BRIDGEWATER wasted no time showing that after four Loddon Valley Football League premierships in a row, the Mean Machine looks set to take its game to another level this year.
In what was an ominous start to their flag defence, the Mean Machine turned Saturday’s grand final rematch against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine into a fizzer as they won by 76 points, 20.22 (142) to 9.12 (66), at Laser Plumbing Bendigo Oval.
The one-sided result was in stark contrast to the four meetings between the two clubs last year when the biggest margin was just 12 points.
“We played well and our effort was unquestionable all day,” new Bridgewater coach Andrew Collins said.
“The beauty about this group is they really come to play in the important games and even though today was only round one, we saw it as a very important game.
“We built the game up and the boys delivered.”
The rampaging Mean Machine gained the early ascendancy as they built an 18-point lead and never gave the Bears an opportunity to get into the game.
Bridgewater led by 29 points at half-time, but wasted chances in the second term to be further ahead when it added 2.8.
“We were pleased with the effort all day, and we had a really good spread of players right across the board,” Collins said.
“I thought the 50-50 contests - those one-on-one and two-on-two loose balls - were really good for us.
“We were able to knock the ball to advantage to each other and get it going our way.”
Playing a mix of midfield and forward, Collins, who kicked four goals, was the best player on the ground.
Ruckman Taylor Strachan, Danny Childs, half-back Tristin Nalder and Zeb Broadbent were other standouts for the Mean Machine.
Brad Rohde kicked four goals for the Mean Machine, while in his first game back from a knee injury suffered last year, Bendigo Gold-listed Alexander Pollock added three goals.
Bears coach Damien Featherby was bitterly disappointed in his side’s first-up effort.
“It was very average performance by us,” Featherby said.
“Bridgewater was outstanding... they were up and about and teamed together really well.
“It was one of those days where we didn’t do anything that we planned to do.”
Featherby rated the efforts of recruit Jack Williams off half-back and through the midfield and onballer Justin Wilson as the Bears’ best.
Highlighting how clubs view the game differently, Childs was named in Bridgewater’s best for his run-with role on Wilson.
• Newbridge made an impressive start to its season, belting Calivil United by 75 points at Riverside Park.
The Maroons under new coach Matt Dillon held the Demons scoreless during the third quarter on their way to a 19.21 (135) to 9.6 (60) victory.
“We let them back into the game in the second quarter, but we really knuckled down after half-time and played some good footy,” Dillon said.
“We’ve still got a lot to improve on with all the new players coming in, but with the way the boys were able to gel today with a bit of run and flow in their game was a pleasing sign.”
Four of the Maroons’ best players were recruits from Castlemaine - Lachlan Ford, Angus Fortune, Jordan Gilboy and Rhys Ford (five goals).
“They were all great for us today. They all got a lot of the footy and used it well,” Dillon said.
As well as Rhys Ford’s five goals, Dylan Gibson was also lively inside 50 for the Maroons, booting five as well.
It was a tough return to the coaching hot seat for Calivil United’s Andrew Freemantle.
“We were beaten by a better side today... we’ve got no excuse,” Freemantle said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before next week.”
Midfielder Evan Ritchie, centre half-back Caleb Smith and half-forward Jordan Lea led the better players on what was a tough opening day for the Demons.
• Perennial wooden-spooner Inglewood gave Marong a scare in their clash at Marong Links Oval.
The Blues pushed the Panthers all the way, before Marong eventually broke away to win by 18 points, 10.10 (70) to 8.4 (52).
“We knew Inglewood would come out and have a real crack in round one and it looks like they have improved a fair bit on last year,” Marong coach Corey Gregg said.
“We were a bit scrappy with a few new players and we know we can play a lot better, so we were just happy to get away with the win.”
The Blues were right in the hunt at three quarter-time when they were only eight points down, and they later closed within a goal during the final term.
“They got it back to four points in the last quarter, but we were able to break away in the last 10 minutes with a couple of good clearances out of the middle,” Gregg said.
In his first game back from an ankle injury suffered early last year, Zac Boyer kicked four goals and was Marong’s best player.
New ruckman Chris Morgan, Mathew Frankel in defence, midfield recruit Craig Morris and Gregg were also pivotal for the Panthers.
Inglewood’s new forward Ben Jackson kicked three of the Blues’ eight goals.
The Blues’ best included centre half-back Jackson Hart, forward pocket Darcy Crapper, half-forward Jye Bryan and wingman Jarrod Wilkinson.
It wasn’t a win, but it was a 116-point improvement for the Blues on their last meeting with Marong when the Panthers won by 134 points in round 15, last year.
“I was really proud of the boys... they all put in 100 per cent effort today,” Inglewood coach Isaac Douthie said.
“We couldn’t quite get over the line, but we took it right up to them and I think we did a good job of sending a message to the league that we are on the up and improving.”
• Pyramid Hill kicked away from YCW after half-time to win by 45 points at Mitchell Park.
The game was in the balance at half-time when the Bulldogs led by just four points.
However, the Bulldogs broke away in the second half, adding 13 goals to six to win 20.13 (133) to 13.10 (88).
“YCW looks a much-improved side. They have some good movers and look fairly-well drilled,” Pyramid Hill coach Paul Grayling said.
“We were fairly ordinary for the first half, but we played well in the third quarter and that’s where we were able to get away from them.”
Grayling started the season well, kicking six goals. He was among a spread of 11 goalkickers for the Bulldogs.
Best players for the Bulldogs included onballer Jaryd Wishart, recruit Shannon Hammond, young wingman Liam Bartles - one of last year’s LVFL triple under-17 league medalists - and Gavin James.
YCW coach Pat Jess was disappointed his side couldn’t capitalise on its competitive start.
“We’ve got different expectations this year and we don’t just want honourable efforts,” Jess said.
“We competed well for three quarters, but stopped in the third and that was the difference in the end.”
The Eagles conceded seven goals to one during the third term
YCW’s better players included recruits Matthew Waterson (two goals) and Leighton Driscoll, David Millard and Daine Lowry (three goals).