HDFNL Week 2 Football Finals Preview | Saints, Demons a step from season’s biggest game


HEATHCOTE and White Hills are just one victory away from qualifying for the Bendigo Bank Heathcote DFNL senior footy’s biggest game of the season.

Win Saturday’s second semi-final at Colbinabbin and it’s the Demons or Saints who are first to that “one day in September” that every player, coach, official, fan craves to be part of.

Both clubs are striving for an elusive premiership victory and can take a crucial step by winning Saturday’s match which starts at 2.15pm at M.J. Morgan Oval.

Heathcote’s most recent grand final triumph was in 2010 when it beat Lockington Bamawm United.

The Saints celebrated back-to-back premierships.

It was in 1988 when White Hills last hoisted a premiership cup.

The Demons did so after beating Stanhope.

Now the teams of ’23 are on the verge of marking a historic win.

Semi-finals week kicked off with Heathcote on-baller Liam Jacques claiming the Sam Cheatley Medal as league fairest and best.

It was a one and three result for the Saints as Jacques and the brilliant Braden Padmore polled 23 and 20 votes.

This season’s meetings between Heathcote and White Hills stand at one-all.

In round three White Hills won a thriller under its lights at Winslow Constructors Reserve by three points.

The Saints struck back for a 29-point victory at Pigeon Park in Heathcote’s Barrack Reserve in the 12th round.

A win-loss tally of 13-3 meant the Andrew Saladino-coached Heathcote ended the home-and-away series on top of the ladder.

As the Saints had a rest last weekend many of them watched White Hills beat North Bendigo in the qualifying final at Heathcote by 40 points.

It was a superb performance by the Demons whose run, precise passing and ability to hit targets proved too much for the Bulldogs this time.

A highlight of the qualifying final will be the appearance of two of the league’s best forwards – Corey Grindlay for Heathcote, and Kaiden Antonowicz for White Hills.

Both are incredibly difficult match-ups because of their pace, strong marking, and skills at ground level.

Grindlay has led the Saints’ attack on 62 goals in 13 matches.

Heathcote also has gun on-ballers Braden Bradmore and Liam Jacques who have kicked 36 and 19 goals.

A four-goal haul in the qualifying final lifted Antonowicz’ tally to 69.

Other key targets for the red and black are Liam Bartels, 33; James Davies, 25; and Cohen Kekich, 23.

A big test for a Saints defence led by Bill Direen, Con Connelly, Brayden Klemke and captain Codie Price.

Other players to watch for the Saints include Jesse Davies, Joseph Beedle, Thomas Pain and Liam Birch.

Nathan Moffat was best afield for the Demons last Saturday and will again play a key role, along with the experienced Brady Childs, and co-coaches Jack Fallon and Jake Pallpratt.

The Demons also have captain Rhys Irwin, Tom Brereton, Mitch Dole, Bayden Fallon and Nic Warnock capable of winning many contests.

On Sunday it will be North Bendigo and Mount Pleasant fighting to stay in the premiership race when they contest the first semi-final at Elmore.

The clash of the Bulldogs and Blues starts at 2.15pm.

The Rob Bennett-coached North Bendigo is on the rebound from a qualifying final loss, while Mounts ended Leitchville Gunbower’s run in the elimination final.

This season’s meetings between North Bendigo and Mount Pleasant stand at one-all.

In the first round, North Bendigo won a thriller on its turf at Hibo Hotel Oval in Atkins Street by a goal.

The 10th round showdown at Toolleen ended in a 72-62 victory for the Blues.

There’s two changes for North Bendigo for the first semi as Bailey Wingrave and Lachlan Furness are in for Jack Francis and the injured Daniel Reid.

A back injury meant Mounts’ co-coach and gun forward Ben Weightman did not play last Sunday.

Weightman was not named in the Blues’ line-up for the first semi.

Both the Dogs and Blues have plenty of goalscoring power.

North Bendigo’s attack is led by Dylan Klemm, 48 goals; Jordan Ford, 43; and Cody Riddick, 27.

The Dogs also have captain Aarryn Craig and Hakeem Johnson capable of doing plenty of damage in the forward 50m arc.

A brilliant season by Weightman included 67 goals in 16 games to claim the league goalkicking award.

The pacy Mitch Rovers has kicked 37 goals.

Mounts’ co-coach and gun on-baller Adam Baird is also dangerous when in attack and has kicked 19 goals.

A key to this contest will be the on-ball and midfield duels.

North Bendigo has ruckman Jeremy Lambden to team up with Ben Knight, Nathan Newlan and Manny Thalasinos.

The Blues have top ruckman and captain Chris Down, plus Adam Baird, Riley McNamara and Nick Butler.

North Bendigo has the pace and creativity of Nic Waterson, Riley Paetow and Jake Hall, while the Blues have Zebb Murrell, Patty O’Brien and Jack Craig.

The Dogs’ defence is led by Shane Harris, Ryan Alford and Tim Devereux.

At the other end of the ground have William Wallace, arguably the most valuable defender in the league, plus Bryce Hinneberg and Caelan Smith.

In the reserves competition, Mount Pleasant takes on White Hills in Saturday’s qualifying final at Colbinabbin from 11.50am.

The Demons beat the Blues, 78-41 in the fifth round.

In their next showdown at Toolleen it was Mounts which won 92-38.

Players to watch for Mounts include co-captains Jacob Smith and Jeremey Brewer, Coby Dunlop, Zac Featherby, Jackson Hufer and Jesse O’Connell.

White Hills goes into Saturday’s clash following a 59-53 victory against North Bendigo in the qualifying final.

A big week for the Demons kicked off with Jayden Sheean being named the winner of the Tom Morgan Medal for league fairest and best.

Sheean polled 26 votes in the run by the red and black.

Best for the Demons on day one of the finals series were Doolan Nihill, Liam Monaghan, Sam Lowes, Ryan Clark, Jayden Sheean and Patrick Blood.

On Sunday it’s North Bendigo against the Harlowe Huntly Hawks in the first semi at Elmore from 11.50am.

The Hawks won a hard-fought elimination final against Lockington Bamawm United, 67-54.

Thrashed by the Bulldogs to the tune of 63 points in round four at North Bendigo, Huntly hit back in the 13th round.

On that occasion the Dogs held on for a 59-58 victory.

Key players for North Bendigo include Jonas Somerville who won the league goalkicking race on 45 goals.

The Bulldogs also have co-captains Tyler Kinder and Jack Towers, Zaiyden Richards, Pat Bogers and Lucas Keating.

Huntly’s line-up includes Taylor Smart, Matt Rule, Jack Burns, Brent Deveraux and Kurt Forder.

In the under-18s action, North Bendigo and White Hills meet in the second semi-final at 9.45am on Saturday at Colbinabbin.

Both teams have changed markedly, but there’s several in both teams who contested last year’s grand final in which the Demons beat the Bulldogs.

In the seventh round of this season, North Bendigo won at White Hills by two goals.

An unbeaten run by the Bulldogs was ended in the 16th round when the Demons fired up for a 77-48 victory in the Atkins Street kennel.

White Hills won the qualifying final against Heathcote by 28 points.

A big week for North Bendigo included Nathan Anderson being named as joint winner of the David Roulston Medal for fairest and best in the under-18s.

The Dogs’ leading votegetters in the medal race were Anderson, Jett Grundy, Brandyn Barilari and Will Gilmore.

Players to watch for the Demons include Patrick Conlan, Harry Sheilds, Isaac Meersbergen, Oliver Edmiston, Seth Boyd and Macauley Johnson.

On Sunday it’s Heathcote against Huntly in the elimination final from 9.45am at Elmore.

Both of their games in the home-and-away series were closely-fought.

The Saints won by margins of 14 and six points.

A key player for Heathcote is Thomas Johnson who polled 20 votes to be joint winner of the David Roulston Medal.

Best for the Saints in the qualifying final included Daniel Butler, Seth Creevey, Ryan Foster, Elijah Hurley and James Pringle.

The Hawks won the elimination final against Lockington Bamawm United by 37 points.

Jacob Haines, Xavier Hann, Lucas Holgate, Jonathan McAsey, Jai Milligan and Ashton Walker were best for the Hawks against the Cats.