During the pre-season there was hope that 2018 would be different.
There was hope that this year’s HDFNL season wouldn’t be just about the big four.
It’s only taken two rounds to burst that bubble.
Once again you can lock in the top four teams in the HDFNL.
Leitchville-Gunbower, Huntly, Colbinabbin and North Bendigo will fill the top four spots, it’s just a matter of what order.
That leaves fifth spot for Lockington-Bamawm United. Despite being beaten by eight goals by Huntly on Saturday, the Cats have enough talent to fill fifth spot.
It’s also by process of elimination because the other four clubs – White Hills, Heathcote, Mt Pleasant and Elmore – are in a rebuilding phase and look a long way off the mark.
The pre-season hype surrounding Mt Pleasant was well and truly off the mark.
After losing to LBU in round one, the Blues suffered a 137-point drubbing at the hands of North Bendigo on Saturday.
The Blues and Dogs were locked at three goals each midway through the first quarter on Saturday.
From that point on it was 22 goals to one as the Dogs marched to a 25.16 (166) to 4.5 (29) victory.
“It was good to put together a four-quarter performance,’’ North Bendigo coach Matt Dillon said.
“We wanted to play a high-pressure game for as long as we could and we had a really good second quarter which broke the game open.
“I was really impressed with the hard work of our midfielder and half-backs. We continually won the ball back.
“Our small forwards continued to put good pressure on and we made it really hard for Mounts to get the ball out of defence.”
On a weat and greasy day, Tyson Findlay made ball-handling look easy.
The 2014 Cheatley Medal winner rotated between the midfield and forward and bagged seven goals.
Jeremy Mills played a similar role and kicked five majors, while Darcy Richards relished his role across half-forward.
Reliable defender Dan Morris restricted Mounts’ star Ben Weightman to two goals.
The Blues were best served by Fraser Cole, Dale Young and Jordi Philbrick.
The one negative for the Bulldogs was a potential season-ending ankle injury to midfielder Jordan Collins.
“He’s broken his ankle in a couple of places and he’ll have surgery on Wednesday,’’ Dillon confirmed.
“That news has left out blokes a bit flat.”
Huntly saw off Lockington-Bamawm United in difficult conditions at Lockington.
The Hawks‘ bigger bodies around the ball was a major factor in the 10.12 (72) to 3.8 (26) scoreline.
“It was a tough day of footy in atrocious conditions,’’ Huntly coach Denis Grinton said.
“The rain was coming in sideways at one stage there.
“We kicked the wind in the first quarter and got that three-goal buffer and from then on we defended really strongly.
“Locky kept having a crack all day… but we played well in most areas and it was good to get away with the four points.”
Jack Daley has always been a good wet tracker and he thrived in the difficult conditions.
The Hawks’ star won plenty of stoppages and kicked three goals in a best on ground performance.
Jayden Cowling continued his good start to the season, while defender Steve Kairn did a good job on Cats’ star Lachlan Collins and Jayden Cordy restricted Lockington forward Jarod Bacon to one goal.
“We matched up quite well against them,’’’ Grinton said.
“This win gives our boys some confidence going forward. We’ve got North Bendigo next week, so we’re going to have to play our best to win that game.”
Ruckman Liam Main was best for the Cats, defender Fraser Monahan followed up his strong round one performance with another solid game and Joe Wolfe impressed.
Leitchville-Gunbower put the game to bed nice and early by kicking seven goals to one in the first term against Elmore.
The Bombers cruised to a 24.11 (155) to 6.9 (45) win.
Star full-forward Matt Perri kicked eight goals to take his season tally to 12 after two games.
Daniel Couwenberg and Matt Pollock ran riot through the middle of the ground and Dan Coates was a solid four-quarter performer.
Elmore recruits Aaron Munro and Blake Schneider produced strong performances for the second-straight week, while Jack Hayes battled hard against the odds.
The Bloods will have the opportunity for their first win of the season when they travel to Toolleen next Saturday to play Mt Pleasant.
In the final game of the round, Colbinabbin made it two wins from as many games when it defeated Heathcote by 73 points, 14.6 (90) to 2.5 (17).
The Saints didn’t have the class or depth to trouble the Grasshoppers forward of centre.
At the other end of the ground, key forward Elliot Bowen kicked five goals for the Hoppers to take his season tally to 12.
Damien Carmody controlled the game off half-back for Colbo, while Mitch Bright and Daniel Hill played solid games.
Brayden Klemke, Marc Millard and Tom Bourke were best for the undermanned Saints.
Heathcote will be a tougher match-up when experienced duo Dan Russell and Daniel Anderson return to the side in the next fortnight.
HDFNL round three fixture – Leitchville-Gunbower v Heathcote, Huntly v North Bendigo, White Hills v Lockington-Bamawm United, Mt Pleasant v Elmore.