OUTGOING South Bendigo coach Rick Coburn has tipped Strathfieldsaye to win its first Bendigo Football Netball League flag.
Coburn backed the minor premiers to lift the Bendigo Advertiser Cup, although he believes each of the top four teams are in the mix for September glory.
“You’d have to say Storm at the moment just because they finished in top spot, but in saying that you could mount a pretty good case for Eaglehawk, Golden Square and Sandhurst,” Coburn said on Tuesday.
“I think Gisborne’s maybe coming from a little bit further behind.
“I know they beat Eaglehawk not that long ago, but I think on the QEO they maybe just don’t bat as deep as some of the other sides.
“But that depends on whether (Tom) Waters and a few of these other guys are up and about or not.
“But I’d say the Storm for me, just because of the depth of their midfield. They’ve got a good forward line and a good backline as well.”
Coburn believes four-time defending premier Golden Square – which finished third on the ladder – could meet the Storm in the September 21 grand final.
James Bristow’s mid-season return was a key moment for the Bulldogs and Coburn said the tall forward needed a big finals series for Square to challenge for five-straight flags.
“He either has to kick his four or five (goals), or set up at least that many for Square to be competitive,” Coburn said.
“They’ve got such a great midfield still and the backline’s pretty solid, but I think up forward they could be a little bit vulnerable.”
Golden Square takes on Eaglehawk in Sunday’s qualifying final from 2.20pm at the QEO.
Eaglehawk burst back into form by burying South Bendigo’s finals hopes in a 103-point flogging last Saturday.
The Hawks held the Bloods to just seven goals at Canterbury Park, and Coburn said the Borough’s backline would be its greatest asset in finals.
“Eaglehawk’s got the best backline by a mile, I reckon, and their forwards are potent. Whether they bat deep enough in the midfield… I’m not sure,” he said.
On Saturday night, Sandhurst will lock horns with Gisborne in the elimination final from 6pm at the QEO.
Coburn had his doubts that either team could win four-straight games to clinch what would be a memorable flag.
“They have (a chance), particularly Sandhurst. but in saying that, because it is so tight it is going to be really hard for them to do it,” he said.
“It’s one of those years when you’re going to need a double chance.
“I think we’ve got the five best teams in there and it should be a really good series.”
Coburn sums up the Bendigo Football League’s premiership contenders:
“(Their style of footy) could be a bit shaky under pressure.
“They’re a highly-skilled side and they like to chip it around and I don’t know whether that’s going to stand up if it’s close in a final towards the end.
“That could be a big question mark, but the one thing they have got is pace to burn. On a hot day, moving the ball quick, they could be a bit of a handful.”
“We (South Bendigo) were ordinary on the weekend, but they were great.
“I reckon their backline is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
“They have someone like Darcy Richards matching up on a small-type player – one, he can do it, and secondly, he can run off and be menacing.”
“You’d be a brave man to rule them out. They’ve got some really experienced campaigners. You’ve still got ‘Carts’ (Nick Carter) running around out there, you’ve got some of those guys who have played in between two and four flags. You can’t buy that experience and it’s probably what got them over the line last year.
“If they win an early final and get up-and-about...look out.”
“They have a really good even spread, they’re a very tall side and a very gifted side.
“But I don’t know if their midfield – on a hot day – will run as high on the ground as some of the others.”
“You’re also a brave man to rule Gisborne out.
“They’re just such a competitive outfit.”