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    Tom Mills tackles Koby Stewart, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Eckel, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Williamson tackles Sam Jenkinson, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Eckel, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Williamson, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jack Walker tackles Brody Griffen, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Mitchel Taylor, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Mitchel Taylor, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Sonny Kettle tackles Mitchel Taylor, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Mills tackles James Sullivan, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Tom Mills tackles Tom Sullivan, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Josh Fowkes and Cody Lindsay, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jake Robinson tackles Jakob Salmi, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jake Robinson tackles Jakob Salmi, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jack Ganley, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jack Ganley, Arar, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Stawell centre Rachel Wood. Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Ararat centre Monique Scott. Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Laney McLoughlan and Lauren Homden. Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Lauren Homden and Laney McLoughlan. Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jemma Clarkson, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Jesse Bligh, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Demi Bligh, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Demi Bligh, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Monique Scott, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Kiara Davis, Ara, and Courtney McIlvride, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Rache Wood, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Laney McLoughlan, Ara, Stawell vs Ararat.
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    Monique Scott and Rachel Wood, Stawell vs Ararat.

PHOTOS: Stawell Warriors off to the perfect start in 2024

By Colin MacGillivray

Stawell Warriors got their Wimmera Football Netball League season off to a perfect start, upsetting reigning premier Ararat on a hot day at North Park.

The Rats lost only once en route to the flag last season, but have already recorded their first blemish of 2024 after the Warriors surprised them 10.17 (77) to 8.15 (63) on Good Friday.

 



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Stawell coach Tom Eckel praised the composure of his team, which raced to a 29-point half-time lead before holding on as Ararat mounted a comeback in trying conditions.

“We were defending the ground pretty well and controlling the footy early in the game, which helped us be a bit calm and composed,” he said.

“If we had kicked straight earlier we might have been able to put the game away, but they’re a good side and they kept coming back at us.

“We handled the pressure pretty well. Towards the end of the game both teams were cramping and it was crazy conditions with the heat.

“But we stayed pretty calm, composed and level-headed across the whole day. When things started getting messy I don’t think anyone panicked. We stuck to our structures and held strong in the end.

“It never felt like the game was done at any stage, to be honest. It was a good game of footy to be part of.”

Among Stawell’s standout performers were ruckman Josh Fowkes, key defenders Jackson Dark and Mitch Taylor, and Eckel himself in the midfield, while Cody Driscoll booted four goals up forward.

Ararat was best served by forward pocket Robert Armstrong, who kicked a pair of goals, along with defenders Baydn Cosgriff, Henry Shea and James Jennings.

Eckel said he encouraged his players to celebrate the win, but keep a level head.

“It was a big day. We want to enjoy it, but it’s a long season and we’re only at the start,” he said.

“We’ve still got heaps to work on and a couple of guys to come back in, so we have to find a balance in the side as well.

“Our line-up might chop and change a little bit to start with, depending on the opposition, so we’ll have to get used to that.”

Eckel said the team’s focus would now turn to next weekend’s game against Horsham Saints at Coughlin Park.

“They’re a bloody tough side to knock off on their home ground, so if we can go up there and manage to win that one it will definitely be a good start for us,” Eckel said.

“They’re obviously a handy side – they made a prelim final and touched us up both times they played us last year, so we’ll see how we go.”

Netball

Stawell’s netballers also made a strong start to the season, dispatching Ararat 59-33 in a dominant showing.

The Warriors made their move in the second quarter, scoring 16 goals to seven to open up a 13-goal half-time margin that was never challenged.

Stawell’s Lisa Considine was best on court as she blanketed Ararat goal attack Jesse Bligh, holding her to 14 goals for the contest.

At the other end of the court, Warriors goal shooter Ebony Summers got the better of defender Bella Westbrook, netting 38 of her 48 goal attempts.

Demi Bligh was Ararat’s best player at goal defence, working to limit the impact of Jemma Clarkson.

The rest of the Wimmera league will see its first action as round one commences next weekend, April 13, with Minyip-Murtoa to host Nhill at Minyip and the newly-formed Southern Mallee Thunder to play their first game against Warrack Eagles in Jeparit.

Ararat will attempt to bounce back from its round one losses against Horsham, while the Warriors travel to take on the Horsham Saints.

The entire April 3, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!