The competition is chasing Shepparton in the quest for this year’s Goulburn Valley Netball League title. Tracey Brereton’s Bears are frontrunners to claim their first premiership in the competition and Shepparton News sports editor Lauren Bordin takes a look at the finals challengers that could topple them.
Prediction: The premiership is Shepparton’s to lose. The Bears have come so close in recent years with preliminary finals an Achilles heel.
Shepparton has been successful in just one preliminary final out of six in the past decade, progressing to lose to Shepparton Swans in the 2013 decider.
But this year could be the breakthrough year, barring any calamities similar to the injury Kim Commane suffered in last year’s penultimate match of the season.
Commane is red-hot favourite to take home the Wellman Family Medal and with Laura Ryan and Morgan Gibson the young stars of the competition, the talent is all at Deakin Reserve.
Prediction: Echuca, Shepparton Swans and Shepparton are the next trio of teams that confront Seymour and will give a true indication of what the Lions can do.
Out of that group Laura Carland’s side beat all bar the Bears earlier in the year and with Sarah Szczykulski and Elle McDonald back at Kings Park this season, Seymour could return to its glory days of 2015.
Ellie O’Sullivan and Meg Grbac complement the side at either ends of the court.
Prediction: The Demons rely heavily on teenage stars Olivia Kirby, Laura Cole and Elle Brooks, with the trio often in the side’s best. But all three helped the side into last year’s grand final, while captain Kirsty Hommes and determined goal attack Jessie Barnes-Hill add the needed maturity.
Given United nearly upset all-conquering Kyabram in last year’s semi-final, anything is possible for the Demons.
Prediction: The Murray Bombers is one of the only sides that can match Shepparton for force in attack. Erin Hill continues to run the midcourt and feed superbly and the combination should lead Echuca into a preliminary final at a minimum.
Prediction: With no Shinea Sali, Olivia Mason or Kate Jeffery returning this season, some big shoes had to be filled. But Jana Bruinier’s recruits have held their own with Sophie Atkinson’s return to the league the most notable as the Swans look to progress past their semi-final exit last year.
Prediction: The Cats started the year in a blaze of glory, but have not been able to match it with the best in the competition. A favourable run to the finals includes three of the bottom four sides, allowing them to keep their spot in the six.
Prediction: Battling to make the top six, a finals appearance would be a sensational effort. But at two games out and with a difficult run home, the Bulldogs will likely have to wait for next year to break their finals drought.