New-look Machine challenges Marong, Pyramid Hill

A NEW-LOOK Bridgewater looms as a major threat to the premiership hopes of Marong and Pyramid Hill in this year’s senior footy action in the Bendigo Bank Loddon Valley FNL.

Since its loss to Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in last year’s first semi, Bridgewater has gone on a lucrative recruiting spree.

The Mean Machine has bolstered its attack with the signing of Strathfieldsaye Storm’s gun full-forward Lachlan Sharp, and also gained Sandhurst on-baller Lee Coghlan to return where his footy career began.

Both are premiership winners in the Bendigo FNL and Michelsen medallists.

A dual premiership-winning coach at Bridgewater in 2014 and ’15, and premiership player in 2016, Andy Collins has also lodged papers for a return to the club.

Last season’s grand final clash with Sandhurst was believed to have been the final game of a brilliant career.

Now the 2015 Harding Medallist as LVFNL fairest and best is keen to play on with the Mean Machine.

The inclusion of the talented trio is a huge plus as the Rick Ladson-coached Bridgewater strives to end Marong’s run toward a premiership hat-trick.

Not only will Sharp be a focal point in the forward 50m arc, but also as co-coach.

A four-time premiership player with Storm, Sharp also earned the Ron Best Medal as league leading goalkicker three times, and won the club’s goalkicking title eight times.

Pyramid Hill went close to breaking its long-running premiership drought last September and is likely to be a strong contender once again.

Talented forward Braidy Dickens returns to Pyramid Hill after a stint with Huntly.

Mick Dundon and Brad Ladson also return to the Bulldogs squad.

Bears Lagoon-Serpentine

The Bears were outpointed by Pyramid Hill in both finals clashes.

Jake Wilkinson brings his defensive skill from Sandhurst to be playing coach as Justin Laird, coach of the past two seasons plays on.

BLS has bolstered its attack with the signing of Josh Mellington who played AFL with Fremantle and had starred at Benalla.

A huge inclusion for BLS is tough on-baller Ross Turner, a multiple premiership winner with Mitiamo.

The Bears also welcome back Nathan Twigg and Darcy Hawker from Boort.

Tyler Miles brings plenty of experience from stints with Eaglehawk, Huntly and Maiden Gully YCW Eagles.

Other newcomers to the squad include Doolan Nihill from White Hills, and Echuca United’s Farran Priest.

Those to have re-signed with BLS include forwards Andy Gladman and James Rippingale, the versatile Anthony Brown, and Beau Clements.

The Bears kick off their season with the April 13 clash with Pyramid Hill at Gadsden Finance Serpentine Recreation Reserve.

A testing run in the opening five rounds includes the clash at Inglewood, home game against Newbridge and then a trek to Marong’s Malone Park.

BLS is at home to face Bridgewater in the fifth round.


After sliding from runner-up to the fourth rung, Bridgewater is poised to be a strong challenger for premiership glory in ’24.

The signings of Lachlan Sharp from Strathfieldsaye, and Lee Coghlan and Andy Collins from Sandhurst are a massive plus for the Rick Ladson-coached Mean Machine.

Other newcomers to Bridgewater include Burleigh’s Ollie Clapp, Joseph Mayes from Strathfieldsaye, Picola United’s Blake Tomlins, and Sandhurst’s Xavier Walsh.

An attack led by Sharp and Josh Martyn who kicked 46 goals in 12 games last season will test all defences.

Bridgewater is on home turf on April 13 to take on Newbridge.

After clashes with Maiden Gully YCW in the Eagles’ nest and home game against Inglewood, Bridgewater makes its way to Pyramid Hill’s Mitchell Park for the fourth-round match.

The Mean Machine tackles BLS a week later.

Calivil United

The Anthony Dennis-coached Demons will be fired up to improve on last season’s win-loss tally of 3-13.

Recruits include South Bendigo duo Sam Maher and Lachlan Petri, and Golden Square team-mates Lewis Fisher and Kane Shelton who will bolster the midfield depth.

A big season for Sam Maher includes being assistant coach and also a key role in the midfield for the red and blue.

The Demons have also gained Sam Green, Jacob Mulquiny and Brodie Wagner from Boort, and Lake Wendouree’s Darcy Thompson.

It’s a return for Green to Calivil United who previously captained the Demons and is likely to play in midfield.

Calivil United’s campaign kicks off at Maiden Gully.

The Demons will be on the road again for the round two clash at Pyramid Hill.

After a bye, Calivil United is at home to take on Mitiamo and Marong.


The Blues made their way to a long-awaited finals campaign as they achieved a win-loss record of 9-7 in las season’s home and away series.

The run by the Darrell Billett-coached Inglewood was ended by Bridgewater in the elimination final.

This season the Blues have Fergus Payne as playing coach.

Assistant coach last season, Payne brings experience from three premierships with Strathfieldsaye to the role.

A newcomer for the Blues is Dylan Gilbee from Kangaroo Flat.

Those who starred in Inglewood’s run to last year’s finals included talented youngsters Gabe Nevins and Jaspa Wendels.

The Blues have a bye in the first round and then tackle Bears Lagoon-Serpentine at Inglewood’s Dissy Machinery Oval in the the second round.

Big test at Bridgewater a week later before clashes with Newbridge, home, and Maiden Gully YCW, away.

Maiden Gully YCW

A new-look coaching set-up for the Eagles as Shawn Filo, non-playing, and Angus Monfries, playing, team up.

They had done so at Boort since 2022.

Both bring plenty of experience to the role.

Filo’s coaching career includes stints with Kerang, Pyramid Hill, and also co-coach at Castlemaine where he was a premiership player in 1992.

A tally of 211 games at AFL with Essendon and Port Adelaide is what Monfries brings to the Eagles.

Whether it be in attack, midfield or across half-back, Monfries’ skill is a massive plus for a young line-up.

The Eagles were busy on the recruiting front.

Among those now at Maiden Gully is Mitch Hough who has crossed from Newstead.

A powerfully-built on-baller, Hough’s career includes stints with Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo Bombers, Modewarre, Shepparton Swans, and Newstead.

He played just the one game for Castlemaine in 2019.

Hough is joined at Maiden Gully YCW by Newstead team-mates Todd Delaney, Adam Pollock and Thomas Pridgeon.

Other signings for the Eagles are Declan Phyland, Macedon; Mitch Whitham, Kilcunda Bass; Jack McHutchison and Dylan Turner, Whcheproof-Narraport.

Leading goalkicker for the Eagles last season was Brandon Dimech on 24.

The Eagles kick off this season with home games against Calivil United and Bridgewater.

A clash on Mitiamo’s turf at John Forbes Oval will be followed by a bye and then home game against Inglewood.


Just who can stop the Panthers as they charge toward a premiership hat-trick.

Marong goes into this season without gun forward Brandyn Grenfell who has joined Nyah Nyah West United after kicking a century of goals the past two seasons.

The Linton Jacobs-coached Marong still has the likes of Kain Robins, Matt Riordan and Ryley Taylor in attack.

Signings for the Panthers include Ryan Wellington who has crossed from Eaglehawk and was a gun forward with Mitiamo.

Other newcomers at Marong include Shaun Knott who previously captained Eaglehawk and joins the Panthers after a stint at Westmeadows.

The Panthers have also gained Sam Dean from Eaglehawk and Todd Davies from Waaia.

Marong will unfurl the ’23 premiership flag before its April 13 showdown with Mitiamo at Malone Park.

A week later and the Panthers will play at Newbridge.

A much anticipated grand final rematch with Pyramid Hill will be at Marong on April 27.

The Panthers are at home to play Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in round four and will be at Calivil a week later.


The Jon Varcoe-coached Superoos also welcome plenty of new faces as they strive to regain their place in the top five.

After answering the call to fill the senior coaching void in the lead-up to the ’23 season, Varcoe and the team worked incredibly hard to achieve a 4-12 record and sixth placing.

Now the Superoos are far more settled going into this season.

Recruits at John Forbes Oval include South Bendigo’s Lachlan and Liam Shiell; Kai Coastsworth from Lockington Bamawm United; Gordon’s Nicholas Hicks; and Huntly’s Sean Hanrahan and Jake Price.

Mitiamo has also signed Tom Metcalf, Wycheproof Narraport; Zak Myers, Eaglehawk; Josh Doherty, Eaglehawk; Ryan Duncan, Strathfieldsaye; Jack Vinnicombe, Golden Square; and Bryce Laird from Bathurst, Bushrangers.

Jay Reynolds led the attack on 31 goals last season as Andrew Cussen chipped in with 24.

Tough task for the Superoos at Marong first-up.

The Superoos have a bye in round two and then face Maiden Gully YCW, home; Calivil United, away; and Pyramid Hill, home.


The Sam Gale and Daniel Smith-coached Newbridge have brought in plenty of new faces.

The Maroons had a 4-12 record last year.

It will be Gale as playing coach and Smith as non-playing coach as the club fights to feature in the finals action.

Newbridge’s recruits include Ed and Jono Aujard from Murrabit; Ballarat midfielder Tyler Constable; Gavin Cathie from Romsey; Thomas Wight from Old Camberwell Grammarians.

After a season at Corio, Jordan Anderson returns to Riverside Park which has Walker’s Doughnuts as naming rights sponsor for this season.

The Maroons have also gained Nathan Cordell and Byron Rogers from Marong; key defender or forward Andrew Padbury from Violet Town; Powelltown’s Matthew McArthur; and Wandella’s Ricky Cathie.

A key target in the forward 50m arc will be the agile Jackson Hufer from Mount Pleasant.

Brandon Etherington marks a comeback after a year away from the game.

Big test in opening three rounds as Newbridge plays at Bridgewater, hosts Marong, and then plays at Serpentine.

A clash at Inglewood will be followed by the bye.

Pyramid Hill

A 16-point loss in last year’s grand final has spurred Pyramid Hill across pre-season and will do so for all of the home-and-away series.

The Nathan Fitzpatrick-coached Bulldogs put in a superb effort to almost upset Marong in the season decider.

A 14-2 run across the home-and-away series was followed by a 69-point victory against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in the qualifying final, and a four-goal loss to Marong in the second semi.

The Bulldogs bounced back for a 110-58 result against the Bears in the preliminary final.

A week later and it was Marong which beat the Dogs, 64-48, in the grand final.

Yet another big recruiting spree by Pyramid Hill has landed the likes of midfielder Jaydon Cowling from Charlton, hardworking rover Ben Knight from North Bendigo, and Wandella’s Brad Delamere.

Knight earned the Frank Harding Medal as league fairest and best as he starred in Calivil United’s premiership year of 2017.

Others to have joined the red, white and blue include Jack Stewart from Koondrook Barham, Huntly’s Jack Burns, Merrigum’s Mitchell Stephens, and Trentham’s Matt Smith.

Michael Dundon from Seymour; Modewarre’s Damon Hemphill and Bailey Scott will be determined to play their part in Pyramid Hill capturing the premiership cup.

The Bulldogs play at Serpentine first-up and then host Calivil United at Marong.

Grand final rematch is at Marong’s Malone Park in round three.

Big game against Bridgewater at Pyramid Hill a week later before the Bulldogs trek to Mitiamo.

Nat Dole’s predictions:

Top five: Marong, Bridgewater, Pyramid Hill, Bears-Lagoon Serpentine, Newbridge.

Premier: Bridgewater.

Goalkicking: Lachlan Sharp, Bridgewater.

Harding Medal: Angus Monfries, Maiden Gully YCW.

Big improver: Newbridge.