BENDIGO FOOTBALL LEAGUE
EAGLEHAWK (16-2) v STRATHFIELDSAYE (16-3) - 6pm Saturday at QEO.
The first berth in this year’s Bendigo league grand final will be decided on Saturday night when Eaglehawk meets Strathfieldsaye.
Both hit the second semi-final in impressive form, setting up a tantalising contest under the QEO lights between two teams that split their home and away meetings 1-1.
Fresh from a week off courtesy of its first top-of-the-ladder finish since 2008, the Hawks will ride a 13-game winning streak into the finals.
Strathfieldsaye hasn’t been beaten since going down to the Hawks by 45 points in round 12, with the Storm having since reeled off seven wins on the trot, including a hard-fought victory over Golden Square in last week’s qualifying final when they got away with kicking an inaccurate 9.19.
When they met on the corresponding weekend last year, the Hawks ended the Storm’s season with a six-point first semi-final win.
This has all the hallmarks of another thriller – albeit without the threat of extinction for the loser, but rather the prize of a grand final for the winner.
Eaglehawk – In: B. McPhee, O. Madden, L. Atherton. Out: M. Higgs, B. Rogers.
Strathfieldsaye – In: J. Neylon, J. Formosa, S. Geary, Z. Hoiles.
• This season:
Rd 3 - Strathfieldsaye 17.7 (109) d Eaglehawk 7.10 (52)
Rd 12 - Eaglehawk 17.12 (114) d Strathfieldsaye 9.15 (69)
Head to Head: Eaglehawk 10; Strathfieldsaye 10.
GOLDEN SQUARE (14-4-1) v SANDHURST (12-6-1) - 2.20pm Sunday at QEO.
Always a highlight on the BFNL calendar whenever the two fierce rivals face off, and that’s amplified when it comes to September and there’s no tomorrow for the loser.
The Bulldogs and Dragons were last year’s grand finalists, but only one will still be alive in the premiership race come 5pm Sunday.
Sandhurst is playing its best football of the season and has the momentum of five wins in a row, which included defeating Kyneton by five points in last week’s elimination final.
The Bulldogs will be determined to apply the same level of pressure as they did to Strathfieldsaye in last Saturday night’s qualifying final loss by nine points, while with 11 players who played their first final last week, they should be better for the experience.
Golden Square – In: S. Young, B. Dorrington. Out: B. George, L. Humphrey.
• This season:
Rd 3 - Sandhurst 11.10 (76) d Golden Square 6.18 (54)
Rd 12 - Golden Square 11.14 (80) d Sandhurst 8.5 (53)
Since 1995: Golden Square 30; Sandhurst 25.
Kieran Iles (78) - Eaglehawk (13), Golden Square (8).
Richard Jones (78) - Strathfieldsaye (14), Golden Square (9).
Luke West (76) - Strathfieldsaye (4), Sandhurst (6).
Adam Bourke (74) - Strathfieldsaye (10), Golden Square (12).
LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER (17-1) v NORTH BENDIGO (16-2) - 2.15pm Saturday at Huntly
The stage is set for a mighty showdown in what has become the league’s No.1 rivalry.
For the third year in a row Leitchville-Gunbower and North Bendigo meet for the premiership at Huntly.
They have been the two standout teams of the competition – their only losses have been against each other – and if their second semi-final clash a fortnight earlier wasn’t appetising enough for what lays ahead on Saturday, the fallout in the days after as the two coaches traded barbs sets up a mouth-watering contest with plenty of heat… not that you’d expect anything less from a grand final.
Among the on-lookers will be both teams No.1 ruckmen – North Bendigo’s Brett Strange and Leitchville-Gunbower’s Michael Pilcher, who are both out injured.
The Bombers hold a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over the Bulldogs in their three meetings this year.
Leitchville-Gunbower – In: D. Meroli, L. Pollock. Out: M. Pilcher, J. Dye.
North Bendigo – In: D. Richards, Z. Alford. Out: B. Thomson, T. Findlay.
• This season:
Rd 7 - North Bendigo 23.13 (151) d Leitchville-Gunbower 12.11 (83)
Rd 16 - Leitchville-Gunbower 13.13 (91) d North Bendigo 6.5 (41)
Second semi-final - Leitchville-Gunbower 14.13 (97) d North Bendigo 12.15 (87)
Head to Head: North Bendigo 14; Leitchville-Gunbower 6.
Kieran Iles (65) - Leitchville-Gunbower (7).
Adam Bourke (64) - North Bendigo (1).
Luke West (63) - North Bendigo (6).
PRELIMINARY FINAL SEMI-FINAL
WYCHEPROOF-NARRAPORT (14-2-1) v SEA LAKE NANDALY TIGERS (12-5) - 2.30pm Saturday at Charlton
Surely Wycheproof-Narraport has been too good of a side this year not to at the very least reach the grand final.
The Demons finished 14 points and 90 per cent clear on top of the ladder, but they now face a must-win game just to play in the grand final.
The Demons will take on Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers in the preliminary final.
Wycheproof-Narraport must regroup from its 42-point second semi-final loss to Birchip-Watchem last week, while the Tigers enjoyed a rest last week following their 80-point first semi-final belting of Boort a fortnight ago.
Since joining the North Central league last year the Demons are the only team the Tigers haven’t beaten, which includes three losses to them already this year.
Wycheproof-Narraport – In: D. McClennan.
Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers – In: T. Fitzgerald, J. Doering. Out: J. Wright, T. Considine.
• This season:
Rd 2 - Wycheproof-Narraport 22.16 (148) d Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers 13.6 (84)
Rd 9 - Wycheproof-Narraport 11.13 (79) d Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers 11.7 (73)
Rd 16 - Wycheproof-Narraport 17.13 (115) d Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers 8.8 (56)
Head to Head: Wycheproof-Narraport 5; Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers 0.