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HAVING fallen short in its first two major tests of the season, Strathfieldsaye is relishing Saturday's crack against Golden Square in round four of the Bendigo Football-Netball League.
The reigning premier Storm heads into Saturday 1-2 and coming off a 96-point win over Maryborough last week having earlier dropped their first two matches against Sandhurst (13 points) and Gisborne (1) where they were burnt by inaccuracy both times.
"This week is going to be a great test to see where we're at, particularly with Square being on the rebound," Storm co-coach Darryl Wilson said on Friday.
In what's a much younger Strathfieldsaye side this year to the one that won the 2019 premiership, one of the new-comers who has had an immediate impact is the impressive Cooper Jones.
A former Bendigo Pioneer who had spent the past two years on Geelong's VFL list, the Storm had recruited Jones to fill a midfield role, but instead have used him as a forward target.
Athletic and with good hands, Jones, 22, has 11 goals for the season, including seven against Maryborough last week.
"At the moment he has had to fill a role forward for us and he has been very good. He's a very good player who has played VFL football with Geelong, so he definitely knows how to play the game," Wilson said.
The Storm go into Saturday with gun midfielder Jake Moorhead to be sidelined for the next two weeks following a head injury suffered against Maryborough, which resulted in a suspension to the Magpies' Brady Neill.
Neill received a two-match ban - one game of which is suspended - after being found guilty of striking Moorhead by the tribunal on Wednesday night.
With no Moorhead, Sam Heavyside gone to Kerang, Josh Formosa not playing and Kallen Geary (hamstring) out injured, it will be very much a different looking Storm midfield on Saturday to the 2019 premiership version.
"People on the outside may be looking at us as a bit of doom and gloom, and that's fine, but we're excited with the direction we're going," Wilson said.
"We know we lack a bit of experience and at times it has hurt us and there are facets we've got to keep working on, but James Schischka has played a couple of great games for us, Cal McCarty has been super, Hunter Lawrence has stood up, Pat Blandford down back has been really good and we've blooded another in Linc White," Wilson said.
Golden Square is coming off its first loss of the season after going down by two points to rivals Sandhurst in a QEO thriller last week.
The Bulldogs charged home late, kicking the last five goals of the game, but left their run too late having trailed by 36 points 12 minutes into the final quarter.
"We're disappointed with what happened last week, particularly the first three quarters with our effort and some of our defensive work, but the boys have trained really well and we just want to bounce back really hard," Golden Square coach Christian Carter said.
"We know the Storm is a quality side and has been for a long time and we'll be looking to start the game on Saturday with a lot more intensity and effort."
* Gisborne coach Rob Waters is looking forward to the chance for his side to get its first taste of playing on the QEO for the season.
In another of the marquee matches of the round, the Bulldogs (2-1) will take on the unbeaten South Bendigo.
"South is playing some really good football and get their playing coach (Nathan Horbury) back, who is obviously all quality, so we expect they are going to be really tough to beat on the QEO," Waters said.
"We're really looking forward to getting on the QEO for the first time this season. We train on one of the smallest grounds in the competition, so we'll have to adapt, but it's a good opportunity to play on the biggest ground in the competition."
The Bloods won't have to contend with Gisborne captain and star forward Pat McKenna, who will miss the game due to being in the wedding party of one of his brothers.
"It's obviously a big loss with what he brings on the field and his leadership, so we'll shuffle the deck around a bit and, hopefully, we have enough players go through the forward line who can play well for us," Waters said.
Despite the absence of McKenna, the Bulldogs still boast a potent array of goalkickers, including Jack Scanlon, Josh Kemp, Ethan Foreman and Tom Wood that will test the Bloods' backline, while star on-baller Brad Bernacki has kicked goals in all three games so far.
* Castlemaine is at home to Kyneton at Camp Reserve.
The Magpies are again finding the going tough at 0-3, with their three losses by a combined 447 points.
"Everyone looks at wins and losses, but what we're looking at is the growth of our group and we're going to continue to do our best to improve that scoreboard impact," Magpies coach Don Moran said.
"We look through the footage and we can see periods where we're implementing what we want to, but our bodies and fitness aren't at the level we need it to be for Bendigo footy, so we need to keep working at it to get better.
"The effort and intent of our players is there, but it's the execution that is letting us down and until they can get some belief in themselves and play with some consistency, we know it will be tough."
The Magpies' cause hasn't been helped by a broken hand to ruckman Sam Nettleton, while Callum McConachy and Dakota Slingo have both suffered concussions, which like the AFL now has a 12-day minimum protocol for community football in which players have to sit out before receiving medical clearance to play again.
Kyneton heads to Castlemaine at 1-2 and coming off a 10-point loss to South Bendigo last week when it surrendered the lead late in the game.
* Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson is preparing for Maryborough to serve up a tough challenge to his side at Princes Park.
It was two years ago, but Matheson still clearly recalls the struggles his Hawks had in getting over the top of the Magpies at Princes Park in round three of 2019.
The Hawks (2-1) eventually won by 16 points and Matheson anticipates another tenacious showing from Maryborough (1-2).
"That game two years ago at Maryborough has certainly come up in discussion this week among not just us as coaches, but among the boys as well," Matheson said.
"Both times we played them in 2019 they played a really good brand of football... I watched some of their footage from their game against Strathfieldsaye last weekend and around the contest they looked like they really had a crack.
"Strath got them on the outside, which they do to most sides, but on the inside they gave a really good account of themselves, so we'll have to be ready for that."
* In the final game Sandhurst heads to Dower Park as the red-hot favourites against Kangaroo Flat.
The Dragons (3-0) are unbeaten and on top of the ladder, while the Roos (0-3) are still hunting their first win.
KANGAROO FLAT v. SANDHURST
B: L. O'Keefe, J. Hywood, D. McClure
HB: R. O'Keefe, N. McHugh, J. Mayes
C: B. Xiriha, M. Trewhella, K. Geran
HF: K. Clark, M. Johnson, L. Tranter
F: M. Holt, H. Lockhart, B. Fry
R: N. Lang, K. Symons, T. Gillespie
Int: S. Mitchell, J. Leersen, L. Wilson, J. Fry, H. McSwain
In: K. Geran
B: M. Leyden, S. O'Farrell, I. Ruff
HB: N. Walsh, L. Ireland, L. Ross
C: J. Mittell, B. Holmes, B. Robertson
HF: L. Zimmer, O. McKinley, J. Wharton
F: M. Rovers, M. Thornton, C. Sexton
R: C. Down, L. Coghlan, J. Coghlan
Int: J. McLean, C. Smith, I. Carracher, B. Montague
In: J. Mittell, B. Robertson, C. Sexton, J. McLean
Out: C. Maxted, H. Gallagher, B. Cross
PAST 10 MEETINGS:
SOUTH BENDIGO v. GISBORNE
B: C. Taggert, A. Vanheumen, Z. Hare
HB: B. Torpey, D. Nalder, T. Brereton
C: O. Simpson, B. Haddow, O. White
HF: W. Keck, S. Brazier, B. Harvey
F: D. Johnstone, K. Antonowicz, M. Herlihy
R: W. Allen, C. Leon, N. Horbury
Int: L. Furness, J. Miller, J. Swatton, J. Sheahan
In: B. Harvey, N. Horbury, L. Furness
Out: R. Walsh, W. Tobin, W. McCaig
B: L. Rodgers, J. Reaper, Z. Vescovi
HB: L. Spear, J. Lynch, N. Doolan
C: B. Spear, S. Walsh, J. O'Brien
HF: J. Kemp, J. Scanlon, T. Crosbie
F: A. Belcher, E. Foreman, T. Wood
R: B. Blake, B. Bernacki, F. Lakey
Int: M. Lord, F. Schipano, S. Graham, L. Crosbie
In: S. Graham
Out: P. Mckenna
PAST 10 MEETINGS:
CASTLEMAINE v. KYNETON
B: A. Mayes, D. Stephens, L. Martini
HB: N. Woodman, J. Hood, J. Watson
C: B. Byrne, W. Moran, J. Hardman
HF: C. McConachy, L. Wilkinson, H. Bassett
F: C. Kuhle, J. Collie, K. Jermyn
R: S. Nettleton, R. Pedretti, D. Slingo
Int: R. Woodlock, F. Palmer-Jennings, J. Cochrane, J. Byrne
In: C. McConachy, S. Nettleton
Out: B. Keogh, D. Slingo
B: A. Strawhorn, H. Huntley, A. Beckerley
HB: S. Foreman, J. Mangan, H. Ingleton
C: J. Smiley, R. Magin, J. Gaff
HF: L. Thompson, E. Davie, E. Turner
F: B. McGee, G. Dickson, C. Wallace
R: D. Bennington, H. Govan, N. O'Sullivan
Int: A. Nolte, C. Barry, T. Agnew, J. O'Sullivan, J. Ellis
In: D. Bennington, C. Barry, A. Beckerley, J. Ellis
Out: M. Johnston, S. Keane, B. Cameron
PAST 10 MEETINGS:
MARYBOROUGH v. EAGLEHAWK
B: K. Andrews, D. Vadala, K. Lanfranchi
HB: L. Latch, J. Postle, A. Hare
C: T. Kennedy, J. Hooper, C. Freeman
HF: M. Kennedy, F. Russell, L. Hull
F: J. Long, J. Templeton, J. Fraser
R: H. Monk, B. Edwards, T. Gardam
Int: Z. Polinelli, L. Ratcliff, L. Murphy, M. Bilton, K. Santon
In: L. Ratcliff, L. Latch, J. Long, M. Bilton
Out: B. Neill, L. Butler, M. McClure
B: J. Dye, L. Davis, S. Dean
HB: N. Wheeler, J. Findlay, B. Evans
C: S. Harper, G. Hommelhoff, K. Hommelhoff
HF: S. Knott, J. Lawton, D. Wust
F: J. Mullen, R. McIvor, O. Madden
R: D. Richards, R. Saunders, H. Gadsden
Int: B. Thompson, J. Twycross, S. Thompson, D. Hanley
In: D. Wust, D. Hanley
Out: J. Thompson
PAST 10 MEETINGS:
GOLDEN SQUARE v. STRATHFIELDSAYE
B: Z. Keighran, W. Lee, K. Stevens
HB: L. Duguid, Z. Shelton, L. Barrett
C: B. James, R. Hartley, W. Thrum
HF: R. Monti, J. Burke, J. Thrum
F: T. Reeves, J. Brett, P. Symons
R: M. Compston, J. Geary, H. Morcom
Int: Z. Murley, J. Coe, D. Lowry, J. Hickman, T. Strauch
In: Z. Murley, J. Hickman
Out: B. Vaz
B: F. Payne, B. Lester, P. Blandford
HB: K. Smith, J. Hall, J. Schischka
C: C. Sheahan, L. Gill, H. Lawrence
HF: C. Jones, R. Clarke, J. Formosa
F: J. Wilson, L. Sharp, B. Slater
R: C. Ernst, S. Geary, C. McCarty
Int: L. White, L. Ratcliffe, D. Clohesy, H. Conway
In: D. Clohesy, S. Geary, H. Conway
Out: J. Moorhead, J. Neylon, N. Higginson
PAST 10 MEETINGS:
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