Dragons fired up for qualifying final test against Golden Square 

LAST September, Sandhurst rolled into the BFNL finals series on the back of seven-straight wins.

All the talk was the Dragons were the team that would meet a rampant Golden Square in the grand final.

After winning the elimination final against South Bendigo, the Dragons were dumped from the finals series by Gisborne.

This year the Dragons have finished higher on the ladder and earned the double-chance, but there’s far less hype surrounding their grand final prospects.

Despite having a win over Golden Square this year, Sandhurst, in many ways, is the forgotten team of the finals.

No grand final or premiership talk suits Sandhurst coach Tony Graham.

“Even if you look back to when Keiran Nihill was coaching, we’ve been building slowly from year to year,’’ Graham said ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying final against Golden Square.

“We’ve gone from fourth on the ladder last year and winning one final to third on the ladder this year with the finals to come.

“We want to get further into the finals this year and we have the opportunity to do that.

“If we take those opportunities we’ll go further in the finals. If we don’t, well we’ll have to front up again next year.”

The Dragons enter tomorrow’s qualifying final with close to their best squad available.

Ruckman Tom McCarthy (hand) is a big loss, but the return of Nihill (broken leg) and Bendigo Pioneers duo Harry O’Meara and Isaiah Miller is a bonus.

Key forward Matt Thornton will take over the number one ruck duties. 

“We’re not concerned that Matt Thornton has to play in the ruck,’’ Graham said.

“Ideally, Tom McCarthy would be available to fill that ruck role, but he’s not there and we know that Matt is more than capable of filling that role.

“Matt hasn’t done a lot of ruck work this year, but we’re confident he can do a good job.  “As far as a back-up for Matt, we’ll play it by ear and see how the game unfolds.

“Speccy McGee hasn’t rucked all year, apart from deep in defence, and Jake (Ward) has only rucked a little bit deep in attack.

“Whichever player we use we’ll be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

It’s hard to see McGee doing much ruckwork.

The veteran Dragon has starred across half-back all year and has the task of filling the hole in front of Golden Square’s star full-forward Grant Weeks.

The man with the job of containing Weeks, who has kicked 148 goals this season,  will be Pat Jennings.

The former Bendigo Braves basketballer is only in his second season of football, but he did restrict Weeks to five goals the last time the sides met, albeit in a losing cause.

“Pat is still learning, but we always knew his physical capabilities were going to make him a good player,’’ Graham said of Jennings.

“To nail down a position and get a big job every week has been a great progression on his behalf.

“Weeks has kicked a large percentage of their overall goalkicking and we’ll do our best to stop him.

“But at the end of the day it’s a team game and we need everyone to control their own opponent.

“We can’t just focus on Weeks,” Graham said of Sandhurst’s plans to stop Square’s winning run. 

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