Time to honour the region’s sporting talent in all fields

By Riverine Herald

THE 2018 Sportstar of the Year awards finalists have been announced, and the Echuca Football and Netball Club have been rewarded for a dominant return to form with five nominations across three categories.

The awards for Spirit of Sport, Coach of the Year and Team of the Year are nominated throughout the season by the public and the Riv sports department, and recognise local excellence in the sporting world.

Coach of the Year

Mick McInnes, the winner of the 2017 award, McInnes has again been rewarded for a strong 2018.

The Echuca Women’s Football Club finished 2018 in third place on the Northern Country Women’s League ladder in their second season, advancing to a preliminary final, where the club lost by four points to eventual premiers Shepparton.

As well as taking his side to the finals, McInnes was acknowledged for his coach of the year award in 2017 by being named the inaugural coach of the NCWL’s interleague side — adding another string to the ever growing McInnes bow.

Gina Pearson has possibly played the biggest role in the turnaround of the Echuca Netball Club.

Leading the entire netball program, as well as coaching both the under 17s side and the A grade side, Pearson’ s desire to build a club culture led to all but one netball team making GVL grand finals.

Pearson trains the members of all five sides together weekly, creating the environment that all players are members of one group, rather than divided by different levels of netball.

Echuca left the GVL grand final day with two premierships, U17s and A grade, the sides Pearson coaches.

The A grade side went into the grand final as underdogs before upsetting an undefeated Shepparton side.

Leo Tenace was not only successful in one sport as a coach, he did it in two sports.

Tenace coached Echuca’s U18 football side to the top of the ladder in the competition, losing just three games for the season.

The club went through the finals undefeated, knocking off Shepparton United by 18 points to claim the sole Echuca Football Club premiership of the season.

But his greatest coaching achievement has come on the hardwood.

Leading an Echuca Pirates side used to being anchored to the bottom part of the CBL ladder, Tenace has led a resurgence that has seen an almost inconceivable record of 8-2 in 2018.

The side won just two games in the previous season, and at the end of the home and away season were 9-3 and headed to their first finals series in living memory.

Team of the Year

Echuca Football Netball Club was a phoenix rising in 2018.

With new football coaches in Simon Maddox and the returning Andrew Walker, a high powered netball program under Gina Pearson, and a new culture fostered by president Ash Byrne, Echuca were ready to make an impact.

And they did exactly that.

The club saw all eight of their teams in the GVL finals for the first time in nearly 20 years, with five teams making grand finals and claiming three premierships.

In their year of success, Echuca edged out the Shepparton Bears to be named the GVL’s champion club for 2018.

Echuca United Football Netball Club produced a dominant season for 2018.

Not that it’s much of a change for the club.

It’s only the third year in a row of being ahead of everyone else in the MFNL.

United were named the MFNL’s club of the year for the third year running, with Tanner Edwards named rookie of the year in A grade netball to add another achievement to the club’s tally.

All netball sides made finals, while only one of the football sides didn’t feature in September action.