BY NATHAN DOLE
THE unbeaten Sandhurst faces the Bloods from South Bendigo in this Saturday’s fifth round of A-grade netball in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL season.
What’s been a long-time showdown at Queen Elizabeth Oval for many years has a change of venue as the Bloods new home is now Harry Trott Oval in Kennington’s Neale Street.
It’s a big day for South Bendigo on Graeme Wright Memorial Cup day.
In pursuit of a fifth consecutive premiership, Sandhurst has answered all challenges.
The Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst beat Kangaroo Flat by 10 goals in the rematch of the ’22 grand finalists to tip-off the season at the QEO.
Other wins for the maroon and blue have been at Kyneton by 11 goals; at home against Golden Square by 78; and at Strathfieldsaye’s Triple M Park by 30.
The Jannelle Hobbs-coached South Bendigo played brilliant netball at Golden Square’s Fur Life Oval in Wade Street last round to win by 53 goals.
The Bloods’ attack capitalised on the mid-court dominance to pour in 81 goals against the blue and gold.
Another crucial match will be at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve where the Magpies take on Kangaroo Flat.
The Fiona Fowler and Gary Cooke-coached Castlemaine felt the heat at Eaglehawk last round as it led by just two goals going into the final term.
It was 18-7 in Castlemaine’s favour in the last to clinch a 50-37 victory.
The Magpies are up against a much stronger opponent this round.
Kangaroo Flat showed plenty of fight last Saturday to score a 44-42 win against Gisborne on the Roos’ court at Dower Park.
The Jayden Cowling-coached Kangaroos were down 19-22 at half-time, but lifted to win the third, 14-10, and the fourth, 11-10.
Maryborough is back on its court at Princes Park to take on Golden Square.
The Jordan Macilwain-coached Maryborough will be determined to hit back after a 21-goal loss at Kyneton.
The Magpies are likely to have too much attacking power for the Benita Swatton-coached Golden Square to hold across four quarters.
Gisborne is at home at Gardiner Reserve to take on Kyneton.
It’s the clash of the Calder rivals.
The Tarryn Rymer-coached Gisborne will start favourite on a court where it has beaten Strathfieldsaye and Eaglehawk by margins of 25 and 23 goals.
Kyneton played exceptional netball last Saturday.
The Dianne Guest-Oakley coached Tigers led 17-9 at quarter-time and went on to win the next three terms by five, three and five in a 64-43 result.
Kyneton has experience and height in attack to trouble Gisborne, but the Bulldogs’ slick ball movement through the court will be difficult to stop.
Strathfieldsaye and Eaglehawk meet in Storm territory at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
The Steph Freemantle-coached Strathfieldsaye will be wary of an opponent which pushed Castlemaine at Eaglehawk’s Canterbury Park last round.
It’s consecutive hit-outs at home for Storm.
Both teams have endured a tough start to the season.
Storm has faced three of last season’s finalists in Gisborne, Castlemaine and Sandhurst.
It’s been the same for the Kylie Piercy-coached Hawks who have taken on South Bendigo, Gisborne and Castlemaine across the first month.
Standings in the Bendigo FNL A-grade netball competition:
Sandhurst 205 per cent, 16 points; South Bendigo 156, 12; Gisborne 141, 12; Kangaroo Flat 136, 12; Castlemaine 121, 12; Kyneton 122, 8; Strathfieldsaye 87, 4; Maryborough 73, 4; Eaglehawk 59, 0; Golden Square 32, 0.