CLOSE GAMES ARE DUE

Ryan Maldenis has had an immediate impact at Sandhurst.

Ryan Maldenis has had an immediate impact at Sandhurst.

Tight round tipped after two one-sided weeks

THE upcoming round of matches – on paper at least – couldn’t come at a better time for the Bendigo Football League.

The past two rounds have been marred by one-sided contests, with only two of the past 10 games decided by less than 44 points, with the average margin across the round five and six matches 75 points.

But this weekend, there’s a common trend of all five matches pitting teams in similar ladder positions against each other:

1 v 2: Sandhurst (6-0) v Gisborne (6-0).

3 v 4: Strathfieldsaye (5-1) v Kangaroo Flat (4-2).

6 v 5: Golden Square (3-3) v Eaglehawk (3-3).

7 v 8: Kyneton (2-4) v Castlemaine (1-5).

10 v 9: Maryborough (0-6) v South Bendigo (0-6).

Each of the five games have their own subplots of intrigue, but the match that deservedly will garner the most attention is the top of the ladder clash between unbeaten pace-setters Sandhurst and Gisborne at the QEO on Saturday.

The Bulldogs just keep churning young talent out each week. When you’ve played nine debutantes among the 36 players used already and you’re 6-0, it must be exciting to be a Gisborne supporter.

The Bulldogs were the BFL’s team of the 2000s, winning four flags from six-straight grand finals between 2002 and 2007, and the club now appears well-positioned to build towards its next great era.

The Bulldogs just keep churning young talent out each week

Saturday’s opponent, Sandhurst, has made a start of utter dominance to the season, with six wins by an average of 84 points.

In what’s their best start to a season since 1995, the Dragons are playing a free-flowing brand of footy that at a time when there is so much negativity towards the game at an AFL level is pure entertainment.

Their percentage of 296.8 is ridiculously high, with that largely attributed to the meagre 34 goals they’ve given up in their six games, while they have also booted 108 goals, including 50 the past two weeks.

To try to give some context to Sandhurst's defensive effort to restrict the opposition to just 34 goals in six games, in Golden Square's undefeated 2011 season - now to be the ultimate modern day BFL benchmark when comparing teams - the Bulldogs had conceded 55 goals after round six.

While there has been an even spread through the defence, midfield and forward line for the Dragons, one player who has been quick to make his mark is WAFL recruit Ryan Maldenis (pictured).

Corey Jones (Golden Square) and the Strathfieldsaye pair of Stephen Milne and Steven Baker were the three biggest names to join the BFL during the off-season, but Maldenis’ impact at Sandhurst has been enormous and he should be already pencilled in the centre for the inter-league clash with Gippsland.

Maldenis - who already has 19 Addy Player of the Year votes - is tough in the contest, but also has the added string to his bow of a midfielder who hits the scoreboard, with nine goals in his past two games.

Right across the club the Dragons are undefeated in each of the senior, reserves and under-18 teams with a combined percentage of 1724.2, which shows the club is flushed with depth and that can never be under-estimated when injuries inevitably strike.

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