Saladino rapt with team’s progress

March 29, 2024 BY

Corey Grindlay bagging eight goals in a game for the Saints last season Photo: STEVE WOMERSLEY

HEATHCOTE coach Andrew Saladino is rapt about the Saints’ run leading into the April 6 start of the Bendigo Bank Heathcote DFNL senior footy action.

The last of the Saints’ practice matches was played last Saturday against Cohuna Kangas at Pigeon Park in Heathcote’s Barrack Reserve.

“It was the ideal hit-out for us,” Saladino said of a Cohuna Kangas team now being coached by Jack Geary, a six-time premiership winner at Golden Square and Michelsen Medallist as league fairest and best.

The Saints led by a point going into the final quarter of the clash.

“We were able to get three early goals in the last term,” Saladino said of the 18-point winning margin.

“It was a brilliant contest and one of the best practice matches I have seen in country footy.

“The intensity at the contest and the pace of the game was incredibly high for a practice match.

“Cohuna had some big bodies around the ball and was also dangerous when able to get the footy into open space.

“Our boys worked incredibly hard to get back to support the defence and also setting up attacks.

“I am sure both teams gained a lot,” he said of preparations for the Heathcote and Central Murray competitions.

Among the key recruits for Heathcote after last year’s grand final loss to Mount Pleasant, James Orr was outstanding in the ruck.

“His leadership and tap work gave our on-ballers first possession a lot of the time,” Saladino said of the former Kyneton captain’s impact on the game.

“Rhys Bolton off half-back was clearly our best player. This will be his third year of senior footy and Rhys is the pre-season bolter.”

The Saints also had key defender Daniel Johnstone from South Bendigo win plenty of the footy.

Last season’s Sam Cheatley medallist as league fairest and best, Liam Jacques also played a full game after missing a fair chunk of the pre-season because of illness. “Liam’s back fit and firing,” Saladino said.

On-ball or in attack, Zak Saad also impressed.

The Saints head to Toolleen to play Mount Pleasant in round one.