AFTER a hard fought finals TAC Cup finals series, it is time to crown a champion. The final two combatants have survived the other obstacles along the way and deserve their place in the decider. For the first time since 2013, a country team will take its place in the TAC Cup Grand Final, with the Murray Bushrangers taking on the Sandringham Dragons.
Both these sides have won two flags in their history, with Murray Bushrangers winning in 1998 and a decade later in 2008, while Sandringham Dragons celebrated triumphs in 1999 and 2011. No-one could argue these two sides are the best two sides of the year and now we will try and analyse who could win the big game and how Sunday’s grand final will go down.
How did they get here?
Murray Bushrangers made it through to the grand final after defeating Dandenong Stingrays in the qualifying final and then finishing off Oakleigh Chargers in an impressive display last weekend. Sandringham Dragons almost did not make it past the first week of finals, coming from behind to down the Eastern Ranges with the last three goals of the game in the elimination final, before defeating the Stingrays comfortably and having to grind for three quarters against the Geelong Falcons before running over the top of them in the last term.
What makes these teams great?
Both these teams have star studded line-ups, with up to six of the top 10 potentially coming from these teams with Andrew McGrath, Tim Taranto, Will Setterfield, Jack Scrimshaw (Sandringham), Will Brodie and Todd Marshall (Murray) all in line to land at a club in the first 10 selections. Both sides are missing first round picks in this game too, with Jy Simpkin having missed the year after injuring his knee in his first match, while Setterfield will not take the field after subluxing his shoulder early in the preliminary final.
Murray Bushrangers prides themselves on their work ethic and willingness to run both ways. They have a strong inside midfield core with a sprinkling of outside midfielders, while their forward line is very impressive. With a number of talented defenders who can both impact a game offensively and remain accountable defensively, the Bushrangers are a consistent line-up across the park.
Sandringham Dragons have the most class of the two sides, with the likes of Andrew McGrath, Tim Taranto and Ollie Florent all very capable by foot and able to move it at a fast pace on teh outside. The Dragons will look to run it the Bushrangers off their feet and love to switch play and move out wide to the wings to find space, which is how they exploited the Stingrays in their semi-final. They have more top-end talent than the Bushrangers, but their midfield is the more superior line, while their forward and back lines are still very capable of producing on the day.
What can we expect?
The way I look at this match is it is like a mid 90s Aussie ute taking on a Ferrari. One is more prepared to get down and dirty and while it may not be pretty, still effective, while the other will slaughter you in a road race if you get out into open space. In other words, if the game is played in a tight and contested manner, expect the Bushrangers to have the upper hand, but if it opens up and becomes a game of open space, the Dragons will be the kings.
Not surprisingly, expect Murray to play with strong intent and a willingness to go to stoppage after stoppage. They rarely looked rushed and if they do fall behind, do not panic like other teams. Failing to kick a goal in the opening term against the Stingrays in the qualifying final, they worked their way back to the contest, neutralised their opposition and then ran over the top of them.
Similarly, Sandrinham have also come from behind twice in this finals series, so like any good zombie film, you need a double head shot to know they are actually finished. Even then you can not be entirely sure. The Dragons never give in and while they were blown away early last week, I think they will go in with a different mindset this week. The game against the Falcons looked like they had already decided in their own minds they would be playing in the grand final and the Falcons were just an opponent to quickly run over in the process. They found out pretty quick they had to work hard and put their heads down, which to their credit they did after quarter time and looked impressive.
Sandringham were ultra impressive against Dandenong Stingrays in the semi-final with the way they spread and switched across the ground. Unfortunately for them, the Falcons watched them do it and counteracted that in the preliminary final by using a zone technique. Expect Murray to apply a similar strategy to combat the move and the Dragons will need to use their plan B of keepings off.
Murray also like keeping possession of the ball, but prefer to back their key forwards and leading marking targets by kicking longer down the line to a contest. They do not mind if the ball goes out of bound as long as they have gained meterage. With a strong inside midfield, the Bushrangers back their mids to win the footy out of the stoppage and suprise their opponent by getting it forward while the numbers are even.
Grand Final line-ups:
B: #31 Damon Hemphill – #32 Harry Boyd – #21 Dalton Langlands
F: #1 Ashley Krakauer – #39 Isaac Morrisby – # 25 Tom Maloney
HB: #8 Jake Page – #3 Ned Nihill – #25 Ryan Garthwaite
HF: #8 Tim Taranto – #61 Hayden McLean – #6 Goy Lok
C: #11 Louis Pinnuck – #33 James Cousins – #22 Harry Morrison
C: #7 Corey Lyons – #13 Ollie Florent – #16 Hayden Burt
HF: #29 Nathan Richards – #20 Zach Sproule – #6 Charlie Spargo
HB: #10 Jack Scrimshaw – #20 Ari Sakeson – #9 Reuben Hayward
F: #15 Isaac Wallace – #40 Todd Marshall #13 Lachlan Tiziani
B: #18 Conor Larkin – #2 Darcy James – #14 Liam Murphy
R: #35 Max Lynch – #7 Will Brodie – #5 Fletcher Carroll
R: #28 Lachlan Filipovic – #11 Hamish Brayshaw – #5 Andrew McGrath
INT: #1 Esava Ratugolea – #9 Ben Paton – #18 Trent McMullan – #19 Will Donaghey – #24 Trent Williamson – #26 Mason Marr – #28 Jy Lane (23rd man)
INT: #3 Josh Trew – #21 Kane Nissenbaum – #23 Kye Beveridge – #32 Max Williams – #41 Andrew Brayshaw (23rd man)
Murray Bushrangers player comments:
#1 Esava Ratugolea – Athletic key forward/ruck who rose to fame with an eight-goal haul earlier in the year. Very raw, but good vertical leap and moves well for a bigger bloke.
#3 Ned Nihill– Tall utility that will likely play in defence for the Bushies. Good at locking down in one-on-one situations.
#5 Fletcher Carroll– Strong midfielder who can play both inside and outside. Is a member of the GWS academy and has shown his ball winning capabilities in the TAC Cup this season.
#6 Charlie Spargo – Small but dangerous half-forward likely to move into the midfield next season. A GWS Academy member, Spargo just finds space and knows where the goals are and could be one to watch in the grand final.
#7 Will Brodie – Top five pick who is a contested beast. Loves winning the hard ball and just shovelling the ball out. Most consistent pick of the top players and just does everything with a team-first approach.
#8 Jake Page– Outside midfielder who provides plenty of run for the Bushrangers. Was a strong performer in the qualifying final against Dandenong.
#9 Ben Paton– Lively forward that can push through the midfield. Has laid plenty of tackles in September.
#11 Louis Pinnuck – Outside midfielder who can impact on his day. Wins plenty of the football and can send it inside 50, setting up forwards with handy score assists.
#13 Lachlan Tiziani – Most improved player thsi season for the Bushrangers. Medium forward with a huge vertical leap. Good set shot and is capable of kicking a bag of goals. A chance for best on ground.
#15 Isaac Wallace – Another hard working midfielder for the Bushrangers who plays his role each week. Has attracted attention from recruiters, earning a state combine invitation and could be a name read out in November.
#18 Trent McMullan – Key forward who often flies under the radar due to lining up next to Todd Marshall and Esava Ratugolea. Strong overhead and can be a serviceable third tall.
#19 Will Donaghey– Rebounding defender who disposes of the ball well.
#20 Zach Sproule – Athletic centre half back who backs himself and rebound well, playing as a link-man. A reliable kick of the football who can penetrate zones, he is another GWS Academy player that will go in the top 30.
#21 Dalton Langlands– Strong midfielder who helps get the ball forward.
#22 Harry Morrison – Running defender who reads the play incredibly well and goes back with the flight when required. Not afraid to peel off his man and help out a teammate, Morrison is a general in the defensive 50.
#24 Trent Williamson– 186cm rebounding defender.
#25 Ryan Garthwaite – Athletic tall defender who moves well with great speed and agility. Reads the ball in flight as well as anybody, but his awkward kicking style can put some people off. Underrated player who could sneak into the second round.
#26 Mason Marr- Strong inside midfielder who can play multiple roles.
#28 Jy Lane– Bushrangers’ 23rd man. Has bobbed up inside 50 and booted goals when required.
#29 Nathan Richards – Bottom-age player who has stood up in the finals series and will be one to watch next season. Finds the ball and can use it well going inside 50, so adds a point of difference to the Bushrangers.
#31 Damon Hemphill– Kicked two goals last weekend in the Preliminary Final in one of his better games.
#32 Harry Boyd– Bushrangers forward who can provide a chop out in the ruck alongside Ratugolea and Lynch.
#33 James Cousins – Hard working midfielder who is a pure accumulator. Works hard with Brodie in the midfield and will attempt to win the ball and dispose of it quickly in a chain of handballs. Another one who could battle for best on ground honours.
#35 Max Lynch – Agressive ruckman who rotates forward. Strong overhead and a reliable set shot, Lynch uses his body to win the ball off his opponent.
#40 Todd Marshall – Top 10 key position forward who is athletic, good overhead and on the lead and a good set shot for goal. Not well built like others but can burn other talls on the lead.
Sandringham Dragons player comments:
#1 Ashley Krakauer– Small bit sized midfielder who is apart of the Sandringham Dragons leadership group. Not a big disposal winner, but adds some x-factor.
#2 Darcy James– Small running defender who plays in the back pocket, also an ‘overager.’ Provides plenty of spread and rebounds the ball well out of the backline.
#3 Josh Trew– Underrated midfielder who has been a solid contributor throughout the season. Lays plenty of tackles throughout the season.
#5 Andrew McGrath– Could be the No.1 pick by November. Dashing half back flank who can play through the midfield and win his own ball.
#6 Goy Lok– Overager who overcame an early injury in the finals. Can bomb the ball 60 metres long inside 50. Can be a hard opponent in the midfield with good agility and athletic traits.
#7 Corey Lyons– Strong inside midfielder who is the brother of Adelaide’s Jarryd. Kicking needs work, but he finds the ball through the midfield in the clearances and tackles hard.
#8 Tim Taranto– Jumping up boards with every game he plays. Basketball background helps him in traffic, ala Scott Pendlebury. Can go forward and hit the scoreboard. Wins a lot of contested ball and his work in close is elite.
#9 Reuben Hayward– Running defender that rebounds the ball well for the Dragons. Flys under the radar but has the ability to rack up the numbers if left alone inside opposition forward lines.
#10 Jack Scrimshaw– Hybrid defender who can execute the tightest of passes off his left boot. His weaves through traffic are elite and he is someone that needs close attention from the Bushies. Can play up on a wing, but best suited to playing across half back.
#11 Hamish Brayshaw– Inside midfielder who kicks plenty of goals when played deep inside 50. Spends more time forward than midfield, but with Setterfield out injured expect more midfield time from the strong Brayshaw.
#13 Oliver Florent– X-Factor and impact are Florent’s greatest strengths. He played his best game for a few weeks on the weekend. Will play across half forward and push into the midfield. Is a smokey for BOG.
#14 Liam Murphy– Begun the year in defence but has slowly moved up the ground to success.
#16 Harrison Burt– Been a consistent performer right throughout the season, stepping up when the school football boys were absent for the Dragons.
#18 Conor Larkin– Key defender who will probably get the job on the resting ruckman (Esava Ratugolea or Max Lynch).
#20 Ari Sakeson– Athletic defender who at 190cm will play taller than he is. Todd Marshall looms as his likely opponent and in the last two games he’s kept Josh Battle (two goals) and Brett Blair goalless. Big game needed from him.
#21 Kane Nissenbaum– The inclusion for the injured Will Setterfield. Provides plenty of run going forward for the Dragons.
#23 Kye Beveridge– Electric running defender who breaks the lines. Is the son of Bulldogs coach Luke.
#25 Thomas Maloney– Bobbed up to kick four goals against Dandenong in the Semi Finals. The small forward knows where the goals are and expect him to boot a few.
#28 Lachlan Filipovic– Dragons’ number one ruckman. Was beaten by Sean Darcy in the first half last weekend, but he continued to compete right around the game and was the best ruckman in the second half.
#32 Max Williams– Tall utility that has played at both ends this season. Williams might float between the two, but with a tall Murray forward line he might have to start in defence for the Dragons.
#41 Andrew Brayshaw– Has provided some good moments as 23rd man for the Dragons throughout the finals. Can play in multiple roles right around the ground and hasn’t looked out of place for a 16-year-old.
#59 Isaac Morrisby– Bottom age forward that has shown real positive signs for the Dragons coaches in the future. Solid mark overhead and converts his chances more often than not.
#61 Hayden McLean– Been one of the shining lights of all the U17s in the TAC Cup this season. His 18 games have yielded 26 goals and is more than a capable back-up ruckman. Could well find himself in the first round of the draft for next season with his strong pair of dukes.
The TAC Cup 2016 Grand Final could go either way. Both sides have shown they are capable of producing some stunning results, and expect the footy to be hot early. The Dragons could run away with it literally, while the Bushrangers could dominate through winning the hard ball and using their star studded forward line. Look forward to what should be hopefully a close contest.
Matt Balmer: Sandringham by 14 points. Corey Lyons (SD) Best on Ground.
Peter Williams: Murray by seven points. Lachlan Tiziani (MB) Best on Ground.