BY NATHAN DOLE
SOUTH Bendigo will fight to keep the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup out of Sandhurst’s hands in Saturday’s fifth round of senior footy in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL season.
The match to honour one of the Bloods’ great defenders and clubmen will be at South Bendigo’s new home at Harry Trott Oval in Kennington’s Neale Street from 2.20pm.
Last season’s Cup battle between the-then QEO co-tenants ended in an eight-point win for the red and white.
The Bloods will up the pressure rating against the unbeaten Dragons.
South Bendigo gained plenty of confidence from a one-point win at Golden Square last round.
Among the many key duels in Saturday’s contest will be in the ruck where Bloods’ gun recruit Mac Cameron is up against Hamish Hosking.
Both are superb at centre clearances and boundary throw-ins, but also provide plenty of run and marking power around the ground.
Bloods’ small forwards Brock Harvey, Will Keck and Steven Stroobants will test the Dragons in every quarter.
The quality and quantity of supply will be crucial to South Bendigo’s chances.
Brody Haddow, Cooper Leon, Oscar White and coach Nathan Horbury play crucial on-ball or midfield roles for the Bloods.
The dash and flair of Zac Hare and Braydan Torpey from defence is a key for the Bloods, as is the run from Wil McCaig and Sam Maher.
Sandhurst made it four wins on the trot when it kicked clear in the final quarter to beat Strathfieldsaye by 30 points.
James Coghlan, Andy Collins, Isaac Ruff and Cooper Smith were the Dragons’ best.
The marking power of Sandhurst forwards Matt Thornton, Cobi Maxted and Lachlan Wright is a huge plus and will test Daniel Johnstone and Andy Van Heumen.
A Dragons’ team coached by Ash Connick, non-playing, and Bryce Curnow, playing, was superb in the clinches as it beat Golden Square to retain the Ron Best Memorial Shield two weeks ago.
Players to watch for the Dragons include Nick Stagg, Will Moran, Alex Wharton and youngsters Archer Day-Wicks, Lachie Hood and Darcy Mills.
Another big match will be at Triple M Park in Strathfieldsaye’s Tannery Lane where Storm hosts the ladder-leading Eaglehawk.
Illness and injury have hit Storm which has a two-two record and in a tough fight to hold fourth place.
Among the changes for the Darryl Wilson-coached Storm was captain Lachlan Sharp out because of a hamstring injury.
With the Michelsen medallist and dual Ron Best medallist on the sidelines there’s more pressure on James Schischka, Baxter Slater and Malik Gordon in Storm’s forward line.
On-ball duels will be a highlight.
Storm has ruckman Jed Brereton to take on Connor Dalgleish, while Michelsen medallist Jake Moorhead and Daniel Clohesy are damaging players from centre breaks and stoppages.
In defence it will be Mitch Hallinan, Luke Webb and Lachlan Ratcliffe who play crucial roles for Storm.
It’s been a long time since the Hawks have won in Storm territory.
A key player in Storm’s long-time dominance against the Hawks was Kallen Geary.
This time the triple premiership winner with Strathfieldsaye returns to Triple M Park, but to play off a half-back flank for the Hawks.
On the other flank will be Kallen’s older brother, Jarryn who has returned to the Borough after a 207-game AFL career with St Kilda.
A talented Eaglehawk line-up includes Marcus Angove, Billy Evans in the centre, Lewin Davis, Clayton Holmes, Cameron McGlashan, Joel Mullen and Noah Wheeler.
Gisborne is back on home turf at Gardiner Reserve to take on Kyneton.
The Bulldogs surged clear in the second half to win last Saturday’s match at Kangaroo Flat by 52 points.
The Brad Fox-coached Bulldogs will be wary of a Kyneton line-up which hit back from a hat-trick of defeats to score a big win against Maryborough at Tigerland.
Premiership-winning captain and gun forward Pat McKenna marks a timely return for Gisborne.
A Dogs’ attack that includes Matt Merrett, Harry Luxmoore and Adam Brancatisano will test the Paul Chapman-coached team in yellow and black.
Gisborne ruckman Braidon Blake, rover Flynn Lakey and key defender and captain Jack Reaper have been in top form all season.
After racking up 45 disposals and three goals in Kyneton’s win to earn the Barry Plant Player of the Round award, Cameron Manuel was not named in the Tigers’ team to tackle the Dogs.
With Cameron out there will be a greater onus on the likes of Hamish Yunghanns, Bailey McGee, James Orr, Brady Muir and Lucas Iudica to set up attacks.
Harrison Huntley is one of the league’s best key defenders.
A premiership winner with Gisborne last season, classy forward Ethan Foreman returns, but back in the Tigers colours.
A tough run for Maryborough rolls on as the Magpies face a Golden Square team fired up after consecutive defeats.
The Coby Perry-coached Magpies will be on home turf at Princes Park.
Best for the Borough in last week’s match at Kyneton were Chris Freeman, Lucas Hurse, Jake Postle and Jai Howell.
Maryborough’s line-up includes the experienced Matt Johnston and Joel Swatton, captain Ty Stewart, Darcy Bond and Kya Lanfranchi.
The Christian Carter-coached Bulldogs have Ron Best medallist Joel Brett as a key target in attack, along with Braydon Vaz, and possibly Tom Strauch.
A forward in most matches for Square, Jayden Burke was best playing at centre half-back last week.
The Dogs have the running power and skill of captain Jack Geary, Ricky Monti, Jake Thrum and Terence Reeves.
Strong form by Jack Threlfall in the reserves has earned a call-up for his first senior game with the Bulldogs since last season’s round 17 clash with Gisborne on Square’s turf.
Castlemaine and Kangaroo Flat will fight to mark their second win of the season.
The Brendan Shepherd-coached Castlemaine has home-ground advantage at Camp Reserve.
The Pies could not stop Eaglehawk’s run to a big win at Canterbury Park last round.
Best for the ‘Maine in that contest were Brodie Byrne, Matt Filo, Callum McConachy and Liam Wilkinson.
Although the Kangaroos have an identical 1-3 record, they have been competitive for much longer, especially against Sandhurst and Gisborne.
Best for the Nathan Johns-coached Roos last round were Connor Evans, Noah Furlong, Liam Collins and Toby Roberts.
Players to watch for the Flat include Mitch Trewhella, Mitch Collins, Jordan and Zachary Rouse, and Gach Chuol.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Eaglehawk 355 per cent, 16 points; Sandhurst 172, 16; South Bendigo 141, 12; Strathfieldsaye 126, 8; Gisborne 125, 8; Golden Square 112, 8; Kyneton 94, 4; Kangaroo Flat 67, 4; Castlemaine 28, 4; Maryborough 26, 0.
Leaders in the goalkicking race for the Ron Best Medal:
12 Will Keck, South Bendigo.
12 James Schischka, Strathfieldsaye.
12 Lachlan Sharp, Strathfieldsaye.
11 Joel Brett, Golden Square.
10 Steven Stroobants, South Bendigo.
10 Lachlan Wright, Sandhurst.
9 Lewin Davis, Eaglehawk.
9 Brock Harvey, South Bendigo.
9 Thomas Quinn, Kyneton.
8 Kallen Geary, Eaglehawk.
8 Matt Thornton, Sandhurst.
7 Zac Denahy, Gisborne.
7 Ryan Hartley, Golden Square.
7 Noah Wheeler, Eaglehawk.