Sport

Bombers take on Bears in preliminary final.

By Andrew Johnston

IT'S déjà vu all over again for the Echuca Murray Bombers.

This time 12 months ago, the men in bottle green were entering a preliminary final at Deakin Reserve against the Shepparton Bears, looking to earn a shot at an undefeated Kyabram Bombers on the last day of the Goulburn Valley League season.

Now, nearly a year to the date later, Echuca is back on the ground where their season ended in 2018, against the same opponent.

"There's a bit of redemption on the line for us," Echuca co-coach Andrew Walker said about Sunday's final.

"We understand our history - 12 months ago in a prelim final they beat us, so it's in the back of our minds, possibly as the extra bit of motivation. But we have faith in the way we go about things.

"I think from year-to-year a lot has changed for this football club. We are a bit more mature in year two of the program, we've reshaped a lot of things off-field and we have made a lot of improvements on it and we feel like we are in a great position this year to give things a real shake up."

For the Murray Bombers, the focus of consistency week-to-week has driven them to the prelim final clash.

"We focus on every week being the same sort of output from the group," he said.

"We speak as a coaching and playing group every week about it, we review our games to see if that output is as good as the week before and we are trying to hold ourselves to a really even level across the year.

"We feel we have been a lot better for that this season, we've worked really hard to play sustainable footy week in and week out."

Despite Echuca losing just two matches across 2019, Walker said the pressure of finals meant games would be a lot closer.

"Finals are naturally pretty close games," he said.

"Both sides have everything to lose. You just need to look at last week - Rochy came out all guns blazing, they adapted to the weather better and played a great game. It was important to respond, and we were able to respond and get the game won."

This week's match will likely see a return to the bottle green of key defender Cam Valentine.

The 25-year-old has missed the past three matches with a minor calf strain, with Walker saying the clubs willingness to rest their star showing a major growth in maturity.

"There was a time even last year where we would have played Cam," he said.

"We probably had a mindset where if Ruory (Kirkby) or (former Echuca co-captain and Morrison medallist) Simon Buckley or Cam missed the game then we were in trouble. That isn't the case now. We know the quality of our players, we have full faith in them and what they are able to bring to the table in a game.

"We lose a guy like Cam now, the next soldier stands up and takes his place, and we have absolute confidence they can. So while Cam played with the injury last year, this year we gave him the time to recover and we can bring him back at 100 per cent."

Sunday's preliminary final will be live streamed on riverineherald.com.au, with action starting at 1.30 Sunday afternoon.