Mid-year reviews: Gippsland Power, Dandenong Stingrays, Geelong Falcons

GIPPSLAND POWER

Ladder Positon: 3rd

Win-loss ratio: 7-3

Year so far:
After the nail biting finish to the 2012 TAC Cup season which saw Gippsland lose the Grand Final in overtime to the Oakleigh Chargers, 2013 provided an opportunity for a new group to attempt to redeem the clubs disappointment from the previous year.

The season started solidly for Power, with back to back wins, before a close loss to nemesis Oakleigh at home in round three was followed by a defeat at the hands of the Murray Bushrangers in the following round. Since then, the Power has gone 5-1, losing to Eastern Ranges and chalking up wins against Sandringham, Western Jets, Northern Knights, North Ballarat Rebels and Calder Cannons.

The season ahead provides a good opportunity for Gippsland to consolidate its spot in the top four, with matches against Calder, Sandringham and Western all games the power should win. However, the real challenge will come in rounds 13 and 14 when they face the top two teams, Geelong and Eastern. If Power could take an unlikely victory from one of these matches, a spot in the top four would virtually be assured with matches against Northern Knights and Bendigo Pioneers to come.

On the field, the stand outs for Power so far in season 2013 have come from a few of their 19 year old players. Josh Scott currently leads the league goal kicking and possesses great ability not only in the air, but in second efforts on the ground and has been rewarded with Vic Country representation at the Under-18 National Championships. Aaron Heppell, brother of Essendon’s Dyson, has shown impressive ‘football smarts’ and good skills by hand and foot. Other standout players have been over-age captain Josh Cashman, ruckman Jack Leslie and 19 year old Tom Muir, who has been impressive since switching to the half-back line.

Top prospect: Aaron Heppell.

Heppell has been solid as always for Power, but the reason he seems like the most definite of the Power list to get picked up is because of his performance in round one of the National Championships. Playing against Tasmania, Heppell was amongst a spread of impressive performers for Vic Country. He moved between half-back and half-forward, presenting a target in attack and cutting off the oppositions efforts when down back, looking much like his brother in his early years. Not only does he possess the same (if not longer) blonde mop of hair as his brother, but the snippets of his brothers ability that he has shown will surely excite a lot of AFL clubs.

Dark horse: Jack Leslie.

His selection for Vic Country came on the back of some very impressive performances in the ruck for Gippsland. However, his ruck work isn’t the only up side to Leslie’s game. Around the grounds, Leslie has the physical ability to present well and attract a lot of the ball. A good kick and strong above his head, his coordination sometimes lets him down but that is to be expected with such a tall kid. His potential to become a ruck or key position player would make him very attractive to a lot of clubs and thus could be a draft dark horse. Could go at the earliest, late second but most likely fourth round.

Prediction: Top four

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Ladder Position: 5th

Win-loss ratio: 5-5

Year so far:
Season 2013 got off to a slow start for the Dandenong Stingrays. Losing their first two matches to fellow top four teams Geelong and Gippsland, Graeme Yeats’ boys shrugged off their poor start by winning the next five matches in a row to set up their season. However back to back losses in rounds eight and nine continued what the club has described as a “Jekyll and Hyde” season.

Currently, the Stingrays sit at five wins and four losses. The road ahead in season 2013 brings a mixture of difficult and relatively easy matches for Dandenong. They will face daunting tasks against the top three teams, but will be in a position to consolidate a finals spot with matches against North Ballarat, Bendigo and the Murray Bushrangers over the remaining rounds. If they win the matches against teams below them, they should maintain their impressive position on the TAC Cup ladder.

Top prospect: Billy Hartung.

A small forward/midfielder, Hartung has played only three matches for the Stingrays so far this season. Injury, Vic Country and AIS-AFL Academy commitments have resulted in reduced  appearances for Dandenong, however since making a return from injury Hartung has been impressive at both club and championship level. 33 touches, five tackles and three goals in his first match back at Dandenong was outstanding. One of Vic Country’s best in their loss to South Australia, Hartung’s explosive pace and efficiency with ball in hand should make him very appealing to recruiters. Expect him to be taken in the first or early second round.

Dark horse: Agape Patolo.

The Stingray’s ruckman is a draft smokey. Despite missing out on Vic Country selection, Patolo was highly touted at the beginning of 2013. Although he’s under 200cm, Patolo’s agility and versatility around the ground make him appealing to a lot of clubs in search of a hybrid ruckman such as Leigh Brown or Jarryd Roughead have initiated in recent times. Touted by some as a possible third round pick, 2013 injuries and the unpredictability of the draft means he could go anywhere from early third to very late in the draft.

Prediction: Top eight

 

GEELONG FALCONS

Ladder Position: 1st

Win-loss ratio: 9-1

Year so far:
What a season 2013 could be for the Geelong Falcons. After nine wins and just one loss through the first ten rounds, the Falcons are rightfully very strong TAC Cup premiership favourites. The first eight rounds saw eight straight wins, before a stunning 108 point loss at home to second placed Eastern Ranges in what will be the only meeting of the teams in the regular season.

The second half of the season should see the trend of dominance continue, with matches against the five bottom teams to come. Geelong’s only real test will come from third placed Gippsland and fourth placed Dandenong, essentially a top two spot at worst seems assured for Andy Allthorpe’s boys.

Top prospect: James Tsitas

The Falcons co-captain and member of the AIS-AFL academy, Tsitas has been one of the standouts for Vic Country at the National Championships this year. A midfielder, his 32 possession performance against Tasmania followed many impressive performances at club level for Geelong. With silky skills and obvious leadership capabilities, Tsitas has positioned himself as a likely first round pick.

Dark horse: Darcy Lang

Well, not really a dark horse but another in a list of probable draftees to come from the Falcons in 2013. A Vic Country representative, Lang impressed in his first outing at the carnival against the Northern Territory, kicking one goal and being named in the best.
An inside midfielder, Lang is ready to make an immediate impact in the AFL with his awareness and decision making setting him apart from many other 18 year olds. Likely to go somewhere around the third round, however could go earlier if his impressive carnival form continues.

Prediction: 1st

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