GISBORNE faces a huge test against Strathfieldsaye Storm in this Saturday’s 10th round of the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s season.
It’s second against third at Triple M Park in Strathfieldasaye’s Tannery Lane.
The Gisborne Bulldogs will attempt to halt Storm’s winning run at home.
Since it was beaten by Sandhurst in the season opener on Good Friday and then at Gisborne by a point in round two, Storm has gone on a seven-game winning streak.
Confidence is high in Gisborne’s line-up after it ended Sandhurst’s unbeaten run in last Saturday’s match at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Bulldogs and Storm have star-studded attacks and midfields.
Just who can control the midfield duels for longer will have a major bearing on the result.
Gisborne has Brad Bernacki, Scott Walsh, Macklan Lord, Jake O’Brien and Seb Bell-Bartels to take on Lachlan Gill, Jake Moorhead, Jye Formosa, Daniel Clohesy and Kellan Smith.
Although he is not the tallest ruckman, Anthony Belcher’s competitiveness and experience is a huge plus for the Bulldogs.
Belcher will take on the in-form Tim Hosking, and Storm has the athletic Caleb Ernst back in its squad.
The Bulldogs attack is led by captain Pat McKenna, 41 goals; and Jack Scanlon, 22.
A Storm defence led by Ben Lester, Jack Neylon, Fergus Payne and co-coach Shannon Geary will work hard to limit the space the Gisborne forwards can work into.
At the other end of the ground, Storm star Lachlan Sharp has kicked 51 goals and leads the race for the Ron Best medal.
Cooper Jones has kicked 25 goals and the in-form Bailey Henderson was named on a ‘from’ interchange of seven.
The Gisborne defence led by Jack Reaper, Jarrad Lynch and Tim Walsh will have a huge say in their team’s chances.
At selection, Gisborne brought in Nic Doolan for Sam Graham.
Storm will be without the creativity and run of premiership-winning captain Kallen Geary from half-back or through midfield, and Jordan Wilson is also out.
Ins to Storm’s squad include Clohesy and Mitch Hallinan.
Golden Square takes on Kyneton at Fur Life Vet Oval in Wade Street.
The Bulldogs are likely to have too much goalscoring power for the Tigers.
Joel Brett, 33 goals; and Jayden Burke, 28, have capitalised on the supply from Square onballers and midfielders such as Jack Geary, Hamish Morcom, Terry Reeves and Ryan Hartley.
Small forwards such as Alex Jenkyn, three goals last round, and Harry Donegan will also test the Tigers defence.
Changes for the Bulldogs are Brodie James, Ricky Monti, Paul Symons and Will Thrum in for Liam Duguid, key defender Will Lee, Zavier Murley and Jack Threlfall.
The Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton led during the second quarter of the first-round clash with Square, but the Bulldogs then charged to a 171-56 victory.
The work of Kyneton midfielders Rhys Magin, Ned and Tom O’Sullivan and Angus Nolte will be crucial.
Harrison Huntley and Jordan Mangan are strong defenders, while Guy Dickson is the key target in attack.
Eaglehawk faces a danger game on Kangaroo Flat’s ground at Bendigo Mazda Oval in Dower Park.
The Hawks are on a four-game losing streak and take on a line-up that has won two of its past three games.
Final quarter fade-outs against Gisborne and Golden Square will be a concern for Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson.
The Borough has brought in Justin Bateson, Brody Brown and Kyal Zass for Brenton Conforti, Koby Hommelhoff and Riley Saunders.
In round one, Eaglehawk beat the Roos by 72 points under the S & R Park lights in Canterbury Park.
A talented Hawks’ line-up has Oscar Madden, Riley McIvor and Joel Mullen in defence; Gedd Hommelhoff and Sam Harper in midfield; along with the class of Lewin Davis, Billy Evans and Noah Wheeler to take the points again.
Key players in the Roos’ run include captain Nick Lang in the ruck or at full-forward, Kyle Symons, Max Johnson in the ruck, Mitch Trewhella in the centre, Nathan McHugh in defence, and the pacy Hakeem Johnson at half-forward or on-ball.
Dylan Barber, Ryan O’Keefe and Tom Verbeek are ins for the James Flaherty-coached Kangaroos as Mitch Holt, Nic Keogh and Jake Hywood are out.
Maryborough faces a fired-up Sandhurst at Barkers Oval in Maryborough’s Princes Park.
The Magpies are up against a team on the rebound from its first defeat of the season.
Key forwards Cameron Rinaldi and Jayden Templeton are back for the Pies, along with Harrison Monk.
Daniel Vadala is out.
Injuries have hit the Justin Abrams-coached Maryborough dramatically in recent rounds.
Key players for the Borough include Bailey Edwards in the centre, Matt Bilton, Jayden Hooper, Kya Lanfranchi and Jake Postle.
The Magpies’ defence faces a huge challenge as the Dragons have plenty of scoring options.
Matt Thornton and Oscar McKinley are the marking targets, while Mitch Rovers, Nick Stagg, Lachlan Zimmer and Joel Wharton are dangerous at ground level.
Dragons’ ruckman Chris Down often provides first use of the footy for the likes of Lee and James Coghlan, Isaac Carracher and Blair Holmes.
The Ash Connick-coached Dragons welcome back Jake McLean and Isaac Ruff, but will be without Tom Calvert and key defender Sean O’Farrell.
South Bendigo will be aiming to build on the momentum of last week’s big win at Maryborough when it tackles Castlemaine at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Kaiden Antonowicz kicked 11 goals in the Bloods latest victory and looms as a huge threat to the Castlemaine defence.
The Bloods also regain key defender/forward Daniel Nalder for this match, but coach Nathan Horbury will be on the sidelines.
Players to watch for South Bendigo include onballers Brody Haddow and Cooper Leon, Zac Hare, Alex Smith-Ralph, Michael Herlihy and Brock Harvey.
Castlemaine worked extremely hard against the Kangaroos last round.
The Magpies were down 7-51 at half-time, but hit back to score 39 points to 46 in the final hour.
Sam Banko, Zane Doherty and Kyle Gellatly are in for the Don Moran-coached Magpies this round as Caled Kuhle, Sam Nettleton and Ryan Woodlock are out.
Key players for the Magpies include Liam Wilkinson at centre half-back, David Stephens at full-back, Declan Slingo, Riley Pedretti, Klai Jermyn, Callum McConachy and Jackson Hood.
A young line-up includes Ben and Will Moran, Brodie and Jackson Byrne.
Bendigo FNL senior football ladder:
Sandhurst 171 per cent, 32 points; Gisborne 221, 28; Strathfieldsaye 219, 28; Golden Square 172, 28; South Bendigo 136, 24; Eaglehawk 160, 16; Kyneton 71, 12; Kangaroo Flat 45, 8; Maryborough 49, 4; Castlemaine 16, 0.
Written by Nathan Dole.