Sport

GVL football | preliminary final | Echuca preview

By Alex Mitchell

A year on from a preliminary final defeat at the hands of Shepparton, Echuca gets a chance not just for some redemption, but to earn a crack at the title.

The Murray Bombers were never in the game in last year's clash, but have improved in leaps and bounds this season and hit Sunday's clash at Deakin Reserve favourites to secure their first trip to a grand final since 2003.

But their focus is not on Kyabram and a potential decider, but rather the reigning premiers and the tough test they present.

“I’d like to think we’ve improved from last year and making a grand final would show that from the outside looking in," Echuca coach Simon Maddox said.

“We haven’t looked any further than Shepparton this weekend though.

“We’re in pretty good health and there’s a good feeling around the place. The challenge for us is to play our best footy at Deakin on Sunday and try to reverse last year’s result."

The Murray Bombers missed star defender Cam Valentine (calf) last weekend, while partner in crime Peter Faulks (shoulder) came from the field, although the latter is expected to play having suffered no structural damage.

“I think Valentine will play, but I thought that last week as well," Maddox said.

"We’ve got a great team of physios and medical staff and we’ll leave it in their hands. We’ll probably know Saturday morning either way, but he trained (on Wednesday night) which is a good indicator."

Other selection gossip includes the potential for talented Bendigo Pioneer youngster Jack Evans to be picked for just his second senior game.

The 17-year-old has kicked nine goals in two weeks in the Murray Bombers' under-18s and Maddox said it was a hot topic at the selection table.

“Jack Evans was very close the first week of finals and he was in the squad last week," he said.

"At the moment he’s that 22nd-23rd man. It’s been strongly debated at the selection table the past couple of weeks and I imagine it will be again, but it’s particularly hard to change a winning side."

Having only lost to Kyabram this season and compiled a 16-2 regular season, while excelling in every department of the field, it is fair to say Echuca's campaign deserves a grand final appearance.

But nothing is handed to you in the Goulburn Valley League and the Murray Bombers know they must reach out and grab what they have been striving so hard to achieve.

“We’re really confident that our best footy is as good as anyone’s, we just have to play it for four quarters," Maddox said.

“We're really looking forward to the opportunity, to get to Deakin on Sunday and have a crack and see what happens."

Key points

At a glance - Shepparton v Echuca