HDFL grand finalist – NORTH BENDIGO

NORTH Bendigo has a shot at creating a piece of club history as it strives to win a hat-trick of premierships for the first time on Saturday.

Just as it had been in the past two Heathcote District grand finals – which the Bulldogs won by margins of 20 and 10 points – North Bendigo’s opponent will be Leitchville-Gunbower.

There’s a sense of familiarity to the Bulldogs’ lead-in to the grand final at Huntly.

As they had the previous two years, the Bulldogs qualified for the grand final via the preliminary final.

Saturday’s 22 who will take to the field feature 17 players who have played in one of the Bulldogs’ flags the previous two years.

Ten of them – captain Jordan Ford, Aarryn Craig, Alex Shipard, Brady Herdman, Darcy Richards, Ryan Alford, Sam Barnes, Sam Demeo, Sean Morris and Tom Metherell – played in both the 2015 and 2016 triumphs.

Tyson Findlay would have been on that list too, but a hamstring injury suffered last week will keep him out of the grand final.

Lachlan Ford, Rhys Ford, Nick Waterson, Zach Alford and Joel Helman are all vying for their first North Bendigo premierships.

Helman lining up for the Bulldogs on Saturday comes after he had been in Leitchville-Gunbower’s losing grand final side to North Bendigo the previous two years before making the move to Atkins Street.

The addition of Rhys Ford from Castlemaine added to an already imposing forward line alongside Herdman and Barnes.

The trio, who have all been injured throughout the year, have kicked 179 goals from their combined 42 games.

The Bulldogs were red-hot premiership favourites from the outset to make it three flags in a row, and while they duly finished on top of the ladder with a monster percentage of 313, they have lost their past two games to the Bombers, including the second semi-final by 10 points.

North Bendigo also has its reserves aiming for its first flag since 2002.