The Dandenong Stingrays got across the line against the Bendigo Pioneers last weekend thanks to the return of top draft prospect Billy Hartung. Dandenong were unconvincing and inaccurate, posting a score of 10.16, but it was enough to see off the gallant Pioneers by 17 points. Hartung, returning for his first game since having surgery in January was fanastic in the narrow win amassing 33 disposals and booting three goals.
It was an ugly game with both teams quite scrappy with the ball in their forward fifties throughout most of the game and struggled to hit targets going forward. Dandenong missed several goal scoring opportunities in the first quarter, with the ball rebounding in and out of their attacking fifty regularly. Isaiah Miller and Jacob Chisari for the Pioneers were influential in pushing the ball out of the defensive fifty with their run off half back. Hartung was providing plenty of run and carry for the Stingrays, but they weren’t able to punish the home team on the scoreboard.
It appeared both teams were happy to settle into a defensive mode with play seemingly to be between the arcs. Bendigo and Dandenong struggled to meet targets up forward which summarised most of the match given only 19 goals in total were kicked for the day. Dandenong battled to get the ball out of their defensive half while Bendigo appeared to have no one presenting forward. Stingrays defender Sam Crawford was particularly good in running the ball out of the back line and creating space in the midfield much like Chisari and Miller for Bendigo.
Hartung continued to make an impression with effective midfield work and on several occasions, backing up his contribution with second efforts. His efforts were influential in creating flow throughout the midfield and his ability to kick his three goals from a combination of both feet showed his flexibility when inside the forward fifty.
Chrisari again showed poise and confidence in the third term with his ability to steer the Pioneers out of defense and into the midfield, where Miller created space and fed the ball forward. Danny Jones for the Pioneers was also good in defense, taking a couple of solid marks and relieving the Dandenong pressure. Brady Egan from the Stingrays slotted a beautiful goal in the third term, 45 meters out on the boundary line to give Dandenong some momentum, while Hartung continued his high work rate to ensure Dandenong had first hands on it at clearances around the ground.
The final quarter saw the Pioneers kick a couple of goals to get themselves back into the game and put pressure on Dandenong. But it was a case of deja vue with Hartung was contributing around the ground and Jack Soroczynski’s run making an impact as both teams started to look tired. The Dandenong boys lost communication a few times in the quarter which resulted in a few turnovers and scrappy football.
The Stingrays 17 point win over the Pioneers showcased a few key players from each side such as Hartung, Crawford, Soroczynski and Rennie from Dandenong and particularly Chisari and Miller from Bendigo. The match overall was scrappy and at times lacked target-hitting and communication, but Dandenong came out on top with Billy Hartung amazing in his first game back from injury. Hartung and seven on his team mates including Egan and goal sneak Clayton McCartney can now look forward to competing in the Under 18 Championships for Vic Country which start next weekend up in Darwin.