Pioneers work at shaping Cup's top eight

KEY PLAYER: Bendigo Pioneers ruckman Jack Lawton kicks. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

KEY PLAYER: Bendigo Pioneers ruckman Jack Lawton kicks. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

THE Bendigo Bank Pioneers intend to have a big say in who qualifies for the TAC Cup finals in the last three rounds of the home-and-away series.

Bendigo has a chance to make the Eastern Ranges’ run toward the top eight more difficult by winning Saturday's clash at Epsom-Huntly Reserve.

The ninth-placed Ranges are a victory behind Murray, but have superior percentage to the Bushrangers.

Just three days after David Newett announced he would not coach Bendigo beyond this season, the Pioneers will be fired up for this clash.

“Eastern has a quality  midfield,” Newett said.

“The pressure we put on them and the way we work to link up will be really important.”

Eastern fell just five points short of Geelong last week in a match where Blake Hardwick kicked eight goals.

Newett said the Pioneers gained plenty of momentum from a 10-goal final quarter in last Sunday’s win against Northern Territory.

“The uncontested chains of possessions were through greater workrate.

“Willingness to run to a contest, either to win it or support a team-mate will be important against a team as skilful as the Ranges.”

A talented onball division for Bendigo includes ruckman Jack Lawton, Billy Evans, Jacob Chisari and Tom Cole.

Pioneers captain Jake Maher marked his long-awaited return from injury by being best afield against Northern Territory Thunder.

Maher’s marking power and strength at the contest inspired team-mates.

Bendigo will also look to the likes of Harry Conway, Matt Pickering, Jordan Mangan and Josh Ryan to continue their great form.

At selection the Pioneers brought in Mitch Hore, Dylan Hanley, and Rhys Free to be the 23rd player.

Bendigo and Eastern do battle from 1.30pm. 

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