Hawks tackle Storm in battle for Bendigo FNL premiership cup
by Nathan Dole
EAGLEHAWK can win the premiership cup for a 28th time or Strathfieldsaye can mark number four after Saturday’s showdown in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football League’s senior grand final.
The Hawks and Storm have been the league’s pacesetters all season in the race for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup and meet in a grand final on Queen Elizabeth Oval in consecutive years.
Both teams have skill, experience and X-factor on every line.
Key players for Eaglehawk include Brodie Collins, coach Josh Bowe, and young guns Jack Fallon and Gedd Hommelhoff in on-ball or midfield roles; Sean Williams and Shaun Knott in attack; and a defence led by captain Tim Hill, Tyler Miles and Glenn Daly.
Sam Harper, Ben McPhee and Brenton Conforti have had outstanding seasons for the Two Blues.
The Hawks’ precise disposal and marking power inside 50m were key factors in their latest win against Storm.
Strathfieldsaye has the non-stop run of captain Kallen Geary off half-back; Harry Crone in the ruck; Bryce Curnow and Hugh Robertson in attack; and the hardworking Josh Formosa, Shannon Geary, Trent Donnan, Tom Dowd and Sam Heavyside to test the Hawks all match.
A strong Storm defence includes the experienced Jayden Donaldson and Lachlan Bonney, and versatile Shaun Dwyer.
Chasing back-to-back premierships, Strathfieldsaye achieved a win-loss record of 16-2 and finished the home and away series on the top rung.
Storm’s losses in the run to the finals were in the opening round at Eaglehawk, and then in the round 13 clash with Sandhurst at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Eaglehawk was 15-3 after the 18 round regular season.
The Hawks were defeated at Kyneton in round five, Strathfieldsaye in round 10, and at Gisborne in the 12th round.
Eaglehawk’s stunning form rolled on in weeks one and two of the Poyser Trucks Bendigo-backed finals action at the QEO.
The Hawks smashed Kyneton by 112 points in the qualifying final.
A week later and the Two Blues took on Strathfieldsaye in the second semi-final.
The Hawks led 60-59 at three quarter-time and then unleashed a brilliant surge in the last term to score 7.3 to a goal.
Led by the play of Knott, five goals; Brodie Collins, Williams, four goals; Bowe, Ben McPhee and Oscar Maddern, the Hawks won by 40 points.
Storm’s attack in the semi was led by Robertson, four goals; Curnow and Bailey Henderson added two.
Curnow, Henderson, Kellan Smith, Shannon Geary, Robertson and Trent Donnan were Strathfieldsaye’s best.
Storm surged to another grand final appearance as it dominated the first half of the preliminary final against Sandhurst.
After missing the previous week because of injury, Kallen Geary and older brother Shannon racked up possessions at will as Storm cruised to a 29-point victory.
Curnow booted five goals as coach Troy Coates chipped in with three.
The play of Heavyside, Dowd, Crone and Curnow was a key factor in Strathfieldsaye’s win.
This season’s meetings between the grand finalists stand at 2-1 in Eaglehawk’s favour.
The Borough kicked off the season with a 25-point win against Storm at Canterbury Park.
In round 10 the Storm fired up for a 34-point victory at Tannery Lane.
Eaglehawk reigned supreme in the second semi.
Storm boasts an impressive grand final record.
The past three appearances on that one day in September for Storm were marked by wins against Eaglehawk in 2017, and Sandhurst in 2015 and ’14.
It’s Storm’s fifth seniors grand final in six years.
Eaglehawk was runner-up to Golden Square in 2011 and Strathfieldsaye a year ago.
The club’s 27th senior premiership was in 2008.
Eaglehawk and Sandhurst are joint leaders for most Bendigo FNL senior premierships on 27.
In the reserves, Strathfieldsaye is chasing back-to-back premierships as it takes on Sandhurst.
Storm scored a nine-point victory against Eaglehawk in the qualifying final.
A week later and Strathfieldsaye booked another grand final berth as it beat Sandhurst by 15 points in the second semi.
Hunter Lawrence, Zebb Murrell, Torin Petrie, Connor Looney, James Blood and Jack Neylon were Storm’s best in that victory.
A talented Strathfieldsaye line-up includes Jacob Heavyside, Keelan Payne, Rhys Zera and Connor Aldous.
Storm’s attack is led by Josh Martyn, 43 goals; Patrick Blandford, 21; Jordan Formosa, 20; and Blood on 16.
The Dragons fired up to score a 68-27 win in the preliminary final against the Hawks.
Oscar McKinley kicked four goals and was best afield in the Dragons latest victory.
Sandhurst will also look for big games from the likes of Mitchell Dole, Liam Ireland, Seb Greene, Oscar Perez and Galen Munari.
The Dragons’ leading goalkicker is the elusive Jasper Stewart on 33 goals, while Thomas Nunn, 32, Matt Gray, 19, Dole, 19, and John Harvey, 14, have also been on target.
In the regular season, Sandhurst beat Strathfieldsaye by nine goals at Tannery Lane, and by 40 points on the QEO.
Sandhurst ended the home and away series on a win-loss tally of 17-1 and top spot.
Storm was third on 14-4.
Footy grand final action kicks off with the under-18s clash between Gisborne and Sandhurst.
A 57-28 win by Gisborne in the second semi against Strathfieldsaye put the Bulldogs into the grand final.
The Dragons struck back from a 21-point loss to Storm in the qualifying final to win the first semi against Kangaroo Flat, 73-61; and then won a thrilling preliminary final against Strathfieldsaye by four points.
Sandhurst won the round five clash at Gisborne, 66-29; but the Bulldogs won the 14th round contest on the QEO by 22 points.
Winner of the George Symons Medal as the competition’s best and fairest, Gisborne’s Baxter Slater will be determined to a premiership medal to cap a great year.
The play of Sam McCaskill, Mitchell Blake, Ben Eales, Riley Vernon and Sebastien Bell-Bartels will be a key to Gisborne’s chances.
Sandhurst will look to James Vlaeminck, 51 goals; Zac Featherby, Zac Sims, Lachlan Baker, Nathan Murley and Ben Worme to lead the way to grand final glory.
Bendigo FNL footy grand final schedule:
Under-18s at 9am: Gisborne v Sandhurst.
Reserves at 11.40am: Strathfieldsaye v Sandhurst.
Seniors at 2.20pm: Eaglehawk v Strathfieldsaye.