PLENTY of Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League stars will be on Strathfieldsaye’s turf when Storm tackles Gisborne in Saturday’s fifth round of the senior footy season.
It’s the battle of two unbeaten teams in the Love The Game, Not The Odds round being marked across the AFL Central Victoria region.
Both line-ups boast plenty of dare, run and skill in the onball and midfield divisions, and lots of scoring power going into the match at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane.
Storm’s defence led by Ben Lester, Jack Neylon, Lachlan Ratcliffe and Patrick Blandford faces a huge task.
A powerful Gisborne attack includes Jack Scanlon at centre half-forward, Josh Kemp and Ethan Foreman.
At the other end of the big ground, Strathfieldsaye has Lachlan Sharp, a multiple winner of the Ron Best Medal as the league’s top goalkicker, as well as James Schischka, Caleb Ernst and Jake Hall.
A strong Gisborne defence includes Jack Reaper, Jaidyn Owen and Liam Spear.
Midfield battles will have a huge bearing on the result.
A Storm midfield of Kallen Geary, Baxter Slater and Riley Wilson will be up against Sebastien Bell-Bartels, Nic Doolan and Macklan Lord.
The Rob Waters-coached Gisborne will be aiming to capitalise on the tapwork of Braidon Blake and the clearance work of Brad Bernacki and Flynn Lakey to take the points against the Darryl Wilson and Shannon Geary-coached Storm.
Strathfieldsaye ruck-rover Jake Moorhead is in great form.
Two of the league’s biggest rivals, Golden Square and Sandhurst clash at Fur Life Oval in Wade Street.
The Ron Best Memorial Shield will be up for grabs for a second time.
Golden Square will be aiming to take the Shield out of the Dragons’ hands.
Best’s tally of 1624 goals, multiple premierships across stints at Golden Square, Sandhurst and Northern United earned legendary status in the Bendigo FNL Hall of Fame.
Saturday’s match honours the goalkicking champion of the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s.
The Christian Carter-coached Golden Square will start favourite, but wary the Dragons have the uncanny knack of lifting for special occasions.
Golden Square has key forwards Joel Brett and Jayden Burke in hot form, and young guns such as Tom Strauch and Braydon Vaz who have made valuable contributions each game.
The Bulldogs squad includes Ricky Monti, who if he does play, adds to the run of a midfield brigade that includes Jack Geary, Jake Thrum, Hamish Morcom and Liam Jacques.
At Sandhurst, Cobi Maxted has racked up six-goal hauls in his past two hit-outs and will test the Bulldogs’ defence.
Matt Thornton also marked a return to form last round and will be a key target across half-forward or closer to goal.
The Ash Connick-coached Dragons will look for big games from the likes of Lee Coghlan, ruckman Hamish Hosking, Noah Walsh, Alex and Joel Wharton, Joel Wilkinson and Sean O’Farrell.
The Kangaroos will be hunted by the Tigers as Kangaroo Flat faces Kyneton at Dower Park.
The Roos played well at home against Eaglehawk in Anzac round, but are up against a Tigers line-up desperate for a win and to keep the heat on the fourth and fifth-placed Eaglehawk and South Bendigo.
Key players for the James Flaherty-coached Roos include on-ballers Liam and Mitch Collins, ruckman/forward Nic Lang, midfielders Mitch Trewhella and Hakeem Johnson, and Jake Hywood, Nic Keogh and Kyle Symons in defence.
The Roos will look to Sam Barnes and Lachy Wilson to lead the attack.
The Paul Chapman-coached Kyneton will be fired up after a three-point loss to South Bendigo at Tigerland.
Rhys Magin has starred in a new role as predominantly forward to kick 18 goals for the yellow and black.
Others to watch in the Tigers line-up include Dean Bartrop, Cameron Manuel, Hamish Yunghanns, Harrison Huntley and Cameron Wallace.
Kyneton’s squad includes three of the club’s most famous names – Muir, Nolte, Thompson – in which Brady, Angus and Louis will be keen to have an impact.
After a 0-2 start, South Bendigo is now chasing a hat-trick of wins when it plays Castlemaine at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Nathan Horbury-coached Bloods showed plenty of fight to win at Kyneton last round.
Stars in the Bloods’ run in recent weeks have included Cooper Leon, Brock Harvey, Liam Byrne and Isaiah Miller.
Alexander Smith also chipped in with three goals in the win at Tigerland.
The Bloods are likely to have too much run through the likes of Zac Hare, Oscar White, Tom Brereton and Will Keck for Castlemaine to hold all match.
A massive plus for the Don Moran-coached Castlemaine is Bailey Henderson at centre half-forward.
The Pies will be without the consistent Liam Wilkinson who has won plenty of the ball at centre half-back in the past two seasons, so there will be greater pressure on the likes of David Stephens, Riley Pedretti and Jackson Hood in defence.
Castlemaine will look to Jack Chester, Will Moran and Zac Denahy to not only kick goals, but provide plenty of pressure in the forward 50m arc.
Maryborough takes on Eaglehawk at Princes Park.
The Magpies will be determined to put up a stronger showing for longer before home fans.
Leading goalkicker for the Rick Andrews-coached Magpies, Chris Freeman was named in the centre.
The play of Coby Perry in midfield, ruck-rover Aidan Hare, Ty Stewart in the ruck, Dylan Harberger and Jayden Hooper in attack will go a long way toward the Pies’ marking an upset victory.
Despite missing some key players, Eaglehawk put in a great effort to be within eight points of Golden Square at half-time before being overrun in the final hour of their clash at Canterbury Park.
A highlight of the Hawks’ play was the form of Dylan Hanley and Oscar Madden in defence.
The Two Blues have the marking power of Shaun Knott and Ben Thompson in attack, and the creativity of Liam Marciano and Lewin Davis at ground level.
Billy Evans, Noah Wheeler and Joel Mullen are likely to win plenty of the ball for the Travis Matheson-coached Hawks.
Bendigo FNL senior footy ladder:
Gisborne 462 per cent, 16 points; Golden Square 366, 16; Strathfieldsaye 174, 16; Eaglehawk 113, 8; South Bendigo 76, 8; Sandhurst 103, 4; Kyneton 84, 4; Kangaroo Flat 65, 4; Castlemaine 37, 4; Maryborough 25, 0.
Leaders in the Ron Best Medal, goalkicking award:
24 Joel Brett, GS.
20 Lachlan Sharp, S’saye.
19 Pat McKenna, Gis.
18 Jayden Burke, GS; Rhys Magin, Kyn.
14 Josh Kemp, Gis.
13 Brock Harvey, SB; Darcy Richards, Eh; Jack Scanlon, Gis.
12 Cobi Maxted, Sh.
10 Ryan Pretty, Kyn.
8 James Schischka, S’saye; Tom Strauch, GS; Lachy Wilson, KF.
7 Kaiden Antonowicz, SB; Jack Chester, Cm; Ethan Foreman, Gis.; Chris Freeman, Mb; Liam Marciano, Eh; Ben Thompson, Eh; Braydon Vaz, GS.
6 Riley Clarke, S’saye; Bailey Henderson, Cm; Mitch Rovers, KF.
5 Sam Barnes, KF; Brad Bernacki, Gis.; Lewin Davis, Eh; Guy Dickson, Kyn.; Caleb Ernst, S’saye; Mitchell Holt, KF; Kobe Lloyd, Eh; Matthew Panuccio, Gis.; Corey Roberts, Eh; Matt Thornton, Sh; Joel Wharton, Sh; Riley Wilson, S’saye.
Written by Nathan Dole.