AT the halfway mark of the Bendigo Football-Netball League season the ladder would suggest not a lot has changed in 2017.
The teams that fill the top four rungs – Strathfieldsaye, Golden Square, Eaglehawk and Sandhurst – are the same quartet of clubs that between them have shared the past 10 senior premierships.
They were the last four teams left standing last year, and the same in 2015.
However, while it’s a familiar looking top four, there have been some fresh variations to the competition, such as Kyneton having earlier spent three rounds in top spot, yet is now six points outside the five.
And the re-emergence of South Bendigo, which after four years out of the finals is back into the September mix with its 6-3 halfway record – already more wins than the five the Bloods recorded last year.
It was a throwback to the days of the mid-90s when in round five the Bloods met Kyneton in a 1 v 2 clash at Harry Trott Oval that lived up to all the hype with South Bendigo winning by two points.
The Bloods and Tigers join the Storm, Square, Hawks and Dragons among the pack of six teams that look set to fight out the finals battle in the second half of the year.
None of those six teams have been beaten by any of the four below them – Gisborne has come close twice against Kyneton and Strathfieldsaye – and it’s going to be the “eight point” games against each other that will have the major bearing on who makes the five and whose season ends at round 18.
In games against their fellow top six sides, Strathfieldsaye is 4-1, Golden Square and Eaglehawk are 3-2, South Bendigo is 2-3, reigning premier Sandhurst is 2-2-1 and Kyneton a stiff 0-4-1 in what has been a frustrating season of missed opportunities for the Tigers, who must be one of country Victoria’s most competitive sixth-placed teams as their percentage of 133.6 will attest.
Of the 15 games where top six sides have played each other, 10 have been decided by less than four goals and six in single figures.
Although the Storm has established itself as the pick of the bunch, it has been one of those seasons where no result could be deemed a fait accompli whenever those top six sides have locked horns.
Hopefully, that continues in the second half of the season, while the bottom four teams – Gisborne, Kangaroo Flat, Castlemaine and Maryborough – can bob up to cause an upset or two and have an impact.
Luke West – sports reporter