EAGLEHAWK faces a huge test against the ladder-leading Golden Square in Saturday’s fourth round of the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior footy season.
The Hawks have home-ground advantage for the big clash at Canterbury Park.
Just how the Two Blues can stop the impact Golden Square’s gun forwards Joel Brett and Jayden Burke have on the match will have occupied plenty of the thinking of the Hawks’ coaching staff and players.
Brett leads the race for the Ron Best medal on 21 goals, while Burke’s tally of 10 in the win against Maryborough put him third on 16.
Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson has named Oscar Madden and Jacob O’Brien in the key defensive posts.
They will rely a lot on pressure further afield to limit or force haphazard supply to the Dogs’ stars.
The Hawks have taken no risk with ruckman/key position player Clayton Holmes, hamstring, so a lot will depend on Jack Lawton and Shaun Knott in the ruck contests.
They will be up against the in-form Matt Compston.
Midfield battles will be a key to this contest.
The Hawks will look to Noah Wheeler, Billy Evans, Brody Brown and Joel Mullen to set up play for the likes of Liam Marciano, Lewin Davis and Kobe Lloyd to capitalise on.
Golden Square’s defence is led by Jon Coe, Liam Barrett and Liam Duguid, while Jack Geary, Jake Thrum, Hamish Morcom and Ryan Hartley win plenty of the ball at stoppages or through the link-up work.
Off-field the Hawks’ Past Players and Officials function at half-time of the senior match will include 1982 premiership winning captain-coach Phil Byrne as guest speaker.
In ’82, the Borough beat Golden Square, 127 to 48 in the battle for the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
Another big match will be at Queen Elizabeth Oval where Sandhurst takes on Kangaroo Flat.
The Ash Connick-coached Dragons will be desperate to avoid a fourth-straight defeat, but the task will not be easy.
In its past two hit-outs, Sandhurst was right in the contest with Strathfieldsaye and South Bendigo, but did not take the points.
Another defeat would be a severe dent to the Dragons’ finals aspirations.
Cobi Maxted kicked six goals in last Saturday’s clash with South Bendigo and looms as a major danger to the Roos.
Other players to watch for the Dragons are Zach Pallpratt in the centre, Noah Walsh, ruckman Hamish Hosking, Joel Wharton and Jake Wilkinson.
The Dragons go in without onballer Blair Holmes who marked his 200th game last round, but regain the marking power of Matt Thornton.
There was a lot to like about Kangaroo Flat’s form against Eaglehawk.
The Roos worked hard to be within 19 points of the Hawks at a quarter to go, but the Borough charged away to win 137-88.
Kangaroo Flat coach James Flaherty will urge talented youngsters such as Mitch Trewhella, Hakeem Johnson and Mitch Rovers to back their pace on the big ground.
It’s a big match for Rovers who last year was kicking goals for the Dragons, but has returned to the Roos where he starred in the under-18s premiership win of 2019.
Rovers has kicked goals in all of Flat’s matches and is a dangerous player near goal or further afield.
The play of ruckman/forward Nick Lang will be important, along with Jake Hywood and Nic Keogh in defence, Max Johnson and Lachy Wilson in attack, and Liam and Mitch Collins in on-ball roles.
The fifth-placed Kyneton faces South Bendigo in a vital match at Kyneton Showgrounds.
The Tigers and Bloods are likely to be challengers for a fourth and fifth place on the ladder as the season rolls on.
Kyneton will be confident of taking the points on home turf.
The Paul Chapman-coached Tigers worked hard to be within two points of Strathfieldsaye at half-time of their match at Triple M Park.
An on-ball or midfield star for Kyneton for many seasons, Rhys Magin has excelled in a more permanent role in attack to kick 13 goals.
The match-up against Magin will be important for the Bloods and could be taken by Cameron Taggert, Zac Hare or Braydan Torpey.
At the other end of the ground, South Bendigo has Kaiden Antonowicz back in form.
A previous winner of the Ron Best medal, Antonowicz kicked six goals as the Bloods regained the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup in a hard-fought win against Sandhurst.
Brock Harvey has had a great season across half-forward for the Bloods and will also test the Tigers.
Midfield and onball duels will be a highlight.
The Tigers have Andrew Beckerley, Cameron Manuel, Dean Bartrop and Mitch Comben in form and up against Cooper Leon, Liam Byrne, Tom Brereton and coach Nathan Horbury.
Held goalless on Gisborne’s turf, Castlemaine is back at Camp Reserve to take on Strathfieldsaye.
Recent matches between these clubs have been one-sided.
The Don Moran-coached Castlemaine will be keen to bring the intensity, run and skill from its round two win at Maryborough.
A huge plus for the Magpies is the return of Bailey Henderson to the centre or at centre half-forward.
Jack Chester kicked seven goals in Castlemaine’s long-awaited victory, while Liam Wilkinson, Tommy Horne and Callum McConachy play crucial roles for the black and white.
The task will not be easy against a Storm line-up that has Lachlan Sharp at full-forward, the athletic Caleb Ernst at centre half-forward, and Riley Wilson, Baxter Slater and Jye Formosa at ground level in the attacking 50m arc.
Kallen Geary, Jake Moorhead and Jack Neylon are likely to set up plenty of attacks for the Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary-coached Storm.
Maryborough tackles Gisborne in the Magpies’ home at Princes Park.
It’s been a tough run for the Rick Andrews-coached Pies who were at Golden Square last round and now face the competition’s other Bulldogs from further south.
A major challenge for Maryborough will be stopping the run and possession-racking ability of the likes of Gisborne onballers Brad Bernacki, Scott Walsh, Flynn Lakey and Sebastien Bell-Bartels.
The Pies’ defence does not have to worry about Gisborne captain Pat McKenna who kicked 13 goals last round or the in-form Jack Scanlon, but the Rob Waters-coached Gisborne has plenty of other attacking options.
Gisborne’s attack includes Ethan Foreman, Matthew Merrett, Matthew Panuccio and Matt McDonald.
Key players for Maryborough include Anthony Tatchell, Kya Lanfranchi in defence, Chris Freeman and Jayden Hooper in attack, and onballers Coby Perry, Patrick Chard and Dylan Harberger.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Golden Square 436 per cent, 12 points; Gisborne 393, 12; Strathfieldsaye 136, 12; Eaglehawk 138, 8; Kyneton 81, 4; Kangaroo Flat 73, 4; South Bendigo 68, 4; Castlemaine 42, 4; Sandhurst 78, 0; Maryborough 30, 0.
Ron Best Medal, senior goalkicking
21 Joel Brett, GS.
18 Pat McKenna, Gis.
16 Jayden Burke, GS.
13 Rhys Magin, Kyn.; Darcy Richards, Eh.
12 Lachlan Sharp, S’saye.
10 Brock Harvey, SB.
8 Jack Scanlon, Gis.
7 Kaiden Antonowicz, SB; Jack Chester, Cm; Josh Kemp, Gis.; James Schischka, S’saye; Braydon Vaz, GS.
6 Riley Clarke, S’saye; Lewin Davis, Eh; Chris Freeman, Mb; Bailey Henderson, Cm; Cobi Maxted, Sh; Ryan Pretty, Kyn.; Mitch Rovers, KF; Tom Strauch, GS; Ben Thompson, Eh; Lachy Wilson, KF.
5 Guy Dickson, Kyn.; Ethan Foreman, Gis.; Mitchell Holt, KF; Liam Marciano, Eh; Joel Wharton, Sh.