Demons face big test in Anzac Day clash

The 2021 Bendigo Bank Western Border Football League enters one of the highlights of the calendar this weekend as players honour the Anzac Day spirit in round 3.

As usual the special round is headlined by the annual Anzac Day battle between South and North Gambier, but fans will also enjoy a huge weekend of football with three important games spread across Saturday and Sunday.

SOUTH GAMBIER V NORTH GAMBIER

The round will finish with a bang as South and North Gambier resume their Anzac Day rivalry and a hard-fought battle between the sides can be expected to match the special occasion. With the last post and numerous ceremonies enhancing the atmosphere, emotions always lift, but there is a lot on the line when these two sides clash at Blue Lake Sports Park.

The Demons have impressed everyone by recording two strong wins over Millicent and West Gambier with a blitzing style of play to open the season and claim the ladder lead. But their ultimate acid test awaits with the first of two huge games this weekend.

Despite winning the last game against the Tigers, South has struggled to shine on Anzac Day and coach Brayden Kain is keen to change that record. “We have only won one Anzac Day game in the seven or eight years since I have been at the club, so we want to turn that ledger around and get one back on them,” he said.

“It is always a massive honour and privilege to run out on Anzac Day and hosting the game is something we are really looking forward to as a club. “It should be a great battle against a benchmark team in North and a good test to see where we are at as a group.”

The Tigers enter the big game with a patchier record after two contrasting home games. Justin McConnell’s men looked peerless smashing Casterton Sandford before being on the losing side of an arm wrestle with East Gambier.

North’s first road trip could not be a bigger occasion, but the side’s experience and class means it will not be fazed by the situation. However, Kain believed the vast surrounds of Blue Lake Sports Park helped his side outrun the Roos last week and his men hope to do the same to the Tigers.

If the Demons do emerge victorious, there will be no doubting their premiership credentials.

WEST GAMBIER V MILLICENT

The Roos and Saints have a lot to prove when they lock horns at Malseed Park this Saturday. With the home ground advantage and strong recent head-to-head record, West should be favourites, but it is not that simple.

The Roos are yet to win a game in 2021, but have done so valiantly, while Millicent is still riding the high of its first victory in two and a half years. West needs to taste success soon before it is too late, while the Saints are keen to show they can fight for finals and prove last week was no fluke.

Injury issues also come into play with the home side missing the services of Steven Wenman, while the visitors have lost Kane Bradley (knee) and Caleb Williams (shoulder) in consecutive weeks. Although the Roos smashed Millicent by 97 points in the previous clash at Malseed Park, Saints’ coach Clint Gallio anticipates a much tighter contest this year.

“West is on their home deck, but we are coming off a decent win, so it is a bit of an unknown,” he said. “The competition is going to be so even this year, so we are super keen to get in and will be ready to go.”

All eyes will be on Gene Robinson in Millicent’s forward line after his nine-goal haul, while Sam Willis has also risen to another level. West is less reliant on individuals with many names able to stand up around the ground and Ben Papps kicked six majors in his last appearance at home with the Saints.

EAST GAMBIER V CASTERTON SANDFORD

The voyage across the border this Saturday night for Casterton Sandford could metaphorically appear as daunting as the Kokoda Trail. The Cats have struggled to produce a four-quarter performance in 2021 and are yet to win a game, while East Gambier has knocked off both of the 2019 WBFL grand finalists.

However, Bulldogs’ coach Matt Willson said not everything is in his side’s favour when they host the Victorians in a twilight clash this Saturday night. “We are confident we can play some good footy, but Casterton is always a hard side,” he said.

“You can never take them lightly because they have some quality players and like to put up a fight. “We are also playing a twilight fixture this week and Casterton has it over us in twilight and night games so it will be a very good challenge for us to step up in an environment where they have had the wood over us in the last few years.”

The game will kick off from 4pm.

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