Bulldogs wary of unknowns

Published on Thursday, July 13, 2017

Author : Mick Mattingly

North Heidelberg coach Stephen Saddington has refused to label his side the outright favourite to take out the A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 premiership.

The Bulldogs sit two point clear of Diamond Creek atop the ladder after Round 11, following a 109-point win over Watsonia at Shelley Reserve on Saturday.

Speaking to NFL.org.au this week, Saddington said while his team does sit on top of the ladder, at times inconsistent form means the Bulldogs shouldn’t be seen as flag favourites.

“We haven’t beaten Fitzroy Stars yet. We’ve played them twice so I don’t really consider us to be premiership favourites if there is a side we haven’t beaten yet,” Saddington said.

“We played Diamond Creek all the way back in Round 1 so we don’t even know how we are against them yet. So there are a lot of unknowns.”

After finishing last season on top of the Division 2 ladder, North Heidelberg was unable to force its way back into the top-flight after losing to Hurstbridge in a tight grand final.

Saddington said while that loss is in the past, it drove the Bulldogs to improve its list this year in a bid to go one better than 2016.

“We were still pretty disappointed we lost the grand final last year, I thought we were good enough,” he said.

“We obviously picked up Boomer (Brent Harvey) and went out and got couple of other guys as well, so we expected to be stronger and expected to go really well.”

AFL games record holder Harvey has lived up to expectations and leads all comers in the Coaches Player of the Year voting.

However, on the weekend it was his brother Shane who stole the show against Watsonia. The star forward equaled the club’s goal kicking record with 17 majors, which included 11 in the first half.

Saddington said he was in awe of Harvey’s brilliance.

“He’s just a freak. He does things that most people couldn’t dream about,” Saddington said.

“Sometimes you think to yourself ‘what is he doing?’ but then he ends up with the ball and then very rarely misses.

“He’s a pleasure to coach.”

While both Harvey brothers have long been dominant on the field, Saddington said their work off the field shouldn’t go unnoticed.

“Boomer just makes everyone want to be better. He just brings improvement to the whole group because they want to train how he trains,” Saddington said.

“Shane has been there for a while now and the boys just love being around him. He’s just that sort of character.”

North Heidelberg is a raging favourite to claim its 10th win for the season this weekend when it faces Panton Hill at Cracknell Reserve.

The bottom-placed Redbacks were kept goalless in a 188-point loss to Diamond Creek at the weekend.

Saddington insisted this side would only focus on what they can control.

“We just need to concentrate on what we need to do well and focus on our defensive stuff to keep the opposition to low scores,” he said.

“Without being disrespectful there is quite a gap between the bottom sides and the top sides, so hopefully this week is a chance to fine tune a few things.”

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