Lions, Tigers roar to top of ladder

LAST year’s Great Southern Football League grand finalists are looking like the front runners again in 2020 as Railways and Royals secured important wins over the weekend to charge ahead of the pack.

Railways moved two games clear in second place with a hard-fought 14-point win over Denmark-Walpole, while Royals remain undefeated on top of the ladder after a nine-point victory against North Albany.

At the halfway point of the season, the remaining two finals spots are still up for grabs, with Mount Barker, Denmark-Walpole and North Albany all on two wins a piece.

Albany Sharks remain rooted to the bottom of the table without a win this season.

Saturday’s clash between Railways and Denmark-Walpole was played in incredibly blustery conditions and scoring was extremely hard to come by early on.

The Magpies kicked with a strong breeze in the first term but couldn’t take advantage, with neither team able to notch up a major by quarter time.

Strangely enough the Magpies looked more potent going against the wind in the second term and booted the first two goals of the match.

An inaccurate Railway scored nine behinds before finding their radar in front of the big sticks, with small forward Jack Steele nailing a set shot midway through the second term.

At half-time scores were level, with Tigers full forward and GSFL leading goal scorer Matt Palfrey well held by Denmark-Walpole’s Coen Marwick.

While Palfrey didn’t take as many high flying marks as we’ve grown accustomed to in 2020, his forward pressure led to some crucial goals in the third term as the game opened up.

Both teams added four goals in the premiership quarter, with high-prized Denmark-Walpole recruit Ashley McGrath starting to hit the scoreboard in an ominous sign for the Tigers.

But in the end Railways were too strong around the ball when it mattered, kicking three goals in the last term to run out 8.16 (64) to 7.8 (50) winners.

Hard-nosed midfielder Jayden Scott continued his impressive run of form for the Tigers, while Shayne Zanetti was consistent all day in the ruck for the Magpies.

Sunday’s game between Royals and North Albany was another hard-fought contest, with the Lions coming from behind at quarter time to record a nine-point victory at Centennial Stadium.

North Albany made the most of their chances in the first half as Addison Dew and Talon Delacey got to work in the engine room, kicking 4.0 (24) to the Royals’ 4.6 (30).

But the Lion’s found their radar and showed their class in the third term, booting 4.1 to North Albany’s 3.3.

When the Kangas kicked the first goal of a tense final term it looked like a major upset could be on the cards, but the home side held on for a 9.12 (66) to 9.3 (57) win.

Albany Sharks showed signs of improvement in the first half of their Saturday match against Mt Barker, trailing by three goals at half-time.

However the Sharks couldn’t sustain their effort for four quarters as Mt Barker booted a whopping 11 majors in the final term to run out 92-point winners.

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North undefeated after four rounds

MANYPEAKS sent a message to the rest of the Lower Great Southern Hockey Association with a dominant 4-0 win over Vikings in the Women’s A-grade competition on Saturday night.

The reigning premiers have had an inconsistent start to their premiership defence after losing two of their first three games this season, but were back to their best on the weekend as they welcomed back some much-needed star power.

Alice Lydiate was on fire in her return for Manypeaks in a best-on-ground performance, while Emma Pyle continued her rich vein of form in 2020.

Both were a constant force in the midfield for Peaks as they denied an undermanned Vikings any meaningful possession of the ball.

Vikings put out one of their most youthful teams in recent years, with the likes of Courtney Robinson and Georgie Powis unavailable for the Round 4 clash.

Charlotte Edwards scored Manypeaks’ first goal in the opening quarter through a short corner and they didn’t look back.

Edwards finished with two for the match, while Emma Wilson and Emma Pyle rounded off an impressive attacking display.

Manypeaks goalkeeper Marisa Edwards said Pyle was brilliant at centre half.

“She’s probably the most underrated player in the association,” Edwards said.

“She does her job without anyone noticing.

“Having Alice Lydiate made a huge difference. She didn’t slow down.”

After a slow start to the season, Edwards said Manypeaks would welcome back many of their senior players in the coming weeks.

Edwards said ex-Hockeyroo striker Kathryn Slattery was likely to play in their Round 5 clash against North Albany.

The Saturday night contest shapes as an absolute corker, with North Albany also in impressive form, sitting on top of the ladder after their 4-2 win over Mount Barker on the weekend.

Beck Gallimore, Cate McDonald and Tara Cunningham starred for North Albany, while Laura Archer and Ashlyn Gardner worked hard all match for Barker.

In the Men’s A Grade, North Albany remains undefeated in 2020 after securing a 5-3 win over Mount Barker.

Edwin McQuade scored a superb hat-trick for North Albany, while Tim Shepherd snagged two for Barker.

Spencer Park are now two games clear in second position on the ladder, with Mitch Dolan scoring the only goal of the match in their 1-0 win over Manypeaks.

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Short season for hockey

AFTER a close consultation process with players and clubs, the Lower Great Southern Hockey Association (LGSHA) has finalised its 2020 fixture and will kick off the season this weekend.

In the Women’s A, North Albany face off against Mount Barker at Albany Hockey Turf on Friday night at 8pm, while Vikings will battle it out with Manypeaks on Saturday at 4.30pm.

In the Men’s A, North Albany host Mount Barker at the Albany Hockey Turf on Friday night at 6.30pm, followed by a clash between Manypeaks and Spencer Park on Saturday at 6pm.

Usually LGSHA would run as many as 14 rounds in a season, but they’ve only been able to squeeze nine-rounds of fixtures, plus finals into a condensed competition post COVID-19.

LGSHA President Alex Bott said he is happy with the final outcome given a number of complications.

“We got feedback from players on the timing and how they wanted it to work,” he said.

“It has been a good exercise in consultation in getting a season off the ground in different circumstances this year.”

With a smaller contingent of registered players than normal, Mr Bott said the Association will be more relaxed on allowing players to jump between divisions as fill-ins.

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Netball returns to small crowds

AFTER a long and winding road back to competitive play, the Albany Netball Association (ANA) will kick off its 2020 season this weekend with a jam-packed Saturday of fixtures.

In A1, the ANA’s top-shelf competition, Kangas take on Grammar at 2.30pm on Saturday, followed by a clash between Narrikup and Railways at 4pm.

A rematch of last year’s A1 Grand Final between Magpies and Royals has been postponed to Wednesday night.

With WA’s Phase 5 COVID-19 restrictions getting pushed back by two weeks, each team will only be allowed 12 spectators inside ALAC.

Visiting spectators can only enter the centre 20 minutes before the game and have to vacate 10 minutes after the game to maintain crowd limits, according to ANA President Trish Hines.

“We thought we had it right with starting this weekend but it’s unfortunate that Phase 5 has been pushed out by two weeks,” Ms Hines said.

“It’s usually a big day that first day, but we will just do the best we can in the next couple of weeks.”

Ms Hines said the association would likely make a financial loss this year, but was willing to cop it so players could get back on the court.

“All the clubs have been really positive about getting the season underway,” she said.

“Everyone has bent over backwards. We have had to restructure things a little bit.”

To fit the maximum number of games into the 2020 season, the ANA voted to hold a six-team A1 competition which meant Bullets were the unlucky club to miss out.

“They haven’t played for five years and it was really disappointing for them, they were really keen to get back,” Ms Hines said.

“It came down to a close call between Grammar and Bullets. They will be here next year.”

In what shapes a year of unknowns, last year’s A1 grand final teams have both lost a host of players in the off-season.

Royals Saints premiership player Narelle Humphries, who was adjudged best on field in the 2019 decider, said every game was now more important in a shortened fixture.

“We’ve lost a few players this season and gained a few,” she said

“It’s going to be an unpredictable season. But we are all pretty excited to play and just thankful we can get on the court.

“We all just missed playing with each other.”

Looking ahead to their highly-anticipated Round 1 clash against Royals, star Magpies shooter Brittany Finigan said her team relished the match-up.

“It’s always a close battle between our two teams,” she said.

“We won the previous year and Royals took it out last year. We love playing them, so we will just have to see what the season brings.

“Railways really brought it last year. It will be very interesting to see what happens and which teams have been affected by COVID. It could make for a very interesting season.”

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Colts carnival all about fun

THE smell of a sausage sizzle, the sound of a big bump, crowds yelling ‘ball’.

Grassroots footy made its long-awaited return to the Great Southern on Sunday with the next generation of sporting stars getting a pre-season run through in the inaugural Colts Super Round.

On a perfect day for football, players and coaches got to fine tune their skills in a round robin event ahead of this year’s Great Southern Football League (GSFL) Colts competition.

The day’s sporting action was about more than kicks and handballs, however.

Sponsored by headspace Albany, the Super Round raised awareness for the mental wellbeing of young men, with each player donning green headspace socks in recognition.

Headspace Albany Manager Andrew Wenzel said GSFL clubs had approached his organisation last year worried about the mental health of their young players.

“We thought we needed to do things a bit differently with young men and rather than expect young men to come to us, actually get out there and engage with them,” he said.

Mr Wenzel said being part of a community sport was important for your mental health.

“Playing footy is really good for dealing with stress,” he said.

“Team-based sports are fantastic for that.”

This was an afternoon to enjoy football at its purest. There was no trophy to fight over or best players awarded medals – games weren’t even scored.

Instead the best ‘team player’ from each club was handed a green headspace jumper at the end of the day.

Railways’ Toby Brown, North Albany’s Heath Spinks, Mt Barker’s Kyle Smith, Royals’ Tyreice Brown and Albany’s Jackson Cosh were all recognised for their performances.

GSFL Director Brett Turpin said it was purely about getting the kids running around and playing and interacting with each other.

“We are all out here having fun and that’s how it should be. We didn’t play for sheep stations,” he said.

Mr Turpin said the round robin event was a roaring success, with the GSFL aiming to make the Super Round a regular fixture each year.

“We would like to bring it under lights in March and get the 16s involved while the weather is still nice,” he said.

The 2020 GSFL Colts competition kicked off last night at Collingwood Park, with North Albany hosting Railways.

Mr Turpin said it remained unclear whether Denmark-Walpole would be able to field a colts team this year, with a limited number of players to pick from.

“Hopefully we can get more kids out of Denmark and get six sides, but if not some of the Denmark 16s players might be playing in the Colts side,” he said.

Considering where COVID-19 restrictions were a month ago, Mr Turpin said he was just pleased the 2020 season would go ahead.

“It’s a good thing for the community,” he said.

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No blues for Carlton’s McGovern

ALBANY product and Carlton forward Mitch McGovern is starting to find some long-awaited form in the AFL, kicking two goals in his side’s nail-biting one-point win over Essendon on Saturday night.

It’s the second week in a row McGovern has booted multiple goals in a Blues victory, with the former North Albany junior kicking two majors in Carlton’s Round 3 victory over Geelong.

After a slow start to the season, McGovern is now enjoying an extended run of form without injury for the first time in years.

The same can’t be said for Mitch’s brother and West Coast Eagles premiership hero Jeremy McGovern, who was unable to get up for West Coast’s 48-point loss to Port Adelaide after he sustained an ankle injury playing a reserves game.

The Eagles will have their fingers crossed McGovern returns to the fold this week against Sydney on Saturday afternoon at Metricon Stadium, with the 2018 premiers desperate for a win after losing their first three games in the Queensland hub by a combined total of 122 points.

Outside the McGovern family, former Railways junior Jordan Clark can’t buy a game at the moment, with the young gun struggling to fight his way back into a star-studded midfield.

Geelong’s game against Melbourne on Sunday drew fierce criticism from the AFL community for its boring play and lack of scoring in perfect footy conditions.

Albany’s Marley Williams was also part of a Sunday AFL showing labelled dull.

Williams, who played for the second time in 2020 after being suspended in rounds 2 and 3, gathered 13 disposals in his side’s four-point loss to the Hawks.

While the game was close in the final minutes, Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson declared it “a terrible spectacle”.

Despite an impressive debut game against Richmond in Round 1, Collingwood’s Darcy Cameron played in the reserves on the weekend after being replaced by big Texan Mason Cox.

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Vikings onboard for Magpies clash

FEATHERS will fly this Saturday when the Albany Vikings Masters Football Club clash with the Busselton Magpies at Collingwood Park.

This will be the Vikings’ first game of the year but veteran club members have been in intense training since the first easing of restrictions.

President Sean ‘Goose’ Maguire was wildly confident going into the game as he eased into a few refreshments following another gut-busting training session.

“I’ve never seen the lads so fit, so sharp and willing to put it all on the line,” he said.

“There’s Michael ‘Fatty’ Cramer looking trim, Scott ‘Tumbles’ Donegan is keeping his feet and Robert ‘Blue’ Field is red-hot.”

Maguire, who is in career-best form being dominate in front of goals and staunch in defence in practice games, said his only concern for the Vikings was scoreboard pressure.

This is due to the wayward kicking of full-forward Dion ‘Wigga’ Marwick missing his past 15 shots, with Maguire anticipating a move back to defence for the erratic spearhead.

The game commences at 3.30pm and following the clash, the participants will go upstairs to Valhalla to celebrate the occasion with the Magpies players all staying in Albany the night.

Maguire said this was a financial boom for Albany as when the opposition veteran teams stayed in the city, they were very generous in opening their wallets.

The Vikings then take on the Leschenault Crabs on Saturday, July 18, at Collingwood Park followed by the Collie Fossils in Collie on August 2.

There are also two carnivals held in September, a country carnival in Perth featuring teams as far afield as Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, and one in Busselton featuring teams south of Perth.

The Vikings were the 2017 AFL WA Masters Cub of the Year.

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Fingers crossed for comeback

THE Great Southern Football League (GSFL) has revealed its pathway back to competitive footy this year, announcing the 2020 season will start on June 28 if all the right pieces fall into place.

GSFL directors and club presidents met last week to determine a tentative start to the 2020 season, despite it remaining unclear when the State Government or Western Australian Football Commission (WAFC) will allow teams to compete on the field.

Under the WA Government’s current Phase 2 restrictions, sports teams are allowed non-contact play in groups of 20.

But it could only be a month before local footy players get to enjoy the rough and tumble of an Aussie Rules game, with the GSFL outlining its ideal return date would be for the last weekend of June.

With clubs seeking some guidance on when a season might materialise, GSFL President Joe Burton said the league had tried to get on the front foot.

“There are still a lot of ifs and buts. A lot can happen in those four weeks,” he said.

Under ‘Plan A’, the 2020 season will comprise 10 home-and-away rounds played in successive weeks, before a two-round finals series and a grand final on September 20.

If the GSFL isn’t allowed to return on June 28, then Burton said they would start one week after receiving the green light from the WAFC.

Burton said all six GSFL clubs were on board with playing the colts and 16s grades in 2020, but with the seniors it was a different story.

If community sporting grounds can’t have spectators, Burton said three of the six GSFL clubs were worried hosting league and reserves games would cost them too much financially.

“Half the clubs want to play regardless and the other half are a little bit dubious of the costs and not being able to recoup any money,” he said.

“If the seniors don’t go ahead then the colts and 16s will definitely go ahead.”

Burton said it was more important younger footballers were able to play this year because it was crucial for their development.

“A lot of those kids are aspiring to play football at the next level,” he said.

“And they cannot afford to miss a whole year. We are making sure they get
their opportunity.”

The GSFL will be offering clubs $500 for every home game they host and are seeking additional funding from the WAFC, according to Burton.

The Albany Sharks Football Club is one organisation who desperately want all the grades up and firing in 2020 no matter the outcome on spectators.

“We will make it a priority to get all four teams on the track,” Albany Sharks President Tracy Blaszkow said.
“It will be tricky financially, but we will make it work.”

Ms Blaszkow said the Sharks would even be open to playing in a senior’s competition with only three or four clubs.

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Surfing legend in hall of fame

ALBANY-BORN surfing legend Jodie Cooper was inducted into the 2020 Australian Surfing Awards Hall of Fame this week.

The renowned big-wave rider credited her upbringing in the powerful waves of WA as a major reason why she thrived in places like Hawaii where she won a number of titles.

Ms Cooper won 13 international surfing events and was runner-up a further 13 occasions in her professional career spanning 20 years.

The 56-year-old is globally recognised as the best women’s surfer never to win a world title.

In 1991, Ms Cooper starred as a surfing stunt double for actress Lori Perry in the Hollywood blockbuster film Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.

“That was epic, I worked there for over a month in locations from California to Hawaii,” she said.

“It’s an iconic film and still plays regularly on TV.”

She also assisted in the 2017 movie Breath, a film adaptation of Tim Winton’s novel, with much of the action set in Denmark.

Ms Cooper’s surfing career started as an amateur in 1981 and turned professional two years later.

By the end of 1984 she was ranked number four in the world.

She had her first professional win at Huntington Beach in California at the start of 1985 and later in the year won the World Cup in Hawaii.

With a number of second and third placings, she ended that year number two in the world.

Ms Cooper said her most cherished victory was at Bells Beach in 1985 but also added that her titles in Hawaii were important.

“It’s just an intense wave, I still get overawed when surfing Hawaii,” she said.

“It’s just a rock in the middle of the ocean with no continental shelf.

“The strength and calibre of the waves is unmatched although the closest would be the breaks in southern WA.”

Ms Cooper quit the world tour in 1994 and after suffering a back injury, retired in 2002.

She acknowledged her hardest competitors were four-time world champion Wendy Botha and Pam Burridge although “on the day, anyone could beat you”.

The Jodie Cooper Award, first awarded in 1999, is made to the Western Australian Female Surfer of the Year.

Ms Cooper was made a Life Member of the Association of Surfing Professionals in 1994 and in 2001 was inducted into the Western Australian Hall of Champions.

Proud brother and Albany local Russ Cooper said Ms Cooper started surfing with him and his mates at some ‘gnarly, heavy waves’ including Sand Patch and Blowholes.

“She was fearless, only 55kg dripping wet yet charging,” he recalled.

“I remember one day she surfed Sunset Point at 22ft and was snapping boards and heading straight back out there.

“She would be the humblest person I know, she is admired and respected by the most powerful people in the surfing industry.”

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Winter is coming and so are sports

WINTER sports are looking more and more likely to see competitive play this year in the Great Southern as respective leagues explore ways of returning to the field over the next couple of months.

There was a big coronavirus-shaped cloud hanging over the head of community sport in Australia when the pandemic first hit home, but now there is renewed hope grass roots leagues will spring into action sooner than first thought.

Albany Netball Association (ANA) President Trish Hines said her sport would be aiming for a return to play on July 18, with seven rounds of regular competition plus finals.

However, the July restart date would hinge on the State Government allowing gatherings of 100 people in the next easing of restrictions, according to Ms Hines.

Ms Hines said the ANA simply wouldn’t be able to fit enough teams into the Albany Leisure and Aquatic Centre for game day competition under the current social distancing rules.

“If they don’t lift them up to gatherings of 100 people, we haven’t got a chance of getting the season going,” she said.

“We’ve had some positive discussions with ALAC and they are keen for us to get going again.”

Ms Hines said all the local netball clubs were on board with a restart, but some had lost players due to financial hardship.

“The financial situation of some families is starting to hit home, especially if they have a couple playing,” she said.

“We’ve had a few pull out.”

Ms Hines said ANA would reduce players’ fees because of the shortened season.

“It will be a half season so we’ve slashed our fees in half,” she said.

The Lower Great Southern Hockey Association (LGSHA) is taking a more conservative approach to announcing any potential return date, instead opting to wait for state body Hockey WA to give them the green light.

LGSHA President Alex Bott said he was more focused on getting players back to training and would wait for further feedback from clubs before making a decision.

He said midweek fixturing was a possibility if they needed to stagger playing times or squeeze more games into the season.

“There’s the potential to play games during the week under lights,” Mr Bott said.

“We are in the lucky position of being able to play at night and day.”

Unlike the local football competition, Mr Bott said the LGSHA wasn’t as reliant on game day attendance for funding, meaning having no crowds shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

“Hockey is a bit different because we just have the two venues at Mt Barker and Albany,” he said.

“With how the turf is set up, it’s not as reliant on funding. It’s more self-sufficient to operate without crowds.”

Local soccer is another sporting code that doesn’t rely heavily on crowd attendance, with spectators watching games from the sidelines for free.

Great Southern Soccer Association (GSSA) President Marcus McPharlin said an executive committee would likely vote on a tentative restart dates and fixturing next Friday.

He said the GSSA had been working closely with clubs and the City of Albany for feedback on what their preferences are for the 2020 season.

Soccer clubs have been able to train in groups of 10 since May 4 following advice from state body Football West, and can now practice non-contact training in groups of 20 after the State Government eased restrictions on May 18.

A set of guidelines was released to clubs to ensure necessary measures were put in place to protect players and coaches from COVID-19.

“In essence, this can be viewed as a month-long pre-season as we build towards bringing back our formal competitions,” Football West CEO James Curtis said.

“Clubs must consult with their land managers to ensure they have access to their venues. Football West recognises this is an issue and we will work with our clubs and local councils to try to resolve it.”

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