GISBORNE faces a Strathfieldsaye Storm team on the rebound from defeat in Saturday’s match of the day in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy action.
It’s Gisborne’s first hit-out of the season against a line-up that was on the end of a 13-point loss to Sandhurst in the stand-alone Good Friday match at Strathfieldsaye.
Plenty of fans are likely to turn up at the new-look Gardiner Reserve.
The Bulldogs and Storm are both considered serious challengers to win this year’s Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
Not all of Gisborne’s recruits will be on field, but a player to watch will be former Castlemaine star Jake O’Brien on a wing.
A strong Bulldogs defence is led by Tim Walsh and Jack Reaper, while the versatile Anthony Belcher is great value at either end of the ground.
In midfield, Gisborne has the likes of Brad Bernacki in the centre and Ben Eales in the ruck.
The club will also look for big games from Jack Scanlon and Lachlan Crosbie.
Storm’s line-up includes Baxter Slater, a Symons medallist for best and fairest in the BFNL’s under-18 competition when at Gisborne.
The play of Lachlan Sharp, Riley Clarke and Josh Formosa in attack will be a key to Storm’s chances.
Ben Lester will again play a key role in defence as Jake Hall and Kellan Smith provide plenty of dash from the half-back line.
The day’s senior footy action starts at 12.30pm when Sandhurst meets Maryborough at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Dragons outran and outplayed Storm in the final quarter last Friday to score one of the club’s best wins in several seasons.
Chris Down was superb in the ruck for Sandhurst, while the experienced Blair Holmes, Lee Coghlan and Nick Stagg can set up plenty of attacks.
The O’Farrell name is part of the fabric at Sandhurst, and it’s Sean O’Farrell who is making his mark at full-back.
Other players to watch for the Dragons include Matt Thornton, Joel Wharton and Mitch Rovers.
Maryborough welcomes back the classy Matt Bilton and Bailey Edwards to strengthen the midfield or on-ball division.
The play of Liam Murphy in the ruck, Kya Lanfranchi at full back, Jacob Long and Jayden Hooper will be important to the Magpies’ goal of keeping the heat on across every quarter.
Castlemaine takes on South Bendigo at Camp Reserve.
It’s an inexperienced Castlemaine line-up being coached by Don Moran.
Magpies’ fans will be keen to see the team being more competitive for longer.
Players to watch for the Pies include Jackson Hood, Brad Keogh, Riley Pedretti, William Moran, John Watson and David Stephens.
A talented South Bendigo line-up will be determined to start the season well as it pushes to feature in the finals series.
Kaiden Antonowicz is a previous winner of the Ron Best Medal as the league’s leading goalkicker and capable of doing plenty of damage.
Bloods’ coach Nathan Horbury rarely wastes a possession, while Zac Hare, Joel Swatton, Tom Brereton and Will Keck are capable of winning a lot of the footy.
Matches will be played under lights at Kyneton Showgrounds and Eaglehawk’s Canterbury Park.
The Kyneton Tigers take on Golden Square from 5.30pm.
A huge coup for Kyneton was recruiting Geelong triple premiership player and Norm Smith medallist Paul Chapman as senior coach.
There is plenty of excitement about what the Tigers could achieve this year.
Harrison Huntley and Jordan Mangan are the key defenders, James Orr in the ruck, while Rhys Magin and Hamish Govan have been outstanding players for many years in the yellow and black.
Another player to watch for the Tigers will be Angus Nolte.
There have been plenty of changes at Golden Square.
Christian Carter steps up to be senior coach.
A multiple premiership player for the Bulldogs, Carter’s skill and attack at every contest were major traits of his game.
He will be keen to see the Bulldogs of 2021 play in a similar way.
The Bulldogs are without gun midfielder and Michelsen medallist Adam Baird, now at Mount Pleasant, but still have a lot of class players.
Matt Compston will again play a crucial role in the ruck as Jayden Burke and Braydon Vaz lead the attack.
A talented on-ball group is led by Michelsen medallist and inspirational captain Jack Geary, Hamish Morcom and Ryan Hartley.
The Bulldogs also have the Thrum brothers, Jake and Will to provide non-stop run.
Eaglehawk will start favourite to take the points against Kangaroo Flat.
There have been plenty of changes since the Hawks were runner-up in 2019.
Newcomers to the Two Blues include Noah Wheeler and Billy Evans, while Darcy Richards and Jarrod Findlay return to the Borough after premiership success at North Bendigo.
Key players for the Hawks include Sam Harper, Ged and Koby Hommelhoff, and Oscar Madden.
Kangaroo Flat will field a young team on the Hawks’ turf.
Roos’ coach James Flaherty is likely to blood several players from the under-18s premiership team of 2019 for this contest which starts at 5pm in the Hawks’ nest.
Written by Nathan Dole