NORTH BENDIGO V COLBINABBIN
NORTH Bendigo’s dominance on its home ground at Atkins Street continued on Saturday with a 31-point victory over Colbinabbin as the Bulldogs leapfrogged the Grasshoppers into the top three at the halfway mark of the Heathcote District league season.
The Bulldogs claimed their first scalp of note for the season with the 14.13 (97) to 10.6 (66) victory in what was their 24th win in a row on their home ground.
“It was one of those wins we really needed for our confidence,” North Bendigo coach Matt Dillon said.
“We’ve fallen short of Leitchy and Huntly, so we really set ourselves today to beat one of those top sides, and we had to do it fairly hard with a few injuries and we started poorly as well.
“But the way in which we were able to fight back after being down early was really pleasing… it was one of those hard-fought wins that you can really build a year on.”
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Among the injuries suffered by the Bulldogs was star ruckman Troy Kelm being forced from the field in the second term with a quad.
With back-up ruckman Brodie Thomson playing in defence on Elliot Bowen, the Bulldogs moved Sam Demeo into the ruck after Kelm went off.
“Sam did a terrific job in his first senior game this year,” Dillon said.
“We needed someone to go in there and compete. He didn’t change at all in the second half and it was a massive effort.”
Colbinabbin applied the heat to North Bendigo early when it led by 16 points at quarter-time, 4.1 to 1.3.
However, by half-time the Bulldogs had edged in front by two points, before kicking eight goals to four after the main break to leave the Grasshoppers in their wake.
Reigning Cheatley medallist and new captain, Jarrod Findlay, continued his fine season with another top game to be the Bulldogs’ best player.
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“He was really good over four quarters today. He did a lot of hard stuff through the middle, won a lot of clearances and used the ball well,” Dillon said.
“He plays with a lot of attention on him and handles that well.”
Mid-season recruit Sean Christopher kicked four goals for the Bulldogs, who also had Sean Morris, Ben Knight and Storm Giri chip in with two each.
Key forward Bowen, who kicked three early goals, finished with five for the Grasshoppers, whose standout was fellow Rochester recruit in hard-at-it midfielder Mitch Bright, who has been their most consistent player this season.
“We made a really good start to the game, but unfortunately fell away after quarter-time,” Colbinabbin coach Nick Knight said.
“They are a quality side and after quarter-time produced the style of play we know they are capable of and we were slow to react.”
WHITE HILLS V MOUNT PLEASANT
It has taken until round nine for the competition’s first game of the season decided by a single-figure margin as Mount Pleasant edged out White Hills by seven points.
A big week of goalkicking practice at training paid off for the Blues, who had three less scoring shots than the Demons, but won 13.5 (83) to 11.10 (76) at White Hills.
“Every drill we did this week involved goalkicking, so it was good to see it pay off today,” Blues coach Darren Walsh said.
While the Blues notched their third win of the season, there were concerns in the pre-game warm-up around star forward Ben Weightman.
“He has had a bit of trouble with his glute and it got really tight in the warm-up where he couldn’t bend over, kick or run,” Walsh said.
“It’s an off-and-on problem and he played a fairly limited role for us today, so I thought it was a really gutsy win.”
As well as the Blues’ accuracy in front of goal, also telling in the final result was their 5.0 to 1.4 third quarter to gain the upper hand having been four points down at half-time.
Nick Edwards (four goals) led the way for the Blues to be their best, while wingman Nick Butler applied plenty of pressure, laying 14 tackles.
Weightman finished with two goals following his pre-game scare.
The Demons were best served by forward Kris Bedford, who kicked their first haul of five goals for the season, while the experienced David Wright also battled hard.
ELMORE V HEATHCOTE
Heathcote squandered the chance for a big win over Elmore with an inaccurate day in front of goal.
For the second year in a row at Elmore the Saints’ conversion was poor, but unlike last season it didn’t cost them as they won 12.25 (97) to 11.9 (75).
Last year at Elmore in round 16 the Saints kicked 8.20 to lose by 27 points in what remains the last victory for Elmore.
“It must be something in the air up there that we can’t deal with,” Saints coach Luke Bell said.
“It was one of those days where the ball kept going on the wrong side of the post. Most of the misses were set-shots and we just couldn’t stop it from happening.”
The Saints had 6.4 on the board at the first break, before kicking 6.21 over the last three quarters – 0.10 in the second, 4.5 in the third and 2.6 in the last.
Ruckman Daniel Russell took best-on-ground honours for the Saints in what was their second win of the season.
“He was huge today. He rucked one-out the entire day, took a lot of marks around the ground and kept the ball locked in our front half,” said Bell, who was one of four inclusions into the side, along with Marc Millard, Nathan Bake and Ang Romagnano.
Elmore’s James Harney worked hard to provide a strong presence up forward, slotting six of the goals for the Bloods, who have reached the halfway mark of the season winless.
LBU V LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER
Reigning premier Leitchville-Gunbower will turn for the second half of the season on top of the ladder.
The Bombers defeated Lockington-Bamawm United by 68 points, 17.9 (111) to 6.7 (43), but they have injury concerns.
Gun forward Matt Perri (two goals) re-injured his hamstring, and Daniel Coates, who has been one of their stars across half-forward this year, has a back concern that resulted in him going to hospital.
The Bombers’ victory at Lockington featured another haul of goals from Jake Vandongen, who followed up his eight last week with seven against the Cats as he continued a fine return season to football.
“Jake has had a lot of setbacks over the past few years, but he had a big pre-season and is a great presence for us up forward,” Bombers coach Michael Pilcher said.
“He can take a strong mark and is a beautiful kick, so I always had full confidence he was going to be a great option for us this year.”
Tyler Phillips kicked three goals and was named best for the Cats, whose 68-point deficit was an improvement on their previous five games against the Bombers, which had all been losses by more than 100 points.