TWO of the competition’s biggest rivals, Sandhurst and Eaglehawk meet in Saturday’s finale to the split sixth round in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy competition.
The Dragons and Hawks will be fired up for another spirited contest at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Not only will be premiership points up for grabs, but an important message being spread throughout the day by the Pat Cronin Foundation and its campaign to end the “Coward Punch”.
Players will wear yellow armbands in honour of Pat, a talented footballer with Lower Plenty who died after a “Coward Punch” during a pub brawl.
Donations and purchasing merchandise play an important role in the foundation being able to deliver its Be Wise message to schools, sporting clubs and community groups across the country.
This round is also Community Umpiring Round across the Bendigo FNL and leagues under the AFL Central Victoria umbrella.
On field there’s plenty at stake for the Dragons and Hawks.
After a 0-3 start, the Ash Connick-coached Sandhurst has struck back to beat Kangaroo Flat on the QEO, and then at Golden Square to retain the Ron Best Memorial Shield.
Eaglehawk has a 3-2 record and a win against the Dragons would give the Two Blues a one-win break on the fifth and sixth placed Kyneton and South Bendigo.
There have been quite a few changes to the Sandhurst line-up which won 82-70 at Golden Square.
Key inclusions for the Dragons include Blair Holmes who has not played since he hurt a hamstring in his 200th senior game when Sandhurst played South Bendigo in Anzac Round on April 23.
Also in for the ‘Hurst are Zac Pallpratt and Joel Wharton.
The Dragons will be without Lee Coghlan who was best afield in the win against the Bulldogs and key forward Cobi Maxted and versatile key position player Sean O’Farrell.
Key players for the maroon and blue include Hamish Hosking in the ruck, Matt Thornton, Noah Walsh, Lachlan Zimmer, Alex Wharton on a wing, Liam Ireland, Tanner Nally and Isaac Ruff in defence.
The Hawks are bolstered by the return of key forward Darcy Richards to the goalsquare.
Latest hit-out for the Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk was at Maryborough where Sam Dean kjicked five goals and Lewin Davis and Ben Thompson chipped in with three apiece in the 140-18 victory.
The Hawks’ best in that match were ruck-rover Billy Evans, rover Dillon Williams, Joel Mullen and midfielder Fraser Verhey.
A strong Eaglehawk defence is led by Clayton Holmes and Oscar Madden and has the running power of Sam Thompson and Kobe Lloyd.
Midfield duels are crucial on the spacious QEO where the Borough has Charlie Laangford and Liam Marciano capable of winning plenty of the ball.
The play of Joel Lawton in the ruck, Shaun Knott in attack, and Noah Wheeler will be a key to the Hawks’ chances of taking the points.
In last Saturday’s matches, Kyneton showed plenty of determination and skill to score a 95-88 win against Golden Square at Tigerland.
Kangaroo Flat marked win number two in an 81-43 result at Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve.
Gisborne dominated on home turf at Gardiner Reserve to score a 152 to 46 victory against South Bendigo.
Strathfieldsaye stormed to a 219 to 11 win against Maryborough at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Gisborne 331 per cent, 24 points; Strathfieldsaye 212, 20; Golden Square 220, 16; Eaglehawk 147, 12; Kyneton 104, 12; South Bendigo 85, 12; Sandhurst 105, 8; Kangaroo Flat 68, 8; Castlemaine 36, 4; Maryborough 19, 0.
Leaders in the Ron Best Medal senior goalkicking race:
27 Joel Brett, GS.
22 Jayden Burke, GS; Rhys Magin, Kyn.
20 Josh Kemp, Gis.; Lachlan Sharp, S’saye.
18 Pat McKenna, Gis.
17 Brock Harvey, SB.
15 Cameron Manuel, Kyn.; Cobi Maxted, Sh.
13 Kaiden Antonowicz, SB; Darcy Richards, Eh; Jack Scanlon, Gis.
12 Matthew Merrett, Gis.
11 Ryan Pretty, Kyn.; James Schischka, S’saye; Lachy Wilson, KF.
10 Kallen Geary, S’saye; Mitch Rovers, KF; Ben Thompson, Eh.
9 Ethan Foreman, Gis.; Tom Strauch, GS.
8 Jack Chester, Cm; 8 Lewin Davis, Eh; Chris Freeman, Mb; Liam Marciano, Eh.
Indigenous Round will be played on May 28.
Feature match will be Golden Square against Castlemaine at Fur Life Oval in Wade Street.
Kangaroo Flat takes on Gisborne at Dower Park.
South Bendigo and Strathfieldsaye clash at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Eaglehawk tackles Kyneton at Canterbury Park.
Maryborough and Sandhurst do battle at Princes Park.
Written by Nathan Dole.