Sport

Demons, beware the Bear

By Alex Mitchell

Deakin Reserve’s co-tenants will go to war tomorrow afternoon in a battle that has the potential to shape the Goulburn Valley League netball season.

High-flying Shepparton United, which has lost just once this season, enters its clash with Shepparton as favourite, but will certainly have to be wary of a dangerous Bears unit whose season is poised to roar into life.

The Bears are back in fifth on the ladder with their 9-4 record, but are just one game back from second place, a finishing position that might only be possible with a win tomorrow.

United won 52-39 when the sides met in round three and will be keen to complete the season double against its fierce rival.

It means all the signs point towards a heated contest, with United coach Tania Orchard saying her side would need to be on its toes.

‘‘Obviously a win would be nice, but we don’t expect it to be easy coming out of the break,’’ she said.

‘‘You’ve got to get your heads switched on quickly and back into game mode after the rest.

‘‘We’re not taking them lightly, that’s for sure, it’s always a tough game and we need to make sure we’re working on our structures right down the court.’’

United has not lost in five games and won comprehensively before the bye, taking care of Tatura by 28 goals.

Orchard, though, said the break had come at the perfect time for her side, with the wear and tear of the season combined with plenty of representative duties requiring a slight freshener.

‘‘We had some really tired bodies leading into the break, with five girls involved in the GVL rep squad and Jessie Barnes and Laura (Cole) playing down in Melbourne,’’ she said.

‘‘Laura is playing (Victorian Netball League) 19-and-under and Jess is switching between division one and the Championship.

‘‘That’s really exciting for Jess and really an appreciation of her skills, but the body does get tired and the rest couldn’t have come at a better time.’’

With five games before finals, United has a six-point gap to second on the ladder, but could have as many as three teams just two points back should it fall to the Bears tomorrow.

Entering the final block of the season, Orchard said it was time to embrace the excitement of the run to finals and find an extra gear.

‘‘We chatted before the break about how important it is to get our heads in the right space before the six-game block,’’ she said.

‘‘All our teams — 15s, 17s, B-res, B and A-grade — have all worked really hard and are in a good spot, but particularly with A-grade, we’ve got a six-point gap.

‘‘That can so easily be taken away, so we’ve got to switch on and focus between now and focus and really step our game up.’’