Sport

GVL football | preliminary final | Shepparton preview

By Alex Mitchell

Shepparton is sweating on the fitness of a handful of stars ahead of Sunday's Goulburn Valley League preliminary final against Echuca.

The Bears, who were crucified by injuries in last week's heavy loss to Kyabram with Anthony Andronaco, Ted Lindon, Rhys O'Sullivan, Cam Wild and Liam Duguid among those missing, will train tonight with many facing a last-ditch test to prove their fitness.

Bears coach Troy King expected O'Sullivan, Lindon, Andronaco and Xavier Stevenson — all 2018 premiership players — to return to the side, with the fitness of Tom Thorsen and Duguid to be assessed.

But whatever team Shepparton can put on the park, King is backing it in to take it right up to one of the league's best teams and fight for the right for a trilogy grand final against Kyabram.

"We had a few late changes for the Kyabram clash, so being a Sunday game we've got our main session on Friday night and we hope to have a few back," King said.

"We'll go from there and whatever team we get up we back in to get the job done.

"In the first half our pressure was good, we really went after it and took the game on. With the younger guys in it's just about trying to maintain it for four quarters which is always a challenge.

"We took more positives than negatives from it."

The Bears were beaten by 16 points when they faced the Murray Bombers in round 10 in Deakin Reserve's driving rain — but with glorious sun and 23 degrees on tap for Sunday, it is sure to be a different ball game.

"They've got the three key forwards, a good strong midfield, their backline is very flexible with talls and smalls," King said.

"They've got some wirey defenders, (Andrew) Walker is having a great year, their midfield is strong and their ruckman (Kane) Morris is going really well.

"We rate them really highly and it should be a cracking game, we really respect them as a club and as a team."

With the injection of talent a massive plus, the Bears will look straight back to Nick Allan, Mitch Brett and Rowan Hiscock to lead the way against the Murray Bombers, while they will need a big forward line lift from Tom Boyd and Joel Brett to try and kick a winning score.

Desperate for a chance to defend its premiership in yet another grand final against Kyabram, King said the opportunity was within his players' grasp.

"With our group, it's a great group of young men, there's a few older boys too and it's a good mix," he said.

"Everyone knows these opportunities don't come around often, we don't worry about the fact we've been up there the last couple of years, we remember what it was like when we were down the bottom and don't take this for granted."

Key points

At a glance - Shepparton v Echuca