North Bendigo will be without star duo Tyson Findlay and Brett Strange as it tries to complete a hat-trick of HDFNL premierships.
The Bulldogs defeated Huntly 12.16 (88) to 8.4 (52) in Saturday’s preliminary final at Elmore, but the win came at a cost.
A serious hamstring injury to midfielder Tyson Findlay in the second quarter finished his day and season, with coach Rob Bennett already ruling the 2015 Cheatley Medal winner out of the grand final clash with Leitchville-Gunbower.
“A couple of our players were around the contest when Tyson got injured and they could hear the (hamstring) snap,’’ Bennett said.
“He’s definitely done.”
The same can be said for ruckman Strange. The big man always faced a race against time to return from a knee injury and Bennett conceded on Saturday night that his time had run out.
“Strangey has got no chance, to be honest,’’ Bennett said.
Bennett was more positive about Joel Helman, Darcy Richards and Zac Alford.
Helman was helped from the ground in the preliminary final because of an ankle injury.
He didn’t return to action, but Bennett expected him to be fit for the grand final.
“We rate our medical staff the best in the business,’’ Bennett said.
“They’re confident that Joel will be right for next week.”
Zac Alford (flu) and Darcy Richards (hamstring) were late withdrawals before the preliminary final.
“No-one will replace Tyson, but at least getting those boys back will minimise the impact,’’ Bennett said.
“Darcy put his hand up to play this week, but we made a decision we wouldn’t take a risk with anyone who was under an injury cloud.
“He’ll be right to go next week.”
The Bulldogs’ preliminary final win wasn’t a vintage North Bendigo performance, but it was gritty.
The loss of Findlay and Helman before half-time saw them down to two rotations, plus they were up against a Huntly side that started spritely.
The Hawks kicked three of the first four goals of the game to put the Dogs on the back foot.
However, from quarter time onwards the Dogs had all the answers.
The Hawks had enough of the footy, but they couldn’t regularly penetrate a North Bendigo back six that was outstanding.
Led superbly by skipper Jordan Ford, the Bulldogs mopped up everything inside their defensive 50 and didn’t allow the Hawks to gain any momentum.
“We’ve rated our backline as our strength all season,’’ Bennett said.
“Jordan Ford’s last two weeks have been sensational and that’s why he’s captain of the footy club.
“He doesn’t say a lot, but his actions really lead by example.”
Daniel Morris, Sam Demeo and Jaran McKay played their roles down back to perfection as well.
Nick Waterson and Jarrod Findlay impressed for the Dogs through the midfield, while Alex Shipard did a great job of restricting the influence of Huntly star Ryan Semmel.
Jack Daley was clearly Huntly’s best player. The former Golden Square on-baller did his best to keep his side in the game.
Defenders Steve Kairn and Tim Davison stood up well under pressure for the Hawks.
It was at the other end of the ground where the Hawks fell down.
After kicking four goals in the first quarter, they managed just four more for the rest of the game.