By Nathan Dole
A GREAT of Golden Square FNC, Jack Geary will mark his 200th senior footy match when he leads the Bulldogs in Saturday’s start to the Bendigo Bank Football Netball League season.
The Bulldogs will be determined to cap Geary’s step into an elite club with victory against the Kyneton Tigers on home turf at Fur Life Oval in Wade Street.
A five-time premiership player for the Bulldogs, Geary and his team-mates will tackle the Tigers from 2.20pm.
It’s a big test for the Christian Carter-coached Golden Square against Kyneton.
The Bulldogs have kept the majority of the team which reached last season’s preliminary final and will start favourite to take the points against the Paul Chapman-coached Tigers.
A gun midfielder or on-baller for most of his career, Geary was named on a half-back flank.
An attack which has Joel Brett, Jayden Burke and Braydon Vaz as main targets will be tough for Kyneton to hold across four quarters.
Other key players for the Bulldogs include Jon Coe and Will Lee in defence, Ryan Hartley and Liam Barrett in midfield, ruckman Matt Compston, and ruck-rover Ricky Monti.
The blue and gold also welcomes back tough on-baller Tom Toma from Cohuna Kangas.
Plenty of changes have been made at Tigerland.
A huge plus for Kyneton is the return of classy small forward Ethan Foreman after premiership success with Gisborne last season.
Foreman is a previous leading goalkicker for the yellow and black.
The Tigers have also recruited another small forward in Tom Quinn from University Blues.
A defence led by Harrison Huntley, C Fisher and J Safstrom faces a huge challenge.
Other newcomers for Kyneton include ruckman Jayden Eales from Sunbury, and Jordan and Lucas Iudica.
A rematch of last season’s grand finalists, Gisborne at Strathfieldsaye should draw a big crowd to Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve.
It’s the start of a new era as Brad Fox takes charge as senior coach after the successful run of Rob Waters.
The Bulldogs are without several of their premiership stars, including gun forward Pat McKenna.
This season it’s Jack Reaper who takes the captaincy after McKenna stepped aside from the role because of work commitments.
A formidable Gisborne line-up still has ruckman Braidon Blake, onballer Flynn Lakey, the skilful Sam Graham and Matt Merrett.
The Dogs have plenty of running power through the likes of Mack Lord, Matt Weber and Liam Spear.
Newcomers for the Bulldogs include Jed and Zac Denahy from Castlemaine.
The Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary-coached Strathfieldsaye will be determined to start well.
There have also been quite a lot of changes to the Storm line-up.
A strong attack will again be led by Michelsen medallist and dual Ron Best medallist, Lachlan Sharp.
The marking power of James Schischka was a highlight in many of Storm’s matches last season.
Storm also named two of the prized recruits, Jack Exell and Alex Powell on a ‘from’ interchange.
Michelsen medallist Jake Moorhead will play a key role in and around the packs, as will Riley Wilson, Callum McCarty and Lachlan Gill.
Storm’s defence led by Ben Lester, Lachie Ratcliffe and Mitchell Hallinan will rely a lot on pressure further up the ground.
South Bendigo marks the start of a new era when it tackles Eaglehawk at Harry Trott Oval in Kennington.
The Bloods have played for premiership points at the Neale Street ground in previous years, but the venue is now the Bloods new permanent home for all football and netball teams.
On-field the Nathan Horbury-coached South Bendigo welcomes back gun small forward Steven Stroobants.
In recent years Stroobants has starred for Rochester in the Goulburn Valley and coached the Tigers last season.
Another key signing for the red and white was ruckman Macgregor Cameron from Monash Blues.
Players to watch for the Bloods include Brock Harvey at full-forward, rover Cooper Leon, Oscar White and Brody Haddow in midfield.
The defensive work of captain Zac Hare, Isaiah Miller, Cameron Taggert and Braydan Torpey will be important.
Biggest recruiting coup in the lead-up to 2023 was former St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary deciding to return to Eaglehawk.
The Geary brothers, Jarryn and Kallen both mark their return to the Two Blues.
Jarryn brings 207 games of AFL experience to the league, and Kallen is a triple premiership winner with Strathfieldsaye.
After finishing on the seventh rung last season the Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk could soar back to the top five.
A talented line-up from the Borough includes Darcy Richards, new captain Cam McGlashan and Liam Marciano in attack, new ruckman Connor Dalgleish from Montmorency, and a centreline of Joel Mullen, Fraser Verhey and Billy Evans.
The Thompsons – Ben, Jack and Sam are all in the Hawks line-up.
Maryborough is on home turf at Princes Park for its clash with Castlemaine.
Both of the Magpies will be keen to mark a victory, especially Maryborough after a winless ’22 campaign.
The Borough has appointed gun on-baller Coby Perry as playing coach.
A wrist injury will keep Perry on the sidelines for a few more weeks.
Massive plus for Maryborough is the return of Bailey Edwards who spent the summer playing for Nightcliff in the Northern Territory.
Edwards is a previous club champion at Maryborough who played for Carisbrook last season.
Key players for the Borough include Joel Swatton from South Bendigo; Brady Neill; Chris Freeman in the centre or attack; Darcy Bond, Kya Lanfranchi and Luke Bucknall in defence.
Matt Johnston was also named in the Maryborough attack.
A premiership winner with Castlemaine, Brendan Shepherd marks his return to the club as senior coach.
On the recruiting front, Castlemaine has regained previous club champion Matt Filo.
The Magpies will look for big games from the likes of Jackson Hood, David Wilson, Ben Moran, Brodie and Jackson Byrne, and Callum McConachy.
Sandhurst takes on Kangaroo Flat at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Beaten in last season’s elimination final, Sandhurst could mark a dramatic rise.
Ash Connick has stayed on as coach and is joined by Bryce Curnow as playing assistant coach.
A premiership winner and Nalder medallist as best on ground in a Strathfieldsaye grand final victory, Curnow played in Kerang’s premiership team in ’22.
The Dragons have also welcomed back favourite son Nick Stagg after last season’ stint with the Kerang Blues.
Former coach Andy Collins bolsters the Dragons’ attack or midfield on his return from Bridgewater.
Other key players for Sandhurst include Michelsen medallist and on-baller Lee Coghlan, ruckman Hamish Hosking, Matt Thornton and Joel Wharton in attack, Zach Pallpratt in the centre, Liam Ireland and Tanner Nally in defence.
It’s a tough initation for Nathan Johns to his coaching stint with Kangaroo Flat.
Johns brings plenty of coaching experience to lead a young Roos’ line-up.
Key recruits for the Flat include the Rouse twins, Jordan and Zac in defence.
Rover Mitch Trewhella, Liam Collins, Kyle Symons, Tim Brooks, Ryan O’Keefe, and co-captains Mitch Collins and Ethan Roberts will all play key roles as the Roos strive to maintain a high level of pressure in all quarters.