Super Sunday at Deakin Reserve will have Shepparton try and truly spark its season against an Echuca side that has shown no sign of faltering this campaign.
In a big day for the Bears, the club will celebrate Nick Allan equalling Stephen Ash’s club games record of 309, while premiership co-captain Ash Holland will notch his 150th game.
The classic doubles as a WorkSafe Game of the Round.
The reigning premier will try and make it five wins in a row against the Murray Bombers, a streak that dates back to round 12 in 2016.
The Bears’ most recent two wins against Sunday’s opposition would not have been forgotten quickly; they humbled the upstart Murray Bombers by 57 points on their home deck in round nine, before sealing a spot in the grand final with a 24-point preliminary final triumph.
But coach Sean Harrap expected a dangerous challenge from an Echuca side that has clearly grown in leaps and bounds this season.
‘‘Echuca’s in pretty good form and we’ve had good games with them the last couple of years,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘But they’re a much improved side and will be a big challenge. They’re pretty even, but have exciting youth and we know that helps any team.
‘‘Then you’ve got your veterans like Andrew Walker, Dan Willis, Cam Valentine and a couple of VFL guys, so they’re very versatile and dangerous.’’
While Allan’s milestone has drawn plenty of attention (see page 47), Harrap was keen to pay tribute to Holland’s brilliant career where the big man has earned the reputation as one of the league’s best ruckman.
‘‘Ash is a bit like Nick — loyalty is the main thing, he hasn’t played senior footy anywhere else,’’ Harrap said.
‘‘There’s always been massive expectations on him, probably to do with his size, but he’s going to go down in history at this club as one of the greats, a premiership captain and more than 150 games. He’s a terrific fella and a great family man too.’’
For Echuca, it will be keen to keep its brilliant form rolling, 8-1 in second and two games clear of third, while making a statement after recent results against Shepparton also seems high on the agenda.
‘‘They’re a good outfit, they might not have clicked as well as last season, but there’s a lot of premiership players in that side,’’ Echuca coach Simon Maddox said.
‘‘They’ve got Ash Holland back now and on their day are a really good side, so we’ll need to be at the top of our game.
‘‘For us, it’s about maintaining our intensity for 120 minutes, but also being able to absorb pressure when an opposition comes at us.
‘‘There were a couple of patches (of last week’s 43-point win against Euroa) where they got on a run, and had 10 to 15 minutes on their terms.’’
Ben Davies seems poised to return for the Bears in place of overseas Jonty Wardle, while Tim Allan, Darby Henderson, Corey Gregg and Mitch Kemp are all set to play for Echuca.