Gisborne fronts up to Strathfieldsaye Storm surge
THE Rob Waters-coached Gisborne faces a resurgent Strathfieldsaye Storm senior footy team in Saturday’s second semi-final in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League.
Victory at Queen Elizabeth Oval will put Gisborne into its first senior grand final since 2012.
Strathfieldsaye has played in the past three showdowns for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup for a tally of two wins and a loss.
This season’s clashes between Gisborne and Strathfielsaye went the way of the Bulldogs.
Storm made a brilliant start to the finals campaign as it scored a 38-point victory in last Saturday’s qualifying final against Golden Square.
Jointly coached by Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary, Strathfieldsaye cast aside any doubts from being beaten twice by the Bulldogs in the run to the finals.
It was two younger guns, Baxter Slater in attack and Mitch Hallinan in defence who played starring roles in the qualifying final.
Slater kicked seven goals as Hallinan took on and beat Joel Brett in many one-on-one duels.
Four years ago, Baxter Slater earned the George Symons Medal as fairest and best in the BFNL under-18s competition for the premiership-winning Gisborne.
Now he is wearing the blue and white hoops of Strathfieldsaye.
Midfield and on-ball contests will have a major bearing on the result of this Gisborne and Strathfieldsaye clash.
The Bulldogs regain number one ruckman Braidon Blake from injury to take on the experienced Michael Pilcher and rising star Caleb Ernst.
Back-up ruckman Ben Eales also plays a crucial role for Gisborne.
At ground level Brad Bernacki is back in the centre for the Bulldogs after playing a lot of the year with Essendon in the VFL.
The Bulldogs also have Nicholas Doolan and Flynn Lakey to take on the in-form Jake Moorhead and Daniel Clohesy.
Strathfieldsaye regains Callum McCarty after a head knock in the 18th round clash with Golden Square to bolster a midfield that includes Kallen Geary who provides the X-factor for Storm.
A major strength of the Gisborne line-up is its forward line led by Pat McKenna, Josh Kemp and Jack Scanlon.
Their marking power will test Storm all match.
McKenna did kick eight goals in the round 14 win against Storm at Gardiner Reserve.
Although he missed a lot of the season because of injury, Ethan Foreman showed his class with four goals to be among the best in the Dogs’ 18th round win against Eaglehawk.
The experience of Shannon Geary and Harry Conway in defence is a huge plus for team-mates Lachlan Ratcliffe, Joseph Mayes and Jack Neylon.
The Strathfieldsaye attack is led by captain Lachlan Sharp, James Schischka and Lachlan Gill.
A seven-goal haul was a brilliant start by Slater and he will have been a major focus in Gisborne’s match plans.
In the Harmac Homes reserves, Golden Square takes on Gisborne.
It was a 17-1 run for Golden Square in the home-and-away series.
Sole defeat was to Gisborne, 63-21 in round eight when Dan Davie kicked six goals.
The second semi-finalists met in round 17 where Golden Square won 63-21 at Fur Life Oval in Wade Street.
Gisborne goes into Saturday’s match after a 52-49 result in the qualifying final against Strathfieldsaye.
Key players for Golden Square include Drew Barrett in the centre, ruckman Tanner Rayner, Sheldon Burke, Alex Jenkyn, Brodie James, Jack Threlfall and Will Thrum.
Dan Davie will line-up at full-forward in a Gisborne line-up that includes Heath Simpson, Elijah Bretherton, James Fraser, Luke Weber, Matt McDonald and Boyd Nalder.
It’s Sandhurst against Gisborne in the SportsPower under-18s match.
The Dragons had a 17-1 record in the regular season as Gisborne’s tally was 15-3.
A great qualifying final ended in a 64-60 win for Gisborne against Golden Square.
The Dragons won the first-round match at Gisborne by 38 points as Dayten Uerata kicked seven goals.
The round 10 clash at the QEO ended in a 25-point win for Sandhurst.
A talented Dragons squad includes Seb Collins, Tim Long, Seb Morris, Archer Paterson, Louis Banfield and Tobie Travagia.
Players to watch for Gisborne include Connor Bills, Shane Clough, James Fox, Cameron Freake, Harry Luxmoore, Kne Minns, Sam Simpson and Sam Wilson.
Schedule for Saturday’s second semi-finals at Queen Elizabeth Oval:
Under-18s at 10.15am: Sandhurst v Gisborne.
Reserves at 12.15pm: Golden Square v Gisborne.
Seniors at 2.20pm: Gisborne v Strathfieldsaye.
Written by Nathan Dole.