BFNL Round 3 Football Preview | Dragons fight to keep Ron Best Shield off Square


SANDHURST will fight to hold the Ron Best Memorial Shield when it faces Golden Square in Saturday’s third round of senior footy action in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League.

Two of the league’s biggest rivals meet at Queen Elizabeth Oval to honour a league legend.

Another big showdown starts at 2.20pm as Sandhurst also runs a Past Players Function.

Sandhurst has won the previous two contests for the Ron Best Shield.

In a 14-season stint in the Bendigo FNL, Best kicked 1624 goals representing Golden Square, Sandhurst, back at Golden Square, and then Northern United.

One of the greatest recruiting coups in Victoria country football was made in the lead-up to the ’73 season when Sandhurst appointed Best as captain-coach.

The goalkicking champion who was 23-years-old booted seven goals as Sandhurst beat Golden Square by 46 points.

This year marks the golden anniversary of a memorable Dragons’ premiership which was spearheaded by ruckman Bryan Clements and Russell Petherbridge.

Sandhurst had not won a senior premiership since the hat-trick in the Reg Ford-coached reign of 1947 to ’49.

Best starred in Sandhurst’s premiership season of ’77, was back at Golden Square as the Tony Southcombe-coached Bulldogs won the flag in ’79.

In the final match of his brilliant career, Best kicked 11 goals as the Southcombe-coached Northern United won the first of four consecutive premierships in 1984.

The Ash Connick and Bryce Curnow-coached Dragons and the Christian Carter-coached Golden Square have a three-nil start in their sights.

There are some significant inclusions for Sandhurst.

Ins for this match include VFL-listed players Lachlan Tardrew and Cobi Maxted from Collingwood, and Essendon’s Sam Conforti.

Selected on a half-forward flank, Tardrew has played 80 games for the Magpies and is in his eighth VFL season.

He was a key player in the Dragons’ premiership victory of 2016.

Tardrew will be part of an attack that includes the marking power of Matt Thornton and Lachlan Wright, and former Richmond and Carlton player Andy Collins in a pocket.

A huge battle will be in the ruck where the Dragons have Hamish Hosking to take on Matt Compston.

Other key match-ups include Liam Ireland at full-back against Jayden Burke, and Curnow at centre half-back opposed to Braydon Vaz.

One of the biggest dangers to the Dragons’ defence is Joel Brett who kicked ??? goals to be the Ron Best medallist in ’22.

Both teams boast plenty of running power and skill through midfield and on-ball brigades.

The Dragons have Zach Pallpratt, Alex Wharton, Noah Walsh and Nick Stagg to take on Ryan Hartley, Jake Thrum, Jack Geary and Ricky Monti.

Square also has Liam Barrett, Tom Toma and Hamish Morcom in form.

There’s been some shuffling of the Dogs’ defence because of injuries to Will Lee and Jack Merrin.

A tight-knit Square defence includes Jon Coe, Zavier Murley and Zack Shelton.

Another big match will be at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve where the Bulldogs take on the ladder-leading Eaglehawk.

The Brad Fox-coached Gisborne bounced back from a first-round defeat to win at Castlemaine last Saturday.

Gun ruckman Braidon Blake was best afield against the Magpies and the play of Flynn Lakey, captain and key defender Jack Reaper, Liam Spear on a wing, and on-baller Luke Ellings have been highs for the Dogs so far.

A key match-up for the Dogs will be against Hawks’ co-captain and on-baller Billy Evans.

It’s a vastly different Gisborne attack to the one which claimed last year’s premiership.

The Bulldogs have gained Jed and Zac Denahy from Castlemaine, and will look to Harry Luxmoore and Matt Merrett to capitalise on chances.

It’s been a brilliant start for the Travis Matheson-coached Hawks, but the pressure will be much greater and longer this time.

Hawks who have dominated so far include Noah Wheeler, Ben Thompson and Liam Marciano.

The Borough has bolstered its forward line with the inclusion of Darcy Richards to team up with the likes of co-captain Cameron McGlashan and Dylan Hird.

Hawks’ fans are rapt to have the Geary brothers, Jarryn and Geary back in the famous two blues guernsey.

It will be Maryborough or Kangaroo Flat who break their season ‘duck’ at Princes Park.

The Coby Perry-coached Maryborough played well in round one, but was outgunned at Eaglehawk.

There were few scoring chances for the Pies on the Hawks’ ground, but there should be more in this contest.

A crucial ‘in’ for Maryborough is gun on-baller Bailey Edwards who earned the Geoff Macilwain Medal as club champion in ’21.

Edwards is back at Princes Park after a stint at Carisbrook.

He spent the past summer playing for Nightcliff Tigers in the Northern Territory Football League.

Key players for Maryborough include Chris Freeman, Darcy Bond and Liam Murphy in attack; captain and ruckman Ty Stewart; Kya Lanfranchi and Brady Neill in defence.

Now assistant coach of the Pies, Joel Swatton is up against his former club and will play in a crucial role in midfield, possibly opposed to Roos’ young gun Mitch Trewhella.

The Nathan Johns-coached Kangaroos were outplayed in the second half by South Bendigo, but were superb in the season opener against Sandhurst.

The play of Ryan O’Keefe and Noah Furlong in attack, Mitch Collins, Jack Barras, Ethan and Toby Roberts, Jordan and Zac Rouse will have a major say on the Roos chances.

South Bendigo and Kyneton clash at Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval in Neale Street.

The Nathan Horbury-coached Bloods will be wary of a Tigers line-up desperate to mark its first win of ’23.

A South Bendigo attack which has Steven Stroobants, Brock Harvey and Will Keck leading the way will test Kyneton.

Other key players for the Bloods are Brody Haddow in the centre, Cooper Leon and Oscar White in on-ball or midfield roles.

In defence it’s captain Zac Hare and Cameron Taggert who are likely to be given roles against dangerous small forwards Ethan Foreman and Thomas Quinn.

It’s been a tough start for the Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton which played at Golden Square and then took on Sandhurst.

The Tigers will look to Harrison Huntley, captain James Orr, Jordan and Lucas Iudica, Cameron Manuel, James Gaff and Hamish Yunghanns to win plenty of the ball.

Castlemaine is at home again at Camp Reserve to take on Strathfieldsaye.

Facing last season’s premiers and runners-up in consecutive weeks is an incredibly tough start for the Brendan Shepherd-coached Magpies.

A Castlemaine line-up that includes Matt Filo, Brodie and Jackson Byrne, Jackson Hood, Callum McConachy and Ben Moran will be striving to limit Storm’s scoring chances.

Other key players for the Magpies are Lloyd Butcher in the ruck, and versatile big man Liam Wilkinson.

A formidable Strathfieldsaye attack includes captain Lachlan Sharp, James Schischka and Alex Powell.

Michelsen medallist and star ruck-rover Jake Moorhead has made a great start to the season for Storm, along with Luke Webb in defence, Patrick Blandford, Daniel Clohesy and Baxter Slater.

The Daryl Wilson-coached Storm has a strong defence that includes Mitch Hallinan, Hunter Lawrence and Lachlan Ratcliffe, plus the skilful Shannon Geary to play on-ball, midfield, attack or defence.

Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:

Eaglehawk 408 per cent, 8 points; Sandhurst 188, 8; Golden Square 159, 8; Gisborne 156, 4; South Bendigo 146, 4; Strathfieldsaye 102, 4; Castlemaine 51, 4; Kangaroo Flat 57, 0; Kyneton 33, 0; Maryborough 16, 0.

Leaders in the race for the Ron Best Medal as leading goalkicker:

10 Lachlan Sharp, S’saye.

7 Joel Brett, GS; Lachlan Wright, Sh.

6 Zac Denahy, Gis.; Will Keck, SB.

5 Sam Griffiths, SB; Ryan Hartley, GS; Brock Harvey, SB; Dylan Hird, Eh; Harry Luxmoore, Gis.; Noah Wheeler, Eh.

4 Braidon Blake, Gis.; Ryan Bourke, Gis.; Jayden Burke, GS; Liam Marciano, Eh; Thomas Quinn, Kyn; Steven Stroobants, SB.