BY NATHAN DOLE
WITH eyes focused on a fifth victory in a row, Kyneton faces a big task of upstaging Strathfieldsaye Storm in Saturday’s ninth round of senior footy in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL season.
The Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton has made an incredible fightback from a 0-3 start to be 4-3 and on the cusp of breaking into the top five.
In recent weeks the Tigers have won at Eaglehawk by a point, and then outpointed Kangaroo Flat, 75-37 at Kyneton Showgrounds.
Key players in the charge by the yellow and black include Harrison Huntley in defence, Cameron Manuel and Thomas Quinn in midfield, ruck-rover Hamish Yunghanns, and Ethan Foreman in attack.
The Darryl Wilson-coached Strathfieldsaye has overcome injuries and illness which tested depth in the early rounds to now be fourth on a 5-3 record.
A loss to the Tigers will put Storm out of the top bracket.
An attack that includes Michelsen medallist and multiple Ron Best medallist in Lachlan Sharp as captain will test Kyneton in every quarter.
Other players to watch for Storm include Michelsen medallist Jake Moorhead in an on-ball or midfield role, Luke Webb at half-back, the experienced Shannon Geary and Ben Lester.
Strathfieldsaye also has the dangerous Baxter Slater and James Schischka near goal.
After a hat-trick of defeats, Eaglehawk will be desperate to turn fortunes around when it meets Sandhurst on the Hawks’ turf at Canterbury Park.
A big crowd is expected as the Borough strives to end Sandhurst’s unbeaten run.
Despite the run of losses, Eaglehawk was right in the contest as the margins were three, one and three points.
Key players for the Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk include co-captains Billy Evans and Cam McGlashan, Jarryn and Kellen Geary, Clayton Holmes, Connor Dalgleish, Sam Harper and Darcy Richards.
Sandhurst has a superb mix of experience and youthful talent.
Long-time players such as Lee Coghlan, Andy Collins, Nick Stagg and Zach Pallpratt keep racking up the possessions.
Jointly coached by Ash Connick, non-playing, and Bryce Curnow, playing, Sandhurt also has Noah Walsh, Isaac Ruff, Cooper Smith and Lachlan Wright in great form.
Kangaroo Flat is back on home turf at Dower Park to take on Golden Square.
The Roos brought in gun recruit Jonathon Patton for last week’s match at Kyneton.
Number one pick in the AFL draft of 2011, Patton played for Greatern Western Sydney Giants and Hawthorn.
He was not named in the Nathan Johns-coached Kangaroo Flat team to play this Saturday.
Most recent home game for Flat ended in a three-point win against Eaglehawk.
On that occasion the Roos defended incredibly well to hold the Hawks to a tally of 10 goals.
This week’s task is just as daunting as the Bulldogs have a brilliant forward line based around Ron Best medallist Joel Brett and the strong-marking Jayden Burke and Braydon Vaz.
Golden Square also has the talented Terence Reeves and Hamish Morcom at ground level.
Chances of another upset win by the Roos rest heavily with Mitch Trewhella in the centre, Jordan Rouse, Nick Keogh and Ryan O’Keefe in defence, ruckman Toby Roberts, and on-ballers Liam Collins and Campbell Smith.
A formidable Golden Square team coached by Christian Carter includes the running power of Jack Geary, Ricky Monti, Jake Thrum and Tom Toma, and defence led by Jon Coe, Jack Hickman and Zack Shelton.
Gisborne will be aiming to snap its winless run in a home game at Gardiner Reserve against Maryborough.
A much-improved start will be a goal for the Brad Fox-coached Bulldogs who were down by seven and six goals at quarter-time of their recent games against Golden Square and South Bendigo.
Key players for Gisborne include captain Jack Reaper in defence or attack, rover Flynn Lakey, Harry Luxmoore and Matt Merrett in attack, Seb Bell-Bartels and Liam Spear in midfield.
The Bulldogs are bolstered by the inclusion of gun on-baller Brad Bernacki who has played 10 matches for Essendon in this season’s VFL action.
The Coby Perry-coached Maryborough works hard, but lacks the attacking power to trouble the top teams.
Players to watch for the Magpies include Kya Lanfranchi and Jake Postle in defence, Joel Swatton, Matt Johnston, ruckman Ty Stewart, the versatile Chris Freeman, and talented youngster Alex Gavriliadis.
Castlemaine is back home at Camp Reserve to take on South Bendigo.
The Brendan Shepherd-coached Magpies played well to be within 34 points of Sandhurst at three quarter-time last Saturday.
In the last the Dragons fired up to record a convincing win.
Castlemaine will look to John Watson, Matt Filo, Brodie Browne-Kerr, Liam Wilkinson, Brad Keogh, Brodie and Jackson Byrne to win plenty of contests.
The Magpies also have the dash and skill of Ashton Frankling from a wing or half-back.
Major goal for the ‘Maine will be to limit the influence of Bloods’ midfielder Brody Haddow.
A tally of 35 disposals, eight clearances and nine tackles by Haddow in South Bendigo’s win against Gisborne earned the Barry Plant Player of the Round award.
Could be another big afternoon for Bloods’ forwards Will Keck, Brock Harvey and Steven Stroobants as they cap off the work of ruckman Mac Cameron, coach Nathan Horbury, Isaiah Miller, Sam Maher and Sam Langley.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Sandhurst 252 per cent, 32 points; Golden Square 195, 24; Eaglehawk 217, 20; Strathfieldsaye 145, 20; South Bendigo 143, 20; Kyneton 104, 18; Kangaroo Flat 70, 12; Gisborne 89, 8; Castlemaine 29, 6; Maryborough 17, 0.
Leaders in the goalkicking race for the Ron Best Medal:
35 Joel Brett, Golden Square.
30 Lachlan Sharp, Strathfieldsaye.
24 Will Keck, South Bendigo.
24 Steven Stroobants, South Bendigo.
24 Lachlan Wright, Sandhurst.
22 Brock Harvey, South Bendigo.
20 Cameron Manuel, Kyneton.
18 Braydon Vaz, Golden Square.
16 Andy Collins, Sandhurst.
16 James Schischka, Strathfieldsaye.
16 Matt Thornton, Sandhurst.
14 Lewin Davis, Eaglehawk.
13 Ryan Hartley, Golden Square.
13 Cam McGlashan, Eaglehawk.
13 Thomas Quinn, Kyneton.
12 Darcy Richards, Eaglehawk.
11 Harry Whitty, Kangaroo Flat.
10 Jed Brereton, Strathfieldsaye.
10 Billy Evans, Eaglehawk.
10 Dylan Hird, Eaglehawk.
10 Liam Marciano, Eaglehawk.
10 Callum McCarty, Strathfieldsaye.
10 Nick Stagg, Sandhurst.
10 Noah Wheeler, Eaglehawk.