Blockbusters at Gisborne, Golden Square
by Nathan Dole
THIS Saturday’s 16th round in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy action features blockbuster matches at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve and Golden Square’s Fur Life Vet Oval.
The contests between Gisborne and Eaglehawk, and Golden Square against Sandhurst may well be previews of the first week of the finals series.
It’s second against third as Gisborne and Eaglehawk do battle.
Unless there is a dramatic drop in form, these teams will meet in a qualifying final.
Both are locked on 48 points, but Gisborne has superior percentage.
The Hawks will be aiming to be the second team to beat Giborne on its turf this season.
Only loss for the Bulldogs at home was a 75-96 result against the ladder-leading Strathfieldsaye in round four.
When the Hawks and Bulldogs last met it was Gisborne which broke the Borough’s long-running winning streak at Canterbury Park in a 125-95 victory in round seven.
After that match Eaglehawk had a win-loss record of 4-3 and was fifth on the ladder.
Eaglehawk has reeled off eight consecutive victories, with the latest being a hard-fought 59-43 result against Golden Square last Saturday.
A key to the Hawks’ chances of beating Gisborne will be defensive pressure.
In the previous meetings between these teams, Pat McKenna kicked a match-high seven goals and the Bulldogs doubled the Hawks in scoring shots, 40 to 20.
McKenna has kicked 74 goals and looms as the greatest danger to the Hawks chances.
A talented Gisborne attack includes Josh Grabham, Tom Wood, Brad Bernacki and coach Clinton Young.
Eaglehawk defenders Oscar Madden and Tim Hill have been outstanding all season, while the versatility of Clayton Holmes is a huge plus.
Midfield battles will be crucial.
Gisborne has Nic Doolan, Ethan Minns, Scott Walsh and Shaun Comerford in form and ready to take on Brodie and Jesse Collins, Brodie Filo and Ben McPhee.
A Bulldogs defence led by Tim Walsh, Anthony Belcher and Liam Spear faces a big task against the likes of Sean Williams, 37 goals; Sam Harper, 24 goals; and Riley Saunders, 32 goals.
Just one point separated Golden Square and Sandhurst when they last met at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
On that day it was the Dragons who capped a superb fightback against a fierce rival.
The Bulldogs will be desperate to square the ledger on their turf in Wade Street.
The classy Hamish Morcom returns for Square from injury, but key forward Travis Baird is sidelined again with a hamstring complaint.
A goal for the Bulldogs will be take more marks inside forward 50m.
In last Saturday’s play Jayden Burke was superb as he kicked a match-high four goals at Eaglehawk for a season tally of 32.
As talented as he is, Burke needs more support across half-forward or closer to goal.
Morcom was named at full-forward, while the play of Jordan Rosengren, Mitch Treacy, Drew Barrett, and Adam Baird who has kicked 25 goals when moved to attack will be important.
The onball duels will be exciting as Golden Square has ruckman Matt Compston, Jack Geary, Adam Baird and Liam Barrett in form.
Sandhurst ruckman Chris Down is in hot form and teams brilliantly with the likes of Andy Collins, Nick Stagg and Blair Holmes.
A Bulldogs’ defence that includes Jon Coe, Will Lee, Jake Thrum and Nathan Holt will need to work hard against Matt Thornton, 36 goals; Lachlan Ross, Jed Zimmer and Jake McLean.
Kangaroo Flat and South Bendigo clash at Bendigo Mazda Oval in Kangaroo Flat’s Dower Park.
The Roos will be desperate to rebound after scoring just one goal at Strathfieldsaye last round.
Bloods’ spirits have soared after a brilliant final quarter fightback to complete a 69-60 win against Kyneton at the QEO.
In rounds 13 and 14, Kangaroo Flat’s loyal fan base was rapt about a 66-63 win against Kyneton and victory the following week against Castlemaine at Dower Park.
The Robert Bennett-coached Kangaroo Flat outplayed South Bendigo at the QEO in round seven.
Among five changes at Flat for this game are the return of the talented Dylan Klemm at centre half-forward and Trent McInnes at full-back.
On the smaller Dower Park ground, centre clearances are crucial.
Roos’ onballers Hayden Pyke, Jono Lanyon and Mitch Holt will aim to capitalise on the work of ruckman Nick Lang.
South Bendigo ruckman Callum Crisp has thrived on every challenge this season.
The Bloods also have Brody Haddow in hot form and the experience of Brady Childs and coach Nathan Horbury in the centre ball-ups.
A game-high five goals by Kaiden Antonowicz played a big part in South Bendigo’s latest victory as his season goal tally rose to 51.
Key players for Kangaroo Flat include Matt Clifford at full-forward, Liam Collins, Nathan McHugh and Ross Turner.
Younger players in the Bloods line-up to watch are Connor Robertson, Mitch Goodwin and Tyler McLeod.
Kyneton and Maryborough meet in Tigerland at Kyneton Showgrounds.
The Tigers will be snarling after last week’s loss, while Maryborough was outplayed at home by Gisborne.
In round seven, Maryborough scored a 96-58 win against Kyneton at Barkers Oval in Maryborough’s Princes Park.
Midfield and onball battles will be a highlight as the Tigers have Rhys Magin, Hamish and Josh Govan, and Rhys Smith to take on the likes of Coby Perry, Lachlan Butler, Matt Bilton and Jayden Hooper.
The Ben Lavars-coached Magpies’ may hold the edge in scoring power through Jayden Templeton, Stewart Crameri, Jake Postle and Jacob Long.
Kyneton coach Luke Beattie is a key target inside 50m, along with Hayden Ingleton and Shaun Huy, while Max O’Sullivan is always dangerous at ground level.
It’s another daunting task for Castlemaine as it faces Strathfieldsaye Storm in Magpies’ territory at Camp Reserve.
The Magpies have played well the past two rounds.
A score of 57 at Kangaroo Flat was followed by a tally of 55 in last Sunday’s match against Sandhurst at the QEO.
Recruited to the Magpies after stints at AFL clubs Essendon and Port Adelaide, and in the VFL with Western Bulldogs, Angus Monfries has kicked 22 goals from limited opportunities.
Monfries has also played a variety of roles – forward, midfield and half-back.
The play of Matt Filo in the centre, ruck-rover Jake O’Brien, Jesse Johnson and Declan Slingo in defence, Mitch Dance in the ruck have been highlights for the Maine.
Although it’s two wins clear at the top of the ladder, Strathfieldsaye Storm will take a ruthless approach.
There are many players fighting to regain a place in Storm’s best 22, so complacency is not a factor for playing coach Troy Coates to be concerned about.
Lachlan Sharp reached the 100-goal mark in last Saturday’s big win and may yet surpass a career-high 142 achieved in the 2017 season.
Among those returning for Storm this round is talented youngster Bailey henderson, along with Hugh Robertson, Callum McCarty, Jordan and Riley Wilson.
Storm boasts a formidable attack, but a defence that includes Bryce Curnow, Harry Conway, Jack Neylon and Kallen Geary sets up so much play.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Strathfieldsaye 282 per cent, 56 points; Gisborne 222, 48; Eaglehawk 186, 48; Golden Square 166, 44; Sandhurst 136, 40; Maryborough 63, 20; Kyneton 56, 16; Kangaroo Flat 48, 16; South Bendigo 66, 12; Castlemaine 27, 0.