The TAC Cup season is now well and truly underway. There’s been plenty going on, so if you’ve missed the start of the season, this is how the league is panning out at the early stages.
Team to beat
Geelong Falcons have set the tone early, demolishing an inaccurate Dandenong Stingrays last week. The Falcons are looking to be the clear standout team as they hold a two-point lead over Sandringham at the top of the ladder. Fraser Fort has been outstanding with nine goals in three rounds. Geelong’s early dominance has resulted in 19 players being selected for the Vic Country squad. Additionally, the side that has been comfortably winning over the last few weeks will regain the likes of Lewis Taylor and James Tsitas among others to strengthen the team further.
Sandringham is currently sitting in second with two wins and a draw. The Dragons have the most standout players on paper, with Christian Salem and Josh Kelly looking to be highly rated by year’s end. The challenge for Sandringham will be seeing if it can continue this form later on in the year when its best play for Vic Metro. Max Hayes and Karl Amon are a couple of players who have stood up while the AIS boys have been absent.
Gippsland is primed for an assault on the championship. Whilst they don’t have as many stars, their team is filled with solid players and the Power’s game plan is effective. The Power have a very healthy percentage of 160% thanks to Josh Scott’s nine-goal haul last week against the Pioneers. The top-agers such as Scott, Tom Muir and Ben Kearns have been impressive thus far. Aaron Heppell, younger brother of Essendon’s Dyson, has impressed off the half back line.
Oakleigh is another team to watch out for, although they are ranked sixth. This is mainly due to their shock defeat at the hands of the surprising Eastern Ranges. With a percentage of just above 87%, the Chargers need to stand up this week against the Western Jets, who sit just above them in fifth. Jay Kennedy-Harris and Hugh Beasley have been the best players for the Chargers while Jack Billings and Tom Cutler have enjoyed Europe.
The Northern Knights are a team to keep a close eye on. Their midfield group has high end talent in Marcus Bomtepelli and Ben Lennon, but the class fades away after that. Currently sitting on 6 points, the Knights will look to rise this weekend when they play Eastern Ranges. Jesse Tardio and Hugh Curnow are a couple of players who have impressed over the first few weeks.
Murray Bushrangers have been a bit surprising. Sitting in fourth place after a solid victory over the Rebels, the Bushies are looking to be a threat. The question is do the Bushrangers have the talent to sustain the winning form across the year? Many would argue against that, but nonetheless, keep an eye on them. Jarman Impey and Michael Gibbons in particular have been impressive with Nathan Drummond and Jydon Neagle also showing bits of brilliance.
The Dandenong Stingrays haven’t started to well this year and it’s not certain whether they will be able to climb up the ladder. On paper, Dandenong doesn’t have too many standout names besides Billy Hartung and Agape Patolo, the rugby convert who looks to be the most draft-able ruckman in the TAC Cup. Angus Scott and Clayton McCartney are two names that might be called out in November.
The hardest team to place this year is certainly the Western Jets. They have a few standout bottom-agers, but no real stars that are eligible for the AFL draft this year. This may put them in good stead for later on when the teams filled with stars list depleted line ups. Keep an eye on Pele Manivong, a small forward who has sublime skills. Unfortunately he is ineligible for this year’s draft.
Bendigo Pioneers looked ultra-impressive in their first win against the Rebels, but have since faded with heavy losses to the Bushrangers and Power. Isaiah Miller returns after AIS duties while Jacob Chisari and Jaden McGrath have been missed through injury and will be keen to rejoin Harry O’Meara and Jordan Mangan who are just a couple of names who have impressed so far.
Eastern Ranges is in a similar position to that of Bendigo. After an impressive first round, they have been out-of-sorts and will be keen to rebound with a win this week. There’s no doubt coach Darren Bewick can’t wait for star forward Tom Boyd to return although the likes of Andreas Roth and Christian Petracca have been impressive in his absence.
North Ballarat Rebels look to be in real strife after a few heavy losses. Sitting on the bottom with no wins and a percentage of 45%, it’s going to be tough for the Rebels to get out of last place. All eyes will be on Matt Crouch, brother of Adelaide’s Brad. Matt looks to be a top ten prospect at this stage.
Calder Cannons are another side who need to find a way to improve. This could be by having a structured game plan rather than rushing forward haphazardly. The bombing long just doesn’t work for anyone other than Josh Cauchi who has been potent around the sticks, including a bag of six in the first round. Potential draftee Aaron Christensen has underperformed so far and will really need to step up in his next game.
While some teams have flourished so far in 2013, there are still plenty waiting to find some form. Geelong Falcons have clearly been the standout team while the likes of Oakleigh, Murray, Gippsland and Sandringham are looking like early challenges. With 14 matches left, there is still plenty of time for a team to join the hunt for premiership glory.