ECHUCA’S brutal three-week stretch of games concludes this weekend when the Murray Bombers battle Benalla at Victoria Park in a vital game in the race for Goulburn Valley League finals.
The Saints, 8-4, sit fourth on the ladder and have been quality throughout 2017, but have missed a host of stars in recent weeks including gun goalkicker Jarrod Bannister who has kicked 34 goals in six games.
Confidence shouldn’t be a problem for the Murray Bombers this week having upset Euroa away from home last weekend.
But the team’s focus will need to quickly shift to the Saints, with both teams in the race for the top six.
And coach Andrew Briggs said the side had put the Euroa win firmly into the past.
‘‘The previous week straight after the Kyabram game, it felt like we moved on straight away to the next game, and I felt that same mindset at training this week,’’ he said.
‘‘There’s a real focus on what we want to achieve this season, so we’re staying with that old ‘one week at a time’ approach at the moment.’’
With Rochester’s loss to Seymour last round, the Murray Bombers have drawn level on seven wins for the season, and with a more favourable draw in the run to finals have every opportunity of moving ahead of the Tigers.
The Saints took the points when the sides met in round two, capitalising on a string of Echuca turnovers to record a 27-point win.
‘‘We’re looking for more pressure than the last time we played them; pressure seems to be a feature of our game when we win,’’ Briggs said.
He added shutting down the dangerous Saints’ midfield would be crucial in winning, particularly curbing the influence of brothers Sam and James Martyn and playing coach Luke Morgan.
The Murray Bombers relied on youngsters against the Magpies in the absence of Liam Wilkinson, Sam Toulmin, Cam Valentine and Daniel Willis, and will welcome Wilkinson and Toulmin back to the line-up for Benalla.
Tim Allan will miss with a minor hamstring injury not expected to keep him out for more than a match or two.
Benalla has its own injury problems, having missed the midfield quality of Sam Martyn, Zac Pallpratt and James Martiniello as well as Bannister in last weekend’s 28-point win against Mooroopna.
The Murray Bombers have won five of their last six games, and should they get through Benalla could drag that winning stretch out even further with lower-ranked Mooroopna and Shepparton Swans to come in the next two games.
■ ECHUCA’S A grade netballers will be looking for an improved performance when they take on Benalla at home on Saturday.
Beaten by Euroa 38-51 last weekend in what was a blow to their finals chances, the Murray Bombers are still firmly in the mix in a congested Goulburn Valley League netball ladder.
The Bombers are eighth with a 6-6 record, but are within reach of as high as third with the Shepparton Swans just 7-4 with one draw.
Last week’s performance was disappointing with the team’s strong defensive pressure being spoilt by turnovers costing an opportunity to cut into Euroa’s lead.
And the Benalla game will be another difficult one, the Saints having won the round two meeting between the sides by three goals.
Benalla is 7-4 with one draw this season to sit fourth on the ladder, and enters the game on a high after a hard-fought 31-29 win against Mooroopna last weekend.