CLEARANCES will play a big part in Eaglehawk’s quest to beating Strathfieldsaye in Saturday’s match of the day in round 10 of the Bendigo Football Netball League season.
It’s second against first on Strathfieldsaye’s turf at Tannery Lane.
The Storm and Hawks have identical records of 8-1 and are likely to meet in September’s finals action.
Eaglehawk tackles a club that has overcome injuries and unavailability to again prove it’s the team to beat in the race for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
Several stars return for such a big game.
Eaglehawk coach Josh Bowe is back along with Jack Fallon, Jonty Neaves, and Sam Thompson’s form in the “twos” has earned a recall.
The battle between Neaves and Harry Crone in the ruck will be one of many highlights.
Storm captain Kallen Geary returns to provide plenty of poise and dash at half-back, while Jamieson Sheahan, Shaun Dwyer and Kellan Smith bolster a talented line-up.
In such a high-pressure contest, the ability of the Hawks and Storm to work the ball to team-mates in the clear and then deliver to marking attacks inside forward 50m will be important.
Two of the BFNL’s greatest rivals, Golden Square and Sandhurst do battle at Wade Street.
Square’s fighting spirit was to the fore in last week’s victory against Kyneton.
The Bulldogs regain Jayden Burke at centre half-forward, but another gun player in Travis Baird is out.
Centre clearances and stoppages will be crucial.
The play of Jack Geary, Adam Baird, Hamish Morcom, Ryan Hartley and Dale Lowry in and around the packs will be important for the Bulldogs.
Sandhurst has the likes of Blair Holmes, Andy Collins, Lee Coghlan, Zeb Broadbent and Zac East capable of setting up a lot of attacks.
The Bulldogs have the marking power of Burke and Dylan Johnstone near goal, and the skillful Jake Thrum and Shaun Young zipping around at ground level.
Sandhurst welcomes back Daniel Connors, whose experience from days at Richmond is a huge plus in such an important game.
Number one ruckman Tim Martin will be set for another big duel with Matt Compston, while Matt Thornton and Taylor Strachan will test Square’s defence.
Kangaroo Flat takes on a red-hot Gisborne at Dower Park.
The Bulldogs are aiming for a fifth consecutive victory and welcome back on-baller Shaun Comerford.
Lapses in concentration have hurt Kangaroo Flat in many matches this season.
The Roos will be fired up to play well before their passionate fans, but Gisborne looks to have too much class and a lot more to play for.
South Bendigo tackles Kyneton at the QEO.
The Bloods have battled for consistency and take on a team smarting from last week’s loss at Golden Square.
Kyneton regains Max O’Sullivan to bolster a strong on-ball brigade that includes Rhys Magin, Gareth Bowes and captain Josh Govan.
The third-placed Tigers cannot afford to drop this match, especially if Golden Square defeats Sandhurst.
It’s the clash of the Magpies as Castlemaine faces Maryborough at Camp Reserve.
The ’Maine’s sole victory this season was by 23 points at Maryborough in round one.
The Ben Lavars-coached Maryborough will be eyeing a great opportunity to end its winless run and move off the ladder’s bottom rung.
Strathfieldsaye 8 won, 1 lost, 0 drawn, 32 points, 209 per cent; Eaglehawk 8, 1, 0, 32, 208; Kyneton 6, 2, 1, 26, 145; Golden Square 6, 3, 0, 24, 149; Sandhurst 5, 4, 0, 20, 166; Gisborne 5, 4, 0, 20, 130; South Bendigo 3, 5, 1, 14, 91; Kangaroo Flat 2, 7, 0, 8, 45; Castlemaine 1, 8, 0, 4, 27; Maryborough 0, 9, 0, 0, 43.
STRATHFIELDSAYE v Eaglehawk, GOLDEN SQUARE v Sandhurst, Castlemaine v MARYBOROUGH, Kangaroo Flat v GISBORNE, South Bendigo v KYNETON.