A look at the Bendigo footy league, opening round…
Strathfieldsaye Storm erased a tiny bit of last September’s grand final sadness by downing great rivals and reigning champions Eaglehawk on Saturday. In front of a huge crowd at their home ground in Tannery Lane the Storm displayed precise ball movement, had multiple options up forward while their half-back line was dominant.
Biggest change for Strathfieldsaye over the summer was the switch of Bryce Curnow from centre half-forward to centre half-back. Big Curnow had amassed 56 goals in 2018 handing out match-up woes to opposing coaches. Still, the move to defence didn’t faze Curnow one little bit. He’d played in defence for North Ballarat during his VFL days and he combined well with the Geary brothers – Shannon and skipper Kallen – Jack Neylon and Shannon Murphy. The switch also freed up space in the Storm forward line for Hugh Robertson, Lachlan Sharp and the mix of small forwards. Robertson marked strongly at centre half-forward showing why he was so highly rated in the Goulburn Valley league and booted a couple of goals from long range. The mercurial Sharp nailed six majors while playing coach Troy Coates bobbed up with four and key midfielders Josh Formosa and Sam Heavyside also hit the scoreboard.
For defending premiers Eaglehawk there weren’t many bright notes. Richard Tibbett played solidly in the ruck in his first game back with his former club with Tim Hill and Dylan Hanley solid in defence. Recruit Jarryd Pertzel showed flashes of brilliance in the forward line and bagged four goals.
In other games Sandhurst and Gisborne emphasised their top five credentials by restricting Kangaroo Flat and Castlemaine to a miserable three goals each while a much improved Maryborough outscored South Bendigo eight majors to seven in the second half.
At the QEO Maryborough’s gun recruit, AFL 100-gamer Stewart Crameri, landed just two goals while at the other end 2018’s Ron Best medallist Kaiden Antonowicz snared three goals for the Bloods.
Kyneton coach Luke Beattie and veteran Nathan Thompson (ex-Hawthorn, North Melbourne) pulled the boots back on for the Tigers who weren’t disgraced in their 43-point loss to finals fancies Golden Square.
At the QEO South had the game in their keeping at half-time with a 7.12 to 1.2 lead. It actually turned out to be a game of two halves with South scooting out to their eight-goal break by the long break before Maryborough outscored the hosts 8 goals to 7 in the run home.
Apart from Antonowicz’s haul, other three-goal contributors were ex-coach Brady Childs and Brock Harvey for South with Jayden Templeton and best afield Matthew Bilton of the Maryborough Magpies also snagging a trio each.
Gisborne brushed Castlemaine aside by kicking 10 of the first 11 goals and held the Pies’ star ex-AFL recruit Angus Monfries to a single major. The Bulldogs used teenage defender Liam Spear on Monfries and drew praise from stand-in coach Luke Saunders who said Spear held him well in Gisborne’s back half. Jack Scanlon booted a game-high four goals for Gisborne with teammate Trent Crosbie best afield while Dylan Atkins was the Maine’s stand-out.
The Sandhurst Dragons took a half to get going under lights on Saturday night but when they did they blew Kangaroo Flat away. Just six goals were nailed in an error-ridden opening half before the Dragons’ roar returned in the third term as they landed six goals to one.
The visitors’ back half led by Liam Ireland, Josh Hann and Isaac Ruff snuffed out the Roos’ attack while Hurst midfielders Adam Parry (3 goals), Andrew Collins (2) and Lachlan Tardrew (2) took charge.
It was a contrasting evening for the two incoming coaches. Loser Rob Bennett accepted his Flat midfield was “severely beaten” by Sandhurst’s while the Dragons’ Ashley Connick was delighted with his team’s 84-tackle count and the effort of his back six.
Golden Square overcame the loss of two key players to injury – the unlucky Travis Baird and recruit Alex Marklew – to break Kyneton’s resistance in the second half. The Bulldogs nailed nine goals to five after the long break to win by seven goals. Best afield and Square recruit Liam Barret nailed three majors from the midfield with 2018 Michelsen Medallist Jack Geary starting off across half-back before he moved forward and speared home two goals.
The Dogs had 12 individual goalscorers while Kyneton’s “comeback king” Nathan Thompson drilled two majors, stationed at full-forward, with on-field leaders Harrison Huntley and Josh Govan the Tigers’ best.
Final scores: South Bendigo 14.13 (97) def. Maryborough 9.11 (65), Strathfieldsaye 14.14 (98) def. Eaglehawk 8.12 (60), Sandhurst 15.12 (102) def. Kang. Flat 3.11 (29), Gisborne 17.20 (122) def. C’maine 3.11 (29) and Golden Square 17.14 (116) def. Kyneton 11.7 (73).
Top five, all with four premiership points: Gisborne 420.6%; Sandhurst 351.7%; Strathfieldsaye 163.3%; G. Square 158.9% and South Bendigo 149.2%.
Easter weekend draw, Good Friday: Gisborne v Kyneton (day), Eaglehawk v South Bendigo (day), Maryborough v Castlemaine (night) and Sandhurst v Strathfieldsaye (QEO, night).
Easter Saturday: Golden Square v Kangaroo Flat.