Dragons turn up heat against Hawks
by Nathan Dole
SANDHURST will bring plenty of pressure to the contest when it tackles Eaglehawk in this Saturday’s 14th round of senior footy action in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League.
The Dragons and Hawks carry match-of-the-day status at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Both clubs have plenty at stake.
A double chance at finals time is held by Eaglehawk, third, but a Sandhurst victory would put it level on points with the Two Blues.
Defeats at Golden Square and at home to Gisborne in rounds six and seven put the Hawks under enormous pressure to stay in the five.
The Borough has struck back brilliantly to be on a six-game winning streak ahead of another crucial showdown with Sandhurst.
A spread of goalkickers makes Eaglehawk a difficult team to defend.
Sean Williams is the Two Blues’ leading goalkicker on 35 and had great support from Riley Saunders, 26; Sam Harper ,23; Ben McPhee, 18; Gedd Hommelhoff and Shaun Knott on 17.
The Dragons have the marking power of Matt Thornton, 32 goals, and Will Holt to test a Borough defence led by Oscar Madden, Brenton Conforti and Tim Hill.
Midfield and onball duels are always vital on the spacious QEO.
Versatile big men Cam McGlashan and Clayton Holmes have been superb all season for Eaglehawk, and Brodie and Jesse Collins, Brodie Filo and Riley McIvor are always creative in and around the packs.
The Dragons will again look for big games from the likes of Blair Holmes, Andy Collins, Nick Stagg, Jake McLean and Adam Parry, gun ruckman Chris Down, and defenders Jake Wilkinson, Martin Leyden and Jake Pallpratt.
It was a 20-point victory for the Hawks against the Dragons in round five, but it may be much closer this time.
Kangaroo Flat will start favourite to achieve back-to-back victories when it plays at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve.
In a season where many of their best have had lengthy stints on the sidelines because of injury, the Kangaroos scored a dramatic 66-63 win at home against Kyneton last Saturday.
A century goalkicker with Subiaco in the west, Matt Boland showed why he was such a highly sought-after recruit as he booted five goals.
Boland has kicked 18 goals in six matches for the Flat.
Talented youngster Dylan Klemm was best afield last round and likely to have an impact from defence, attack, or even on-ball.
Other players to watch in the Robert Bennett-coached Kangaroo Flat line-up include ruck-rover Jono Lanyon, Liam Collins, ruckman Nick Lang, Nathan McHugh and Matt Clifford.
Although it scored just one goal in the first half last week, Castlemaine put in a spirited defensive effort to hold Eaglehawk to 49 points.
By the final siren the margin was more than 20 goals.
The Magpies have the class of Matt Filo, Jake O’Brien and former Essendon and Port Adelaide forward/midfielder Angus Monfries, but lack the skill and strength to put four quarters together against most rivals.
Encouraging signs have been the play of Sam Nettleton in the ruck, Riley Pedretti in defence, Daniel Easson at half-forward and Mitch Dance.
Mitch Hough played his first senior game for Castlemaine last round and will be keen to perform well against his former club.
Maryborough and Golden Square clash on the Magpies’ turf at Barkers Oval in Maryborough’s Princes Park.
The Magpies have been tough to beat at home for most of the season.
Liam Latch kicked three goals as Jayden Hooper, Luke Bucknall and Aidan Hare were best in last week’s 68-89 loss to Sandhurst.
The play of Coby Perry in the centre, Matt Bilton roving the contests, Bodie Malone at full-back, Lachlan Butler, and Jayden Templeton in the ruck will be crucial to the plans of playing coach Ben Lavars.
Golden Square charged clear in the final term of last Saturday’s clash with South Bendigo to turn a two-goal lead into a 97-49 victory.
A huge plus for the Bulldogs was the return of Travis Baird, two goals, who is such a fierce competitor in the forward 50m arc.
Square welcomes back Jake Thrum who played in the AFL Victoria Young Guns match last Saturday.
Thrum’s dash from half-back is a huge plus for a Bulldogs line-up which has the running power of Jack Geary, Adam Baird and Hamish Morcom in midfield or onball roles, plus Liam Barrett, Ryan Hartley, Jon Coe and Callum Draper in form.
Kyneton takes on a red-hot Strathfieldsaye in Tigerland at Kyneton Showgrounds.
Max O’Sullivan kicked four goals in last week’s battle at Kangaroo Flat as Hamish Govan and Mitch Comben were among the best.
The Tigers welcome back Nathan Thompson to lead the attack, along with coach Luke Beattie and Pat McCarthy.
A key contest will be Harrison Huntley opposed to Storm’s gun forward Lachlan Sharp, 89 goals.
Players to watch for Kyneton include Rhys Magin in the centre, Hamish and Josh Govan, Kelly and Ben Xiriha in defence, and Harris in the ruck.
A lot of focus is on Storm’s attack, but the defence has teamed brilliantly all season.
Highest score against Storm was 98 by Eaglehawk in its round 10 victory at Canterbury Park.
Strathfieldsaye goes into Saturday’s match without captain Kallen Geary and Vin Flood, but the talented Harry Conway is back to play in defence or attack.
Bryce Curnow’s play at centre half-back has him in the running for the Michelsen Medal, while Josh Formosa, Jack Neylon, Sam Heavyside, Kellan Smith, Jake Moorhead and Shannon Geary win a lot of of the footy.
Playing coach Troy Coates will be urging the team to not ease up the intensity at the contest.
Gisborne will be on the rebound from a 38-point defeat at Strathfieldsaye when it plays South Bendigo on the Bulldogs’ turf at Gardiner Reserve.
Last round, South Bendigo played excellent football against the league’s other Bulldogs to be right in the game until three quarter-time.
In his return to Gisborne after stints with GWS Giants and Melbourne, Pat McKenna has kicked 61 goals to be second in the race for the Ron Best Medal for leading goalkicker.
McKenna has had a dramatic impact in several matches this season.
Other key players for Gisborne include Casey Summerfield in the centre, Jaidyn Owen in the ruck, Ethan Minns, Brad Bernacki, Tim Walsh, and coach Clinton Young at half-back.
A key for the Nathan Horbury-coached Bloods will be chasing and tackling, and capitalising on turnovers.
A huge plus for South is the return of co-captain Zac Hare to team across the half-back line with Horbury and Joel Swatton.
Kaiden Antonowicz has kicked 43 goals for the Bloods and is one of the league’s best.
Andrew Vanheumen played a great game in defence last week and will play another big role.
Ruckman Callum Crisp and onballers Brody Haddow and Tom Brereton have been superb all season.
It’s another big test for young Bloods such as Connor Robertson, Mitch Goodwin, Will Allen, Kade Blow and Tyler McLeod.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Strathfieldsaye 238 per cent, 48 points; Gisborne 215, 40; Eaglehawk 185, 40; Golden Square 171, 40; Sandhurst 145, 36; Maryborough 68, 20; Kyneton 62, 16; Kangaroo Flat 51, 12; South Bendigo 65, 8; Castlemaine 23, 0.