BY NATHAN DOLE
IN PURSUIT of a fifth consecutive A-grade premiership, Sandhurst’s line-up shows little, if any, sign of dropping its level of play in the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League action.
The Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst has reached the half-way mark of the 2023 season on a nine-nil record.
There have been some closely-fought contests, but the Dragons have stayed in control most times.
Incredibly strong in all thirds of the court, Sandhurst has not been beaten since August 20 of last year when Castlemaine achieved a 47-46 victory against the maroon and blue at Camp Reserve.
By mid-September it was Sandhurst which was celebrating a 48-33 victory against Kangaroo Flat in the grand final.
This season tipped off with the grand final rematch in which Sandhurst marked a 47-37 win against the Roos at Queen Elizabeth Oval.
A formidable Sandhurst line-up includes Shae Clifford, Charlotte Sexton, Sophie Shoebridge, Bec Smith and Meg Williams.
A dual winner of the Betty Thompson Medal as the league’s fairest and best, Heather Oliver is also back on court and starring at goal defence.
Another big test for the Dragons this Saturday on Kangaroo Flat’s court at Dower Park.
The Roos beat ‘Hurst on that court that last season.
Among the big threats to Sandhurst is the Tarryn Rymer-coached Gisborne.
When these teams met in round seven it was Sandhurst which won a closely-fought contest, 38-32 on Gisborne’s court at Gardiner Reserve.
Only other defeat for the red, white and blue was a 42-44 result at Kangaroo Flat in the fourth round.
A talented Gisborne team includes Bendigo FNL representatives Kirby Elliott and Claudia Mawson.
Runner-up in 2022, Kangaroo Flat has dominated several matches.
The Jayden Cowling-coached Roos will have learnt plenty from a 10-goal loss to Sandhurst in the first round.
The Roos bounced back from a 55-39 loss at Castlemaine in the fifth round to have won their past four matches by margins of 50, 43, 38 and 87 goals.
Highest scoring team in the league on 576 goals.
Castlemaine is also working hard to improve on last season’s effort when it was beaten in the first semi-final by Gisborne by three goals.
Jointly coached by Fiona Fowler and Gary Cooke, Castlemaine showed what it’s capable of in a 16-goal win at home against Kangaroo Flat.
A tough run in the second half for the Magpies includes away games at Gisborne, Strathfieldsaye and Kangaroo Flat.
Among the highlights across the next nine rounds will be the duel between South Bendigo and Strathfieldsaye to claim fifth place and feature in the finals action.
It was 53-all when the Bloods and Storm met in round six at Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval.
The Jannelle Hobbs-coached South Bendigo will be keen to bounce back from consecutive defeats when it plays at Eaglehawk this Saturday.
It’s one game at a time, but the Steph Freemantle-coached Strathfieldsaye will eagerly await another showdown with South Bendigo in the 15th round at Triple M Park in Strathfieldsaye’s Tannery Lane.
Storm kept the pressure on the Bloods by scoring a 46-38 win against Kyneton at home last Saturday.
Finals hopes are not gone, but Kyneton has to mark an upset win against the league’s top six in the second half of the season.
Best results for the Dianne Guest-Oakley coached Tigers were an 11-goal loss to Sandhurst in round two, and four-goal loss to South Bendigo a week later.
Should take the points against Golden Square at Tigerland this Saturday, but the yellow and black then take on Sandhurst at the QEO, and South Bendigo on Kyneton’s court.
For Maryborough, Eaglehawk and Golden Square the goal will be to keep improving and developing the younger players as the season rolls on.
Huge challenge for respective coaches Jordan Macilwain, Kylie Piercy and Benita Swatton to keep enthusiasm high at training and in matches.
The season so far and what’s coming up in the run to September:
Sandhurst, 9-0, 563 for, 267 against, 210 per cent, 36 points, 1st:
So far – d Kangaroo Flat 47-37, d Kyneton 52-41, d Golden Square 99-21, d Strathfieldsaye 53-23, d South Bendigo 62-22, d Maryborough 87-27, d Gisborne 38-32, d Castlemaine 55-34, d Eaglehawk 70-30.
Run home –v Kangaroo Flat, away; v Kyneton, h; v Golden Square, a; v Strathfieldsaye, h; v South Bendigo, h; v Maryborough, a; v Gisborne, h; v Castlemaine, a; v Eaglehawk, h.
Gisborne, 7-2, 486 for, 262 against, 185%, 28 points, 2nd:
So far – d Strathfieldsaye 49-24, d Castlemaine 43-35, d Eaglehawk 49-26, lt Kangaroo Flat 42-44, d Kyneton 54-26, d Golden Square 90-19, lt Sandhurst 32-38, d South Bendigo 59-27, d Maryborough 68-23.
So far – v Strathfieldsaye, a; v Castlemaine, h; v Eaglehawk, a; v Kangaroo Flat, h; v Kyneton, a; v Golden Square, h; v Sandhurst, a; v South Bendigo, h; v Maryborough, a.
Kangaroo Flat, 7-2, 576 for, 321 against, 179%, 28 points, 3rd:
So far –lt Sandhurst 37-47, d South Bendigo 41-26, d Maryborough 75-29, d Gisborne 44-42, lt Castlemaine 39-55, d Eaglehawk 82-32, d Strathfieldsaye 80-37, d Kyneton 72-34, d Golden Square 106-19.
Run home –v Sandhurst, h; v South Bendigo, a; v Maryborough, h; v Gisborne, a; v Castlemaine, h; v Eaglehawk, a; v Strathfieldsaye, h; v Kyneton, h; v Golden Square, a.
Castlemaine, 6-2-1, 387 for, 312 against, 124%, 26 points, 4th:
So far – d Maryborough 47-37, lt Gisborne 35-43, d Strathfieldsaye 51-34, d Eaglehawk 50-37, d Kangaroo Flat 55-39, v Kyneton (abandoned), d Golden Square 71-36, lt Sandhurst 34-55, d South Bendigo 44-31.
Run home – v Maryborough, h; v Gisborne, a; v Strathfieldsaye, a; v Eaglehawk, h; v Kangaroo Flat, a; v Kyneton, h; v Golden Square, a; v Sandhurst, h; v South Bendigo, a.
South Bendigo, 4-4-1, 426 for, 380 against, 112%, 18 points, 5th:
So far – d Eaglehawk 70-31, lt Kangaroo Flat 26-41, d Kyneton 48-44, d Golden Square 81-28, lt Sandhurst 22-62, dr Strathfieldsaye 53-53, d Maryborough 68-18, lt Gisborne 27-59, lt Castlemaine 31-44.
Run home – v Eaglehawk, a; v Kangaroo Flat, h; v Kyneton, a; v Golden Square, h; v Sandhurst, a; v Strathfieldsaye, a; v Maryborough, h; v Gisborne, a; v Castlemaine, h.
Strathfieldsaye, 4-4-1, 410 for, 427 against, 96%, 18 points, 6th:
So far – lt Gisborne 24-49, d Golden Square 78-29, lt Castlemaine 34-51, lt Sandhurst 23-53, d Eaglehawk 46-35, dr South Bendigo 53-53, lt Kangaroo Flat 37-80, d Maryborough 69-39, d Kyneton 46-38.
Run home– v Gisborne, h; v Golden Square, a; v Castlemaine, h; v Sandhurst, a; v Eaglehawk, a; v South Bendigo, h; v Kangaroo Flat, a; v Maryborough, h; v Kyneton, a.
Kyneton, 3-5-1, 342 for, 376 against, 90%, 14 points, 7th:
So far – d Golden Square 54-23, lt Sandhurst 41-52, lt South Bendigo 44-48, d Maryborough 64-43, lt Gisborne 26-54, v Castlemaine (abandoned), d Eaglehawk 41-38, lt Kangaroo Flat 34-72, lt Strathfieldsaye 38-46.
Run home– v Golden Square, h; v Sandhurst, a; v South Bendigo, h; v Maryborough, a; v Gisborne, h; v Castlemaine, a; v Eaglehawk, h; v Kangaroo Flat, a; v Strathfieldsaye, h.
Maryborough, 2-7, 349 for, 575 against, 60%, 8 points, 8th:
So far – lt Castlemaine 37-47, d Eaglehawk 60-43, lt Kangaroo Flat 29-75, lt Kyneton 43-64, d Golden Square 73-54, lt Sandhurst 27-87, lt South Bendigo 18-68, lt Strathfieldsaye 39-69, lt Gisborne 23-68.
Run home –v Castlemaine, a; v Eaglehawk, h; v Kangaroo Flat, a; v Kyneton, h; v Golden Square, a; v Sandhurst, h; v South Bendigo, a; v Strathfieldsaye, a; v Gisborne, h.
Eaglehawk, 1-8, 335 for, 503 against, 66%, 4 points, 9th:
So far – lt South Bendigo 31-70, lt Maryborough 43-60, lt Gisborne 26-49, lt Castlemaine 37-50, lt Strathfieldsaye 35-46, lt Kangaroo Flat 32-82, lt Kyneton 38-41, d Golden Square 63-35, lt Sandhurst 30-70.
Run home –v South Bendigo, h; v Maryborough, a; v Gisborne, h; v Castlemaine, a; v Strathfieldsaye, h; v Kangaroo Flat, h; v Kyneton, a; v Golden Square, h; v Sandhurst, a.
Golden Square, 0-9, 264 for, 715 against, 36%, 0 points, 10th:
So far – lt Kyneton 23-54, lt Strathfieldsaye 29-78, lt Sandhurst 21-99, lt South Bendigo 28-81, lt Maryborough 54-73, lt Gisborne 19-90, lt Castlemaine 36-71, lt Eaglehawk 35-63, lt Kangaroo Flat 19-106.
Run home –v Kyneton, a; v Strathfieldsaye, h; v Sandhurst, h; v South Bendigo, a; v Maryborough, h; v Gisborne, a; v Castlemaine, h; v Eaglehawk, a; v Kangaroo Flat, h.