Dogs win, but at cost with knee injuries to Rhys Ford and Brett Strange

VICTORIOUS: Leitchville-Gunbower's Jack Dye gets ready to pounce on the ball against Huntly. Dye kicked three goals. Picture: DARREN HOWE
VICTORIOUS: Leitchville-Gunbower's Jack Dye gets ready to pounce on the ball against Huntly. Dye kicked three goals. Picture: DARREN HOWE

NORTH Bendigo’s 48-point win over Colbinabbin on Saturday looks set to come at a cost with a pair of knee injuries to two of its star players.

The Heathcote District league’s premier ruckman Brett Strange and key forward Rhys Ford both ended the game injured on the interchange.

Strange has suffered a medial strain and is facing several weeks on the sidelines, while there are concerns Ford’s knee injury could potentially be season-ending.

The pair of injuries soured the undefeated Bulldogs’ 15.15 (105) to 7.15 (57) victory at Atkins Street – their 19th win in a row at home.

“Unfortunately, Rhys has hurt his knee. We’ll know more on Monday after he has had a scan,” Bulldogs coach Rob Bennett said.

“Strangey strained his medial ligament early in the last quarter. It’s too early to tell yet how long he will miss, but it could be anywhere from two to four weeks.”

Ford’s knee concern comes on the back of two of the Bulldogs’ other star forwards in Brady Herdman and Sam Barnes both currently sidelined with hamstring injuries.

Ford kicked three goals before his game ended in the shadows of the three quarter-time siren, while Strange was again one of the Bulldogs’ best before his injury in the final term.

After both sides kicked three goals each in the first term, the Bulldogs outscored the Grasshoppers 12 goals to four over the last three quarters.

Integral in North Bendigo’s win was the versatile Joel Helman, who booted six goals – all before half-time – before rolling an ankle.

“He’s the sort of player who can play anywhere and was really strong at the footy for us today,” Bennett said.

“He took a lot of contested marks and when the ball hit the ground was really good as well.”

Also playing well for the Bulldogs were Alex Shipard, who restricted Ryan Hon to one goal, and Daniel Morris in his stopping job on Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight, who for the second time against North Bendigo this season was held goalless.

“Our intent and purpose for the first quarter-and-a-half was really good, but we just weren’t able to sustain it and once North got the ascendancy, they are a quality side that is hard to stop,” Knight said.

The Grasshoppers – with five changes to the side from the previous week – didn’t help their chances with their inaccurate 7.15, which included 1.6 in the third quarter.

“We speak about taking our opportunities all the time and we have to get better at that if we want to keep improving,” Knight said.

Skipper Pat O’Brien and Cameron Hall (three goals) were named best for the Grasshoppers.

With North Bendigo now having a 13-0 record, combined with winning their last three games last year the Bulldogs’ overall 16-game winning streak is now their longest since joining the Heathcote District league in 1996.

• Leitchville-Gunbower answered a spirited challenge from Huntly to record a 29-point win.

The Bombers trailed the Hawks by five points at half-time, before kicking 10 goals to five after the break to win 17.12 (114) to 13.7 (85).

“Huntly was really good early with their pressure… they out-hunted us and were able to capitalise on our mistakes,” Bombers coach Matt Hawken said.

“But we worked to fix that up and I thought we started to get a bit of ascendancy from late in the second quarter.”

STAR QUALITY: Huntly co-coach Ryan Semmel on the charge against Leitchville-Gunbower. The Hawks lost by 29 points on Saturday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

STAR QUALITY: Huntly co-coach Ryan Semmel on the charge against Leitchville-Gunbower. The Hawks lost by 29 points on Saturday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Ruckman/forward Lee Pollock (three goals) was best for the Bombers, 16-year-old Mitch McEwen (two goals) also impressed, while Hawken praised Shaun Turvey for his run-with role on Hawks’ co-coach Ryan Semmel.

The better players for the Hawks were led by centre half-back Tim Davison and Steve Kairn, who had the job on star Bombers’ forward Matt Perri (four goals).

The Hawks had a spread of 10 goalkickers among their tally of 13.

• Having started the season 0-8, Lockington-Bamawm United has now won four of its past six games, this time beating White Hills.

The fifth-placed Demons were comprehensively outplayed by the improved and hungry Cats, 16.10 (106) to 10.6 (67) at White Hills.

With four wins for 2017, the Cats have now surpassed their combined tally of three from the previous two seasons.

The Cats set the win up with an impressive first half in which they led by 36 points at the main break, 11.3 to 5.3.

Included in the Cats’ half-time score was 6.1 against the breeze in the second quarter.

“It was a pleasing performance today. We did a lot of hard work early to get ourselves in front in the game,” Cats coach Peter Gibbs said.

“I thought our midfield was excellent and it was really good for the boys to get a win against a side above them on the ladder.”

Jordan Brown (three goals) and Darcy McCallum led the best for the Cats, who had 11 goalkickers.      

The loss was the Demons’ third in a row, with the 39-point margin against a team that had previously won just three games bigger than the 33 points they lost to ladder-leader North Bendigo by in their previous match.

“They came at us hard and we just couldn’t respond,” Demons coach Brent Millar said.

“We were very flat, but to Gibbsy’s credit at Lockington, they are well-drilled, they run hard and showed us up in contested ball and on the spread today.”

Hayden Wright (two goals) and David Wright battled hard for the Demons, while Lachlan Furness kicked four of their 10 goals.

• For the first time in five years, Heathcote has recorded the biggest winning margin in a round.

The Saints proved too strong for Mount Pleasant in winning by 63 points, 16.16 (112) to 5.19 (49) at Heathcote.

Not since round 15, 2012, when they beat Colbinabbin by 49 points have the Saints been the biggest winner in a round.

Saturday’s victory was Heathcote’s fourth, equalling their total tally of wins for the previous three years.

Half of the Saints’ 16 behinds came in the first term when they had 2.8 on the board, while Mount Pleasant’s off-target 5.19 featured 1.2 in the first quarter, 1.5 in the second, 1.4 in the third and 2.8 in the last.

“It wouldn’t have been a pretty game to watch, but on the back of the past few weeks we’ve had (six losses in a row) it was good to get another win on the board,” Saints coach Luke Bell said.

Louis Piccolo kicked four goals – most in the last quarter – for the Saints to be one of their best, while their standout player was the hard-running Darcy McLean (two goals).

The consistent Adam Richardson was again named best for the Blues, who are now winless in their past nine games.