GRAND final sides Eaglehawk and Strathfieldsaye will renew acquaintances in a senior football grand final rematch as the Bendigo Football Netball League season begins tomorrow.
Related: Hawks hit by injury
The season’s opening slate of games features matchups between the teams bracketed together in last year’s ladder, from the first versus second clash down to ninth versus tenth when Castlemaine plays Maryborough.
The Storm and Hawks are again among the teams to beat, but will both be without key players heading into the match.
Eaglehawk captain Tim Hill faces a long stint on the sidelines with an ankle injury while Strathfieldsaye will be without key position trio Bryce Curnow, Jayden Donaldson and Hugh Robertson for its opening clash.
Hill’s injury is a colossal blow for the young Hawks, who rely on the star defender to marshal their backline.
While they have arguably the competition’s best back six, Hill’s presence will be sorely missed.
The Borough will also be without Brenton Conforti, Lachie Atherton and Jake Dickens.
The Storm could see recruits Jack Shanahan and Bryce Carroll make their debuts and skipper Kallen Geary will step in for his first game as captain.
Jake Hall and Harry Conway are among the notable departures from the reigning premiers.
At the QEO, Golden Square opens its season against a rejuvenated Sandhurst.
The Dogs have also been dealt an injury blow, with star forward Travis Baird missing the club’s past two practice matches. Baird suffered a separate injury at the end of last season and is a crucial player in attack for the Dogs.
Midfielder Brad Eaton is among the recruits to Wade Street, as is key position player Jayden Burke and Wedderburn’s Nathan Holt.
On the opposite side of the ledger, the Dragons have a new coach in Andy Collins, who has lured former Richmond teammate Daniel Connors to the club.
Bridgewater premiership quartet Callum Prest, Taylor Strachan Marc Lindsay and Zeb Broadbent head to the Dragons, as do Benalla brothers Jake and Zac Pallpratt – the latter of whom is recovering from a knee injury and will miss the opening two months of the season.
Prest and Broadbent will miss round one through suspension, while crafty forward Joel Wharton will also be sidelined.
Collins says the first up test against Square under lights at the QEO will be a good early yardstick for his side.
Kyneton celebrates its 150th year and coach Luke Beattie is hopeful of a positive start when the Tigers host South Bendigo.
Both seem likely candidates to fill the fifth finals spot, behind the Hawks, Storm, Dragons and Dogs.
The two matches they play against one another will be vital in determining whether the Tigers can make a fourth straight finals appearance or South can return to September for the first time since 2012.
In the round’s other two games, Kangaroo Flat plays Gisborne at Gardiner Reserve and Maryborough hosts Castlemaine.