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Golden Square wore down Kyneton in an entertaining round one clash at the Kyneton Showgrounds.
The Bulldogs overcame the loss of two key players to injury - Travis Baird and Alex Marklew - to break the Tigers' resistance in the second half.
Square kicked nine goals to five after the main break to win 17.14 (116) to 11.7 (73).
"Kyneton has had struggles with numbers, but their top-end talent remains really good,'' Square coach Bernie Haberman said.
"One of our key messages was we had to grind it out. The fact we've had more continuity in our football compared to them probably helped us in the end."
The injury-prone Travis Baird limped off the ground early with a hamstring injury, while VFL-listed midfielder Marklew hurt his ankle and didn't return to the game.
With Travis Baird off the ground the Bulldogs got scoring power from several avenues.
Recruit Liam Barrett capped a best on ground performance by kicking three goals from the midfield.
Jack Geary started the game across half-back and kicked two first quarter goals before being moved into the midfield after quarter-time.
The Bulldogs had 12 individual goal scorers - a club-best in Haberman's reign as coach.
"There's a misconception that just because Kyneton lost all those players they're going to be poor,'' Haberman said.
"That's not right. Yes, they're lacking some depth, but they will hang in games for long periods and they will get better as the year goes on. The problem will be if they get injuries."
Adam Baird, Jake Thrum and ruckman Matt Compston had a big impact on the game for the Bulldogs.
Kyneton's on-field leaders Josh Govan and Harrison Huntley led from the front, while recruit Rhys Smith showed some good sign off half-back.
Midfield recruit Shaun Hoy injured his hamstring in his first game for the Tigers.
Comeback king Nathan Thompson kicked two goals from full-forward for Kyneton.
Related: Around the grounds
Castlemaine v Gisborne
Gisborne showed its class in defeating Castlemaine by 93 points under lights at Camp Reserve.
In front of a big crowd, the Bulldogs kicked 10 of the first 11 goals and remained ruthless until the final siren as they cruised to a 17.20 (122) to 3.11 (29) win.
"Our intensity was exactly where we wanted it to be,'' Gisborne stand-in coach Luke Saunders said.
"Castlemaine had a real go and were pretty impressive, actually. They're on the right track.
"Being round one we were a bit scrappy going forward at times, but we'll work that out as the year goes on.
"I felt like we got the job done... and we were really happy with how the game finished."
All eyes were on Castlemaine's star recruit Angus Monfries.
The former Essendon and Port Adelaide star shared his time in the midfield and forward line.
He kicked one goal and was named Castlemaine's second-best player behind Dylan Atkins.
Saunders was full of praise for teenage defender Liam Spear, who played on Monfries.
"Liam Spear did a really good job on him down back. When Mofries went through the middle it was more a team defence,'' Saunders said.
Trent Crosbie was best for the Bulldogs, while recruit Matt Edwards was impressive in defence and Jack Scanlon kicked a game-high four goals.
"It was hard to pick best players. It was one of those games where everyone played their part,'' Saunders said.
South Bendigo v Maryborough
South Bendigo overcame a scare from Maryborough to score its first win under new coach Nathan Horbury.
A strong first half put the Bloods in a commanding position at the main break.
However, the Magpies clicked into gear in the third quarter, kicking five unanswered goals to cut the 46-point half-time margin to two goals.
The Magpies had further opportunities to get within a goal, but the home side kicked a goal against the run of play late in the quarter to extend their lead to 16 points at three quarter-time.
The Bloods put the game away early in the final term. They kicked six goals for the term and looked set to win by 50-points plus before Maryborough kicked multiple goals in junk time.
South Bendigo eventually won 14.13 (97) to 9.11 (65).
The Bloods named Daniel Nalder best after he restricted Maryborough star Stewart Crameri to two goals.
Brody Haddow won plenty of the ball through the middle and Zac Hare was lively on a wing.
Horbury was troubled by an ankle injury, but he said on Sunday his ankle was "fine" and that he wouldn't miss the Good Friday clash with the Borough.
Aidan Hare, Matt Bilton and Luke Bucknall were best for the improving Magpies.
The speedy Bilton, in his first game back at his home club, was brilliant at times.
He kicked three goals and had a hand in a number of others.
The result gives the Magpies something to build on ahead of their Good Friday home game with Castlemaine.
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