HDFNL Round 3 Football Preview | Saints to feel heat in Demons’ den at White Hills


A NIGHT-TIME showdown between White Hills and Heathcote caps Saturday’s third round of senior footy in the Bendigo Bank Heathcote District FNL season.

White Hills has home-ground advantage at Scott Street for when it takes on the ladder-leading Saints from 6.15pm.

It’s a huge challenge for the Andrew Saladino-coached Saints as they step into the Demons’ den.

After a six-goal win at Leitchville in round one, White Hills had the bye last Saturday.

With Jack Fallon and Jake Pallpratt as co-coaches, White Hills was one of the most active on the recruiting front across spring/summer.

What was already a talented attack which fought its way to a fourth-place finish in ’22 was bolstered by the inclusion of South Bendigo star Kaiden Antonowicz.

A brilliant small forward who can also switch to midfield or on-ball, Antonowicz was the Ron Best medallist as the Bendigo FNL’s leading goalkicker in 2018.

Other key recruits for the Demons include ruck-rover Ben Taylor, Thomas Brereton and Nick Warnock.

The Demons also have the experience of Brady Childs, Liam Bartels, David Wright, Nathan Moffat and captain Rhys Irwin.

It’s been a superb start by the Saints who won at Colbinabbin and were too strong on home turf at Barrack Reserve for Leitchville-Gunbower last round.

Heathcote also worked hard to strengthen its midfield and on-ball brigade.

Gun recruits such as Jesse Davies, Callum Birch and Lachlan Innes have slotted in brilliantly alongside Liam Jacques, back at the Saints from Golden Square, and the classy Braden Padmore.

A strong attack is led by Corey Grindlay, Kai Cavallaro and Shannon Dowsett.

The Saints also have the Price brothers, Codie and Billy who set up plenty of attacks from half-back or through midfield.

All other senior matches kick off at 2.30pm.

A huge crowd is likely to flock to Colbinabbin’s M.J. Morgan Reserve where the Grasshoppers take on Mount Pleasant.

Colbinabbin has the McEvoy brothers – Ben, Peter and Matt teaming up for a special one-off match.

After a 252-game AFL career across stints at St Kilda and Hawthorn, Ben McEvoy retired from the big league last season.

McEvoy, aka Big Boy, was a dual premiership player with the Hawks and club captain in 2021 and ’22.

Saturday’s match for Colbo against the Mountain Men will be the final game of his brilliant footy career.

Peter McEvoy was a gun forward in stints at VFL level with Box Hill Hawks and Coburg Lions.

He was centre half-forward and captain of the VFL’s Team of the Year in 2021.

Both will be extremely difficult match-ups for the Adam Baird-coached Mount Pleasant.

Matt McEvoy’s stint of more than a century of games for Colbinabbin includes the 2019 Heathcote DFNL grand final.

He was named on interchange for the Jed Brain-coached Colbo which has a one-one record after last Saturday night’s hard-fought win on Elmore’s turf.

In-form players for the Grasshoppers include on-ballers Laine and Logan Fitzgerald, and Clint Shields.

The play of Connor Aldous, Ben Barton and Riley Hogan in defence will be important.

A crucial match-up for Colbo will be in defence where captain David Price is likely to be up against Mounts’ full-forward Ben Weightman.

The Blues have a one-one record.

Weightman and the classy Mitch Rovers, recruited from Kangaroo Flat, kicked eight and six goals respectively in Mounts’ win against Huntly at Toolleen.

Jack Hetherington, son of South Bendigo’s gun forward of the late 90s and early 2000s in Phil Hetherington, kicked four goals for Mounts against the Hawks.

A high of Phil’s footy career was 72 goals to earn the Ron Best medal in 2001.

A talented line-up for the Blues includes Chris Down in the ruck, Bryce Hinneberg and William Wallace in defence, plus Riley McNamara, Nick Butler, Bailey and Fletcher White.

Huntly is on home turf at Strauch Reserve to take on Lockington Bamawm United.

The Harry Whittle and Jayden Cordy-coached Hawks will be desperate not to allow the Cats to surge to a big lead in the opening term.

There will be plenty of spice in this contest as Stacy Fiske, long-time coach of Huntly returns to Strauch Reserve, but as playing coach of LBU.

The Hawks have the marking power and skill of Lachy Wilson, Braidy Dickens and Abe Sladden  in attack, but it’s defensive efforts that will be a key factor of an upset by the brown and gold.

Key players for Huntly include co-captain Harrison Campbell at full-back, Tori Ferguson, Ben Daley, Brad Chalmers in the ruck, and Harry McCormick.

Lockington Bamawm United will be fired up after being overrun in the final quarter of last Saturday’s match at North Bendigo.

After a first-round bye, the Cats led by almost five goals in the last at Atkins Street, but could not halt the Bulldogs’ run to a 115-105 victory.

A formidable LBU team includes premiership-winning stars such as Brodie and Jesse Collins, Riley McIvor, Anthony McMahon and ruckman Tyler Phillips.

Recruited from Kangaroo Flat, Max Johnson was among the Cats’ best and able to play a key role in attack or defence.

LBU also has Ben Holman in the centre, Charlie Hinks at full-back, and Jeremy Mundie at half-forward.

Leitchville Gunbower faces Elmore at Leitchville.

The Shannon Keam-coached Bombers have had a tough run.

A home game against White Hills at Leitchville in round one was followed by the trek to Heathcote last Saturday.

Being back at home, the Bombers will be confident of taking the points against the Bloods.

The play of ruckman Jobee Warde, James Barratt, Zeb Ellwood, Jye Keath and Clay McGregor will be vital to the Bombers’ hopes.

Elmore has a one-one record.

The Dylan Friedberger-coached Bloods put in a superb effort to be in front of Colbinabbin at the start of the final term, but could not stop the Hoppers’ run to victory.

A Bloods’ attack led by Darcy Laffy and Dylan Oaff will test LG all match.

Other players to watch for Elmore include Rhys and Zack Holmberg, Zac Laffy, Brodie Marriott, Sam McHale and Daniel Russell.

North Bendigo has the bye.

Heathcote DFNL senior footy ladder:

Heathcote 261 per cent, 8 points; North Bendigo 109, 8; White Hills 242, 4; Mount Pleasant 194, 4; Elmore 132, 4; Colbinabbin 79, 4; Lockington Bamawm United 91, 0; Huntly 38, 0; Leitchville Gunbower 32, 0.

Leading goalkickers:

10 Corey Grindlay, H’cote; Ben Weightman, MP.

7 Mitch Rovers, MP.

6 Laine Fitzgerald, C; Dylan Klemm, NB.

5 Riley McNamara, MP.

4 Kai Cavallaro, H’cote; Aarryn Craig, NB; Jordan Ford, NB; Jack Hetherington, MP.