NORTH BENDIGO FOOTBALL
Lachlan Ford, Rhys Ford, Joel Helman, Nick Waterson, Brodie Thomson, Ash Craig, Jaran McKay, Zac Alford.
Jordan Collins, Luke Buttigieg.
Sportsbet flag odds: $1.50
Player points: 42
R1: v Heathcote (a)
R2: v Huntly (h)
R4: v White Hills (a)
LAST FIVE YEARS
2016: Premiers (17-3)
2015: Premiers (17-3)
2014: Second (16-2)
2013: Third (10-9)
2012: Second (11-9)
BACK-TO-BACK premierships the past two years and shaping up as being even better again.
It’s a scary proposition for rival clubs as North Bendigo is again set to be the team to beat this year.
The only departures from last year are Jordan Collins and Luke Buttigieg, while there’s eight arrivals who add to what is going to be an imposing North Bendigo side where competition for spots is going to be mighty hot.
If star forwards Sam Barnes and Brady Herdman, who have combined for 326 goals the past two years since joining North, weren’t enough for opposition to defenders to deal with, they will also now have Rhys Ford, Castlemaine’s leading goalkicker last year, to contend with.
Lachlan Ford, fresh off winning Newbridge’s past two best and fairests, has also joined the Bulldogs, along with Leitchville-Gunbower’s Joel Helman, multiple YCW best and fairest Nick Waterson, former Kyabram big man Brodie Thompson and Zac Alford from Calivil United.
The impressive additions at Atkins Street also include two returning players from the 2015 premiership team in Ash Craig, a dual Bulldogs’ best and fairest winner, and Jaran McKay.
Q & A with Rob Bennett
Q: Having won the past two premierships, are you expecting it to be a challenge for your players to maintain the rage this season, or having had a double dose of the ultimate success, is it fueling their hunger for more?
The beauty of our playing group is they really push each other and this pre-season compared to the past two, it has gone up a notch.
Usually, there's one or two standouts in the fitness area, but this pre-season we've had an even spread of guys winning time-trials and certain running drills, so that's really pleasing.
NORTH BENDIGO NETBALL
Ash Mason; Sally Mannell; Lauren Oates (elevated from A-reserve); Samantha McDougall (elevated from A-reserve).
Tamara Gilchrist (Sandhurst); Rebecca Smith (Sandhurst); Rebecca Green (Newbridge); Ebony Matthews; Mikayla Haddow.
A-reserve: Bridgette McDougall and Jac Button
B-grade and B-reserve: Sophie Alford and Elle Findlay
17-and under: Lauren Oates
15-and-under: Shannon Hansford
LAST THREE YEARS
IT'S a season of change at North Bendigo.
After five seasons under the leadership of Tamara Gilchrist - which netted a premiership in 2014 and grand final berth in 2015 - the Bulldogs will have new coaches.
Bridgette McDougall and Jacqueline Button have taken up the challenge and will guide a young squad that contains just two of last season's senior line-up. And that is themselves.
That presents a chance for some of the Bulldogs' skilled, younger talent to step-up, an opportunity McDougall said many at North Bendigo had embraced.
"We understand that we've lost a lot of players and that it's a young squad, but we still want to be ultra-competitive and push ourselves to stay on top of the game," she said.
"Jac and I really want to focus on developing the players.
"If we are winning, that's fantastic, but what I want the girls to take away from it is skill building, so they are improving and developing, and as a team as well."
The loss of class goal shooter Rebecca Smith, who has joined Gilchrist at Sandhurst, is a blow, with Lauren Oates stepping up for A-reserve to fill the role.
Q&A with Bridgette McDougall
Q: Tell us a little bit about your preparation for the season?
We've played three practice matches, which have been good, and we've been doing our pre-season since the end of December. We've had a really strong focus on fitness and making sure we are able to start well. We're really focusing on fresh legs as the start of the season as it always so hot and typically finals end up the same way, so making sure we are prepared for that has been really important. The whole squad has made a really strong commitment to making sure they are fit enough to keep going through the season. Everyone has been fantastic.