Heavyweight showdown

THE Loddon Valley Football League season opens with a heavyweight blockbuster on Saturday when Bridgewater clashes with Bears Lagoon-Serpentine.

The battle at Bridgewater's newly-named Laser Plumbing Bendigo Oval is a rematch of last year's grand final, which the Mean Machine won by eight points to capture their fourth flag in a row.

The Mean Machine and Bears are both expected to be the competition pace-setters again this year.

Bridgewater will be coached by former Carlton and Richmond AFL player Andrew Collins, while the Bears will again be led by the experienced Damien Featherby.

Expect another tight encounter between the two clubs, just like last year when the biggest margin in their four meetings was 12 points.

• New Inglewood coach Isaac Douthie will be hoping the Blues can show early signs of improvement in their home game against Marong.

The Blues have finished on the bottom of the ladder the past three years, with Douthie's aim for his side this season simply to avoid another wooden-spoon.

The Panthers - who finished fourth last year - enter the game warm favourites, but the Blues have shown in the past they can be a bogey side for Marong.

However, that wasn't the case when they last met in round 15 last year when the Panthers won by a massive 134 points.

• Newbridge hosts Calivil United at Riverside Park in one of the toughest games of the round to tip.

Both sides will be led by new coaches in Matt Dillon (Newbridge) and the returning Andrew Freemantle (Calivil United).

Newbridge, in particular, shapes as one of the big unknowns this season after significant player turnover.

• YCW faces a difficult  task when it makes the trip to Mitchell Park to take on Pyramid Hill.

The Bulldogs again loom as a top-three side, while the Eagles have plenty of work to do after winning only three games last year.

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