KYABRAM is one game away from its third successive Goulburn Valley League grand final appearance — but not before some anxious moments in winning its qualifying final against Shepparton at Mooroopna on Saturday night.
The first ever final played under lights in the league resulted in a 28-point win — their 40th in succession — for the Bombers but there were periods when they were outplayed by the Bears in front of a bumper crowd.
In two periods in the game — in the second and last quarters — Shepparton kicked four unanswered goals which no doubt will be observed with some hope by the remaining finalists that this flag fight is not the one team race that it may appear to be.
Even after Kyabram’s six goals to one match-winning third term to take a 39-point buffer into the final stanza, Shepparton was still good enough to get itself back into a position where it could have pinched the game.
The Bombers at times were undisciplined which proved costly on the scoreboard and this is one area where the Bombers need to remain focused to maximise their inputs.
The Bears had players in Nik Rokahr, David Stretton, Luke Smith, Matt Bret and Jonte Wardell who had the Bombers really stretching at times.
But the two smallest Kyabram players on the ground were the major reason why the Bombers prevailed yet again.
Livewire small forward Kyle Mueller’s breakout season continued with a stunning seven goal haul including the first three goals of the game.
He also missed a couple of shots on goal and unselfishly handed off another to Kayne Pettifer.
Mueller picked up 15 possessions and seven marks inside the 50 metres arc as he led opponents on a merry dance with his sublime football skills.
The other inspiration was big-hearted rover Liam Ogden who was busy all night and kicked the last two goals of the game to seal the Bears’ fate when they were coming hard at the Bombers in the last quarter.
Kyabram also got top games from ruckman Jake Reeve and defenders Liam Barrett and Sam Sheldon. Barrett kept Shepparton potential goalkicking matchwinner James Wong goalless and Sheldon was superb off of back flank.
Lochie Smith after a quiet first half also stood up again when needed while Rhys Clark, who played on a wing, Aaron Hayes, Brad Mangan, Tom Holman, Axel Childs, Brad Edwards and Brad Whitford all did some good work at times.
The Bombers played without key prime mover Jordan Williams and for a greater part of the game Luke Morris was on the sidelines with a foot injury.
Williams will be back for this weekend’s second semi-final against Seymour at Rochester on Saturday but Morris might have to prove his fitness and may not be risked this weekend.
My best for Kyabram were: Kyle Mueller, Liam Ogden, Jake Reeves Sam Sheldon, Liam Barrett, Rhys Clark, Lochie Smith.
■ KYABRAM reserves will also be playing for a grand final spot this Saturday at Rochester after downing reigning premier Mansfield in Sunday’s elimination final at Benalla.
Senior Kyabram coach Paul Newman took his place in the Kyabram side and kicked three vital goals and handed off a couple of others in the Bombers’ 19-point win.
For the first time for the season Kyabram was close to fielding a full strength side which included Newman and Josh Pell from last season’s senior premiership side and other senior players in Lochie Dillon, Zac Norris and Adam Lovison.
Kyabram coach Mark Dillon was pleased to get the win which secures a double chance and puts his side into the second semi-final against Euroa.
‘‘We were undisciplined at times but we got what we wanted at the finish. We led all day but we did let them back in the third quarter when we lost the plot a bit,’’ Dillon said after the win.
Dillon said captain Tom Curnow on the wing as a dominant player and Lockie Dillon was great in defence along with Adam Lovison and Sam Vick.
He said that Adam Lovison also was able to hold Mansfield potential matchwinning full forward Ben Vogelzang goalless.
While Curnow was outstanding on his wing so was Michael Pryde on the other wing while Brad Anderson in the middle completed a winning centreline which provided the constant chances to the team’s forwards to kick a winning score.
Ruckman Zac Norris was also very good again and was in control of the airwaves.
Only casualty for the Bombers out of the game was strong utility Steve Drake with a suspected break in the hand.
■ KYABRAM thirds were on the end of their second loss to Shepparton United in the space of a week in Saturday’s qualifying final at Mooroopna.
The young Bombers didn’t take their chances, particularly early in the last quarter when they could have put their rivals behind the point of no return.
Reigning premier United is a not a team you can give any latitude to and the Bombers paid dearly with a 14-point loss.
Kyabram now meet Shepparton in a first semi-final showdown with no second chances this time.
The Bombers played the greater portion of the game without skipper Tom Schumann who dislocated a knee in the first term in what is a season ending injury.
Both teams took it in turns to dominate in the game but the Bombers were always in the contest.
Onballer Coby McCarthy, back in the team after missing the previous week, with help from Cade Mueller was able to eliminate the dominance from the stoppages United had enjoyed the previous week.
Ruckmen Matt Price and Ben Napier dominated the hit-outs but Kyabram didn’t always capitalise on their efforts.
McCarthy finished with two goals as did Madden Genio who was particularly lively in the second term.
Curtis Ryan was Kyabram’s best go-to forward while Will McDonald with three goals put scoreboard pressure on United.
The Kyabram defence was led by Nic Darling while its best prime mover apart from McCarthy were onballers Mal Hedges and Billy McLay who both gave their best and got a lot of the ball.
The young Bombers aren’t out of this flag fight but need to take their chances in pressure situations if they are to bounce back.
They now have to beat Shepparton this weekend to progress to the preliminary final with every game from now on cut-throat.