BENDIGO LEAGUE – ROUND 3
GISBORNE v KANGAROO FLAT
2.20pm Saturday at Gisborne.
Tough ask awaits the young Roos with the difficult trip down to Gardiner Reserve, where the flag-contending Bulldogs are certainly going to take some beating this year.
Scoring has been tough so far for the Roos, who have managed just eight goals in their two losses to Kyneton (75 points) and Eaglehawk (73) and it isn't going to get any easier on Saturday against the Bulldogs, who are on the rebound from a 12-point away defeat to Golden Square last week.
Last time: Gisborne 20.17 (137) def Kangaroo Flat 6.2 (38).
Head to head: Gisborne 29; Kangaroo Flat 12.
SANDHURST v GOLDEN SQUARE
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
Should be a big crowd at the QEO for the inaugural Ron Best Shield match between two traditional rivals that are both up and about.
Aside from the chance to honour the late Best - the BFNL's greatest goalkicker who died last year - on-field it shapes as an absolute belter of a contest.
Both the ladder-leading Dragons and Bulldogs under new coach Christian Carter have started the season 2-0, each with a significant scalp already - Sandhurst beating Strathfieldsaye in round one and Golden Square defeating Gisborne last week.
Will be a huge early-season boost for whichever team can get over the line given they will not only be 3-0, but already beaten two of their fellow contenders.
Last time: Golden Square 11.11 (77) def Sandhurst 10.2 (62).
Since 1995: Golden Square 34; Sandhurst 27.
EAGLEHAWK v CASTLEMAINE
2.20pm Saturday at Eaglehawk.
Difficult assignment for the Magpies travelling to Canterbury Park to take on a Hawks' side that will be stung by last week's after-the-siren loss to South Bendigo by one point.
The Hawks have one of the most significant home ground advantages in the competition, with their Canterbury Park record 27-1 since 2017 (only Gisborne in 2019 has beaten them through that time) and the Magpies make the trip having started the season with back-to-back losses by more than 100 points.
Two of the Hawks' new players in Noah Wheeler and Billy Evans have been influential in both games so far, while a recruit to Castlemaine, Liam Wilkinson, has also started solidly.
Last time: Eaglehawk 20.20 (140) def Castlemaine 2.3 (15).
Since 1995: Eaglehawk 33; Castlemaine 19.
STRATHFIELDSAYE v MARYBOROUGH
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
When was the last time Maryborough went into a game against Strathfieldsaye sitting above the Storm on the ladder?
Wouldn't have happened too often, but that's the case for this match-up, with the Magpies at 1-1 and sitting fifth, while the Storm are an uncharacteristic 0-2 and in eighth position on the ladder.
Having said that, expect the Storm - who had the chance for a freshen up last weekend - to come out firing on its home deck and get its season rolling.
Last time: Strathfieldsaye 33.24 (222) def Maryborough 3.7 (25).
Head to head: Strathfieldsaye 18; Maryborough 4.
KYNETON v SOUTH BENDIGO
5.30pm Saturday at Kyneton.
If recent history is anything to go on, this should be an entertaining tussle under lights at the Showgrounds.
Of the past seven meetings between the Tigers and Bloods, five have been decided by a goal or less and both go into this game off the back of victories last week.
The Bloods are 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and last week's one-point win over Eaglehawk provided a huge injection of early-season belief.
Meanwhile, after a scratchy start in round one against Golden Square (lost by 109) there were better signs for Kyneton to build on last week with its 75-point win over Kangaroo Flat that should have restored some confidence.
Last time: South Bendigo 10.9 (69) def Kyneton 9.6 (60).
Since 1995: South Bendigo 33; Kyneton 18; Drawn 1.
Adam Bourke (8) - Gisborne, Golden Square, Eaglehawk, Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo.
Luke West (7) - Gisborne, Golden Square, Eaglehawk, Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo.
Richard Jones (7) - Gisborne, Sandhurst, Eaglehawk, Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo.
LODDON VALLEY LEAGUE – ROUND 3
MITIAMO v NEWBRIDGE
2.15pm Saturday at Mitiamo.
A clash of the clubs that have won the past two Loddon Valley premierships, but both are now in vastly different phases to each other.
While 2019 premier Mitiamo is again contending for another flag, 2018 premier Newbridge is very much in rebuild mode under new coach Luke Freeman.
The Superoos' flag defence is off to a 2-0 start, while it has been a tough opening for the Maroons, who have already copped two likely finalists in Maiden Gully YCW (lost by 81) and Pyramid Hill (lost by 51) and now face another in the Superoos.
Last time: Mitiamo 9.14 (68) def Newbridge 0.4 (4).
Since 1995: Newbridge 28; Mitiamo 26.
BRIDGEWATER v INGLEWOOD
2.15pm Saturday at Bridgewater.
What must the Inglewood faithful have been thinking when the fixture was released showing the three top premiership fancies - Pyramid Hill, Mitiamo and Bridgewater - were the Blues' first three opponents?
The Blues have already lost by 167 points to Pyramid Hill and 166 to Mitiamo and another long day looks ahead against the Mean Machine.
Last time: Bridgewater 11.18 (84) def Inglewood 6.6 (42).
Since 1995: Bridgewater 35; Inglewood 15.
PYRAMID HILL v CALIVIL UNITED
2.15pm Saturday at Pyramid Hill.
The Bulldogs have had an early test of their depth having already suffered a spate of soft tissue injuries - four hamstrings and one calf - but it hasn't stopped them from making a 2-0 start to the season.
That should become 3-0 by 5pm Saturday against a Demons side that has managed just five goals across its first two games in losses by 99 points to Maiden Gully YCW and 141 to Marong.
In comparison, Bulldogs' forward Braidy Dickens on his own already has 18 goals to start the season.
Last time: Pyramid Hill 14.12 (96) def Calivil United 4.4 (28).
Head to head: Calivil United 33; Pyramid Hill 25.
MAIDEN GULLY YCW v MARONG
6pm Saturday at Maiden Gully.
Easily match-of-the-round status between two teams that have both made encouraging starts with wins by a combined 321 points across their three games so far.
In its only game so far Marong couldn't have been more impressive in keeping Calivil United goalless in a 143-point demolition of the Demons in round one, while the Eagles have had comfortable wins over Newbridge (81 points) and the Demons (99) to start their campaign.
No doubt both teams will be relishing a step-up in opposition to get a better gauge on just how they stack up against a fellow finals contender.
Last time: Maiden Gully YCW 8.10 (58) def Marong 3.17 (35).
Since 1995: Maiden Gully YCW 32; Marong 18.
Adam Bourke (8) - Mitiamo, Bridgewater, Pyramid Hill, Marong.
Luke West (8) - Mitiamo, Bridgewater, Pyramid Hill, Marong.
HEATHCOTE DISTRICT LEAGUE – ROUND 3
NORTH BENDIGO v WHITE HILLS
2.15pm Saturday at North Bendigo.
While Hills have been ultra-impressive starting the season with two wins by more than 100 points against Elmore (112) and Leitchville-Gunbower (146).
Now comes the HDFNL's ultimate litmus test - playing reigning premier North Bendigo on its home ground where it has a 37-game winning streak dating back to round nine of 2015.
The Demons are playing with confidence and coach Sam Kerridge says his side is relishing the challenge that awaits.
The reigning premier Bulldogs are also 2-0 and in what's very much a different-looking side, beat Leitchville-Gunbower with five first-gamers last week.
Given the way the Demons are performing - and if they want to be viewed among the absolute top echelon of the competition - this is a golden opportunity to stand up and make a statement.
Can they grasp it?
Last time: North Bendigo 19.15 (129) def White Hills 9.11 (65).
Head to head: North Bendigo 36; White Hills 18.
COLBINABBIN v HUNTLY
2.15pm Saturday at Colbinabbin.
How will Colbinabbin respond to its 95-point shellacking from Lockington-Bamawm United last week - the biggest loss the Grasshoppers have copped since 2011.
The Grasshoppers were missing nine from their side last week, so will be hoping to get a handful back on Saturday to strengthen their line-up for their first home game of the season.
Huntly heads to Colbinabbin off the back of a 20-point win over Heathcote last week and with recruit Blayne Ryan-Storey in hot form having been the Hawks' best player in their first two games.
Last time: Colbinabbin 12.17 (89) def Huntly 5.5 (35).
Since 1995: Colbinabbin 37; Huntly 17.
HEATHCOTE v LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER
2.15pm Saturday at Heathcote.
One of these sides will get their first win of the season having both started 0-2.
The Bombers showed a marked improvement against North Bendigo (lost by 25 points) last week on their first outing against White Hills (lost by 146), while Heathcote will be aiming to get some early scoreboard pressure on having yet to lead at any of its quarter breaks.
Last time: Leitchville-Gunbower 14.14 (98) def Heathcote 10.9 (69).
Head to head: Leitchville-Gunbower 14; Heathcote 7.
MOUNT PLEASANT v LBU
2.15pm Saturday at Toolleen.
Two teams with genuine expectation of being a major player at the pointy end of the season go head-to-head in what's going to be one of those pivotal battles that will be crucial down the road in helping to decide the double chance.
The Cats fired off a huge statement with their 95-point thrashing of Colbinabbin last week, while after a bye in round one, the Blues will be better for having their first hit-out under their belt with a 42-point win over Elmore.
Only round three, but should be plenty of heat.
Last time: Mount Pleasant 15.12 (102) def LBU 11.13 (79).
Head to head: LBU 28; Mount Pleasant 16.
Luke West (8) - White Hills, Colbinabbin, Heathcote, LBU.
Adam Bourke (8) - White Hills, Colbinabbin, Heathcote, LBU.
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