Preview: Port Melbourne vs Bendigo
Round 21 will deliver a thriller between two current finals contenders, the Port Melbourne Borough and Bendigo Gold. The significance of the game has been highlighted by its selection as the ABC TV Match of the Round.
The Peter Jackson VFL competition is such that the result of this match could significantly change the distribution of positions on the Bailey Ladders ladder. Port Melbourne sits in first place, but on equal points with Geelong and Casey Scorpions whilst one win above the fourth placed Werribee Tigers. A victory could strengthen their ladder leadership entering the final match of the home and away season. However, a loss could see them plummet as low as fourth dependent on other results.
Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres considers his side to be slowly coming together at the business end of the season.
“Our squad is still not at full strength with Ryan Gale, Sam Dwyer, Mick Dillon, Jake Dermott and Heath O’Farrell to hopefully all come in depending on injury and regaining full match fitness. The next two weeks will be crucial as our Development team is not going to make the finals.”
Ayres has demonstrated his coaching prowess by leading a team that is far removed from his 2011 Premiership side, into the 2012 final series in a commanding position.
“Our form this year was excellent up until Round 11 and since then we have been very inconsistent. Why is this, I believe that due to injury we have lost key personnel most weeks and having to make four or five changes on average each week we have lost our stability and continuity compared to last year. Our depth also last year was extremely good compared to 2012. Having said that though, we are still on top of the ladder and fighting hard to stay there.”
These two sides last met 18 rounds ago at Queen Elizabeth Oval which saw Port Melbourne triumph over the Gold by 28 points.
“When we played Bendigo in Round 3 we played our style of football for three and a half quarters in Bendigo and were able to come away with a very good win. We must produce four quarters this week as we know Bendigo are dangerous when they can use the ball by foot and get it into the hands of the likes of Ladson and goal scorers of the ilk of Little and Madden. If Hille plays then our onball mix will have to be very good on the day,” Ayres said.
Although experiencing a loss, Bendigo Gold coach Hayden Skipworth has taken a lot of positive aspects from the encounter.
“We were competitive for most of the game last time we played Port. They're experience and better players stepped up in the last quarter and helped them get over the line. It was a good learning experience for our players, to play against the best.”
The Gold will be entering this Round 21 contest rested and rehabilitated after a bye. Skipworth gave both VFL listed and young Essendon players the weekend off to regroup for the upcoming clash.
However, due to injuries Bendigo has found it difficult to build a solid team unit throughout the year.
“Unfortunately we have not had the same side two weeks in a row. We make sure the players coming into the team understand their role within the team,” Skipworth said.
Like Port Melbourne, this weekend’s match could provide the Bendigo Gold with varying results. A win could raise their position on the ladder approaching finals, however a loss leaves the competition wide open for the North Ballarat Roosters to bump them from the top eight next week.
Port Melbourne vs Bendigo Gold
Saturday 18th August – 1:10pm
North Port Oval, Port Melbourne
Live broadcast on ABC TV from 1pm