Sport

Echuca been waiting for the chance to tackle Shepparton

By Tyler Maher

Echuca has been waiting for the chance to tackle Shepparton again this Goulburn Valley League season.

Last time the two outfits met was all the way back in round nine and the Bears put Echuca to the sword by 57 points in a match that was broadcast for all to see.

The Murray Bombers receive their shot at revenge on Sunday in a preliminary final clash at Deakin Reserve and barely more could be on the line.

Sunday’s victor will earn the right to challenge Kyabram’s GVL dynasty, while the vanquished squad will be left to wonder what could have been for another long summer.

Echuca co-coach Andrew Walker admitted the round nine loss to the Bears helped galvanise his troops and set them on their path.

‘‘It was our turning point, we got together as a group after that game and said that’s not the way we want to play or been seen by our supporters and the league,’’ Walker said.

‘‘There were some very honest conversations and that was certainly a turning point.’’

Since falling to the Bears, Echuca has won nine of 11 matches — tasting defeat only at the hands of Kyabram — and has looked every bit the premiership contender.

The Murray Bombers pushed Kyabram last week before falling away, but Walker wants a full four quarters of top-notch football from his charges on Sunday in an attempt to join the club’s under-18 footballers on grand final day.

‘‘They are excited, it’s been a really encouraging year and the boys are starting to understand what finals footy is all about,’’ Walker said.

‘‘They’ve shaken some nerves off in the past couple of weeks, which is good as well.

‘‘Every week we play Ky we’re learning from it and learning about ourselves, so last week was encouraging, but at the end of the day it’s still a loss.

‘‘The thirds have come a long way and are developing something special there, having them at training still has been great because they’re all really fit and help lift the intensity and the feeling at training.’’

Walker, Kane Morris, Noah Wheeler and Nick Sheldon were among Echuca’s best players last week and will be important again, while superstar Simon Buckley could be ready to let loose on Shepparton’s home ground after shrugging off mid-season injury trouble.

‘‘At the end of the day it’s just a piece of grass and we have to go there and play, obviously it’s Shepparton’s home ground, but that’s just another little challenge we have to overcome,’’ Walker said.

‘‘(Buckley’s) starting to come good, anyone coming back from a hamstring mid-season is going to take a little bit to get going again, but he’s done a bit of a mini pre-season and he’s coming good.’’