Qualifying Final 2: EASTERN RANGES vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday August 31st
Win-loss ratio: 12-5
For: 1551 (1st)
Against: 1251 (5th)
B: Aaron Bond – Daniel Nielson – Joseph Fisher
HB: Jordan Walker – Daniel McStay – Sam Gibson
C: Mitch Keedle – Daniel Welsh – Nicholas Evans
HF: Mitch Honeychurch – Connor O’Sullivan – Christian Petracca
F: Matthew Traynor – Michael Apeness – Christopher Jones
R: Dion Depace – James Belo – Ben Cavarra
INT: Kyle Staples – Christopher McDougall – Jacob Crowe – Trent Cody – Scott McInerney – Luke Hannon – Matthew Burt – Andreas Roth
There’s a reason Eastern Ranges are ranked the second best team in the league with a solid back line which wouldn’t be too far behind that of Geelong’s. Daniel McStay and Daniel Nielson are fantastically defensively, but McStay in particular can provide great run and flexibility up the field. Don’t be surprised if you see him slip forward for a goal or two because he can run both ways. The likes of Joseph Fisher, Jordan Walker and Sam Gibson are amongst the most solid defenders in the league with Walker in particular really impressing over the past month. This is an area where they can control their runs from but must remain accountable because Dandenong have some serious X-factor in their forward line.
Eastern Ranges have a perfect balance of inside and outside midfielders. James Belo and Ben Cavarra are your inside extractors while Mitch Keedle and Nicholas Evans are your outside playmakers. That’s even before you start on Mitch Honeychurch who is one of the best players in this draft but still highly underrated. He has that ability to turn games on their heads and completely destroy teams. Just ask the Murray Bushrangers whom he collected over 30 disposals, 13 clearances, eight tackles and two goals in a clear BOG performance. I’m looking forward to the midfield battle because Dandenong have some talented strong bodies, but I’d still well and truly hand the points to Eastern Ranges.
It’s amazing to think that one Tom Boyd still has to come back because the forward line is still ominous without him. Michael Apeness has been the beneficiary of Boyd’s absence, booting goals on a regular basis while pinch hitting in the ruck. He provides a strong target up forward and along with Connor O’Sullivan and Matthew Traynor, Eastern Ranges have some strong timber to kick to. The biggest key is Christian Petracca who is still bottom-age but has already shown his talents. He is good for a couple of goals a game and if he can contribute that, then Eastern Ranges are well on their way to winning. They must also be aware of the tactics Zac Jones can implement to get into the heads of the forwards.
Dion Depace averages the most hitouts of any ruck in the competition, and while he’s not that strong, he has a good leap and it will be interesting to see how he goes against a man with an equally impressive standing jump in Agape Patolo. Jack Hammond is another kettle of fish, but with Michael Apeness providing the bulk rather than the agility, it will be a nice combination for the Eastern Ranges.
WHY EASTERN RANGES CAN WIN:
Eastern Ranges have earned their second spot on the ladder and are the second most rounded team in the AFL. They have flexible key position players who can pinch hit in the ruck, a great combination of inside and outside midfielders, and dangerous forwards who can impact games. Mitch Honeychurch, James Belo and Christian Petracca are the three players that could make a huge difference here because you know what you’re going to get out of Ben Cavarra, but the other three can literally tear a game open. If they can fire and give the likes of Apeness and Traynor good service up forward, Eastern Ranges will salute in this match.
Win-loss ratio: 10-7
For: 1334 (7th)
Against: 1094 (2nd)
B: Nathan Foote – Kyle Gray – Daniel Capiron
HB: Zac Jones – Daylan Kempster – Jake Wilson
C: Tom Lamb – Angus Scott – Josh Pickess
HF: Brady Egan – Matt Rennie – Jack Lonie
F: Billy Hartung – Nathan Gardiner – Clayton McCartney
R: James Hammond – James Harmes – Jordan Bastinac
INT: Blake Mullane – Taylor Joyce – Joshua Newman – Agape Patolo – Dale Gawley – Blake Pearson – Jack Soroczynski – Ryan Marks-Logan
Dandenong have the stingiest defence behind only the Geelong Falcons. They have great defensive and offensive players which makes life difficult for opposition because they can run both ways. Led by captain Nathan Foote, the likes of Daniel Capiron and Zac Jones can provide great run off half back, but also remain accountable. Jones loves to stir up the opposition and no doubt this match will be no different with Christian Petracca also enjoying some colourful banter. Daylan Kempster and Kyle Grey and both bottom-agers and can only improve but were very impressive last week against the Falcons.
Dandenong have a honest, hard working midfield that can hurt teams if they aren’t being watched. Tom Lamb will be a star of the future and is still under-age with his huge penetrating boot while Angus Scott and Jordan Bastinac are solid users who are able to find the football. At this stage the most dangerous midfielder by far is Billy Hartung whose hurt factor is higher than nearly anyone else in the competition. If Hartung can get 30+ disposals and kick a couple of goals then the Stingrays will be a very good chance in this match. Both Honeychurch and Hartung can tear games open and it will be a treat if they do cross paths at some stage.
The forward line is a combination of big bodies and speedy forwards but unfortunately they can’t seem to score as much as many other teams. Ranked seventh in the league for scores for, they can struggle to kick straight at times. This was emphasised last week when they went down by 40 points to the Falcons after booting 0.10 in the first half. When they have the momentum they can kick goals quickly but they can’t seem to do it enough. The biggest X-factor comes in the form of Clayton McCartney who has the potential to win a game off his own boot but can’t do it consistently. If there is a game for him to stand up in, this is it.
The Dandenong rucks are honest but will have a tough time against Eastern Ranges who will have Depace and Apeness in the ruck. Agape Patolo will want to make the most of it when Apeness is in the ruck because he has better athleticism but less strength. Depace is more suited to Patolo who play similarly while Hammond is undersized but can seriously jump. Hard to see them winning in the ruck unless Patolo has a blinder.
WHY DANDENONG CAN WIN:
Dandenong can win because they have a stingy defence, players that can work teams over offensively and defensively, forwards such as Clayton McCartney and Billy Hartung who can push through the midfield then drift inside 50 to kick goals. They will need to win the midfield against a stellar group that Eastern Ranges have and get the ball in quickly to have a chance. Most importantly they need to kick straight because inaccuracy has come back to bite them far too often.
PREDICTION: Eastern Ranges by 8 points
This match is the match of the round because both teams are evenly matched position wise, particularly with Eastern Ranges’ forward line against Dandenong’s back line. Eastern Ranges have the more rounded and experienced midfield which should see them get home narrowly, but if Dandenong can kick straight while Hartung and McCartney have blinders then anything is possible. Eastern Ranges in a close one.