North’s ominous start to HDFNL flag defence in 187-point win

NORTH Bendigo has wasted no time in again asserting its authority on the Heathcote District league, crushing Heathcote by 187 points in round one on Saturday.

IMPRESSIVE DEBUT: Recruit Sean Christopher kicked 11 goals in his first game for White Hills against Elmore on Saturday. Pictures: LUKE WEST

IMPRESSIVE DEBUT: Recruit Sean Christopher kicked 11 goals in his first game for White Hills against Elmore on Saturday. Pictures: LUKE WEST

The two-time defending premiers, who are the red-hot favourites to make it three in a row this year, put the Saints to the sword in brutal style, but it could have been much worse had the Bulldogs kicked straight.

The Bulldogs scored 63 times to the Saints’ six in their 28.35 (203) to 2.4 (16) shellacking at Pigeon Park in a result that shows the gulf between the flag favourites and likely wooden-spooners.

“Heathcote out-contested us and spread better at times during the first half and we didn’t help ourselves with some inaccurate kicking with 9.16,” North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.

“We changed a couple of things up at half-time and played our style of footy in the second half.”

Of the Bulldogs’ score of 203, they kicked 84 in the third quarter when they booted 12.12 while keeping the Saints scoreless.

The Bulldogs – who have a percentage of 1268.7 – shared their 28 goals around, with no player kicking more than five.

Jarrod Findlay and Brady Herdman each booted five, while Sean Morris, Sam Barnes and recruit Joel Helman chipped in with four apiece.

In his first game for the Bulldogs, Lachlan Ford was outstanding through the midfield, while Tyson Findlay was a clearance machine, particularly in the second half, and Ash Craig after a year out of the game returned without missing a beat.

It was a tough initiation to coaching for Heathcote’s Luke Bell.

“The first half we were able to make it a bit harder for them to get the ball forward from stoppages and our intensity around the footy was very good, but our third quarter was disappointing when we started pointing the finger at each other,” Bell said.

“We know we’ve got to start at the bottom to turn this around and days like today are going to happen against quality like North… it’s certainly not going to be the only scoreline like that they have for the year.

“North was super well-drilled, and even when they were 25 goals up they were still so demanding of each other.

“That’s where we’re aiming to be in a couple of years and for a lot of our young guys today was a very big learning curve.”

Darcy McLean on a wing and Louis Picollo both fought gallantly all game for the Saints, who were beaten by more than 100 points for the fifth time in their past seven meetings with the Bulldogs.

• A rejuvenated White Hills has made a promising start, belting the team whose position in the top five they will be eyeing off – Elmore.

The Demons won by 98 points, 25.13 (163) to 9.11 (65), at Elmore.

The Demons’ win featured an 11-goal haul on debut from Sean Christopher.

Christopher became the first White Hills play since Brad McConnell in round 11, 2007, to kick a double-figure bag of goals. 

“It’s good to get off to a nice start given we didn’t know much about what Elmore was going to hit us with,” new Demons coach Brent Millar said.

“Elmore was young and energetic and stayed with us well for the first half, but we were able to get on top and it was pleasing the way the boys were able to finish off.”

Christopher spent last year playing in the reserves with SANFL club Glenelg.

“He’s clearly a very good player, but you’ve got to have the supply to him. He could have kicked a couple more, but we hurt him a bit a few times going forward,” Millar said.

NEW YEAR UNDERWAY: White Hills' Lachlan Sidebottom and Elmore's Jack Hayes contest the opening bounce of the 2017 Heathcote District season on Saturday.

NEW YEAR UNDERWAY: White Hills' Lachlan Sidebottom and Elmore's Jack Hayes contest the opening bounce of the 2017 Heathcote District season on Saturday.

“His presence in the forward line was fantastic and it’s obviously good to have that focal point.”

As well as Christopher’s 11 goals, the Demons had nine other goalkickers, including Lachlan Furness, who slotted five.

On a sour note for the Demons Jake Ward suffered a dislocated shoulder and Jake Dickens injured an ankle early in the game.

Like Christopher, new ruckman Lachlan Sidebottom also made a big first-up impression for the Demons, and Matt Lehane, who played on Bloods’ coach Danny Brewster, made a welcome return in his first game since July, 2015, following a knee injury.

Tyler Oliver, Matt Gilmour and Nathan Brewster were good players for the Bloods, who didn’t kick their first goal until the second quarter.

• Leitchville-Gunbower proved too strong for Colbinabbin, winning by 48 points.

The Bombers took the ascendancy with five goals to one in the second quarter on the way to a 15.10 (100) to 8.4 (52) victory at Leitchville.

“We were a bit patchy through the game with some good bits and poor bits, but that’s typical of round one,” Bombers coach Matt Hawken said.

“We felt after quarter-time we had control of the game, but Colbo kept coming and we couldn’t put them away until we kicked the last four goals of the game.”

Matthew Ladson, Matt Pollock and Jackson McEwen through the midfield, Matt Perri (five goals) and Dan Meroli in defence played well for the Bombers.

Colbinabbin’s best included forward Damien Carmody (two goals) and a pair of recruits in Mitch Booth and Seb Nixon.

Colbinabbin v Leitchville-Gunbower. Picture: SADIE VALE

Colbinabbin v Leitchville-Gunbower. Picture: SADIE VALE

“We had a lot of players down today and to come up against a quality side first-up is always a challenge,” said Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight, who kicked two goals.

“For patches we were really competitive, but when we were off our game Leitchville was able to capitalise and gain some momentum.”

• Mount Pleasant had the better of Lockington-Bamawm United in the final quarter to win 19.14 (128) to 13.8 (86) at Toolleen.

Colbinabbin's Thom Hill. Picture: SADIE VALE

Colbinabbin's Thom Hill. Picture: SADIE VALE

In what was a one-sided opening round, the Blues’ 42-point margin was the closest of the day.

The Blues led by six points at three quarter-time, but finished strongly with seven goals to one in the last term to give Mathew Johnson a win in his coaching debut.

“It’s fantastic to get the win first-up. We didn’t play anywhere near our best, but it was great the boys were able to run out the game,” said Johnson, who kicked two goals.

“We’ve put in a massive pre-season and it was pleasing to see the program was beneficial today. And we went a lot more direct in the last quarter.”

Two of the Blues’ new players in Ryan Herring and Kris Clifford kicked five goals each, while Tyler McNamara (two goals) on a wing and James Walsh off half-back were also good contributors.

“Tyler is one of the core group of young players we’re looking to and he really stood up for us, and James was fantastic with the way he used the ball,” Johnson said.

Nathan Dyson, David McCallum and Zeik Johnston kicked three goals each for LBU and were named the Cats’ three best players.