Bendigo Football League…
STRATHFIELDSAYE hung on just long enough to deny hard-charging Golden Square and win Saturday’s BFNL match-of-the-round by three points to re-claim top spot on the ladder.
After a dour low-scoring opening three quarters at Flight Centre Park the last stanza was an absolute cracker.
Tom Bartholomew nailed the first two goals as the Storm eased out to a 27-point lead.
Then the Bulldogs slammed home the concluding four majors of the game to fall agonisingly short: 7.10 (52) to 7.7 (49).
It took the Square until the 15-minute mark of the second term to land their first goal. Paul Symons collected a Dylan Johnstone handpass inside the goal square as he slotted the Dogs’ opening major.
By then skipper Shannon Geary and Tom Dowd had nailed Strath majors. They’d landed those inside the first two minutes of the second term.
Straight after Symons had scored Storm’s Jake Hall screwed home the goal-of-the-day from the Tannery Lane end’s pavilion flank.
Travis Baird kept Square in touch by capping off a chain of three handballs with a major as the time clock ticked down to the 41 seconds mark.
A mere two goals were landed – one to each team – in the third quarter. Defenders were clearly on top: co-coach Bryce Curnow and Sam Simmons for the Storm with Brayden Dorrington and recruit Michael Roberts hard workers for the Dogs in their back half.
And so the stage was set for an electrifying last quarter. It didn’t disappoint.
After Bartholomew had taken his personal goal tally to three following a play-on across-the-body ripper and then a set shot from a sliding mark, Square flicked the switch.
Adam Baird speared home a long shot at the Sheepwash Creek end followed by Clayton Anderson soccering through another when a high bomb from Comanche Walls landed in the goal square.
When Travis Baird capped off a long ball from Johnstone suddenly it was an eight-point game: 7.9 to 6.7.
The Storm defence was under all sorts of pressure. Roberts sent a high kick into Square’s forward 50, Anderson ran onto the ball and eased home his second goal of the term.
It had been a master-stroke to switch helmet-clad small defender Anderson into the front half. He’s been a game-changer quite frequently when moved into attack in recent seasons.
With four-and-a-half minutes to go the Storm defenders took over. Curnow and his teammates chipped the ball around the midfield and back half as they clung to their three-point advantage.
They managed to keep the Square midfielders, who’d been brilliantly led by Simon Rosa, from gaining possession and were clearly relieved to hear the sound of the final siren.
Curnow said later it was definitely a nerve-wracking last few minutes and reminiscent of how his players had defended against Kangaroo Flat in round 7.
“We all see how retaining possession works in AFL games so if we can adapt our game that way it’ll obviously help us in tight situations,” he said.
Curnow added the team shouldn’t have let itself get into such a tight situation, but it was vital to snatch a win against quality opposition.
Bulldogs non-playing coach Nick Carter said it was definitely “a gallant effort” in the last quarter but the team’s intensity had been down.
“Early on in the game our intensity just wasn’t there. By not having the correct mind-set until that last quarter, and to the players’ credit they nearly snatched the win, we have to buckle down and concentrate all game.
“For us we have to start key matches on the front foot rather then being reactive when the opposition is really going.”
Strathfieldsaye 1.3 4.6 5.9 7.10 (52)
Golden Square 0.3 2.4 3.5 7.7 (49)
Goals – Storm: Tom Bartholomew 3, Shannon Geary, Jake Hall, Jack Neylon, Tom Dowd. Square: Travis Baird 2, Clayton Anderson 2, Adam Baird, Hamish Morcom and Paul Symons.
Best – Storm: Tom Bartholomew, Shannon Geary, Tom Dowd, Kallen Geary, Sam Simmons and Joshua Martyn. Square: Adam Baird, Simon Rosa, Adrian McErvale, Mitch Treacy, Michael Roberts, Brayden Dorrington.
KYNETON shored up fifth spot and a beckoning finals appearance by trouncing country rivals Castlemaine at the Camp Reserve.
Bouncing back from close to a four-goal deficit at the first change the Tigers added a massive 22 goals to six in the final three quarters with a trio of major forwards on fire.
Ben Weightman (6), former Hawthorn and North Melbourne key forward Nathan Thompson (5) and spearhead Mitchell Scholard (5) led the goal-scoring onslaught.
Key Maine defender David Stephens was completely out-sized by the hulking Thompson but battled on regardless.
A finals berth for the Maine is rapidly disappearing into the distance. They’ve slipped to seventh spot.
SANDHURST brought old rivals South Bendigo tumbling back to reality with a 55-point win at headquarters, the QEO.
Even though they had only five more scoring shots than the Bloods – 23 to 18 – the Dragons were far more efficient in front of goals.
Small forward Mitch Dole (4 goals) and mids Lee Coghlan and Nick Stagg, three majors each, were the Hurst’s main scorers.
South faces an anxious few days with skipper Aaron Connaughton forced off the QEO in the first term with a knee injury. An injury assessment is expected later in the week.
EAGLEHAWK won a second consecutive match for the first time in 2016 with a massive 190-point annihilation of hapless Maryborough.
The Hawks slotted 15 of their 34 goals in the last quarter.
Full-forward Matt Gretgrix booted seven goals and half- forward Shaun Knott finished with five.
Gretgrix’s first major of his seven was his 600th career goal for the Two Blues.
KANGAROO Flat wasn’t super impressive but did enough to beat the young and comparatively inexperienced Gisborne by 42 points at a soggy Gardiner Reserve.
The Roos were inaccurate landing only 11 goals from 28 shots but controlled the big man battles with Nick Lang in charge in the ruck.
Gisborne managed just three goals in the opening three terms in a low-scoring slog.
The BFNL was exceptionally lucky to have all city games played on a bright sunny winter’s Saturday. Rain was constant in the days leading up to the footy and has set in relentlessly on Sunday – and looks like continuing all week, accompanied by gale force winds!
Final scores: Eaglehawk 34.14 (218) def. Maryborough 4.4 (28), Sandhurst 17.6 (108) def. South Bendigo 7.11 (53), Kyneton 24.12 (156) def. C’maine 12.8 (80) and Kang. Flat 11.17 (83) def. Gisborne 5.11 (41).
Top 5: Strath Storm 10 wins, 1 loss 183%; Sandhurst 9-2 213%, G. Square 9-2 207%, Kang. Flat 7-4 129%, Kyneton 6-5 114%.
Round 12, 16 July: Eaglehawk vs. S’saye, Sandhurst vs. Gisborne, Kyneton vs. Maryborough, Kangaroo Flat vs. Sth. Bendigo and G. Square vs. Castlemaine.