GISBORNE will be out to make amends for a frustrating earlier season loss to Eaglehawk when the BFNL premiership contenders clash at Gardiner Reserve today.
Bulldogs coach Kim Bailey did not hesitate in nominating her side’s 53-38 loss to the Hawks in round three as their most disappointing performance this season.
With fourth-placed Kangaroo Flat in action against undefeated Sandhurst, Bailey said the clash against the Hawks was an opportunity to shore up a spot in the top three.
“Hopefully we will have a full complement (of players) out there on Saturday and it will be a good game,” she said.
“It was a really poor game for us last time against Eaglehawk, probably the worst all season, so we have lots of room for improvement.
“We had a few illnesses, but we just weren’t game ready – maybe even a little complacent - which is difficult to comprehend when you know just how good the opposition are, and they are a very, very good team.”
The Bulldogs have been strengthened since that clash by the inclusions of shooter Clare Vearing and fellow VNL performers Chloe Wilson and Janelle Birch and expect to have at least three players on their bench for the game.
Bailey identified the Hawks’ exceptional midcourt speed and the shooting prowess of Dayna McGough as strengths her side would need to counteract.
“Ash Ryan is one who is very fast and is having an amazing season; and at VNL level too,” she said.
“She is playing well all over the court and that battle between her and Tiana Newman will be really interesting.
“She’s always strong and combines really with her sister Abbey as well, so we know we have to cut off that feed and clog up the midcourt to stop her fast drive.
“Dayna McGough stitched us up a bit last time too, underneath the ring.”
Eaglehawk coach Mali Roberts is expecting Gisborne to be fired up after their previous loss to the Hawks, but even stronger for their recent player acquisitions.
“I never underestimate Gisborne, they're a great team with some talented players,” she said.
“The occasional new player is always healthy for any team.
“They can hopefully bring their VNL experience and intensity to the game.”
With a few injuries in their ranks, Roberts felt last weekend’s break from action, which followed a bye for the Hawks, had come at an opportune time.
She said the Hawks were now looking forward to a tough run home to finals, starting with Gisborne.
“I think every game is important and especially this end of the season,” Roberts said.
“Teams that win even need to increase margins for percentage.
“Saturday will certainly be tough. I expect nothing less.”
Meanwhile, Sandhurst will look to continue its unbeaten run against Kangaroo Flat at Dower Park.
The Dragons have now won 20 straight games – including nine this season - under coaches Tamara Gilchrist and Heather Oliver, dating back to round 10 of the 2017 season.
The Roos came within three goals of the Dragons earlier this season, but were beaten by 16 in their last game against Gisborne on June 23.
At Harry Trott Oval, South Bendigo hosts Maryborough, with the Magpies attempting to stay on even terms in the race for fifth spot with Golden Square, which has the bye.