BFNL Football | Seniors Grand Final PREVIEW

Gisborne fights Strathfieldsaye for premiership cup

THEY are locked on four senior footy premierships, but Strathfieldsaye or Gisborne will mark a fifth in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s grand final on Saturday.

Showdown between the Storm and Bulldogs will be at Queen Elizabeth Oval.

It’s the first time these clubs have met in a senior footy grand final to decide who will take the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.

Strathfieldsaye is chasing back-to-back premierships, as Gisborne marks its first grand final appearance since being runner-up in 2012 to Golden Square.

Although Gisborne had won showdowns with Strathfieldsaye in this season’s home and away action, Storm surged to an 83-71 win against the Bulldogs in the second semi-final.

The win put Strathfieldsaye into its seventh grand final in eight seasons.

Gisborne claimed a two-point win against Golden Square in last Saturday’s  preliminary final against Golden Square.


There have been changes to both teams for the grand final.

Strathfieldsaye will be without the injured Mitch Hallinan who has played such a crucial role in defence.

Storm’s co-coaches Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary named Bode Stevens on a ‘from’ interchange of five, while Riley Wilson is back from injury.

Although he was under an injury cloud after the second semi, Riley Clarke was named in Storm’s team.

The Rob Waters-coached Bulldogs were forced to replace small defender Jake Normington because of a hamstring injury.

Ruckman/forward Ben Eales was recalled to the line-up.

For Gisborne captain Pat McKenna and the club it’s now a chance to cap the many hours put into a 22-week season.

“We have worked extremely hard to be where we are,” said McKenna.

“In many ways it was a relief to get through, especially after the preliminary final defeats in 2019 and ’14.”

McKenna said Storm’s strength in all parts of the ground meant it would not be just be a case of “shut down” the midfield and it’s a Gisborne victory.

“Both teams are strong in attack, defence, and through midfield.

“We have to play well in all three areas.”

A highlight of the contest will be Storm’s midfield and on-ballers led by Michelsen medallist Jake Moorhead, Kallen Geary and Callum McCarty up against Brad Bernacki, Nick Doolan and Flynn Lakey.

Among the many crucial battles will be in the ruck where Storm veteran Michael Pilcher, vice-captain in Storm’s inaugural year of 2009, is up against the athletic Braidon Blake.

Storm captain and gun forward Lachlan Sharp is on the cusp of a fifth premiership victory, along with co-coach and half-back flanker Shannon Geary.

Storm has a core group of experienced players who have racked up multiple premiership wins, but also many in their first senior grand final.

Sharp said the development of players such as Callum McCarty, James Schischka, Riley Wilson had played a big part in Storm’s run.

“They are hungry for success and play a big part in driving the standards at training and in matches.”

Wilson is a triple premiership coach at Storm.


In a career in which he has kicked more than 800 goals for Storm, Sharp is a major focus in an attack that includes Schischka, Caleb Ernst, and Baxter Slater who slotted seven goals in the qualifying final.

They will be opposed to a tight-knit Gisborne defence led by Jack Reaper, Jaidyn Owen and Liam Spear.

A formidable Gisborne attack includes the marking power of Pat McKenna, Josh Kemp and Jack Scanlon, and the dash and creativity from the likes of Ethan Foreman, Ethan Minns and Matt Panuccio.

In the second semi it was Jack Neylon who worked incredibly hard to limit McKenna’s impact on the contest.

A storm defence that includes Harry Conway, Lachlan Ratcliffe, Ben Lester and Shannon Geary is not only great at intercepting passes into the forward 50m arc, but also rebounding quickly.

Line-ups for the Bendigo FNL’s senior footy grand final:



B: Jack Reaper, Liam Rodgers, Zac Vescovi

Hb: Sam Graham, Jaidyn Owen, Liam Spear

C: Seb Bell-Bartels, Matt Weber, Brad Bernacki

Hf: Ethan Minns, Ethan Foreman, Jack Scanlon

F: Matt Panuccio, Pat McKenna, Josh Kemp

Foll: Braidon Blake, Nick Doolan, Flynn Lakey

Inter: Matt Cassidy, Ben Eales, Matt Merrett, Luke Ellings

In: Ben Eales

Out: Jake Normington (injured)

Coach: Rob Waters



B: Harry Conway, Jack Neylon, Joseph Mayes

Hb: Shannon Geary, Lachlan Ratcliffe, Patrick Blandford

C: Baxter Slater, Hunter Lawrence, Jake Moorhead

Hf: Lachlan Gill, Riley Wilson, James Schischka

F: Caleb Ernst, Kallen Geary, Lachlan Sharp

Foll: Michael Pilcher, Callum McCarty, Daniel Clohesy

Inter (from): Bode Stevens, Riley Clarke, Ben Lester, Boden Alexander, Thomas Bennett

In: Riley Wilson, Bode Stevens

Out: Mitch Hallinan (injured)

Co-coaches: Darryl Wilson, Shannon Geary


Written by Nathan Dole