By Nathan Dole
THERE’S more than four points to be banked when North Bendigo’s and Mount Pleasant’s senior footy teams meet in Saturday’s start to the Bendigo Bank Heathcote District Football Netball League season.
The Russell Roulston Cup, which honours the legendary forward from North’s halcyon days of the late 70s in the Golden City competition, who later went to Mounts in the Heathcote DFNL is up for grabs.
It’s a big clash in the Bulldogs’ kennel at Hibo Hotel Oval in Atkins Street.
Stung by last season’s elimination final loss, the Rob Bennett-coached North Bendigo was busy on the recruiting front.
It’s a new era at Mounts as gun onballer Adam Baird takes on the senior coaching role, with Darren Walsh as director of coaching for the Tooleen-based club.
Recruits for North Bendigo include Jake Hall from Strathfieldsaye, Rhys Healey from Lake Boga, Billy Robertson and Layton Ross from Sandhurst, Ben Knight from Boort.
The Bulldogs also welcome back 2019 premiership defender Brodie Thomson from Kerang.
A talented line-up includes the athletic Dylan Klemm and Cody Riddick in attack, ruckman Jeremy Lambden, and the experienced Shane Harris and Nick Waterson.
A key match-up for the Bulldogs will be Tim Deveraux against Mounts’ gun forward Ben Weightman who won the league’s goalkicking award last season.
The Blues have also brought in clever small forward Mitch Rovers from Kangaroo Flat.
It was a superb run by Mounts to reach last season’s grand final.
A strong defence is led by Bryce Hinneberg, William Wallace and Fletcher White.
Chris Down is one of the league’s premier ruckmen, while Zebb Murrell and Pat O’Brien can do plenty of damage from the wings.
A Michelsen medallist and multiple premiership winner in his time at Golden Square, Adam Baird was named in the centre for this contest.
Mitch Bennett and Daniel Whiting will also be among the targets in the Blues’ attack.
Another big clash will be at Colbinabbin’s M.J. Morgan Oval where the Grasshoppers take on the Saints.
Colbo was a preliminary finalist last season, while Heathcote was sixth.
It’s a coaching change at Colbinabbin as midfielder Jed Brain moves into the hot seat after the Julian Bull-led reign.
After the transfer from Huntly, Connor Aldous was named in the centre for Colbo.
Another newcomer, Jai Carn was named in a forward pocket.
The Grasshoppers have Clint Shields, Stephen Tuohey and Laine Fitzgerald capable of kicking multiple goals.
Other key players for the green and gold include Ben Barton, captain Will Lowe, Logan Fitzgerald, Riley Hogan and Luke Moore.
The Andrew Saladino-coached Saints are likely to unveil several recruits in this match.
Huntly takes on Elmore in the Hawks’ nest at Huntly’s Strauch Reserve.
The Hawks welcome back gun midfielder/onballer Harry Whittle as co-coach with Jayden Cordy.
A Harding medallist as the Loddon Valley’s fairest and best in his stint at Newbridge, Whittle’s return is a massive plus for the brown and gold.
Another to return is classy forward Braidy Dickens from Pyramid Hill.
Hawks’ captain Steve Kairn will play a crucial role in a defence that includes Ryan Burt, Harrison Campbell and Ben Daley.
The Hawks have named Lachy Wilson and Jackson Fry, both recruited from Kangaroo Flat, at centre half-forward and ruck respectively.
Another to watch will be the skilful Harry McCormick.
The signing of ruckman Daniel Russell has freed up Elmore to play co-captain Dylan Gordon at full-back.
Elmore coach Dylan Friedberger was named in attack, along with Darcy Laffy, Nick Kellow and Jordan Buckley.
Bloods’ co-captain Rhys Holmberg is capable of winning many possessions, while a defence that includes Zac Laffy, Zack Holmberg and Sam McHale will aim to keep the pressure high from start to finish.
Leitchville-Gunbower takes on White Hills at Leitchville.
It’s a big test for Shannon Keam in his first match as the Bombers’ coach.
A huge boost for the red and black is the return of key forward Tyler Jones from Cohuna Kangas.
The Bombers also regain Jye Keath from La Trobe University in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
White Hills was one of the most active on the recruiting front.
Jack Fallon stays on as coach, but will be assisted by Jake Pallpratt as co-coach.
A Henderson medallist as fairest and best in the Ballarat Football League with Lake Wendouree, Ben Taylor bolsters the White Hills midfield.
A formidable attack is strengthened by the arrival of the classy Kaiden Antonowicz from South Bendigo who earned a Ron Best Medal as the Bendigo FNL’s leading goalkicker on 76 goals in 2018.
Lockington-Bamawm United has the bye.
The Cats will unfurl the premiership flag at Lockington on April 22 before the showdown with North Bendigo.