BY NATHAN DOLE
IT’S an elimination final prelude as South Bendigo and Castlemaine meet in Saturday’s 18th round of A-grade netball in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL season.
The Bloods and Magpies will play on South Bendigo’s court at Harry Trott Oval in Kennington’s Neale Street.
Although Castlemaine has had two more wins than the Bloods and holds fourth place it’s up against an opponent which won by four goals at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve last round.
The only other line-up to have won at Gisborne at this season was the unbeaten Sandhurst in a 38-32 victory in the seventh round.
Castlemaine’s trek to Gisborne in the 11th round ended in a 29-28 win for the home team.
When the Bloods and Magpies last met in round nine it was the Fiona Fowler and Gary Cooke-coached Castlemaine which won 44-31 at Camp Reserve.
Defensive intensity by the Jannelle Hobbs-coached South Bendigo was a key factor in beating Gisborne last Saturday.
The Bloods will be aiming to bring the same or higher level of pressure against the Magpies.
Although it was almost a year ago there’s also the memory of a 28-goal loss to Castlemaine in the elimination final to spur the Bloods line-up.
In other matches to be played on Saturday, Sandhurst takes on Eaglehawk at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst will start hot favourite to mark an 18th consecutive victory.
Last round, Sandhurst answered a spirited challenge from Castlemaine to win 57-48 on the Magpies’ court at Camp Reserve.
The Kylie Piercy-coached Eaglehawk goes into this match following a 63-35 win on its court at Canterbury Park against Golden Square.
Kyneton and Strathfieldsaye will be aiming to end their season with a victory in their showdown at Kyneton Showgrounds.
The Dianne Guest-Oakley coached Kyneton was beaten by 34 goals in last Saturday’s match on Kangaroo Flat’s court at Dower Park.
The Steph Freemantle-coached Strathfieldsaye is chasing back-to-back following a 71-30 result against Maryborough on Storm’s court at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
In round nine, Storm beat the Tigers by eight goals.
Maryborough is home at Princes Park to take on a Gisborne line-up aiming to bounce back from its fourth defeat of the season.
Massive task for a young Maryborough team coached by Jordan Macilwain.
The Tarryn Rymer-coached Gisborne will be determined to put in a strong four-quarter performance in the lead-up to another qualifying final.
Golden Square and Kangaroo Flat meet on the Bulldogs’ court at Fur Life Oval in Golden Square’s Wade Street.
Been a tough run for a young Golden Square squad coached by Benita Swatton.
The Kangaroos scored 106 goals against the blue and gold in the round nine clash at Dower Park.
A goal for the Jayden Cowling-coached Kangaroo Flat will be not only its attacking flair, but also strong defence as it prepares to meet Gisborne in a qualifying final.
Standings in the Bendigo FNL A-grade netball competition:
Sandhurst 210 per cent, 68 points; Gisborne 169, 52; Kangaroo Flat 167 52; Castlemaine 120, 46; South Bendigo 113, 38; Strathfieldsaye 96, 30; Kyneton 87, 22; Eaglehawk 78, 20; Maryborough 55, 12; Golden Square 37, 0.
Ladder positions in a couple of other grades could also be switched after Saturday’s play.
In A-reserve the third and fourth-placed Kangaroo Flat and South Bendigo are locked on 44 points.
The Roos play at Golden Square, and South Bendigo meets the fifth-placed Castlemaine at Kennington.
In B-grade, the fifth-placed South Bendigo has 34 points and 97.65 per cent going into a clash with Castlemaine.
Eaglehawk is sixth on 34 points and 97.32 per cent, but up against the ladder-leading Sandhurst at Queen Elizabeth Oval.