Photo: Jayden Laverde was among a host of Jets who was sorely missed last Sunday.
In what was arguably the shock of the finals series, a spirited Dandenong Stingrays outfit knocked off a more fancied Western Jets by 15 points in last Sunday’s elimination final.
The Stingrays, who’ve had mixed form over the past month coming into the finals series made a big statement, dropping their leading goal kicker and forward spearhead, Taylor Joyce for the quick and creative Jake Lovett. Lovett is a bottom-age prospect who is tied to the Demons as a potential father/son in 2015, who fired in the final quarter with the game on knifes edge.
The Jets were cruelled with injuries to star midfielder’s Corey Ellis and Jayden Laverde before the game, whilst key defender Mark Orr was also a late withdrawal. Despite an undermanned midfield, the Jets battled wilfully, getting within three points in the final term to almost snatch victory.
Dandenong’s much maligned Tom Lamb had limited say in the game, and was largely missing for three quarters of football before a ritualistic spray from coach Craig Black inspired him to kick the first goal of the final term to edge the Stingrays out to a 17-point lead within the opening minutes. From there, the Stingrays got going. Alex Harnett’s final quarter was monumental after taking a hanger in defence, he was ultimately called to play on, where Pele Manivong caught him red-handed and goaled from 15 metres out to bring the margin to under a goal.
Aaron Wilson got going, kicking an important goal – but it was heroics from AFL-AIS Academy graduate Daniel Capiron who made his presence felt with a rampaging Jets threatening to steal the game late. Jacob Weitering was a huge presence up forward, kicking two last-quarter goals, inspiring the Rays to victory.
Western’s Connor Menadue however was arguably best on ground despite the loss. In the absence of key midfielders, Menadue rose to the challenge and was the Jets’ everywhere man, winning the ball through the middle, and using his explosive pace to break the lines to put his team to advantage.
Wasted opportunities hurt the Jets, and spilled marks by Brenton Payne resulted in Dandenong rebounding often from their back half. Captain of the Jets, Liam McMahon fought until the very end, whilst other contributors for the Jets included Jacob Hickey and Liam Duggan.
Dan Moloney and Sam Guerts were instrumental in the back half, with the former particular using his thumping kick to send rapid-fire darts inside 50 on multiple occasions. Bailey Rice played an important role as a hybrid midfielder/forward, whilst the leg speed of Bailey Dale was pivotal across the flanks, and in particular he took an important mark when the game turned into a pressure cooker.
The Stingrays will now face Geelong, who fell to the Chargers by a singular point after allowing two red-time goals with minutes remaining to snatch the win.