THE premiers of the Goulburn Valley and the Ovens and Murray football leagues will clash in Kyabram in a mouth-watering opening to the 2018 football season.
Kyabram and Wangaratta will go head-to-head in a practice match in March in an unofficial clash of the champions.
Bombers coach Paul Newman said while there was no specific directive to single out the Ovens and Murray champions, a match like it every year could help nurture the rivalry between the two competitions.
‘‘One of their players does a bit of work over here and both clubs were looking for a decent hit-out so it just kind of happened that way,’’ Newman said.
‘‘There used to be a fantastic rivalry between the O&M and the GV.
‘‘Back in the day it (an interleague clash between the two) used to be every second year at least, but we seem to have lost it over the years, so it would be great to have it back.’’
To generate any tangible interest though Newman feels a regular clash would have to be staged after the season as a marquee event, rather than a practice match the next year.
‘‘I think the only way it would work was if it was done the same year,’’ Newman said.
‘‘Whether the players got a couple of weeks off and then you made it a spectacle in mid-October, rather than the next season, because both sides have had a turnover of players.
‘‘I think that would definitely create a bit of interest, and as a club we would definitely support it.’’
Newman’s opinion that the rivalry between the GVL and O&M needs to be nurtured is one many involved in both leagues share.
Recently appointed Ovens and Murray League chairman David Sinclair highlighted strengthening the relationship between the two competitions as high on his list of priorities.
‘‘The GV and O&M are the two outstanding competitions outside of Melbourne,’’ Sinclair said this month.
‘‘It would be great to see them play more regular interleague footy, rather than once every 10 years like they are at the moment.
‘‘It’s something that I would love to see happen.’’
The practice match between the Bombers and the Magpies will be at Kyabram on the second-last weekend in March.
‘‘It looks like it will be the weekend of March 24, but we still have to work out a few particulars,’’ Newman said.
‘‘We’ll also have one against Bayswater on the 17th (of March) and Myrtleford on the 3rd (of March).’’
Kyabram starts its dual unbeaten premiership defence with a night match at Mooroopna on April 7, and Newman is confident his charges will be just as hard to topple as in the past two seasons.
While flag heroes Jake Reeves, Billy Burstin, Rhys Clark and Josh Vick will not return in the red and black this year, Lachie Smith has nominated the Bombers as his home club when not selected to play VFL for Footscray.
‘‘We’ve lost four, but hopefully we can get a few games out of Lachie and qualify him for finals,’’ Newman said.
‘‘We’ve picked up young Bailey Bell from Nathalia and Mick Mattingly will be huge as well.
‘‘We didn’t actively go out and try to recruit, but we’ve got some exciting young talent coming through and we want to make sure they get opportunities over the next year or two.’’