If the Bendigo Gold’s first practice match against the Northern Blues was an insight into VFL football, last Friday night’s game against Essendon was almost a look at AFL level.
The young Gold team suffered a 123-point loss against a Bombers outfit featuring a host of AFL stars.
More than 20 of Essendon’s AFL-listed players – including Scott Gumbleton, David Zaharakis, David Hille, Jake Melksham, Tayte Pears, Alwyn Davey and Kyle Hardingham – were given permission to play at Tullamarine.
“They were strong and it was more the top eight, which meant their young AFL blokes and their VFL blokes had more of an impact,” Gold coach Aussie Jones said.
“A lot of the centre clearances they had Hille, Zaharakis, Melksham and Travis Colyer – they did a fair bit of damage from there.”
Gumbleton dominated in the air and kicked five goals.
“We’ve got some good key defenders, but they’re 6’3” and as soon as they realised the long kick into Gumbleton was hard for us to stop they kept doing it,” Jones said.
“It was 20 goals, but it was halfway between AFL and a VFL side, so we didn’t care too much about the result. We learned a lot as well.
“The good thing for us, the guys who think they’ve had a massive summer and are going alright get an insight, if they do want to play higher, what it takes.
“Some of the guys didn’t look out of place at that level. Matt Farrelly from Echuca was one of our best, he plays across half-back and reads the footy really well.
“Shannen Lange played well, he’s just a brute of a kid, he’s only 18. There was one stoppage where they hit it to (former Gold captain Ben) Duscher – he hit it at pace – he ran into Shannen who picked him up and dumped him.
“Not only that, but his work around stoppages was outstanding, he was physical and aggressive, and he runs hard.”
An indication of how strong the Bombers’ side was came from its VFL-listed players, which included Duscher, ex-Melbourne forward Matthew Bate and former Gold Coast defender Josh Toy.
“I actually reckon they’ll be in the top-four in the VFL,” Jones said.
While Jones accepted his team was against a quality side, he was disappointed some players dropped their heads.
“I’m trying to make them really strong on not going away on what we can control and they probably did a couple of times on the weekend,” Jones said.
“That’s one thing we can’t allow. Positivity, instruction, body language – all that sort of stuff - we need to be a really strong group.”
The Gold has two more practice matches before round one, beginning with a match against Aberfeldie’s senior team at Kyneton Showgrounds at 2pm.
Kyneton’s reserves and under-18s will play Aberfeldie in the early matches.