Coaches plan pacy style of play

FANS are likely to see plenty of fast-paced games across this season’s senior footy action in the Bendigo Bank Heathcote District Football Netball League.

Quicker movement of the footy will be key to breaking through or over the defensive press.

There’s plenty of marking power in the forward lines of Heathcote, North Bendigo and White Hills.

Faster movement from midfield to the attacking 50m zone will make it difficult for defences to set up their zone.

Runner-up in ’24, Heathcote has added considerable height to its line-up through the recruitment of ruckman James Orr from Kyneton, and South Bendigo key defender Daniel Johnstone.

Mount Pleasant has retained most of its premiership-winning team which went from an elimination final to claim the cup last September.

North Bendigo and White Hills are likely to be fighting for a top-three finish.

The Bombers from Leitchville-Gunbower will be determined to build on last season’s run to an elimination final.

From premier one year to sixth the next, Lockington Bamawm United will be desperate to bounce back.

Elmore, Colbinabbin and Huntly start with many new faces and a strong desire to be keep improving.


The Jed Brain-coached Colbinabbin finished last season with a win-loss tally of 3-12 and a draw.

A regular in finals action the Grasshoppers did not feature for the first time in almost a decade.

Key inclusions for the green and gold include Jordan Wilson, a premiership-winning player from Strathfieldsaye, and Patrick Taban, a key defender from St Albans.

The Grasshoppers have also gained Mooroopna’s Nathan Basile, brother of Aidan.

Other recruits to M.J. Morgan Oval include Rochester’a Angus Martin, Jamaica Ilsley from Maribyrnong Park, and Alex Carr from Sandhurst.

Colbinabbin’s season kicks off under lights at Elmore on April 6.

A tough start for the Grasshoppers includes Leitchville Gunbower at Gunbower in round two, home game against Heathcote, and then off to White Hills.


The Bloods have planned some big events across their 150th year celebrations.

On-field the Mick Woolhouse-coached Elmore is shaping up to be stronger than the team which achieved two wins last season.

Huge plus for the Bloods is the return of James and Joseph Harney from Echuca United.

They have also brought last season’s team-mates in Mitch Boyd and Kynan Sharpe to Elmore.

Defence was bolstered by the signing of full-back Cobi Fitzpatrick from Charlton.

Other players to watch include Dominic Dick-O’Flaherty from Koondrook-Barham and his brother Jake from Deniliquin.

Banyule’s Nick Mayne and Connor Walsh have joined Elmore, along with Jacob Hogg from Violet Town and Brae Mensforth from Calivil United.

The Bloods host Colbinabbin under lights for the night clash on April 6.

Next four hit-outs are against last season’s finalists in North Bendigo, home; Leitchville-Gunbower at Gunbower; Heathcote, home; and White Hills, away.


The Saints start the season as premiership favourites.

Since the grand final defeat last September the Andrew Saladino-coached Heathcote focused on bolstering ruck stocks and defence.

The Saints have done so through the signing of Kyneton captain and ruckman James Orr, and picked up key defender Daniel Johnstone from South Bendigo.

Saladino was rapt to have gained midfielder/forward Zac Saad from Rupertswood.

An attack led by Corey Grindlay now includes the marking power of Cooper Webber-Mirkin from Trentham.

Louis Piccolo is on his comeback to the game, and the Saints also signed Lucas Mifsud from Caroline Springs.

Expect big seasons from the likes of on-baller Liam Jacques who earned the Sam Cheatley Medal as league fairest and best in ’23, the versatile Braden Padmore, and assistant coach Codie Price off half-back.

Heathcote makes its way to Toolleen for the grand final rematch against Mount Pleasant in the opening round on April 6.

Next four games for the Saints are Lockington Bamawm United at Heathcote’s Pigeon Park in Barrack Reserve; Colbinabbin, away; North Bendigo at home; and then at Elmore.


The signing of Hamish Morcom, a triple premiership winner with Golden Square, to be playing coach was a huge coup for the Hawks.

Whether he plays midfield, across half-back or in attack, Morcom’s athleticism, marking power and skill means he will have an impact in every match.

Among those who have joined Morcom at Strauch Reserve is Dale Lowry, a premiership team-mate of Morcom’s with Golden Square in 2012 and ’13.

The Hawks have also picked up Darby Walsh from Picola United as assistant coach.

Mitch Avard and Lachlan Brook make their way to the Hawks nest from Calivil United.

Other signings for the brown and gold include Lake Boga’s Byron Holt and Noah Sherlock; Jarrod Spry from Melton Centrals; and Joseph Violi from Nyah Nyah West.

After an outstanding return of 48 goals last season, Lachy Wilson will again play a crucial role for the Hawks.

Huntly is on home turf on April 6 to tackle White Hills in the opening round.

After a bye in round two, Huntly plays at Toolleen on April 20; hosts Lockington Bamawm United; and then travels to Colbinabbin.

Leitchville Gunbower

The Shannon Keam-coached Bombers went from a 1-15 record in the 2022 campaign to reach last season’s elimination final.

It was a dramatic turnaround by the red, yellow and black.

Among the signings for this season is Joel Donehue, a premiership winner with LG who returns from a stint with Moulamein.

The Bombers have also regained Brady Hore from Strathfieldsaye Storm, and picked up Echuca’s Kyle Green and Max Hagan.

Will Brereton makes his way from Scarborough in Western Australia to play for LG.

Other newcomers include Fraser Buchanan from Moama; Blake Dye, Geelong West Giants; Bradley Green, Yarraville Seddon Eagles; Charles Hancock, Shepparton; and Joel Woolhouse from Cohuna Kangas.

The Bombers’ attack was brilliantly led by Chris Horman on his way to 50 goals last season.

Leitchville-Gunbower starts its season on Lockington Bamawm United’s turf on April 6.

It’s at Gunbower for the round two clash with Colbinabbin.

Big test for LG in round three at North Bendigo, which will be followed by games against Elmore at Gunbower, and then at Heathcote’s Barrack Reserve.

Lockington Bamawm United

The Stacy Fiske-coached LBU will be snarling from round one.

Premier in ’22, LBU fell to the sixth rung last season.

It’s been an extensive recruiting campaign by the Cats who have brought in players from Echuca, Mathoura, Moama, Shepparton, and Tongala.

Newcomers to LBU include Jack Butler from Edenhope-Apsley; Matthew Butler from Echuca United; Taylor Butler from St Pauls McKinnon; and Fraser Maconachie from Monash Blues.

The Cats have also signed Matt Hore from Picola United; Moama’s Kyle Baker, Matt Cartwright, Will Norris and Stuart Taylor; Tongala’s Jack Jansen; Echuca’s Elijan Bruns, Bailey Coutts and Jayden Howe; and Murrabit’s Mitchell Laursen.

LBU is at home for the season opener against Leitchville Gunbower on April 6.

A testing run includes Heathcote, away; White Hills, home; Huntly, away; and Mount Pleasant, home.

Mount Pleasant

Plenty of changes to Mount Pleasant’s coaching structure since the grand final victory.

The Blues have turned to Cameron Carter, premiership winning coach in 2005 and ’06 to lead the club after the departure of playing coaches Adam Baird and Ben Weightman, and director of coaching, Darren Walsh.

On-field Mounts will have most of the premiership-winning team led by the likes of ruckman Chris Down, on-baller and dangerous small forward Mitch Rovers, Bryce Hinneberg in defence; Zebb Murrell on a wing; and Daniel and Michael Whiting.

Recruits for the Blues include  Kangaroo Flat’s Dylan Barber and Daniel Dempster; Braydan Knox from Calivil United; Cameron Strachan from Bridgewater; and Matt Holmes from Maiden Gully YCW Eagles.

Other newcomers to the Mounts squad include Daniel Frame from Morningside; Kaydin Walsh, Westmeadows; Jaerin Tuohey, Strathfieldsaye; Ben Bisset, Alexandra Hills; and Inglewood’s Oscar Mathews.

Mounts tackle Heathcote in the grand final rematch on April 6 at Toolleen.

The Blues travel to White Hills in round two and then face Huntly, home; Lockington Bamawm United, away; and Colbinabbin, home.

North Bendigo

Stung by a hat-trick of finals defeats across the past two seasons, North Bendigo does not have to search far for motivation.

The Rob Bennett-coached Bulldogs achieved a win-loss tally of 13-3 in last year’s home and away series, but were outplayed by White Hills in the qualifying final and Mount Pleasant in the elimination final.

One of the most active on the recruiting front, North Bendigo was able to gain Golden Square premiership-winning on-baller Ryan Hartley.

It was a massive coup as Ryan’s father, Jamie, and uncle, Steve were gun players at North Bendigo in the 80s and early 90s.

The Bulldogs have also added the experience and skill of Tyson Findlay, a three-time premiership winner with North Bendigo and 2014 Sam Cheatley medallist.

Findlay is back at the kennel after a stint coaching Cohuna Kangas.

The Dogs’ defence is bolstered by the signing of Hamish McCartney from Maiden Gully YCW Eagles.

Ruckman Aidan Brohm was recruited from Bears Lagoon Serpentine.

Other players to watch include Bailey Cain from Golden Square, and Sam Barnes from Kangaroo Flat.

A formidable attack includes Dylan Klemm, Cody Riddick, Hakeem Johnson and assistant coach Jordan Ford.

After a first-round bye, North Bendigo plays at Elmore.

A testing run for the red, white and blue begins with the home game against Leitchville Gunbower in round three and then showdowns at Heathcote, and against White Hills at home.

White Hills

A great run by the Jack Fallon-coached White Hills was ended in a thrilling preliminary final clash with Mount Pleasant.

The Demons will have learnt plenty from the 69-65 loss to the eventual premier.

It’s a new-look coaching set-up at Scott Street as Kaiden Antonowicz is now co-coach with Jack Fallon.

A gun forward in his time with South Bendigo, Antonowicz kicked 75 goals for White Hills last season.

Quick on the lead, strong hands and dangerous at ground level, Antonowicz is a difficult match-up for any defence.

Last season’s co-coach, Jake Pallpratt will stay on to play for the red and black where he plays a crucial role across the half-back line.

Huge plus for the club was the signing of ruckman Jack Lawton from Eaglehawk, and former South Bendigo ruckman Callum Crisp.

Captain of Calivil United’s premiership team in 2017, Alex Davis joins White Hills after a stint at centre half-back for Boort.

A strong squad for the Demons includes Liam Bartels, Tom Brereton, James Davies, Mitch Dole, Patrick Eefting and Nick Warnock.

First-up this season will be playing in the Hawks’ nest at Huntly’s Strauch Reserve on April 6.

It’s the rematch of last season’s preliminary finalists when White Hills hosts Mount Pleasant in round two.

The Demons are at Lockington in round three, host Colbinabbin a week later, and then tackle North Bendigo in the fifth round.

Nat Dole’s predictions:

Top five: Heathcote, North Bendigo, White Hills, Leitchville-Gunbower, Mount Pleasant.

Premier: Heathcote.

Goalkicking: Corey Grindlay, Heathcote.

Sam Cheatley Medal: Mitch Rovers, Mount Pleasant.

Big improver: Elmore.