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    Wimmera league started on Good Friday with Stawell collecting four points after a win against last year’s premiers Ararat, the season proper begins this weekend.

Wimmera league returns with close senior competition expected

By Lauren Henry

After 214 days, Wimmera Football Netball League action returns in its entirety on Saturday, with many pundits predicting this season will be one of the tightest in senior football.

Round one will include Minyip-Murtoa hosting Nhill at Minyip; Horsham Saints playing Stawell; Horsham will travel to Ararat; and Southern Mallee Thunder will play Warrack Eagles at Jeparit while Dimboola has the bye.

While technically the Wimmera league started on Good Friday with Stawell collecting four points after a win against last year’s premiers Ararat, the season proper begins this weekend.

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Wimmera Football Netball League president Peter Ballagh congratulated all clubs for working tirelessly during the summer to put as many sides on the field and court as possible.  

Mr Ballagh said all clubs had recruited well to bring new players to the competition – particularly in senior football.

“We’re thinking there’s going to be some really handy clubs or teams miss out on playing finals this year,” he said.

“So if you’re sitting sixth or seventh or eighth, it’s not going to be because you’re no good. It’s just the competition is really, really strong. 

“We’re really excited to watch it unfold throughout the year.”

Ballagh said highlights of the season would be the Anzac Day game between Horsham and Horsham Saints at the city oval on Thursday, April 25.

“We are also partnering to have a mental health round throughout the year, so that’ll be really exciting,” he said.

“We’ll aim for a lot of publicity around that, so that will be a real positive, and that’ll be across both Wimmera and Horsham District leagues, I understand.

“We’re just generally looking forward to the season unfolding and getting started.”

Mr Ballagh said a major change in netball was the introduction of rolling substitute players, who could come onto the court during play, alleviating the need for teams to wait until quarter breaks or injury time.

“It’ll be really exciting to see how clubs use that ability to take players on and off,” he said.

“Some clubs will use that regularly and other clubs may stick to the old quarter time changes. 

“We’re really excited to see how that unfolds. But I think that’s a positive for netball in the league in the area.”

Last year’s A Grade premiership coach Jess Cannane, from Horsham Saints, said it would be interesting to see how coaches across the Wimmera league reacted to the new rolling subs change, how they put it into play, and how quickly teams were able to adjust.

Cannane said she thought it would be a particularly positive change for junior players.

“It gives lots of opportunities for players to play in different positions that perhaps they traditionally may not have been playing for long, and also gives us a really great opportunity to develop our junior players, providing them more access to senior games,” she said.

The Wimmera league also welcomes a new club to the fold this season, with Southern Mallee Thunder born over the pre-season following a merger of Southern Mallee Giants and Jeparit-Rainbow.

Thunder senior football coach Kieran Delahunty said the newly-merged club would play two home games at each of the four towns represented – Beulah, Hopetoun, Jeparit and Rainbow.

“We’ve made a conscious effort to have one major function at each town, so they’ll get to showcase and put their town up for a bit of a spectacle,” he said.

“It will be great to start with playing at Jeparit this weekend.”

The entire April 17, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!