Bellarine vs. Geelong & District @ KFC Oval – Queen’s Park – Saturday 11:50 am.
FOR the first time since 1989, the Bellarine and Geelong and District leagues will do battle at senior representative level when they meet in Saturday’s AFL Victoria Community Championships clash at Queen’s Park.
The BFL was notionally ranked 14th following last year’s win over Wimmera at Horsham, while the GDFL climbed to 18th on the back of a ninepoint win over Heathcote and District.
However, the Sharks’ quest to edge closer to a top 10 ranking was put on hold by AFL Victoria’s decision to schedule a derby against the Raiders, who have been keen to have a crack at the BFL for several years.
After announcing a 50-man training squad last month, Bellarine coach Mark Hildebrandt confirmed his final 23-man team earlier this week, which included arguably the three best key forwards in the competition: Jordan Erskine (Anglesea), Mitch Day (Geelong Amateur) and Jarrod Garth (Drysdale).
Erskine leads the BFL goal kicking with 35 goals from six games, Day has 17, and Garth from three appearances after being sidelined for three weeks with an ankle issue.
“We’ll play one at full-forward, one at centre half-forward, and will come off the bench and help out,” Hildebrandt said.
“They all want to play, which is absolutely fantastic. On a big ground, there’ll be separation, so they’ll be pretty hard to match-up on, I’d imagine.
“And they’re smart players, these big boys. And they’ve got some good little blokes around them.
“They’re going to have space to move, and a lot of one-on-one match-ups, which will suit us.”
Modewarre great Josh Finch has been named captain, with Queenscliff star Dan Gibbs his deputy.
Hildebrandt, who first took charge of the Bellarine in 2015, has again been impressed by the commitment from the BFL’s stars.
“It’s getting really, really good; the (club) coaches have been jumping on board and ringing me and putting players’ names up,” he said.
“You look at the side, which is really good, then you look at blokes who aren’t playing that wanted to play but are unfortunately injured.”
Hildebrandt was unable to consider the likes of Barwon Heads co-coach Mitch Herbison, Ocean Grove captain James Linton, Anglesea defender Dale Kerr, Torquay forward Paul McMahon, and Drysdale speedster Lauchie Dalgleish.
Nine players that featured in last year’s win over Wimmera will line-up against the GDFL: Finch, Gibbs, Erskine, Ash medallist Jackson Bews, Ash Caldwell, Matt Farrelly, Morgan Fenton, Wade McSparron, and Billy Henderson.
Eleven of that team no longer plays in the BFL, including the ruck Andrew Jarvis, who was invited to train with the Vic Country squad on the back of his performance in Horsham.
However, a handful of former GFL stars have put their hand up to play after joining the competition over summer, including Garth, fellow Bell Park Dragon-turned-Drysdale Hawk Chris Lynch, and Newcomb’s Logan Wagener.
Drysdale captain Mitch McGuire will represent the Sharks for the first time since winning the “Bull” Bennett Medal in 2016 after spending the last two years at GFL club Leopold.
While Portarlington’s Daniel Measures, who was a star in Queenscliff hat trick of premiership before spending five seasons at St Joseph’s, will make his debut for the Bellarine.
Modewarre co-coach John Meesen, who will carry the majority of the ruck load, is also making his first appearance for the BFL at senior level.
The match-up between the Bellarine and Geelong and District is the second game of a tripleheader that will see an AFL Barwon women’s take on the Northern league to start the day and end with the Geelong league looking to regain it’s ranking as Victoria’s No.1 community competition, also against Northern. Prediction: Bellarine by 26 points