TAC Cup previews: Round 3

AFTER some sensational round two clashes, the TAC Cup sides are set to lose some of their biggest names to the AFL Academy match tomorrow, and spectators will see which team’s depth will stand up in the face of these omissions.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. GIPPSLAND POWER 

Round 3 – Saturday, April 7, 10am Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo

In the opening game of the round, Bendigo Pioneers take on Gippsland Power in a game which could well be decided by who wins the clearances. Against Murray in round two, Bendigo Pioneers dominated the clearances (39-23) over Murray with 18 players registering at least one clearance. Of those in the centre circle, Noah Wheeler (three), Daniel Keating (two) and Jye Caldwell (two) were the big movers, however the latter will miss this game due to the AFL Academy match. A player who could step up is Zane Keighran who has averaged 3.5 clearances and done well in the back half, with eight rebounds. Another Pioneer who could hold the key to success is Bailey Henderson, who had had 10 inside 50s and seven rebounds, covering the ground well. Similarly, Gippsland have broken even in the clearances against Murray and Dandenong, with the Power’s ability to get the ball inside 50 the key. they dominated the Bushrangers in round one with 16 more inside 50s, culminating in a 44-point victory. But in round two it was a different story,  conceding 59 inside 50s, while registering 31 themselves. If the Power can get plenty of delivery to their forwards, it will be a crucial step towards victory. Captain Xavier Duursma and bottom-age midfielder Sam Flanders combined for nine inside 50s against Dandenong – almost one third of the team’s total. In round one, it was a shared effort with just three players not registering an inside 50 against the Bushrangers. An area the Pioneers must try and match the Power on is tackling, with Gippsland’s 83 tackles a key reason why they stuck with the Stingrays so long in their clash despite conceding almost 60 inside 50s. The Pioneers broke even with Murray in tackles, but had 18 less – just 43 – against the Rebels in round one. For Gippsland, the biggest focal point is their kicking, with their effectiveness by foot at a high 68 per cent in round one against Murray, but that dropped to 54 per cent in their loss to Dandenong. The pressure placed upon the Gippsland defenders in round two was evident, with the Power’s top ball user from round one – Matthew McGannon – dropping efficiency from 81 per cent to 60 per cent. Bendigo’s ball use was at just 52 per cent against Murray on the weekend, an area for improvement for the Power. If Bendigo can bring the heat to Gippsland, then the Pioneers could be a huge chance, but if Gippsland have time and space, they will cut up most teams with their pace and good ball use. Equally as important, Gippsland must match it with the Pioneers at the stoppages, and continue to bring the fierce tackling pressure they have shown in the opening two rounds.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS 

Round 3 – Saturday, April 7, 12.30pm Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo

In the second game at Queen Elizabeth Oval, the unbeaten Dandenong Stingrays take on GWV Rebels. The Stingrays have been hard to fault so far with a 53-point belting of Geelong Falcons, before getting past a hard working Gippsland Power by four goals. The Stingrays have kicked multiple goals in seven of the eight quarters played this season, but key outs in Bailey Williams and Riley Bowman, as well as the injured Aaron Darling will cause Dandenong to move some magnets around on the weekend. The trio have kicked nine of the team’s 26 goals this season, with Jai Nanscawen (six goals) dominant on the weekend. But the biggest dominance the Stingrays have had is in their inside 50 count, with a whopping 109-59 so far this season – 50 more inside 50s compared to their opponents. In the same time, the Rebels have conceded 81, while sitting narrowly ahead of their opponents on 84. What the Rebels have done well might not reflect on a score sheet, with their fast ball movement and ability to score from streaming down the field a clear indicator of their success against Geelong Falcons on the weekend. Dandenong has had the lowest number of rebounds in the competition with just 55 rebounds, given its opponents have gone inside 50 a combined 59 times. The likes of Charlie Wilson (eight inside 50s in round one), Lochie Dawson (seven inside 50s total), Josh Chatfield (seven) and Jed Henderson (seven) can all pump the ball long inside 50. For Dandenong, Hayden Young has had a whopping nine rebounds in his two games – 16 per cent of his team’s total – and will be crucial in defence. In terms of ball use, the Stingrays have used the ball at just 55 and 51 per cent respectively in their two games. This is largely to the highly contested game they play (+53), while the Rebels are just plus one in contested ball, they went at an impressive 65 per cent by foot against the Falcons – an improvement of eight per cent from their loss to Bendigo. Forward Mitch Martin could be the key to ball use forward of centre, having 12 kicks against the Falcons, nine of which were effective, to go with his six marks, three clearances, three tackles and three goals. In round one, he kicked at just 33 per cent, and booted 1.4 instead of 3.1 meaning he could be the key to the Rebels’ success. For Dandenong to win, they must use their contested game to turn the match into a hard fought contest. They just will the ball forward and get countless inside 50s. James Hickey (10), Mitch Riordan (nine), Finlay Bayne (nine), Campbell Hustwaite (eight) and Lachlan McDonnell (eight) are among the top players getting the ball forward. For the Rebels, they have the pace and foot skills on their day to hurt the Stingrays, but will need to be on their game to face the bigger bodied Stingrays inside.

WESTERN JETS v. EASTERN RANGES 

Round 3 – Saturday, April 7, 2.00pm Williamstown Football Ground

In the televised game, Western Jets are hosting Eastern Ranges at Williamstown. The Jets had a round one win against Calder Cannons, before going down in a close one to Northern Knights. Eastern has not had an ideal start to the season, dropping its opening two matches to Oakleigh Chargers and Calder respectively. The most noticeable aspect about the two teams is neither is a high possession team. They have had just one player pick up more than 23 disposals – Adrian Kalcovski (28) – and neither has cracked 300 disposals as of yet. In the torrential rain, Eastern managed just 200 disposals and 12 marks, improving that to 298 and 48 respectively against Calder. For the Jets, they have had 282 and 266 disposals in their two games, 50 less than their opponents. A strength for Eastern is certainly its rebounding, with the likes of Ben Cardamone (10) and James Blanck (nine) leading the way. Along with its rebounding, Eastern leads the way in tackles, with a whopping 181 tackles in its two games. Lachlan Stapleton is a competition leader with 23 tackles – five more than the next highest player. Jonte Duffy (16), Cody Hirst (13) and Kye Quirk (12) are also high up on the tackle count leaderboard. For Western, they have managed 53 tackles, but have been much better by foot with 62 and 59 per cent in their respective games. Both sides have done well in the clearances, so it could well be a battle of which side can control the inside of the contest as to who gets the points in the contest. Western has had no trouble getting the ball inside 50 so far this season, with a plus 18 in that stat, while Eastern sits at minus 18. This is the area in which Western could take advantage if it can make the most of it’s inside 50s. Captain Xavier O’Halloran is five clear of the next highest player in terms of inside 50s, racking up 16 in his opening two games, ahead of Daly Andrews (nine) and Steven Kyriazis (eight). O’Halloran has been huge in the opening could of rounds, but was restricted more outside ball against Northern, however he still had an influence in close. Based on the opening two games, it will come down to the Jets’ end of the ground with Western strong going forward, and Eastern strong rebounders of the football. Neither side is a high possession team, but they are willing to crack in and win contested football. They have not always capitalised on their inside 50s, but if Eastern can move the ball freely and pinpoint teammates on the rebound, it will be important, while the Jets need to hit-up targets and capitalise on the large number of inside 50s they have been getting, particularly with such good rebounders in the opposition.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. GEELONG FALCONS 

Round 3 – Saturday, April 7, 3.00pm Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo

In the final game of the Bendigo Triple Header, Murray Bushrangers take on Geelong Falcons. The Falcons find themselves in an unfamiliar position on the bottom of the ladder after two losses to Dandenong Stingrays and GWV Rebels. For Murray, they bounced back from a loss to Gippsland Power in round one, to register a win in round two. Unfortunately the AFL Academy match means the teams will be without some of their classiest ball users. Geelong will miss the drive and influence of Sam Walsh and Ed McHenry, while the Bushrangers will miss the injured Zane Barzen, as well as Matthew Walker and talented key position player, Hudson Garoni. Walsh and McHenry have had 26 clearances from their 109 disposals in the opening two rounds, so Geelong will need to find a way to cover their losses. The match against GWV Rebels despite the scoreline, showed the Falcons were heading in the right direction, winning the inside 50s and clearances, after losing both in the opening round.  The likes of Charlie Sprague has been vital up forward, booting four goals, but also having 38 disposals. Bailey Scott came into the tam in round two and was one of the most effective ball users, while Connor Idun‘s switch up forward worked wonders with two majors. The Bushrangers have proven to be strong rebounders so far this season, with the likes of Lachlan Ash (11), Thomas Boyd (nine) and Kyle Clarke (eight) among the top rebounders in the league. The two games the Bushrangers have played so far have been largely uncontested, breaking even in the contested ball but losing out slightly in the uncontested game. Geelong have no troubles when it comes to finding space and working the ball to the outside and this might be an aim for the Falcons, particularly with the loss of their two best extractors. For Murray, they will want to continue to play the tough brand of football expected of them, and follow on from a sensational second half last week when they booted eight goals to one against the Pioneers, including six in the final term. The win is vital for Geelong to get its season off and running, with the likes of Ethan Floyd, Oscar Brownless and Baxter Mensch expected to step up in the absence of Walsh and McHenry. For Murray, their strength is in their rebounding and clearances, something they could take advantage of to get the ball forward and apply some early scoreboard pressure to the Falcons.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. CALDER CANNONS 

Round 3 – Sunday, April 8, 10.45am Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Sandringham

In the early game on Sunday, Sandringham Dragons will be looking to make it three from three after two victories in the opening two rounds against Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers. They will be without the likes of Max King, Ben King and the injured Bailey Smith, but their key position omissions will be offset by Calder losing its midfield as Rhylee West, Curtis Taylor and Jack Bytel‘s absence is sure to cause a few headaches in the Cannons coaching box. No doubt Max King was the difference for Sandringham last week, with 8.5 from 19 disposals and nine marks (six contested) in a show of strength up forward. Ben King has been ultra consistent in defence, while West was best on ground in his team’s victory over Eastern Ranges last week, following the Cannons’ narrow loss to the Western Jets in round one. Sandringham has not done too much wrong, with their dominant performance over Northern meaning they are ahead in nearly every statistic except rebounds, and tackles, with Oakleigh registering 15 more than the Dragons. Sandringham have shown they are very strong in contested ball despite being able to play a smart passing game around the ground, and it makes them just as damaging on the inside as they are on the outside. Without their star trio, the Dragons will look to the likes of Angus Hanrahan, who on debut had 29 disposals, nine marks and four rebounds coming out of defence, while Alastair Richards was sensational with 26 disposals, 11 marks and seven inside 50s. Both players create run and carry, while Liam Stocker (10 clearances) and Dawit McNeish (seven) are the ones leading the way at the stoppages. For Calder, the match will no doubt be a challenge without their midfield stars, with the Cannons welcoming back Dylan Landt as an over-ager to join co-captain Mitch Podhajski as crucial big bodies at the stoppages. Tye Browning and Nathan Croft can also float through midfield, and were impressive in the Cannons’ win last weekend. Calder notched up 54 inside 50s for 28 scoring shots, but an accuracy of 39 per cent hurt them. They will need to be more efficient against the Dragons in round three, with Sam Forbes (eight rebounds) and Harry Houlahan (six) likely to create some headaches for the visitors. Calder are a high possession and kick-mark team, where they look to hit targets by foot, taking 176 marks in their opening two rounds, a whopping 34 more than their opponents. Sandringham (117) were equally as dominant in this area however. Looking at both sides, foot skills could well make or break the game, with Sandringham operating at 67 per cent efficiency in round two, compared to Calder’s 56 per cent. The teams traded efficiency by foot, but the difference was Sandringham played in the pouring rain. A factor not spoken about is the difference between playing under lights and during the day, with Calder to play its first day game for the season. The Dragons will head in strong favourites due to their depth, but the Cannons could be more unpredictable without its stars in there. NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 

Round 3 – Sunday, April 8, 2.00pm Preston City Oval, Preston

In the final game of round three, Northern Knights will be looking to make it two consecutive wins, while the Oakleigh Chargers hope to bounce back from their loss to Sandringham Dragons to make it two wins from three games. Undoubtedly Oakleigh’s superior depth – not just in this match but in the competition – will test Northern, who were impressive in their defeat of the Western Jets last round. Tom McKenzie and Braedyn Gillard are two midfielders the Knights rely upon to win the football, combining for 87 disposals and 24 clearances in the opening two rounds. The pair will need to be at their best when they face a deep Oakleigh midfield who have had nine players already collect at least 20 disposals in a match this season. Northern have conceded too many inside 50s this season, with opponents going inside their forward line 102 times to the Knights’ 63. To Northern’s credit, they had 23 scoring shots from 39 entries in round two, an efficiency rate of 59 per cent. They have been dominant rebounding it out of the back half, a key reason why their opposition’s inside 50s have not hurt them as much as they could have. Ryan Gardner has already notched up 14 rebounds, while Lachlan Potter has also been an important player in defence. Up forward, bottom-ager Josh D’Intinosante has been a revelation, booting three goals on the weekend from 19 disposals, six marks, eight tackles and five inside 50s. If he can create some havoc through the midfield and up forward, he could hurt the Chargers. For Oakleigh it is hard to know where to begin, with a well-balanced game across most statistical areas. They have been strong in the clearances, and on the outside, while also using the ball at 62 per cent on the weekend, the same amount as Northern did in its victory. Xavier O’Neill has been a pillar of consistency for the Chargers, already amassing 45 disposals and laying nine tackles. Bottom-agers Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams, Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson look every bit as experienced as top-agers out there and will form a dangerous core group over the next 18 months. The loss of Isaac Quaynor to the AFL Academy match will hurt the Chargers, but they have plenty of players willing to step in to his shoes in defence. The loss against Sandringham is unlikely to have lost any admirers for Oakleigh, with the Chargers beaten by a couple of top five picks who had outstanding performances. The Chargers will be keen to make amends here, and if they can keep up their foot skills and win the clearances, capitalising on their inside 50s, they will be hard to stop. Northern needs to be at its best, with smart rebounds and using their kick-mark game style to keep it out of Oakleigh’s clutches.

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