THERE will be crucial contests at Queen Elizabeth Oval and Golden Square when the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy action reboots this Saturday.
After a two-week break because of lockdown, clubs will contest the seventh round under a re-jigged fixture.
It was to be round nine, but changes were again made as the restriction of Melbourne-based players to regional centres affected some clubs greater than others.
As such Gisborne and Kyneton will now clash on the Bulldogs’ ground at Gardiner Reserve.
Sandhurst’s unbeaten streak will be challenged by Eaglehawk as first tackles second at the QEO.
There have been plenty of contributors for the Ashley Connick-coached Dragons in a six-game winning run.
A massive inclusion for Sandhurst is gun midfielder Lachlan Tardrew who has played in the VFL with Collingwood.
A regular for the Magpies in recent years, Tardrew earned the Neville Strauch Memorial Award as club champion with the Bendigo Pioneers.
The Dragons also regain Michelsen medallist and co-captain Lee Coghlan, key forward Matt Thornton, Tanner Nally, Alex Wharton and Jed Zimmer.
Out of the team are Isaac Carracher, Jayden Jones, Cobi Maxted, Brodie Montague and Layton Ross.
Sandhurst’s attack is led by clever half-forward Joel Wharton, 18 goals; and includes the marking power of Oscar McKinley, 14 goals; and Thornton.
At ground level, Mitch Rovers, Lachlan Zimmer and co-captain Nick Stagg will have an impact.
A key to the Dragons’ play is from centre bounces and ball-ups where gun ruckman Chris Down is in hot form.
It’s a great mix of experience led by Blair Holmes, Lee Coghlan and Nick Stagg teamed with young stars such as Noah Walsh, Sean O’Farrell and Liam Ireland.
A strength of the Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk is the ability of onballers and midfielders such as Billy Evans, Sam Harper, Noah Wheeler and Gedd Hommelhoff to kick goals.
The versatile Darcy Richards is the Hawks’ leading goalkicker on 20.
Eaglehawk goes into this match without Michelsen medallist Brodie Filo.
The inclusion of Jordan Baldwin is the one change to a Borough line-up determined to hit back from a four-point loss on home turf to Gisborne.
Players to watch in Eaglehawk’s attack include Jack Dye, Lewin Davis and Shaun Knott.
The play of Oscar Madden, Riley McIvor, Jarrod Findlay and Sam Thompson to stop Sandhurst’s attacks and rebound from defence will be a key to Eaglehawk’s chances.
Golden Square takes on South Bendigo in Bulldogs’ territory at Fur Life Vet Oval in Wade Street.
Having fought its way to the fifth rung on the ladder, Golden Square takes on the sixth-placed Bloods.
It’s a massive test for a Bulldogs’ line-up which regains captain Jack Geary and Brodie James for this match.
Golden Square will be without clever small forward Jake Thrum who leads the attack on 19 goals.
There are plenty of goalkicking options in both teams.
Golden Square has the marking strength of Jayden Burke, the skilful Joel Brett, talented youngster Tom Strauch, Paul Symons and the experienced Harry Donegan to test the Bloods’ defence.
Bulldogs’ coach Christian Carter has a no-fuss defence led by Will Lee, Jon Coe and Zach Shelton.
The play of Golden Square ruckman Matt Compston and onballers Terry Reeves, Hamish Morcom and Ryan Hartley will be a key.
After a 4-0 start to the season, South Bendigo is now 4-2 and sixth on the ladder.
South Bendigo’s depth will be tested as Melbourne-based stars Sunny Brazier, Cooper Leon, Oli Simpson and Oscar White are not permitted to play because of COVID restrictions.
The Bloods are also without clever forward Will Keck and ruckman Will Allen.
Ins for South Bendigo are Mitch Goodwin, Regan Harvey, Wil McCaig, Tyler McLeod, Jake Miller and Riley Walsh.
It will be a big day for the Harvey brothers, Brock and Regan as they take on their former club.
Full-forward Kaiden Antonowicz has kicked 20 goals and will test Square’s defence.
Other players to watch in South’s attack include Brock Harvey, Michael Herlihy and coach Nathan Horbury.
A key for the Bloods is the rebound from a defence led by Zac Hare, Daniel Nalder, Tom Brereton and Andrew Vanheumen.
Gisborne meets Kyneton in the clash of the Calder rivals at Gardiner Reserve.
The Bulldogs marked their best victory of 2021 when they fought from 27-points down at the start of the last quarter to win 67-63 on Eaglehawk’s turf at S & R Park in Canterbury Park.
There are likely to be plenty of changes for both teams.
Midfield and on-ball duels will be vital in determining the result.
It’s a massive test for the Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton which has had plenty of injury concerns all season.
The in-form Strathfieldsaye plays Castlemaine in Storm territory at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
Beaten in the opening two rounds, Storm is now eyeing a fifth consecutive victory.
A key inclusion for Storm is premiership-winning captain Kallen Geary and talented key forward Bailey Henderson who has played VFL with Richmond.
Also in for Storm are Zach Charles, Lachlan Monti and Jordan Wilson.
Out of the line-up are ruckman Caleb Ernst, Jake Moorhead, Caleb Sheahan, Kellan Smith and Bode Stevens.
A strong Strathfieldsaye attack is led by Lachlan Sharp, 33 goals; and includes Cooper Jones, Harry Conway and Baxter Slater.
Other players to watch for Strathfieldsaye include Jack Neylon, Hunter Lawrence and Callum McCarty.
Co-coaches Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary will also be keen to see the strong defensive efforts of Ben Lester, James Schischka and Fergus Payne continue.
Playing at Triple M Park is a daunting task for any team.
Ins for Castlemaine are Brodie Byrne, Sam Nettleton and Finley Palmer-Jennings for Jackson Hood, Brad Keogh and Ryan Woodlock.
Klai Jermyn leads Castlemaine’s attack on eight goals.
The Don Moran-coached Magpies worked extremely hard to be within five goals of Kyneton in the fourth round at Camp Reserve.
Should the Maine replicate the intensity of that match and they may be able to halt a run of goals.
Key players for the Magpies include Liam Wilkinson, John Watson, Declan Slingo, Riley Pedretti and captain David Stephens.
Maryborough faces Kangaroo Flat at Barkers Oval in Princes Park.
Both teams have battled to maintain the pressure for long enough in most games.
Limit the skill errors and capitalise on scoring chances will be the message from Maryborough coach Justin Abrams and Kangaroo Flat’s James Flaherty.
The Magpies’ home form has fluctuated dramatically.
Maryborough beat Castlemaine at Barkers Oval by 113 points in round two, were goalless in the second half of a 113 points loss to Eaglehawk in round four, and finished within 25 points of Golden Square a week later.
Mitch Kennedy, Ash Robertson and Ty Stewart are in for the Magpies as Lachlan Butler, Ash Humphrey and Fraser Russell are out.
Key players for the Magpies include onballers Bailey Edwards, Matt Bilton and Aidan Hare, forwards Jayden Templeton and Zac Polinelli, and a defence led by Jayden Hooper, Kya Lanfranchi and Jake Postle.
There were six changes to Kangaroo Flat’s line-up.
Jack Barras, Brodie Fry, Keagan Geran, Nic Keogh, Ryan O’Keefe and Campbell Smith are in as Riley Bouwmeester, William Copland, Hayden McSwain, Brayden Sheahan and Daniel Stagg go out.
Kangaroos’ youngsters Hakeem and Max Johnson impressed in the most recent hit-out, while Mitch Trewhella, Josh Leersen and Nathan McHugh have played well all season.
The Roos will again look to big games from captain Nick Lang in the ruck or attack, Kevin Clark, Kyle Symons, Jake Hywood and Ben Xiriha.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Sandhurst 229 per cent, 24 points; Eaglehawk 259, 16; Gisborne 179, 16; Strathfieldsaye 159, 16; Golden Square 150, 16; South Bendigo 118, 16; Kyneton 94, 12; Maryborough 61, 4; Kangaroo Flat 26, 0; Castlemaine 17, 0.
Schedule for round eight on June 19:
Kyneton v Sandhurst at Kyneton Showgrounds.
Gisborne v Maryborough at Gardiner Reserve.
Eaglehawk v Strathfieldsaye at S & R Park, Canterbury Park.
Castlemaine v Golden Square at Gardiner Reserve.
South Bendigo v Kangaroo Flat at QEO.
Written by Nathan Dole.