North Bendigo’s preparations for its two biggest weeks of the HDFNL home and away season have been hampered by injury concerns to key players.
The undefeated Bulldogs play their two biggest premiership rivals – third-placed Colbinabbin and second-placed Leitchville-Gunbower – over the next two weeks and they need to win at least one of the two games to all but sew up the minor premiership.
They look set to take on the Grasshoppers and Bombers without key forwards Brady Herdman (hamstring) and Sam Barnes (hamstring).
Herdman and Barnes have kicked 92 goals between them this season.
Barnes hurt his hamstring in the final 10 minutes of Saturday’s win over LBU, while Herdman missed that game after re-injuring his hamstring in the win against White Hills one week earlier.
“We won’t be taking any risks at this time of the year,’’ North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.
“Brady will be back running this week, but we won’t be rushing him back.
“Barnesy has felt tight in the hamstring before, so we can’t afford to take a risk with him.”
Herdman and Barnes’ hamstring concerns come on top of the absence of classy midfielder Lachlan Ford and fresh injuries to skipper Jordan Ford (eye) and Sean Morris (concussion).
Bennett was hopeful Jeremy Ford and Morris would be fit to play the in-form Grasshoppers.
“We’re looking forward to playing two very good teams in the next couple of weeks,’’ Bennett said.
“Colbo is in really good form… coming off a good win over Huntly.
“Going by the scoreline it looks like Leitchville have most of their players back that had been missing and they’re probably the form team of the competition at the moment.”
Bennett said cementing top spot was not a high priority for his side.
“We’re not fussed about top spot, as long as we finish top three,’’ he said.
“Top spot doesn’t guarantee you anything and we’ve shown in the past few years that as long as you have that double chance you’re a good chance to achieve something.
“Our main focus at the moment is making sure we have a healthy list and that we’re playing good footy for the start of the finals.”