BY NATHAN DOLE
STRATHFIELDSAYE Storm will strive to stop Sandhurst’s winning streak in Saturday’s fourth round of senior footy action in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL season.
Storm has home-ground advantage when the clash at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane starts at 2.20pm.
It’s a big day for the Bendigo FNL as all clubs kick in to support the Pat Cronin Foundation in its campaign to eliminate the Coward Punch and violence.
All footballers and netballers will wear yellow armbands.
For the Darryl Wilson-coached Strathfieldsaye it’s another huge test.
Storm’s run kicked off with a win at Gisborne, loss at home to Golden Square, and then a 97-point victory at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve.
Captain and gun forward Lachlan Sharp returns to Storm’s line-up from injury.
A Michelsen medallist and dual winner of the Ron Best Medal as leading goalkicker, Sharp’s quick leading and work at ground level mean he is an incredibly difficult opponent.
Storm’s forward line also includes James Schischka and Baxter Slater.
Lachlan Bonney will also contest his 204th match for the club.
A multiple premiership winner at Storm, Bonney spent the past two seasons with Torqay in AFL Barwon.
In defence, Storm has Mitch Hallinan, Lachlan Ratcliffe and Luke Webb to play important roles.
It’s a formidable Dragons forward line of Michelsen medallist Lee Coghlan in a pocket, Matt Thornton at full-forward, and former Richmond and Carlton mid/forward Andy Collins in the other pocket.
The Dragons’ best in a 39-point victory against Golden Square at the QEO to retain the Ron Best Memorial Shield included ruckman Hamish Hosking, Cooper Smith, Darcy Mills and James Coghlan.
Now co-coach with Ash Connick at the Dragons, Bryce Curnow is up against a club he won a premiership with and was best afield in the 2019 grand final.
Changes to the Sandhurst line-up include Lachlan Tardrew and Sam Conforti being out to play VFL with Collingwood and Essendon, and also Dayten Uerata.
Ins to the squad are Lee Coghlan, Jake McLean, Jacob Nihill and Isaac Ruff.
Across town, Golden Square and South Bendigo meet at Fur Life Oval in Golden Square’s Wade Street.
The Christian Carter-coached Bulldogs were outplayed for a lot of their duel with the Dragons for the Ron Best Memorial Shield.
Highs on a tough day for the Bulldogs were the play of youngsters Zavier Murley and Jack Hickman.
Among the changes to Golden Square’s team to take on the Bloods was the promotion of Macey Eaton for his first senior game.
The son of Brad, now coaching the Dogs’ reserves team, Macey was the George Symons medallist for fairest and best in last season’s BFNL under-18s competition.
Gun forward Joel Brett will test the Bloods all match, while Jayden Burke has the ability to kick multiple goals.
Other stars for the blue and gold include captain Jack Geary, Ryan Hartley and Jake Thrum.
The Nathan Horbury-coached South Bendigo has hit back from a first-round loss to Eaglehawk by beating Kangaroo Flat and Kyneton.
Playing on Square’s turf means the pressure will be much higher.
The Bloods welcome back classy small forward Brock Harvey to take on his former club.
South Bendigo also has Steven Stroobants and Will Keck firing in the forward 50m arc.
The play of Mac Cameron in the ruck, Brody Haddow, Cooper Leon, Oscar White, Zac Hare and Andrew van Heumen will be crucial to South Bendigo’s chances.
Feature match of Pat Cronin round is Kangaroo Flat at home to Gisborne at Dower Park.
Both have 1-2 records.
Confidence in a Kangaroo Flat team coached by Nathan Johns has lifted markedly after a hard-fought win at Maryborough’s Princes Park.
Angus Grant kicked four goals to be best afield for the Roos and will be a main target in attack, along with Ethan Roberts, Nicholas Keogh and Harry Whitty.
It’s a huge challenge in the ruck for Gach Chuoi against Braidon Blake who earned the Nalder medal as best on ground in Gisborne’s grand final win.
The Brad Fox-coached Gisborne will be desperate to start well.
Bulldogs’ on-ballers Sam Graham and Flynn Lakey, and centreman Liam Spear will be up against Liam Collins, R.J. Watson and Mitch Trewhella.
Since crossing from Castlemaine, Zac Denahy has led Gisborne’s attack on seven goals.
The Bulldogs will also look to Harry Luxmoore and Matt Merrett to capitalise on forward moves.
It will be Kyneton or Maryborough who mark a long-awaited victory when they clash in Tigerland at Kyneton Showgrounds.
The Paul Chapman-coached Tigers have not won since a 133-32 victory at home against Maryborough in last season’s 18th round.
In the opening three rounds Kyneton has played at Golden Square, clash with Sandhurst at home, and then tackled South Bendigo at Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval.
Key players for the yellow and black include Cameron Manuel, Harrison Huntley, Jake Summers and captain James Orr.
Tigers’ on-baller Hamish Yunghanns capped a superb ’22 season by earning the league’s Rising Star award.
The Coby Perry-coached Maryborough has done well to lead at three quarter-time in its clashes with Castlemaine and Kangaroo Flat before being overrun.
The Magpies will be determined to turn that around.
Gun on-ballers Jacob Lohmann and Bailey Edwards were among the best against the Roos, but will not take on the Tigers.
Maryborough will rely a lot on the play of Joel Swatton, Chris Freeman, Brady Neill, captain Ty Stewart, and Kya Lanfranchi.
The ladder-leading Eaglehawk is back at Canterbury Park to take on Castlemaine.
It’s been a brilliant start by the Hawks who led 44-8 at quarter-time on the way to a 112-63 victory at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve last Saturday.
Although he hinted at resting some of the older players, Hawks’ coach Travis Matheson has not done so as Jarryn and Kallen Geary were named to take on the Magpies.
In-form players for the Two Blues include co-captains Billy Evans and Cameron McGlashan, Ben Thompson, Noah Wheeler, Dylan Hanley and Lewin Davis.
A goal for the Brendan Shepherd-coached Castlemaine will be its workrate at centre clearances and stoppages.
The Magpies have the likes of Brodie and Jackson Byrne, John Watson, Callum McConachy ready to accept the challenge.
Other key players for the ‘Maine include Matt Filo, Liam Wilkinson, Lloyd Butcher and Ben Moran.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Eaglehawk 288 per cent, 12 points; Sandhurst 176, 12; South Bendigo 160, 8; Strathfieldsaye 151, 8; Golden Square 116, 8; Gisborne 107, 4; Kangaroo Flat 77, 4; Castlemaine 37, 4; Kyneton 38, 0.
Leaders in the goalkicking race for the Ron Best Medal:
10 Joel Brett, Golden Square.
10 Will Keck, South Bendigo.
10 Lachlan Sharp, Strathfieldsaye.
9 James Schischka, Strathfieldsaye.
8 Cameron McGlashan, Eaglehawk.
8 Steven Stroobants, South Bendigo.
8 Lachlan Wright, Sandhurst.
7 Zac Denahy, Gisborne.
7 Sam Griffiths, South Bendigo.
7 Ryan Hartley, Golden Square.
7 Matt Thornton, Sandhurst.
6 Dylan Hird, Eaglehawk.
6 Liam Marciano, Eaglehawk.
6 Noah Wheeler, Eaglehawk.
5 Braidon Blake, Gisborne.
5 Kallen Geary, Eaglehawk.
5 Brock Harvey, South Bendigo.
5 Harry Luxmoore, Gisborne.
5 Thomas Quinn, Kyneton.