Round 1 HDFNL Football | Grand finalists clash at Toolleen


A REMATCH of last season’s grand finalists, Mount Pleasant and Heathcote highlights Saturday’s start to the Bendigo Bank Heathcote DFNL senior footy season.

The Blues and Saints will do battle on Mounts’ turf at Toolleen from 2.15pm.

Both line-ups have changed markedly since Mounts beat the Saints by 19 points in last September’s grand final at Huntly’s Strauch Reserve.

Most significant change for Mounts was the return of dual premiership-winning coach Cam Carter to take charge after the departure of co-coaches Adam Baird and Ben Weightman who teamed b0rilliantly to lead the club to its 20th senior flag.

Newcomers to the Blues squad include Dylan Barber and Daniel Dempster from Kangaroo Flat, key defender Daniel Frame from Morningside, forward Christian Hatzis, and key forward Ben Bissett.

They join the likes of gun ruckman Chris Down, pacy on-baller/forward Mitch Rovers, Riley and Tyler McNamara, Bailey and Fletcher White, and Reardon McIvor.

There will be plenty of key match-ups.

One of the most crucial will be in the ruck where Down is up against former Kyneton captain James Orr.

Both are brilliant at giving team-mates first possession.

Down was best afield in the grand final.

Heathcote coach Andrew Saladino and the recruiting team have bolstered key position stocks with the signings of Orr, South Bendigo defender Daniel Johnstone, Trentham forward Cooper Webber-Mirkin.

The Saints have also gained skilful mid/forward Zak Saad from Rupertswood.

Add the class of Sam Cheatley medallist Liam Jacques and the versatile Braden Padmore in on-ball roles and the Saints will be tough to beat.

In attack Heathcote has Corey Grindlay who kicked 70 goals last season as the main target.

Heathcote also has the run of Codie Price off half-back.

Stung by missing the finals after the ’22 premiership, a new-look Lockington Bamawm United kicks off its season at home at Nicholls Trading Oval.

The LBU Cats are up against last season’s biggest improver, Leitchville Gunbower.

When these clubs last met it was the Shannon Keam-coached Bombers who soared to a 51-point victory on Lockington’s turf.

An eight-eight record meant the Stacey Fiske-coached Cats missed the finals.

Lockington Bamawm United has the aggression and experience of Brodie and Jesse Collins, and Ben Holman.

A highlight of this match will be the ruck duels where dual Cheatley medallist Tyler Phillips leads the way for LBU against Jobee Warde.

Joint captains of the Cats are Brock Kennedy and Joseph Wolfe.

Recruits to watch in the blue and white hoops include Elijah Bruns, Taylor Butler, Matt Hore, Mitch Laursen, Corey Sidebottom and Stuart Taylor.

It was a brilliant effort by Leitchville Gunbower to fight back from a 1-4 start to last season to be 9-7 and charge into an elimination final where it was beaten by Mount Pleasant.

Chris Horman led the Bombers attack on 50 goals last year and will again play a key role in the forward 50m arc.

Key players for LG include James, Tom and Will Brereton; Hoby Bussey, captain Jye Keath, Thomas Guerra, Caleb Hislop and Nathan McLellan.

A triple premiership winner at Golden Square, Hamish Morcom marks his senior coaching debut as the Harlowe Huntly Hawks take on White Hills.

Massive test for the Hawks who will be at home at Strauch Reserve against last season’s preliminary finalist.

Big signing for Huntly was Dale Lowry, a premiership winner with Golden Square who is now in the brown and gold.

Lowry was named in the centre.

After kicking 48 goals last season, Lachy Wilson will again play a crucial role for the Hawks.

Huge test for Huntly defenders Josh Hull, Tori Ferguson and Brodie Fry up against the likes of Jack Lawton, James Davies and Liam Bartels.

Morcom was named in a back pocket against the brilliant Kaiden Antonowicz who kicked 75 goals for the Demons in ’23.

A key to Huntly’s play will be the work of Jackson Fry, Ben Daley, Harry McCormick, Abe Sladden and Jarrod Spry at centre clearances and stoppages.

White Hills is now being jointly coached by Jack Fallon and Kaiden Antonowicz.

Players to watch in the red and black include Tom Brereton, Alex Davis, Patrick Eefting and Nick Warnock.

The day’s play will be completed with the twilight match between Elmore and Colbinabbin at Elmore from 5.45pm.

Both clubs fought out two great contests last season.

The round 11 match at Colbinabbin’s Tom Morgan Oval ended up 79-all.

The Jed Brain-coached Grasshoppers won 59-52 at Elmore in the second round.

Elmore will be keen to kick off its 150th year celebrations with a victory.

Key players in the Mick Woolhouse-coached Bloods squad include James and Joseph Harney, Nathan Kay, and co-captains Rhys Holmberg and Daniel Russell.

Newcomers for the Bloods include Cobi Fitzpatrick, Nick Mayne, Dominic and Jake Dick-O’Flaherty, Kynan Sharpe and Connor Walsh.

North Bendigo has the bye.

The Rob Bennett-coached Bulldogs play at Elmore in round two.