MOUNT Pleasant is the new ladder-leader in the Heathcote District league after the Blues' hot start to the season continued on Saturday.
The Blues improved to 5-0 with a 101-point win over Huntly at Strauch Reserve in what is now their best start to a season since 1998.
The Blues won 20.13 (133) to 4.8 (32) against what was a severely undermanned Huntly team that had been hit hard in the lead-up to round five by a combination of COVID and the flu.
Blues' co-coach Adam Baird made a welcome return to the side after missing last week's win over Leitchville-Gunbower and had a significant impact, outscoring the Hawks off his own boot with six goals after spending the bulk of the game playing forward.
"We were a lot better today in terms of playing to our structures," Baird said.
"We played the way we wanted to and were able to open up the forward line and kicked a lot straighter than we had been, which was due to the fact that we were taking our set-shots from in front of goal rather than out in the pockets.
"And our forward pressure was a lot better today than the past few weeks; we locked the ball in really well today, so that was pleasing."
As well as Baird's haul of six goals, gun forward Ben Weightman slotted four and continues to lead the league goalkicking with 26.
Along with Baird and Weightman having a big influence, one of the standout players for the Blues - who last occupied top spot on the ladder in early 2016 - was Jack Hamilton in his first senior game of the season.
"Jack has just come back from overseas and he played a ripping game for us and Billy Mahony, who has been so consistent every week, was really good in the midfield again," Baird said.
"The White brothers down back (Fletcher and Bailey) just keep getting better each week and Mitch Bennett played forward and was marking everything that came his way."
The Hawks had nine changes from the previous week due to COVID and the flu, creating an opportunity for five players to make their senior debuts - Mitch Hogan, George Chamouras, Ryan Spokes-Lloyd, Luke Bonnett and Jake Price.
"It was a challenging day, but the boys gave it a good crack," Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"I thought we competed well in the first half, but then dropped away.
"It was good to be able to give five players an opportunity to play their first senior games... Ryan got pulled out halfway through the reserves game to come up to the seniors and George had played a full game in the under-18s, but we got through and fought it out the best we could."
Ruckman Mitch Christensen was the best for the Hawks, who are still chasing their first win of the season.
White Hills has its second victory of the season, while Elmore remains winless following their shootout at Scott Street.
The Demons and Bloods combined for 36 goals, with White Hills finishing 17-point victors, 19.11 (125) to 17.6 (108).
The Demons set the win up with a third quarter blitz in which they kicked nine goals to three to go from seven points up at half-time to 48 in front at the final change.
While the Bloods rallied in the final term outscoring the Demons seven goals to two, the damage had been done.
"We played some good football through the day, but we didn't finish the game off the way we would have liked with a lapse," Demons coach Jack Fallon said.
"Elmore has some talent and I think they are capable of knocking some top sides off, so we're pleased to get the result today."
Having gone into the game 1-3, Fallon challenged his playing group during the week about the direction of the Demons' season.
"I spoke to everyone individually throughout the week about what do you want from the year?," Fallon said.
"Everyone said the same thing, so we had to go out and want it and I believe today we showed we're starting to come together as a group and the boys want to play for each other, which is exactly what I want."
In his first game for the club recruit Liam Bartels from Rochester had an immediate impact, booting five goals, while key forward Cohen Kekich kicked three.
The best for the Demons were led by ruckman Nathan Moffat, assistant coach Brady Childs and fellow midfielder Ryan Walker.
Darcy Laffy provided the Bloods with a strong target in attack bagging eight goals, while co-coach and gun big man Dylan Gordon was named best for Elmore.
"It was an outstanding game from Darcy; he was very harsh on himself after his previous game against Colbinabbin. Today was a game that spoke volumes of Darcy's character," Elmore co-coach Dylan Friedberger said.
Colbinabbin overcame another sluggish start to run over the top of Heathcote and win by 33 points.
While the Grasshoppers are unbeaten at 5-0, starts have been an early-season issue for the side, which has trailed at quarter-time in four of its games so far, including by 26 points on Saturday.
The Saints burst out of the blocks at home to lead 5.2 to 1.0 at quarter-time.
However, over the remaining three quarters the Grasshoppers kicked 14 goals to five to win 15.7 (97) to 10.4 (64) and beat the Saints for the 15th-consecutive time.
"To Heathcote's credit, they are a well-drilled side and play their home ground well," Colbinabbin coach Julian Bull said.
"It's always a tough ground to play at and they got the jump on us... our starts to games have been something we've been talking about every week and obviously need to keep addressing.
"It was probably through the grunt work of some of our bigger guys that we were able to get on top and hit the scoreboard after half-time in particular.
"Our half-back line was really good today... Matt Riordan was our best player who took mark after mark across half-back.
"Ben Barton did the same, we had Laine Fitzgerald (three goals) and Jed Brain who both had 30-odd touches and Joel Sacco was one of those big bodied mids who did well for us."
James Brain (five) and Clint Shields (four) led the goalkicking for the Grasshoppers, whose 5-0 record is their best start to a season since 2009.
Braden Padmore kicked four goals to be the best player for the Saints, who were also well served by captain Codie Price.
North Bendigo had a spread of 10 goalkickers in its 79-point win over Leitchville-Gunbower.
The Bulldogs won all four quarters in their 17.19 (121) to 6.6 (42) victory at Leitchville.
"We used the footy the best we have this year," North Bendigo coach Rob Bennett said.
"With Sam Demeo injured and Daniel Reid unavailable we were a bit light-on in the back half, but we set up well behind the footy, our forwards looked dangerous when it got down there and our midfield had control of the game."
North Bendigo had a major inclusion in its side with Collingwood VFL co-captain Lachlan Tardrew lining up with the Magpies having a bye.
"He set the standard for us right from the start; he won the first clearance and brought other players into the game. It was great to have him out there for us today," Bennett said.
Tardrew (two goals) was named the Bulldogs' second best player behind returning ruckman Jeremy Lambden, who shouldered a heavy load with Ryan Gow a late withdrawal.
The Bombers - who kicked five of their six goals in the first half - named their ruckman Jobee Warde their best.
North Bendigo 6. 5 10. 8 16. 15 17. 19 (121)
Leitchville Gunbower 3. 1 5. 4 6. 5 6. 6 (42)
GOALS: North Bendigo: M. Gray 3, Z. Richards 2, J. Bennett 2, J. Ford 2, S. Moyle 2, L. Tardrew 2, J. Francis 1, D. Klemm 1, N. Newlan 1, N. Waterson 1; Leitchville Gunbower: A. Walton 2, T. Guerra 1, N. McLellan 1, A. Windridge 1, B. Hawken 1
BEST: North Bendigo: J. Lambden, L. Tardrew, L. Ford, T. Tresize, B. Cross, S. Moyle; Leitchville Gunbower: J. Warde, M. Candy, N. McLellan, S. Lewis, B. Hawken, A. Walton
White Hills 3. 2 8. 4 17. 9 19. 11 (125)
Elmore 3. 1 7. 3 10. 3 17. 6 (108)
GOALS: White Hills: L. Bartels 5, C. Kekich 3, E. Pearce 2, G. Bowles 2, M. Dole 2, B. Childs 1, R. Irwin 1, B. Nalder 1, J. Davies 1, B. Fallon 1; Elmore: D. Laffy 8, D. Oaff 3, D. Gordon 2, N. Kellow 1, D. Friedberger 1, R. Williams 1
BEST: White Hills: N. Moffat, B. Childs, R. Walker, B. Fallon, C. Kekich, L. Bartels; Elmore: D. Gordon, D. Laffy, K. Armstrong, Z. Holmberg, D. Oaff
Colbinabbin 1. 0 6. 3 10. 3 15. 7 (97)
Heathcote 5. 2 7. 3 9. 3 10. 4 (64)
GOALS: Colbinabbin: J. Brain 5, C. Shields 4, L. Fitzgerald 3, L. Moore 2, S. Tuohey 1; Heathcote: B. Padmore 4, K. Cavallaro 3, J. Conforti 2, J. Langford 1
BEST: Colbinabbin: M. Riordan, B. Barton, L. Fitzgerald, C. Shields, A. Van Ruiswyk, J. Sacco; Heathcote: B. Padmore, C. Price, B. Klemke, C. Hamilton, B. Jane, W. Direen
Mount Pleasant 20.13 (133)
Huntly 4.8 (32)
GOALS: Mount Pleasant: A. Baird 6, B. Weightman 4, J. Hamilton 2, D. Whiting 2, R. Mcnamara 2, Z. Murrell 2, C. Smith 1, B. Mahony 1; Huntly: F. Campbell 1, M. Christensen 1, S. Fiske 1, B. Chalmers 1
BEST: Mount Pleasant: A. Baird, B. Weightman, J. Hamilton, R. Mcnamara, B. Mahony, D. Whiting; Huntly: M. Christensen, T. Ferguson, M. Billings, J. McDonald, M. Jeffries, T. Miles"
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