AN arduous pre-season program at Gardiner Reserve appears to be reaping its rewards for Gisborne.
New Gisborne coach Rod Sharp said in March that under the pre-season training program of fitness guru Valeri Stoimenov, he expected his Bulldogs this year to be running as hard in the last 20 minutes of a game as the first 20 minutes.
That was never more evident than last Saturday when despite the Bulldogs producing their statistically worst performance of the season against Golden Square, they came from 25 points down at three quarter-time to win by eight.
Last week’s stunning last-quarter revival that now has Gisborne three games clear inside the top three came on the back of the previous three games when the Bulldogs outscored their opposition 294-28 in second halves.
“For us internally, it has been a combination of a few things,” Sharp answered Friday when asked about his side’s second-half dominance of the past month.
“The guys are finally understanding what we need to do to opposition sides... unfortunately, we weren’t taking advantage at times of our fitness levels.
“Now the guys understand the courage and the effort they need to have to make the opposition work in certain areas so that when they get the footy they may be a little bit fatigued.
“Looking back at last week, statistically it was our worst game of the year... we were down in all our key areas by a mile, but the difference in the end was our fitness and our effort.
“They are the only reasons we beat Golden Square.”
While last week’s victory has the Bulldogs firmly on track for the double chance, Sharp is not looking that far ahead.
Rather, he’s treating Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Oval game against South Bendigo as an opportunity to purely shore up a finals berth.
“I’m not speaking in any more terms other than if we get four points this weekend, we can’t miss the finals and that’s all we’re focussed on,” Sharp said.
“We got a few injuries last night and the wheel can turn quickly at any club, so we’re not looking any further ahead than this weekend and just making sure we’ve got enough wins to play finals.
“If we can do that with four games to go, it then gives you good control over the rest of your season.”
The Bulldogs have made three changes to last week’s winning side, with Michael Thornton (quad), Daniel Weaver (hamstring tightness) and young gun Isaac Trickey (corkie) all out, with their replacements Shannon Greetham, Andre Headberry and Aaron Storie.
The Bulldogs will take on a South Bendigo side that last week moved off the bottom of the ladder with a 31-point win over Kyneton - their second of the season.
“South Bendigo got up and going last week and moved the ball well, so we’ll be determined to get on top early,” Sharp said.