Night finals getting closer: December 2005 meeting
By Richard Jones
The BFNL board at its last meeting for 2005 rubber-stamped a proposal for two night finals for the 2006 season following the final round-table discussions with club delegates.
It was early December 14 years back with the qualifying and second semi-finals earmarked as night fixtures.
The other important fixturing decision made that December was the draw for new club North Ballarat -- known as North juniors before that tag was dropped.
The Northies, later officially christened North City, were to play South Bendigo in their first match in their new league: a round 1 clash with South Bendigo under the QEO lights.
The QEO lights were to be used in three of the first five rounds in the 2006 season --- South vs. North Ballarat (Rd. 1), Sandhurst vs. South (Rd. 4) and Sandhurst vs. Kangaroo Flat (round 5).
“The night finals are only proposed at this stage, but will be confirmed after further discussions with the clubs at one of first meetings in the New Year,” BFL general manager Tony Pierce said.
“I’d like to see it happen, but we need to give consideration to the teams and clubs participating.”
There were still a number of matters relating to the 2006 draw to iron out.
The preliminary final had been pencilled in for Sunday, September 17 to avoid any clashes with district league finals.
But as the grand final had been set aside for Saturday, September 23rd that would give the preliminary final winner just six days to prepare for the grannie.
Fortunately the dates had not been set in stone with the prelim. final still a chance to be played on the Saturday and the grand final moved back to the Sunday for the first time since 2001.
They were still just discussion points. The final decisions would be made at a meeting of the BFNL with its clubs in early 2006.
The admission of North Ballarat into the BFL meant that there’d be no bye in the league for the first time since the 2000 season.
All clubs would play 18 rather than 16 home and away games.
Sunday matches were to become a regular feature early in the season with Sunday matches listed in each of the first three rounds.
A general bye was programmed for the weekend of May 27-28 as the Blue and Golds ventured north to Barooga for Pool C matches in the VCFL country championships.
I well remember those 2006 championships played on the spacious grounds just over the border into NSW from Cobram as Bendigo hammered Wimmera 15.4 to 8.3.
Broadcasting for Triple C-FM back in the day I recall the Sunday game attracted just a mere smattering of spectators as the unbeaten Blue and Golds smashed Wimmera in the two-halves format popular at the time.
And for foodies like my wife and I we searched high and low in Cobram on the Saturday night for something decent to eat. In the end we settled on a very average Chinese takeaway.
Back to the proposed draw for 2006.
A lightning premiership was scheduled for the QEO on April 1st with two teams from neighbouring leagues invited to boost the number of competing clubs to 12.
This would allow the BFL to roster four pools of three teams.
Rochester ended up winning the trophy, a bit of a smack-in-the-face for the BFL clubs but their supporters had definitely boosted the QEO gate takings.
Fast-forwarding into the 2006 season and after five rounds Castlemaine had surprised everyone and occupied third spot on the senior ladder.
Coach Ian Martin continued to remain low-key about the Magpies’ chances that year even though they had a 4-1 record and a healthy percentage of 131.9.
The Maine had beaten Kyneton (by 56 points), Sandhurst (33), Kangaroo Flat (22) and North City (41).
After the 19.18 to 13.13 victory over the Northies Martin was still a bit cautious.
“It’s one week at a time and I’m still really focusing on that,” he told the Addy.
“”I’m just happy with where we’re at after five rounds because it could easily have been a lot different.
“But it’s good to know we’ve had the wins we’ve had so I’m just hoping we can play some good footy over the next month,” the Magpie coach said.
Castlemaine faced a tough four weeks coming up towards the end of May-early June with matches against Gisborne (first), Golden Square (fourth), South Bendigo (second) and Eaglehawk (seventh).
Back at the end of March when season predictions were called for, Advertiser scribes had pencilled that quartet of four clubs in as the likely Top Four finishers by the end of August.
So Martin’s caution was justified in light of the coming month for his Magpies.
Nonetheless he’d signed an extremely handy recruit in Clinton Aldridge who’d booted four majors against the Northies (along with teammate Klai Jermyn, four also) to give Aldridge 12 for the season in five rounds.
To add to those eight goals against North City, skipper Chris Jardine bobbed up with three from a limited period of time in the front half.
Gisborne handed Kyneton a 202-point shellacking leading Graveyard Dogs’ mentor Marcus Barham to label the effort as the club’s “greatest performance” since he’d taken over as playing coach.
He said the 40.14 to 8.4 win was even better than Gisborne’s 128-point thrashing of Eaglehawk in the 2005 second semi-final the previous September.
“We played against Kyneton like we were five points down all day. We just kept going and going,” Barham said,
“I thought the boys played really well and they were all unselfish in their performances.”
Playing away from home at the Kyneton Showgrounds Gisborne’s win was highlighted by a massive 16-goal blitz in the third term.
From a score of 14.8 to 6.1 at half-time by the final break the Graveyard Dogs had 30.10 (190) on the board to the Tigers’ miserable 6.2 (38).
In what was the highest BFNL score kicked since 1997 (beating Kang. Flat’s 38.17 (245) vs. M’borough in 2005) Gisborne was led by dynamic on-baller Matt Fitzgerald with 30 kicks and 19 handballs with 14 goal-kickers hitting the scoreboard.
Luke ‘Rolls Royce’ Saunders (8), Darren Farrugia (6) and Rodney Sharp and Michael Dillon (4 each) were the Bulldogs’ major goal-kickers.
Sandhurst continued its improvement after a winless opening four rounds thumping Kangaroo Flat by 55 points at the QEO.
The Dragons jumped up to eighth spot on the ladder with their first win for 2006. They’d drawn with Kyneton earlier on.
Youngsters Seamus Young (5 goals), Andrew Collins and Sam Barnes propelled the Dragons to eventual victory as they piled on 11 goals to three in the first quarter.
Travis Fitzpatrick was one of the Hurst’s midfield sparks along with Young --- who’d been moved by coach David Collins from his usual half-forward spot --- and Andrew Collins, then only 17.
The Roos did outscore their opponents four goals to one in a scrappy second quarter as the Hurst lost two of their key players to injury: Matt Keown (groin) and Zac Perez ((knee).
Glen Hutchinson and Travis Thatcher (3 goals) were on the day best for the Roos.
Final scores: Gisborne 40.14 (254) def. Kyneton 8.4 (52), Sandhurst 21.14 (140) def. Kang. Flat 13.7 (85), Castlemaine 19.18 (132) def. North City 13.13 (91), Golden Square 17.17 (119) def. M’borough 13.13 (91) and South Bendigo 15.16 (106) def. Eaglehawk 16.9 (105).
Current Kyneton coach Luke Beattie kicked three goals for South.
Top Five: Gisborne 4 wins, 1 loss, 245.7%, 16 premiership points; South Bendigo 4-1, 170.7%, 16; Castlemaine 4-1, 131.9%, 16; G. Square 4-1, 104.4%, 16 and Maryborough 3-2, 86.7%, 12.