BENDIGO LEAGUE – ROUND 13
MARYBOROUGH v SANDHURST
2.20pm Saturday at Maryborough.
Fifth versus sixth on the ladder is usually two sides evenly-matched, but such is the gulf between the top five and the rest this year, the Dragons are three games, plus almost 80 per cent, clear of the Magpies.
The Magpies have played their best footy at home - they are 3-2 at Princes Park this year - but are still craving that big scalp that would be an added bonus for what has already been a season of major improvement.
After 12 rounds there still hasn't been a BFNL game where one of the bottom five sides has beaten a top five team, which, even on their home ground, would make this an eyebrow-raiser if the Magpies were to buck the season trend and topple the Dragons.
Last time: Sandhurst 14.18 (102) def Maryborough 9.3 (57).
Since 1995: Sandhurst 39; Maryborough 15.
KANGAROO FLAT v KYNETON
2.20pm Saturday at Kangaroo Flat.
One of those bottom five v bottom five match-ups that presents a winnable opportunity for both teams.
Across the season the Tigers have been the better performed of the two - they have double the wins of the Roos, are averaging five more points per game and conceding 12 points less.
Kyneton's big guns of Rhys Margin, captain Josh Govan, Hamish Govan, Max O'Sullivan and Harrison Huntley were all outstanding in last week's win over Castlemaine and the Tigers will be hard to beat again if they all have big games against a Kangaroo Flat side coming off five losses in a row - the past four against sides in the top five in what has been a tough stretch of fixturing.
Last time: Kyneton 12.12 (84) def Kangaroo Flat 8.9 (57).
Since 1995: Kyneton 28; Kangaroo Flat 22.
CASTLEMAINE v EAGLEHAWK
2.20pm Saturday at Castlemaine.
The reigning premier Hawks have fought their way back into the top three and should consolidate it with a big win over the Magpies.
Since conceding 40 scoring shots against Gisborne in round seven the Hawks have given up an average of just 15.6 in their past five matches - all wins in which they have boosted their percentage from 127.8 to 171.5.
That percentage may well get another bump on Saturday given the form they're in and the ongoing struggles of the still winless Magpies, who were last week held to a third-consecutive score under 30 by Kyneton.
Last time: Eaglehawk 23.16 (154) def Castlemaine 5.3 (33).
Since 1995: Eaglehawk 32; Castlemaine 19.
SOUTH BENDIGO v GOLDEN SQUARE
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
The Bloods did manage an upset win over the Bulldogs at the QEO last season, but given where the two sides are at this year it's hard to see that happening again.
Only once this season have the Bloods got within 50 points of a top-five side and that was back in round three when they ran Sandhurst to 17 points.
Golden Square's Adam Baird and South Bendigo coach Nathan Horbury were Vic Country team-mates last Saturday, but will be opponents for this match where the Bulldogs should bounce back from last week's loss to Strathfieldsaye that cost them their top-three spot.
Last time: Golden Square 17.10 (112) def South Bendigo 7.9 (51).
Since 1995: Golden Square 35; South Bendigo 25.
STRATHFIELDSAYE v GISBORNE
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
One of the biggest games of the home and away season between the two top teams, which also features the competition's two leading goalkickers.
At one end will be the Storm's Lachlan Sharp (85 goals); at the other will be Gisborne's Pat McKenna (58), who returns following Vic Country duties.
The Bulldogs have earned plenty of plaudits in recent weeks for their capacity to strangle opponents - they have conceded just 40 points in their past three games - but this is the ultimate test of their defensive structures against the competition's most potent team in the Storm that is averaging 128 points per game.
1 v 2 has all the makings of being a belter, but the game being played at the Tannery Lane fortress gives a decisive edge to the Storm.
Last time: Strathfieldsaye 14.12 (96) def Gisborne 10.15 (75)
Head to head: Strathfieldsaye 14; Gisborne 8.
LODDON VALLEY LEAGUE – ROUND 15
CALIVIL UNITED v MITIAMO
2.15pm Saturday at Calivil.
Second v eighth points to a one-sided contest, but it was anything but in the earlier meeting between the two sides when the Demons pushed the Superoos to within 15 points in a low-scoring round six encounter.
While the Demons are second-last with a 4-9 record, the fact their percentage is 96.4 is testament to how competitive they have been, particularly of late having gone 3-3 over their past six games, with two of those three losses being by a single figure margin.
Last time: Mitiamo 8.11 (59) def Calivil United 5.14 (44).
Since 1995: Calivil United 39; Mitiamo 25.
NEWBRIDGE v MAIDEN GULLY YCW
2.15pm Saturday at Newbridge.
No doubt the Eagles will be double checking - and then checking again - their player points allocation for Saturday given the situation they find themselves after breaking their cap of 45 in last week's thrilling win over Calivil United.
The matter, which the league acknowledges is a priority, is still to be resolved, so for the meantime the Eagles are 7-5 and in fourth position, two games clear of Newbridge, which hasn't been able to generate any momentum at all this year given it hasn't strung together back-to-back wins.
Last time: Maiden Gully YCW 14.8 (92) def Newbridge 7.9 (51).
Since 1995: Newbridge 30; Maiden Gully YCW 22; Drawn 3.
MARONG v BRIDGEWATER
2.15pm Saturday at Marong.
Got to admire the past fortnight of Marong.
Just when the season threatened to be on the verge of slipping away the Panthers have produced back-to-back wins over Pyramid Hill and Newbridge, conceding just six goals in both matches, to fight their way back into the top five.
But there's no chance to relax given they face another pivotal game - this time against Bridgewater, which is also on six wins.
Bridgewater is also coming off an impressive performance last week when it knocked off BL-Serpentine to give its finals hopes a major jolt and set up a cracker of a clash with the Panthers.
Last time: Bridgewater 17.14 (116) def Marong 12.11 (83).
Since 1995: Bridgewater 32; Marong 20.
PYRAMID HILL v BL-SERPENTINE
2.15pm Saturday at Pyramid Hill.
Match of the round between first and third on the ladder.
The Bulldogs regained top spot on the ladder with their 179-point annihilation of Inglewood last week as they regained their ruthless nature from early in the season.
Big test for the Bears to bounce back from last week's loss to Bridgewater. Given the finals are now less than a month away (they start on August 17) this isn't a time when you want to be on a losing sequence.
Last time: Pyramid Hill 15.10 (100) def BL-Serpentine 6.14 (50).
Since 1995: Pyramid Hill 28; BL-Serpentine 28.
HEATHCOTE DISTRICT LEAGUE – ROUND 14
LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER v HEATHCOTE
2.15pm Saturday at Gunbower.
The Saints will be buoyed after getting the monkey off their back and breaking through for their first win of the season against Huntly last week.
After a string of four home games in a row the Saints are back on the road for one of the competition's toughest trips to Gunbower, where the Bombers remain unbeaten since 2014.
Tough ask for the Saints, although, they did push the Bombers to within a kick back in round five.
Last time: Leitchville-Gunbower 12.13 (85) def Heathcote 12.7 (79).
Head to head: Leitchville-Gunbower 13; Heathcote 7.
HUNTLY v COLBINABBIN
2.15pm Saturday at Huntly.
No doubt Colbinabbin would have relished the bye last week.
The Grasshoppers' previous two matches have been wet weather slogs against Heathcote and LBU that would have left plenty of weary bodies.
Having had the chance to freshen up the Grasshoppers should continue the tough grind for the young Hawks, who have been held to scores of just 29, 49, 37, 23, 56, 52, 42 and 47 in their eight losses in a row.
Meanwhile, Colbinabbin's Cooper Hamilton has been selected in the All-Australian team following the Under-16 National Championships.
Representing Vic Country, Hamilton was named on the interchange in the 23-man team following the carnival that wrapped up last Friday.
AFL talent ambassador Kevin Sheehan described Hamilton as having "the ability to break the game open with his kicking off half-back."
Last time: Colbinabbin 25.4 (154) def Huntly 7.5 (47).
Since 1995: Colbinabbin 36; Huntly 17.
MOUNT PLEASANT v ELMORE
2.15pm Saturday at Toolleen.
You'd expect the words of Mount Pleasant coach Darren Walsh to be ringing in the ears of his players after he last week conceded the Blues "gave up after half time... simple as that" against North Bendigo.
This week though presents a chance for the Blues to come out with four quarters of vigour and after three losses in a row beat an opponent on their home ground they should expect to if they aspire to be a side than can do some damage in the finals.
Last time: Mount Pleasant 17.15 (117) def Elmore 8.4 (52).
Since 1995: Mount Pleasant 32; Elmore 22; Drawn 2.
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