on track after their Open and Women’s teams both won their respective preliminary finals on Saturday to join their Under 16 team in the Wimmera Hockey Association grand finals.
Last season the club became the first to win all three premierships in the one season, and they are primed to attempt to repeat this feat on Warracknabeal’s Anzac Park on Saturday, although there are still three teams determined to deny them this honour.
After suffering their first defeat in three seasons in the semi final, the Yanac Tigers showed some of the form that saw them finish on top of the ladder when they scored a solid victory over the Nhill Rangers in the preliminary final to qualify for a record fourteenth consecutive grand final.
The game started at a quick pace with Nhill earning two early penalty corners, which they were unable to convert, and it was the Tigers who made the most of their opportunities by scoring three goals within the first fifteen minute of play.
To their credit the Rangers did not reduce the pressure and the game went into the half time break with just the three goals.
Yanac’s trademark quick start to the second half yielded another goal despite some disparate defence by the Rangers before a potentially match defining point occurred at the twenty minute mark when Murray Miller, the Rangers’ goalkeeper, suffered a leg injury and was unable to take any further part in the game.
Nhill made the bold move to continue with no goalkeeper, giving them an extra field player and the prospect of more options in attack in an attempt to outscore the Tigers in the remaining fifteen minutes of play.
Despite the obvious disadvantage of a weakened back line, the Rangers continued to attack and even earned several more penalty corners late in the game, but the Tigers defence held firm and denied the Rangers even one goal. At the other end of the field some frantic defence by the Rangers held out the Tigers for the entire time they played without a goalkeeper and they did not concede another goal.
Todd and Nathan Alexander were not only two of the Tigers’ three goal scorers, but were also named as their team’s best players along with Luke Reichenbach, and for the Rangers Sam Bone controlled the midfield and Jason Reichelt the forward line, whilst Lee Marra put in another consistent game in defence.
The Tigers now take some ominous momentum into the grand final next weekend, setting up yet another epic encounter with the Warrack Hoops.
Yanac controlled most of the play right from the start of their preliminary final against Kaniva, but it took until the last minutes of the first half before Erin Alexander put them ahead in the face of some solid defence.
The second half was more to the same, with Yanac controlling the ball, and despite scoring another two goals, both off the stick of Alexander, Kaniva never gave up and kept up the pressure right until the end of the game.
Alexander was named best on the ground, with team mates Natalie Harding, Mikayla Farmers and Carmel Beattie also putting in noteworthy performances.
For Kaniva Lisa Stimson gave their forward line some fire, and Sharon Williams was solid in defence. Others to impress included Jess Wallis and Olivia Williams.
This result sets up a fourth grand final between Yanac and the Dimboola Roos in as many seasons.
The closest of the three preliminary finals was played out between the Kaniva Raiders and Nhill Leopards in the Under 16 competition, with a goal in the first five minutes off the stick of Kaniva captain Max Goodwin proving to be the only difference between the teams.
These teams endured the worst of the wintry conditions for the day, with frequent rain showers and a constant cold wind testing the players.
The ball spent periods at each end of the ground, with first one team and then the other peppering their goals for five minutes only to be repelled before the other team gained control.
That one goal was enough to earn the win for the Raiders who now face the daunting task of taking on the undefeated Yanac Warriors in a battle for the premiership next Saturday.
Goodwin led from the front as best on the ground along with being the sole goal scorer, and gained good support from Skye Braisby and Imogen Williams.
For the Leopards, Kendra Clark put in another solid performance along with team mates Troye McBride and Cory Koop.
Preliminary Final Results
Yanac Tigers 4 (Goals – N Alexander 2, A Magrath, T Alexander; Best – T Alexander, N Alexander, L Reichenbach) defeated Nhill Rangers 0 (Best – S Bone, J Reichelt, L Marra)
Yanac 3 (Goals – E Alexander 3; Best – E Alexander, N Harding, M Farmers, C Beattie) defeated Kaniva 0 (Best – L Stimson, S Williams, J Wallis, O Williams)
Kaniva Raiders 1 (Goal – M Goodwin; Best – M Goodwin, S Braisby, I Williams) defeated Nhill Leopards 0 (K Clark, T McBride, C Koop)