EAGLEHAWK will aim to break Strathfieldsaye Storm’s winning streak when the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football League’s senior footy season resumes this Saturday.
There will be no spectators at round 17 contests and no Melbourne-based players allowed because of lockdown, but the BFNL will have matches for the first time since July 10.
It’s also Road Safety Round in leagues across AFL Central Victoria so players and officials will wear blue armbands to support and promote the campaign.
After starting this week looking like finals were out of the question, Eaglehawk is now back in the premiership race at two rounds to go in the home and away series.
The BFNL announced on Thursday a radical change to the set-up.
The league has shortened the season by two weeks and will run a top-six finals series.
Win or lose on Strathfieldsaye’s turf at Triple M Park, Eaglehawk is assured of marking another finals campaign.
A three-week finals series kicks off August 28 and concludes with the grand final on September 11 or 12.
The Travis Matheson-coached Eaglehawk will be determined to build confidence and momentum in Saturday’s showdown at Storm territory in Tannery Lane.
After starting the season with consecutive defeats to Sandhurst at home and then at Gisborne, Storm is on a 9-0 run and top of the ladder.
A huge plus for Eaglehawk is Michelsen medallist Brodie Filo being named in the team.
The Thompson brothers – Ben, Jack and Sam were named as ruck, ruck-rover and rover.
Eaglehawk will rely a lot on the play of Gedd and Koby Hommelhoff in midfield, the experienced Riley McIvor and Darcy Richards, and the running power of Sam Harper, Riley Saunders and Damian Wust.
A key to the Hawks’ chances against Storm will again be limiting the impact gun full-forward Lachlan Sharp has on the contest.
A Michelsen medallist for league best and fairest and multiple winner of the Ron Best Medal as leading goalkicker, Sharp kicked eight goals in Storm’s victory at Maryborough.
Eaglehawk’s Oscar Madden has always had a great duel with Sharp and is likely to start against him in the goalsquare.
There are plenty of scoring options for Storm through the likes of Cooper Jones, Harry Conway and Baxter Slater.
The Geary brothers, Kallen and Shannon team up for Storm against the club where their footy careers began.
A strong Storm defence is led by Ben Lester, Jack Neylon, Fergus Payne and James Schischka.
Strathfieldsaye dominated the final quarter of the round eight clash played at Eaglehawk’s S & R Park to win by 54 points.
Storm led 79-67 at three quarter-time and in a remarkable surge added 6.7 to a point the final term.
Key forward Bailey Henderson kicked five goals in a best afield performance and Cooper Jones added four as Jake Moorhead, Daniel Clohesy and Callum McCarty starred in the win.
The Hawks’ attack was led by Shaun Knott, four, and Riley Saunders, three, as Gedd Hommelhoff, Knott, Saunders and Lewin Davis were best.
Both teams dominated their most recent matches on July 10.
Storm won at Maryborough by 107 points, and Eaglehawk won at Castlemaine by 136 points.
Jack Dye kicked seven goals in Eaglehawk’s win at Castlemaine as Justin Bateson, four, and Ben Thompson, three, also played well.
Kangaroo Flat takes on South Bendigo at Bendigo Mazda Oval in Kangaroo Flat’s Dower Park.
The Roos will be keen to bounce back from a 15-goal loss to Gisborne on July 10.
A high of that contest was the Kangaroos score of 68 in which Brodie Fry led the attack on two goals.
Kangaroo Flat captain Nick Lang was best against the Bulldogs and will again play a key role, whether it be at centre ball-ups, around the ground, or close to goal.
Other key players for the Flat include Jake Hywood and Nathan McHugh in defence, Hakeem Johnson at half-forward, Max Johnson at full-forward, and onballers Kyle Symons and Mitch Trewhella.
At full-back, Hamish Lockhart takes on the in-form Kaiden Antonowicz.
The Bloods’ star kicked 10 goals in a best afield performance against Kyneton on July 10.
Best for the Bloods in the 104-66 victory included Brayden Torpey and Joel Swatton.
South Bendigo has brought in Jack Maher, Tyler McLeod and Will Tobin for Sunny Brazier, Regan Harvey, Cooper Leon, Jake Miller, Oli Simpson and Oscar White.
Bloods’ coach Nathan Horbury was named in the centre and will be flanked by rising stars Wil McCaig and Sam Maher.
Other key players for South Bendigo include Joel Swatton up against his former club, the pacy Zac Hare in defence, Michael Herlihy and Alex Smith-Ralph in attack.
In round eight, South Bendigo led the Roos, 30-23 at half-time and then scored 6.11 to 1.2 in the final hour to win 77 to 31.
Roos’ coach James Flaherty will be keen to see a stronger defensive effort for much longer.
Gisborne makes the trek to Barkers Oval in Maryborough’s Princes Park to tackle the Magpies.
The Bulldogs’ depth will be tested as several Melbourne-based players are ruled out.
On July 10, Gisborne scored a 15-goal win on Kangaroo Flat’s turf as Pat McKenna, Trent Crosbie and Brad Bernacki led the attack.
Among the inclusions for the Bulldogs this round are Anthony Belcher, Braidon Blake, Ethan Foreman and Jack Scanlon.
Maryborough has brought in Chris Freeman, Cameron Rinaldi and Cam Skinner.
When these clubs met on June 19, Gisborne beat Maryborough by 130 points at Gardiner Reserve.
The Dogs scored 14.12 to two goals in the second half.
Maryborough coach Justin Abrams will look for strong games by Kya Lanfranchi, Harrison Monk and Lachlan Hull in defence.
The play of Matt Bilton, Bailey Edwards, Jayden Hooper and ruckman Brady Neill at centre ball-ups and stoppages will be vital to Maryborough’s chances of creating their own and limiting Gisborne’s scoring chances.
Golden Square takes on Castlemaine at Fur Life Vet Oval in Golden Square’s Wade Street.
A Bulldogs’ attack led by Joel Brett and Jayden Burke is likely to have plenty of chances.
They combined for 13 goals when Square won at Castlemaine in round eight and teamed up for 11 goals in the 114-78 win against Sandhurst on July 10.
A formidable Bulldogs’ line-up includes Matt Compston, Jack Geary, Hamish Morcom, Ryan Hartley and Terry Reeves winning plenty of the footy at centre ball-ups, plus Jon Coe, Zach Shelton and Liam Barrett in defence.
A strong group of talented youngsters in the blue and gold includes Brodie James, Alex Jenkyn, Tom Strauch and Jack Threlfall.
The Don Moran-coached Castlemaine has had captain David Stephens and Liam Wilkinson work hard against the odds in defence all season.
Both went into attack in the Magpies’ latest hit-out to kick two goals apiece against Eaglehawk.
Key players for Castlemaine include Jack Chester in the centre, ruck-rover Declan Slingo, Riley Pedretti at half-back, and rover John Watson.
There is a lot to like about the dedication and improvement of Magpies’ youngsters such as Brodie and Jackson Byrne, Callum McConachy, Ethan Maltby, Ben Moran and Sam Nettleton.
In a side not stacked with experience, Jackson Hood and Klai Jermyn are crucial players for Castlemaine.
It’s another rest for Sandhurst’s seniors and reserves teams as Kyneton have forfeited both contests.
The Dragons and Tigers will play the under-18s match at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Next hit-out for Sandhurst on August 21 will be at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Strathfieldsaye 230 per cent, 36 points; Sandhurst 174, 36; Golden Square 171, 36; Gisborne 201, 32; South Bendigo 152, 32; Eaglehawk 195, 24; Kyneton 68, 12; Kangaroo Flat 41, 8; Maryborough 42, 4; Castlemaine 16, 0.
Ron Best Medal, senior goalkicking:
62 Lachlan Sharp, S’saye.
55 Kaiden Antonowicz, SB.
45 Pat McKenna, Gis.
42 Joel Brett, GS.
36 Jack Dye, Eh.
35 Jayden Burke, GS.
30 Joel Wharton, Sh.
26 Cooper Jones, S’saye.
24 Jack Scanlon, Gis.
23 Darcy Richards, Eh.
22 Matt Thornton, Sh.
Written by Nathan Dole.