SOUTH Bendigo coach Nathan Horbury is welcoming the chance for his side to show its wares in another Bendigo Football-Netball League showcase game at the Queen Elizabeth Oval.
Given the Bloods are a team that haven't played finals since 2013, they have long been "off Broadway" in terms of playing in games that garner BFNL match of the round status.
But that's changing as the Bloods prepare to take centre stage again on Saturday against the Dragons.
The vastly-improved Bloods and perennial finalist Sandhurst are the league's only two undefeated teams after four rounds, setting the scene for arguably the biggest game the two have played against each other since the 2011 elimination final.
Nathan Horbury's Bloods have certainly got the BFNL sitting up and taking notice of them given their 4-0 record already includes QEO wins over Eaglehawk and Gisborne by 25 points last week.
"We're really excited to be coming up against Sandhurst, who are undefeated as well," Horbury said.
"Having a look at some of the tips that people are going with (the Dragons are favoured 3-0 in the Addy), it looks like no-one is expecting us to win again, but that's the way we like it.
"We like going in as the underdogs and people thinking we can't get it done because I really believe we can, so we're really excited for another challenge.
We like going in as the underdogs and people thinking we can't get it done because I really believe we can, so we're really excited for another challengeNathan Horbury - South Bendigo coach
"I think we're fairly similar to Sandhurst in that we're both quite young and it's going to be a really good match-up.
"We'll take the game on and we like to be a quick ball movement side, so it's going to be interesting to see how we match-up."
One of the major areas of improvement for the Bloods this season has been their capacity to share the load up forward and ease the pressure on assistant coach Kaiden Antonowicz.
While Antonowicz is leading the Bloods' goalkicking with 14, including six in last week's win over Gisborne, South Bendigo has averaged eight goalkickers per game over the first month.
"We haven't wanted to take the focus away from Kaiden, but we've wanted to make it harder for teams to defend our forward line," Horbury said.
"I think we've got that now with Sunny (Brazier) when he's down there, Mike (Herlihy) when he's down there, Brock (Harvey) is coming along in leaps and bounds and Kecky (Will Keck) as well... you can't afford to leave those blokes alone," Horbury said.
"Our forward line is a lot more exciting this year and our midfielders are kicking goals too, which you need to win games of footy."
While the QEO co-tenants are both unbeaten, it's the Dragons who are holding top spot on the ladder courtesy of their superior percentage of 199.0 to the Bloods' 149.6.
Having missed the past two games with a hand injury, the Dragons named co-captain and midfield veteran Nick Stagg on Thursday night for the big clash.
"South has been in some really good form... for those coaches who coached in 2019 we've had three pre-seasons to implement the way we want our sides to play and you can see South has built on that first year of Nathan's in 2019," Dragons coach Ashley Connick said.
"They are playing a good brand of footy and so the challenge for us is to try to stop how they want to play and play our brand of footy when we get it in our hands."
* New Kyneton coach Paul Chapman believes last week's win over Castlemaine provided a snapshot of his side's first month as a whole.
The Tigers played quality football early to get out to a 39-1 lead during the second quarter, but then lapsed and surrendered the lead during the third term, before kicking away to a 30-point win and a 2-2 record.
"I think we're going along okay. Being such a young team we've had those periods where we're in the game and out of the game, so it has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride," Chapman said.
"We haven't strung four quarters together yet, so that's our focus. When things are going well we're playing well, but when they're not we're not able to stop the flow and last week was a perfect example of that."
The Tigers certainly won't be able to afford any lengthy lapses on Saturday when they come up at home against an in-form Eaglehawk that has crushed Maryborough and Castlemaine by a combined 341 points the past fortnight and welcomes back superstar Brodie Filo for his first game of the season and Kobe Lloyd, while Kyneton has eight changes from last week.
"From the vision I've watched of Eaglehawk their ball movement looks very strong and they defend well, so we're going to have to be on our game," Chapman said.
* There's no respite for the winless Kangaroo Flat when it heads to Tannery Lane to take on Strathfieldsaye, which is starting to gather momentum in its premiership defence off the back of consecutive wins.
The Roos have been outscored 71 goals to 17 over the first four rounds in what has been a tough introduction to senior football for the plethora of youngsters who have had their first taste at the level, with Keagan Geran last week becoming the club's 10th debutante this year.
"We're not over-complicating things, we're trying to keep it as simple as possible," Kangaroo Flat coach James Flaherty said.
"I know we're young, but we are trying to work on our footy smarts and really maintain some excitement around the group.
"We know it's a tough year, and even though the results aren't there for us we want our group to enjoy what they're doing, so we're mixing a lot of our training up."
The Roos, who haven't beaten Strathfieldsaye since 2010, will face a different-looking side to the one that beat Golden Square by 15 points last week, with the Storm having six out, but their inclusions do include 2019 premiership player Bailey Henderson, who has played two VFL games with Richmond this year.
* Castlemaine coach Don Moran isn't shying away from the big challenge that awaits his side.
Playing at Gisborne's Gardiner Reserve is tough enough as is, let alone against what Moran expects will be a fiercely-determined Bulldogs side hungry to rebound from last week's loss to South Bendigo.
But Moran says his Magpies are ready to embrace the challenge, particularly after a competitive showing against Kyneton last week that provides a platform to build from.
"We're leaking too many goals in red time and that was the case again last week," Moran said.
"Looking back at the footage, Kyneton kicked nine goals in red time and we lost by five (goals), so that's our focus for this week, to stop that happening again.
"If we can limit Gisborne late in the quarters then it's going to give us the chance to stay in the game longer."
* In the final game of the round, Golden Square heads to Princes Park to take on Maryborough.
Having lost their past two games, the Bulldogs' depth has been tested this week with Zane Keighran (knee), Liam Duguid (hamstring), Liam Barrett (broken jaw), Jon Coe (ankle) and Jayden Burke (knee) all sidelined.
BFNL ROUND FIVE
KYNETON v. EAGLEHAWK
3pm Saturday at Kyneton.
B: L. Thompson, J. Ellis, S. Foreman
HB: L. Phillips, H. Huntley, S. Caruso
C: N. O'Sullivan, R. Magin, J. Gaff
HF: B. Cameron, J. Mangan, B. McGee
F: T. O'Sullivan, G. Dickson, C. Wallace
R: J. Orr, J. O'Sullivan, W. Daly
Int: E. Davie, E. Turner, J. Smiley, J. Willmott
In: L. Phillips, J. Willmott, W. Daly, L. Thompson, J. O'Sullivan, S. Caruso,
B. Cameron, T. O'Sullivan
Out: D. Bennington, C. Barry, T. Agnew, H. Govan, H. Ingleton, L. Crean,
A. Beckerley, A. Nolte
B: J. Dye, L. Davis, D. Hanley
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, B. Filo
Int: K. Lloyd, B. Thompson, J. Twycross, S. Thompson
In: B. Filo, K. Lloyd
Out: H. Gadsden, S. Dean
STRATHFIELDSAYE v. KANGAROO FLAT
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
B: F. Payne, B. Lester, J. Neylon
HB: K. Smith, B. Henderson, J. Schischka
C: C. Sheahan, L. Gill, H. Lawrence
HF: T. Bennett, R. Clarke, J. Formosa
F: M. Wakefield, L. Sharp, B. Slater
R: T. Hosking, S. Geary, C. McCarty
Int: R. Taylor, L. White, Z. Charles, L. Ratcliffe, D. Clohesy
In: Z. Charles, J. Neylon, R. Taylor, T. Bennett, T. Hosking, M. Wakefield,
Out: C. Ernst, P. Blandford, J. Wilson, H. Conway, B. Stevens, J. Hall
B: D. McClure, H. Lockhart, D. Stagg
HB: J. Hywood, N. McHugh, J. Leersen
C: J. Mayes, K. Clark, D. Barber
HF: B. Sheahan, B. Fry, K. Geran
F: L. O'Keefe, M. Johnson, L. Wilson
R: N. Lang, K. Symons, M. Trewhella
Int: M. Holt, D. Hogarth, K. Franzini, B. Xiriha
In: K. Franzini, D. Stagg, B. Sheahan, K. Clark
Out: T. Gillespie, S. Mitchell, L. Tranter, D. Spear
SANDHURST v. SOUTH BENDIGO
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
B: T. Calvert, S. O'Farrell, I. Ruff
HB: L. Ross, O. McKinley, L. Ireland
C: J. McLean, J. Mittell, B. Montague
HF: B. Holmes, M. Leyden, N. Walsh
F: J. Zimmer, M. Thornton, M. Rovers
R: C. Down, N. Stagg, I. Carracher
Int: L. Zimmer, J. Coghlan, J. Wharton, B. Robertson, C. Smith
In: N. Stagg, T. Calvert, J. Zimmer
Out: C. Sexton, L. Coghlan
B: C. Taggert, A. Vanheumen, Z. Hare
HB: B. Torpey, D. Nalder, T. Brereton
C: O. Simpson, B. Haddow, O. White
HF: W. Keck, D. Johnstone, B. Harvey
F: M. Herlihy, K. Antonowicz, S. Brazier
R: W. Allen, N. Horbury, C. Leon
Int: L. Furness, J. Miller, J. Swatton, J. Sheahan
GISBORNE v. CASTLEMAINE
2.20pm Saturday at Gisborne.
B: Z. Vescovi, J. Reaper, L. Rodgers
HB: L. Spear, J. Lynch, N. Doolan
C: M. Lord, S. Walsh, S. Graham
HF: L. Shore, J. Scanlon, J. Kemp
F: B. Eales, P. McKenna, J. O'Brien
R: B. Blake, B. Bernacki, F. Lakey
Int: S. Bell-Bartels, F. Schipano, T. Fraser, T. Crosbie
In: S. Bell-Bartels, L. Shore, P. McKenna, T. Fraser, B. Eales
Out: T. Wood, E. Foreman, B. Spear, L. Crosbie, A. Belcher
B: A. Mayes, D. Stephens, L. Martini
HB: N. Woodman, J. Hood, J. Watson
C: B. Byrne, D. Slingo, J. Byrne
HF: C. McConachy, L. Wilkinson, H. Bassett
F: D. Slingo, J. Collie, K. Jermyn
R: S. Nettleton, W. Moran, R. Pedretti
Int: J. Hardman, C. Kuhle, F. Palmer-Jennings, J. Cochrane
Emg: R. Woodlock
In: D. Slingo
MARYBOROUGH v. GOLDEN SQUARE
2.20pm Saturday at Maryborough.
B: B. Edwards, L. Butler, M. Bilton
HB: T. Gardam, C. Freeman, J. Fraser
C: A. Hare, J. Hooper, L. Hull
HF: A. Humphrey, K. Lanfranchi, L. Latch
F: L. Murphy, B. Neill, J. Postle
R: H. Monk, D. Vadala, F. Russell
Int: L. Ratcliff, A. Robertson, K. Santon, Z. Polinelli
In: B. Neill, A. Humphrey, L. Murphy, L. Butler, M. Bilton
Out: T. Kennedy, M. Kennedy, H. Cain, J. Templeton, J. Long
B: J. Merrin, W. Lee, K. Stevens
HB: B. James, Z. Shelton, H. Morcom
C: R. Monti, R. Hartley, W. Thrum
HF: Z. Murley, T. Strauch, J. Thrum
F: J. Brett, P. Symons, H. Donegan
R: M. Compston, T. Reeves, J. Geary
Int: C. Draper, D. Norris, D. Lowry, D. Barrett
In: J. Merrin, D. Barrett, D. Norris, H. Donegan, C. Draper
Out: Z. Keighran, L. Duguid, L. Barrett, J. Coe, J. Burke
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