NORTH Bendigo is determined to reclaim the ascendancy over Leitchville-Gunbower when the two foes meet in the Heathcote District league on Saturday.
The two clubs have built a fierce rivalry on the back of playing in three-consecutive grand finals.
However, it’s a rivalry that the Bombers have gained the upper hand in, having won the past four meetings, including by 26 points in last year’s grand final and 25 points in round one this season.
“We spoke before last week’s game that the next month would be season-defining with games against Colbinabbin, Leitchville-Gunbower and Huntly,” North Bendigo captain Jarrod Findlay said on Thursday.
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“It has been a while since we beat Leitchy, so we’re obviously very keen to do that on Saturday and gain some self-belief among the group.”
The Bulldogs will head into Saturday’s clash against the Bombers off a fighting 31-point victory over Colbinabbin last week.
Not only were the Bulldogs slow out of the blocks, but they also had to contend with injuries to star ruckman Troy Kelm (quad) and Tom Metherell (knee).
“Losing to Leitchy and Huntly earlier in the season, we were probably still unsure of where we were at,” Findlay said.
“We knew that if we are going to give ourselves a chance of finishing in the top three we needed to win last week or we’d be behind the eight-ball.
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“So it was massive for the group to get the win, especially after being down early and then copping a couple of injuries… it was a really good effort.”
The Bulldogs turn for the second half of the season in third position with a 6-2 record.
After all the talk during the off-season around the loss of their three key forwards of last year in Brady Herdman, Sam Barnes and Rhys Ford, the Bulldogs are currently the No.1 ranked team for scoring – albeit they have kicked 41 goals less than the same stage last year.
The Bulldogs will take on the Bombers at their home ground, Atkins Street, where they have won 24 in a row.
Findlay has played 42 games since joining North Bendigo in 2016 and hasn’t lost at home.
“It’s a small ground, it’s contested footy and we have a vocal home crowd that we really enjoy playing in front of,” said Findlay, the reigning Cheatley medallist.
The last team to defeat North Bendigo at Atkins Street was the Bombers when they won 18.15 (123) to 16.4 (100) in round nine of the 2015 season.
Since then only one side has got within five goals of the Bulldogs at home – Mount Pleasant, which lost by 29 points in round eight of 2016.
• North Bendigo v Leitchville-Gunbower since 2015:
Round 9 – Leitchville-Gunbower by 23;
Round 18 – North Bendigo by 32;
Grand final – North Bendigo by 10.
Round 1 – North Bendigo by 35;
Round 10 – Leitchville-Gunbower by 47;
Grand final – North Bendigo by 20.
Round 7 – North Bendigo by 68;
Round 16 – Leitchville-Gunbower by 50;
2nd semi – Leitchville-Gunbower by 10;
Grand final – Leitchville-Gunbower by 26.
Round 1 – Leitchville-Gunbower by 25.