Unlike the AFL, TAC Cup lists turnover drastically from year to year. While they are primarily made up of top-age players or those that turn 18 this year, they are also able to contain bottom-age players (those turning 17 this year) and a maximum of five over-age players (those who weren’t selected at the drafts last year and turn 19 this year). While this turnover rate means that it could potentially be a ‘chook lotto’, one side that has consistently performed is the Geelong Falcons.
Much like their AFL counterparts, the Falcons haven’t missed a finals series since the finals system was changed to match the AFL one in 2008. The last two years they have only scraped into the finals, but this year they have a formidable team that has very few, if any weaknesses and a variety of talent across the three age groups. To put this dominance into perspective, Calder Cannons had seven players who were drafted onto AFL lists last year; Geelong could reach the double figures.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) squad is the best of the best of Under 18s from around the country and most of the time, over 75% of the players find their way onto an AFL list. Some TAC Cup clubs such as Gippsland Power and the Murray Bushrangers don’t have an AIS player. The Geelong Falcons? A casual four players have made the squad: Lewis Taylor, James Tsitas, Nicholas Bourke and Darcy Gardiner.
Taylor and Tsitas are both hard midfielders with the 173cm Taylor a nuggety fellow who is regularly under the packs shoveling out a handball to team mates or pushing forward and forcing contest after contest. Tsitas is a player who just finds the footy and is damaging around the clinches. Bourke is more of a utility who primarily plays midfield but can drift to defense to help out his team mates under fire. Gardiner is a talented KPP who can play at either end and have a large impact on the match.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘a champion team is better than a team of champions’, but so far this season, Geelong appear to have the luxury of both. Aside from the four AIS boys, they have an envy of talented goal scoring midfielders, key position players and running defenders which has helped the side to a whopping percentage of 239.11 per lor cent, unbeaten on top of the TAC Cup ladder. While they haven’t scored as much as other sides such as Gippsland Power or the Western Jets, they have the stingiest defence, only allowing 202 points against, almost 200 below the next lowest in the league. Not to mention a comfortable 35 points more than the total points for the lowly North Ballarat Rebels.
Geelong’s success this season led to a massive 21 players being selected by Vic Country for the Intra Trial squad match a few weeks ago with Fraser Fort, Hugh Goddard and Patrick McCartin the three key forwards. The latter two are bottom-agers who will still have to wait another year to get a chance at AFL. But Fort is one that could be highly sort after as one of the better key forwards in the draft behind the obvious selection of Thomas Boyd.
Fort has the speed of Liam Jones and the strength of Travis Cloke which makes him a hot property for AFL clubs. He has an obvious deficiency to work on in his goal kicking, but if he can adjust that, he will no doubt become a strong power forward at AFL level. For the 2014 draft, Goddard and McCartin look like even better prospects which spells trouble for the 11 other TAC clubs for the future.
Another strength of the Falcons is the midfield depth that outside the AIS boys contains names such as Matthew Boag and Darcy Lang who are incredibly gifted players in their own rights. With the ability to spend more time forward, Boag booted five goals in the massive 96 point win over the Northern Knights last week. Lang is a midfield accumulator and an elite disposer of the ball averaging around 80% disposal efficiency. Both players will push their highly fancied team mates all the way to the November drafts.
While Geelong has a wealth of talent and depth at its disposal, it is a well drilled unit that has every reason to believe it will hold up the premiership in September. The Falcons are the envy of the other TAC Cup teams and they are the hunted this season as they strive towards the 2013 flag. Expect there to be a number of Falcons drafted into the AFL this year as the Geelong Falcons football factory is open for business.