THE TAC Cup season kicked off last night and the question on many lips is, can Oakleigh pull off a three-peat of premierships in 2016?
Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges kicked off the season with a Thursday night match at RAMS arena. Both teams finished inside the Top 8 last year, with Eastern able to make it all the way to the Grand Final.
The Cannons look strong up forward with Tom Burnside and Mitch Lewis inside 50, both had a taste of TAC Cup football last year bottom age. 19-year old Karl Brown will return after kicking 36 goals in 11 games last season and will be one to watch come November. Michael Romero is also another to keep an eye on, Romero is the son of Western Bulldogs midfielder Jose and is eligible to join the Bulldogs at the end of the year should they elect to nominate him.
After a strong showing last year in the TAC Cup finals, expect Ranges captain Dylan Clarke to take another step forward in a bid to follow his brother (Ryan) into the AFL system. The inside midfielder dominated the preliminary final last year, collecting 26 disposals and helping Eastern reach the Grand Final. Exciting forward Jaidyn Stephenson is one to keep a close watch on this year. Despite not being eligible until the 2017 draft, Stephenson kicked 10 goals in five games (including three in the Grand Final) and will be a target up forward for the Ranges. 2015 Ranges captain and AFL Academy member Liam Jeffs also returns after being plagued by injuries and illness throughout 2015, in a bid to be drafted.
Ikon Park hosts two games on Saturday, with Western Jets playing Oakleigh Chargers in the first game. The Western Jets haven’t won a match in Round 1 since 2011 and will be looking to make an impression by defeating the 2015 Premiers.
The Jets have talented sportsman Daniel Venables on their list, who has given up cricket commitments to focus on AFL. The Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School boy is a strong inside midfielder and will be a key to stop for the Chargers on Saturday. Due to school football commitments, Venables only played four games in 2015- But was in the best in all the matches. Midfielder and Co-Captain Oscar Junker also impressed in his 16 games in 2015 as a bottom ager.
Pat Kerr will be the key target up forward for the Chargers, with Kerr likely to be Vic Metro’s leading target throughout the Under 18 Championships. After missing a large chunk of 2015 with injury and school football, Kerr kicked 12 goals in six matches and is likely to be one of the first Chargers called out on draft night. Midfielder Lachie Walker returns as a 19-year-old, with many (including myself) feeling he was stiff to miss out on being drafted in 2015 and will be working hard to get himself drafted this year.
The second of the double headers at Ikon Park, is the Northern Knights taking on the Sandringham Dragons. Both sides missed out on finals in 2015 and will be keen on grabbing an early win to start their season off well.
Northern Knights had five players drafted in 2015 and their could be more this year. 19-year old Matthew Perry will return, Perry was a member of the Vic Metro squad and also dominated the APS vs AGS rep football game playing as a goal kicking midfielder. Carlton also have another Father/Son prospect with Jake Bradley (son of Craig) in the squad, likely to spend time in the midfield in a bid to be drafted by the Blues.
Sandringham have 72 players in their squad and will be looking for early wins while they have a full allotment of players before school football commitments. Harley Balic was their sole draftee in 2015 and Balic’s younger brother Cooper joins the Dragons squad in 2016. GWS academy member Will Setterfield will be a name to watch throughout the year after performing well in the practice games playing as a tall midfielder. Strong midfielder Goy Lok returns as a 19-year old and kicks well on both feet and will be looking to improve on his solid 2015. Corey Lyons is also a name to watch after impressing in 13 TAC Cup games in 2015.