Dragons, Bloods to fight for Graeme Wright Cup

SANDHURST and South Bendigo will play for more than just a round one win on Saturday when the Bendigo Football League's Queen Elizabeth Oval co-tenants lock horns.

The Bloods and Dragons will also be playing for the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup in what is now in its 17th year.

The Cup honours the late Wright, who had a long involvement both on and off the field at South Bendigo before he died in February, 1998, four years after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

The Bloods hold the Cup courtesy of their 67-point win over Sandhurst in round three, last year.

Both the Bloods and Dragons will be led by new coaches this year - and both coached rival BFL clubs last season.

Jeff Brennan has crossed from Maryborough to coach the Bloods, while new Sandhurst coach Brett Fitzpatrick was in charge at Castlemaine last season.

"We've tried to put as much as we can in place ready for this game, but we know there will be things that surprise us both pleasantly and with disappointment, but that's the nature of the first game," Fitzpatrick said on Friday.

"There's obviously a strong rivalry between us and South Bendigo being the co-tenants, and with the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup, there will be a bit more riding on it for both teams."

The Dragons have secured a player who shapes as one of the BFL's marquee recruits of the season in midfielder Ryan Maldenis from East Perth.

Maldenis was the WAFL Football Budget's Rising Star winner in 2012.

"He has been good in the hit-outs we had in the pre-season and we're looking forward to seeing what impact he can have at our level of footy," Fitzpatrick said.

• Gisborne and Castlemaine open their seasons when they meet at Gardiner Reserve.

Castlemaine has an experienced coach at the helm in Shane Robertson, while for Gisborne's Rod Sharp, it will be his first game as a senior coach.

"Hopefully, the players can execute to the best of their ability on what we've been working on," Sharp said.

"All you can really ask for in round one is that the players live up to what they've shown in the pre-season, which has been impressive."

The Gisborne side includes four young players making their senior debuts for the Bulldogs - Callan Haynes, Riley Patterson, Isaac Trickey and Trent Crosbie.

"Those boys all have specific roles and know what they need to do... there's no difference to whether they are a senior player of a first-gamer, they are there to perform their role," Sharp said.

Castlemaine - chasing its first win at Gisborne since 2001 - will have the services of mercurial Seymour forward Saad Saad for Saturday's contest.

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