SOUTH Bendigo will take the momentum of three wins in a row behind it down to Gisborne for its crack at what is now the Bendigo Football-Netball League's only unbeaten team on Saturday.
After a scratchy start to the season when they copped a pair of hidings by Golden Square (50 points) and Eaglehawk (56) in the opening two rounds, the Bloods have rebounded strongly over the past three weeks.
Their good form has coincided with the Bloods getting key personnel back on the park after being hit hard by injury during their practice matches when they went into round one with 10 senior players unavailable.
"Our list is in a lot better shape now than at the start of the season," South Bendigo coach Nathan Horbury said this week.
"Unfortunately, it looks like Tommy Brereton may have a potential fracture in his foot and could miss a bit of footy.
"Up and going I think Tommy is in our top handful of players; I rate him really highly as a footballer. Not having his in-and-under work, as well as his explosiveness at stoppage is going to hurt, but hopefully, we can get him back at the back end of the year.
"And we're still waiting on Ollie Simpson with his knee, so, hopefully, he won't be too far away."
MORE FOOTBALL: Reliable defender Coe to play game 150 for Golden Square
Following their 0-2 start to the season the Bloods have hit back with a hat-trick of wins over Sandhurst in the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup, a gritty come-from-behind victory over Kyneton when they had been 13 points down at three quarter-time, and then a belting of Castlemaine last week when they kicked the first 12 goals of the game.
Among the best players in all three of those wins have been two players who have returned to the club this year - Liam Byrne and assistant coach Isaiah Miller.
"I thought last week was Isaiah's best game so far (32 possessions, 127 ranking points) with his run and carry," Horbury said.
"He's so good to have back at the club as an assistant coach with his knowledge; he has been huge for us.
"And I knew Byrnesy was going to be good for us. He's the type of player that we really needed in terms of just getting in and under and gets the job done.
"He does a lot of work that goes un-noticed, but I definitely think he has been among our top handful of players so far."
On Saturday's trip to Gardiner Reserve - where the Bloods haven't played since 2019 - Horbury is bracing for a tough challenge against the ladder-leading Bulldogs, who again didn't name captain Pat McKenna in Thursday night's selected team.
"It's going to be really tough down there where they play their ground so well," Horbury said.
"I think their ground isn't too dis-similar to Harry Trott Oval, so we think we can play the ground really well.
"We haven't been down to Gisborne since late in 2019 and we thought we played reasonably well down there before they got away from us late.
"It's going to be one of the toughest asks of the year, but we think we can go down there and win the game."
Meanwhile, for so long having been heavily reliant on gun forward Kaiden Antonowicz to have a big day out to kick a winning score, the Bloods have had the opportunity this year to release Antonowicz up the ground into the midfield where he started last week against Castlemaine.
"I thought Kaiden was super for us last week," Horbury said.
"He laid a couple of really good tackles that got him into the game and he's such a smart footballer... I think his field kicking is exceptional, so to be able to put him through the midfield and then have the confidence that we've got Brock (Harvey), Alex (Ralph-Smith), Will (Keck) and Michael (Herlihey) up forward, it's a different dynamic for us and seems to be working well.
"It doesn't make us as predictable and is something we'll look to keep doing."
2.20pm Saturday at Castlemaine.
B: T. Hickey, A. Mayes, D. Stephens
HB: J. Watson, K. McBride, J. Hood
C: D. Slingo, C. McConachy, T. Cain
HF: L. Wilkinson, D. Slingo, R. Pedretti
F: B. Henderson, Z. Denahy, J. Chester
R: S. Nettleton, W. Moran, T. Horne
Int: B. Keogh, B. Byrne, J. Byrne
B: C. Smith, N. Keogh, J. Hywood
HB: R. O'Keefe, M. Trewhella, B. Fry
C: P. Murphy, D. Kelly, J. Mayes
HF: D. Barber, L. Wilson, E. Roberts
F: M. Rovers, N. Lang, K. Symons
R: M. Johnson, L. Collins, M. Collins
Int: H. Lockhart, D. Spear, S. Barnes, H. O'Brien
2.20pm Saturday at Gisborne.
B: J. Reaper, Z. Vescovi, S. Graham
HB: L. Spear, L. Rodgers, J. Owen
C: N. Doolan, S. Bell-Bartels, M. Lord
HF: B. Eales, E. Foreman, M. Panuccio
F: M. Merrett, J. Kemp, L. Ellings
R: B. Blake, F. Lakey, B. Bernacki
Int: J. Fox, S. Walsh, F. Schipano, J. Normington
B: Z. Hare, C. Taggert, D. Johnstone
HB: B. Torpey, I. Miller, A. van Heumen
C: L. Byrne, O. White, S. Langley
HF: B. Poyser, M. Herlihy, A. Smith
F: W. Keck, K. Antonowicz, B. Harvey
R: W. Allen, N. Horbury, C. Leon
Int: D. McMahon, W. McCaig, S. Maher, L. Furness, B. Hall
2.20pm Saturday at Strathfieldsaye.
B: B. Lester, T. Bennett, M. Hallinan
HB: S. Geary, L. Ratcliffe, J. Mayes
C: J. Neylon, J. Moorhead, J. Hall
HF: J. Formosa, B. Slater, J. Schischka
F: P. Blandford, K. Geary, T. Hosking
R: C. Ernst, L. Gill, D. Clohesy
Int: M. Gordon, F. Payne, B. Hore, S. Murphy
B: D. Lewis, L. Mackie, A. Tatchell
HB: P. Chard, L. Butler, L. Murphy
C: J. Lohmann, C. Freeman, A. Humphrey
HF: D. Harberger, P. Van der pol, J. Hooper
F: T. Lewis, L. Hull, A. Hare
R: T. Gardam, L. Latch, T. Stewart
Int: N. Swan, C. Perry, J. Swan, B. Metters
2.20pm Saturday at Kyneton.
B: H. Huntley, F. Driscoll, B. Xiriha
HB: L. Thompson, M. Crozier, J. Safstrom
C: L. Phillips, H. Yunghanns, M. Comben
HF: B. McGee, B. Cameron, A. Nolte
F: R. Magin, C. Wallace, R. Pretty
R: J. Orr, D. Bartrop, C. Manuel
Int: J. Smiley, J. Ellis, J. Gaff, E. Turner, H. Sheahan
B: L. Barrett, J. Merrin, H. Burke
HB: J. Coe, L. Duguid, Z. Shelton
C: J. Thrum, R. Hartley, J. Hickman
HF: H. Morcom, B. Vaz, T. Strauch
F: J. Burke, Z. Murley, J. Brett
R: T. Rayner, J. Geary, T. Reeves
Int: J. Stewart, L. Jacques, D. Lowry, D. Barrett
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.