Bendigo FNLThe Archive |  With the 2019 inter-league fixture highlighting Bendigo’s match-up with the brand new Outer East body on May 18 it’s time to have a look at the Blue and Golds’ history.

Bendigo reigned supreme back in 1989 as country Victoria’s champions when the team, captained by Brendan Hartney, beat Geelong on the QEO in the Division 1 grand final. But that’s a long time ago --- three decades back, in fact.

This year’s side is certain to perform well. Astute coach Darryl Wilson does a mountain of research, helped by assistants not only in local central Victorian training roles but other assistants whose job it will be over the next few weeks to suss out the Outer East’s prime players and report back to Wilson. Wilson outlined some of his preparation agenda at Monday’s BFNL season launch. And just who is this new league we’re drawn to play? Well, the merging of the Yarra Ranges and South-East Football and Netball leagues created the new body, christened the Outer East FNL.

So how have we gone in recent seasons, say from the early 2000s onwards. In 2001 we went down to the then Gippsland/Latrobe league 16.11 to 15.9 in a first round fixture. Consigned to Division 2 for 2002 the Blue and Golds belted Bellarine 27.25 to 8.5 and then in the final, played at Kerang, defeated the Central Murray 11.9 (75) to 9.8 (62). On to 2003 and there was a big incentive for competing leagues. The Division 1 semi-final on Bendigo’s side of the draw was to be staged at the MCG.

The Blue and Golds sneaked home over Murray 16.17 (113) to 15.14 (104) in the first round clash to earn a semi-final slot. Unhappily the Geelong league proved too strong and too committed in the MCG semi-final, played as the curtain-raiser to an AFL clash, and won convincingly: 18.7 (115) to the BFNL’s 8.3 (51). On to 2004 and the start of the VCFL’s shortened two-halves-a-match concept with the BFNL now in Pool B. Ballarat won the Friday night game at the big North Ballarat Oval 6.7 to 3.6. And then Hampden downed the Blue and Golds 13.8 to 3.7 with West Gippsland victorious in the third and final game: 10.10 to 5.6.

I headed off to Mount Gambier with the Fresh-FM broadcast team in 2005 for the short-form clashes in Pool C --- the Blue and Golds had really tumbled. Bendigo won the first two games 8.4 to Central Murray’s 7.8 and then 9.7 to host league Western Border’s 5.5. That set up the Sunday final against Bellarine but after a promising start the Blue and Golds went down: 5.6 (36) to 6.12 (48). Off to Barooga we travelled in 2006, again for three Pool C matches, and this time coach Brett Fitzpatrick (not to forget skipper Marcus Barham) weren’t taking any prisoners.

The BFNL squeaked home over Murray 6.10 to 6.4 in the opening game and were victorious in the second Saturday clash 12.7 to Central Murray’s 5.4. The Sunday final round match, on the spacious No. 2 oval, wasn’t close at all. Bendigo belted Wimmera 15.4 (94) to 8.3 (51) and yet a year later in the stand-alone 2007 four-quarter match against Ballarat we went down 9.10 (64) to 12.15 (87). The 2008 round-robin Pool B series, played at Sale, was a disaster for the Blue and Golds. We only got close in the middle match of the series and this is how it went: Geelong 8.9 def. Bendigo 3.2, Mornington Peninsula 7.10 def. Bendigo 7.7, and West Gippsland 7.12 def. Bendigo 5.2. By 2011 it was back to a full, four-quarter game and at Skilled Stadium the Geelong F.L. downed Bendigo 19.8 (122 ) to 15.12 (102).

Remembering that Geelong had gone down to the Blue and Gold in that historic 1989 grand final the Corio Bay crowd had bounced back to salute quite regularly after that. In the 1993 country championships grand final Geelong 11.13 (79) defeated Bendigo 9.8 (62). Then came Geelong victories over us in 2003, 2008 and 2011 --- just to name a few --- so they’ve had the wood on us in recent seasons. I’m sure Wilson and his team will have the Blue and Golds pumped for the 2019 clash and let’s hope a big QEO crowd turns up on May 18th.

By Richard Jones