Storm still the ones to beat

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 15-Apr-2016

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THIS season in the Bendigo Football Netball League’s senior football competition promises to be as close as any in recent memory.

After the league saw undefeated champions in both senior football and A-grade netball last year, the flag race in both competitions is wide open in season 2016.

Again, the standard of netball will be red-hot, further cementing the BFNL’s competition as one of the best in the state.

Reigning premier Golden Square has plenty of competition in 2016, Sandhurst and Gisborne among the hunters.

More than ever, depth will be a key for clubs in senior football this year – both at the top of the ladder, and in the battle for finals.

Reigning premier Strath Storm enters the season as the deserved favourite to make it a three-peat of football flags, but this year’s side is the youngest the club has seen over its reign at the top of the BFNL.

Breathing down the Storm’s neck is a Sandhurst side that has filled its needs in recruiting and has no shortage of motivation after consecutive grand final losses.

Hamish Leahy coming in at centre half back allows the Dragons’ most important player, Matt Thornton, to play as a permanent marking forward creating a matchup nightmare for opposition coaches.

Also, look out for Dragons recruit Kristian Height. The former Box Hill captain has won league medals in the Goulburn Valley and Ovens and Murray leagues, and is a big chance to add to his resume this year.

This season is the Dragons’ big chance to break through. Anything less than a flag this year would represent an opportunity lost.

That pair, and another potentially depth-challenged side in Golden Square, should comprise the top three.

Castlemaine and South Bendigo lead the list of improvers challenging for finals. Both sides were defensively sound last year, and have added a stack of offensive weaponry.

South had added at least 10 potential senior players to its list, both shoring up its top end talent and depth, but injuries could easily derail Castlemaine’s season.

However, given their formidable home ground advantage, the Pies can realistically aim for at least six home wins, a solid foundation given Kyneton made finals with eight wins last year.

The Bloods and Magpies, along with Kyneton, lead the race for the last two finals spots.

Incumbent finalists Kyneton and Eaglehawk had very different offseasons, despite losing a similar amount of senior players.

Kyneton looks to be as strong as 2015 having covered its losses, but the field around the Tigers also appears to be stronger as a whole.

The Borough have no shortage of key position experience, but a very young midfield brigade will make the going tough.

Kangaroo Flat has recruited strongly once again, and primary for the Roos will be improving their ability to win the games against the sides around them if they are serious about making finals.

With Strath likely to not be as dominant as last year and things shaping up for another even finals race, 2016 has the makings of a truly fascinating BFNL season.

Bring on round one.

Joel's BFNL top five: Strathfieldsaye, Sandhurst, Golden Square, Castlemaine, South Bendigo.

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