Country footy and boxing set to collide with Bedggy vs Johno

Sale Football-Netball Club senior coach, Jack Johnstone and Maffra FNC senior captain, Daniel Bedggood will enter the boxing ring this Saturday night, fighting for the newly instigated Gippsland League Light Heavyweight Championship. Photo: Liam Durkin

Liam Durkin

“There’s 15 fights going on!”

BRIAN Taylor would have fun calling this one.

Country footy and boxing are set to collide in more ways than one this Saturday night at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex, Sale.

Sale Football-Netball Club senior coach, Jack Johnstone and Maffra FNC senior captain, Daniel Bedggood will take Battle of the Birds to a new level, as they step into the ring for a title fight.

The Maffra premiership teammates are trading the footy boots for boxing gloves, and will be fighting it out for the Gippsland League Light Heavyweight title.

The trophy has been instigated by Wildfighter Boxing promoter Will Tomlinson, working under the banner of ‘The Champ is Here’.

The Champ is Here event will see a huge night of boxing in Sale.

While Johnstone versus Bedggood is expected to be the biggest drawcard, a number of professional boxers will also be on show.

Stratford professional Max Reeves will be out to defend his Aussie Super Middleweight Title, while Sale pro Jhon Cortejos and Bairnsdale’s Blake Wells are also in action.

Johnstone and Bedggood have been busy preparing for the fight, adding boxing training to their usual football preseason.

Given the strong football rivalry between the clubs was only intensified after Johnstone left Maffra to join Sale as head coach in 2021, to now have that same person in the ring against one of Maffra’s favourite sons is sure to only add another chapter to the story.

Johnstone has juggled getting ready for the fight, as well as getting Sale footballers ready for the season ahead.

“Conditioning is starting to get there, shoulders were a bit sore after the first few weeks, put in a lot of rounds of sparring and pad work, so starting to see a few results,” he said.

Johnstone has been sparring at Sale Health and Fitness, working alongside Cortejos.

“I haven’t done anything like this, same as Beddgy. Me and Beddgy have been good mates, it’s something we’ve always wanted to do and then the opportunity arose, we’re really happy to be involved.”

Comparatively, Johnstone, who plays as an inside midfielder, will be taking on a key forward in Bedggood.

Such a match-up would be an unusual sight on a football field, and while Johnstone has a number of tactics up his sleeve during winter, his game plan for the boxing match may well be to ‘go down swinging’.

“I predict we’re going to come out and pretend to be boxers for the first 30 seconds and then just start throwing haymakers – not a lot of defence,” he said.

Bedggood has been training twice a week under the tutelage of Paul ‘Turk’ Carroll in Bairnsdale.

Despite having never boxed properly before, the Eagles senior captain said he was willing to step out of his comfort zone.

“Looking forward to it, you never know how you’re going to go until you give it a go,” he said.

“There is nowhere to hide on the night, it’s just me and Jack.”

From a technical viewpoint, Bedggood said football fitness and boxing fitness were totally different things.

“Turk works you for about an hour, hour-and-a-half, and that is non-stop, that is just throwing punch after punch after punch, it’s not like football where you can go out the back (of the cone) and have a rest, you’re in the limelight,” he said.

Fittingly, the Maffra senior captain is thinking of choosing the Daddy Cool song Eagle Rock as his walk-out tune.

Performing in front of an expected crowd of 1500 people won’t be a totally foreign atmosphere for Bedggood or Johnstone, who have both played in their share of Gippsland League finals, which regularly attract crowds in their thousands.

With only a few months preparation, Carroll admitted getting two footballers ready for a boxing match was a challenge, however, he believed their competitive nature would allow them to get through.

“We’re good trainers, but we’re not that good, I’m sure whatever Bedggy does on the night he will get in and have a big crack,” Carroll said.

“He prepares well for footy and he’ll do the same for boxing. No one can really transition the skills in that period of time, but both boys will give their all and represent their clubs well.”

In an added incentive, Tomlinson has placed a $1000 knockout bonus on the fight – not that Bedggood or Johnstone need the extra motivation.

“He is a rival, but he was a Maffra boy, there is a friendship there – I’ll try and knock him out and then go to his wedding,” Bedggood said.

“Bedggy may not make the invite list if he knocks me out,” Johnstone said in reply.

The fight will lead-in to the Gippsland League opening round clash between Sale and Maffra in a fortnight’s time.

Both clubs stand to gain something from the fight, with the winning club banking a cool $5000.

Tickets are still available from wildfighter.com.au