GISBORNE coach Luke Saunders has ruled out any last-ditch attempt to return to the field for the Bulldogs’ Bendigo Football League finals campaign.
Minor premier Gisborne will play its first final this Saturday night when it takes on respected rival Golden Square in the second semi-final at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
However, Saunders says he is no chance of lining up for the Bulldogs during the finals as he continues to be hampered by a frustrating ear-related virus – Sudden Sensory Neural Hearing Loss – that affects his balance among other symptoms.
Saunders has played just four games this year, the last of which was against South Bendigo in round nine. But Saunders showed in those four games why he’s renowned as one of the modern day greats of the BFL when he kicked 19 goals and produced patches of his mercurial best.
Like he has been for much of the second half of the season, Saunders is resigned to the fact his involvement in the finals will be restricted to coaching from the sidelines.
“I can’t do five minutes of training without starting to fall over,” Saunders said yesterday.
“I haven’t trained for 11 weeks now, so I’m not going to be able to play a full game from here, so unfortunately, that’s it for the year as far as playing.”
Gisborne is likely to field the same 22 that beat South Bendigo by 112 points in round 18, before the Bulldogs had last weekend off courtesy of their top of the ladder finish.
“The boys had a really good night on the track last night,” Saunders said.
“It has been wet most of the year, so it was good to get a dry, warm night and the boys came prepared to work hard.
“Last week we were a little flat having no game to look forward to, but the boys came switched back on last night.”
Meanwhile, Strathfieldsaye is likely to have a headache at the selection table tonight as it picks its squad for Sunday’s first semi-final with Sandhurst at the QEO.
Storm coach Darryl Wilson estimates as many as six players – Ryan Eastman, Caillum Brady, Sam Heavyside, Luke Marchesi, Cameron Ross and Leighton Dullard – could come into the mix for selection into the team that last Saturday night beat South Bendigo by 43 points in the elimination final.
Adding to the selection quandary is the Storm got through last Saturday night’s game unscathed and will have no enforced omissions through injury.
“We’ve got a lot to think about, with the potential for a few players to come in, so there’s some real headaches with what we decide to go with,” Wilson said.