DANDENONG Stingrays managed a mid-table finish after a slow start, losing the first five games but being incredibly unlucky in four of them. Even at 0-5 the Stingrays looked like a far better side than the ladder reflected, and this was realised on the ladder soon after as they took home the last 16 points of the season to jump all the way up to sixth.
R1: lost to Northern Knights by 35 points
R2: lost to Eastern Ranges by 39 points
R3: lost to Geelong Falcons by six points
R4: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 15 points
R5: lost to GWV Rebels by four points
R6: defeated Western Jets by 55 points
R7: defeated Oakleigh Chargers by 28 points
R8: defeated Calder Cannons by two points
R9: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 60 points
Jordyn Allen: The Stingrays captain led from the front all season and stood up in clutch moments when they needed her. Playing off half-back primarily, she is terrific in the air and a smart user of the ball. She positions herself well in the contest and is able to hit targets over short or long distances. It was no surprise to see her make the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Girls’ Team of the Year after her sensational season.
Courtney Jones: Another of Dandenong’s AFLW Academy members, Jones was an important player up forward, providing a target by booting nine goals in seven games and also having the flexibility to go into defence, or through the midfield. One of three Stingrays who made the Vic Country squad in their top-age year. Played well in the AFLW Academy’s victory over Geelong VFLW side earlier in the year.
Shelley Heath: A speedy half-back/winger who backs herself to break the game open. Heath is good at moving through traffic and often looks for the give-and-go to keep the play moving. A transition player from half-back to half-forward, Heath played every game and was one of the most consistent throughout the season, earning herself Vic Country honours.
Isabella Shannon: Won the Stingrays’ leading goal-kicker award with 11 majors from nine games and after playing predominantly midfield early in the year, swung forward and was the catalyst for the Stingrays’ higher scores. Still a bottom-ager, Shannon is one of their brightest prospects for the 2019 National Draft. Expect her to play forward for Vic Country.
Lucy Cripps: As consistent as they come in defence and arguably favourite for the Stingrays’ best and fairest considering her AFLW Academy teammates missed games. She can play forward as well and is good at taking the ball at full stride and kicking long, breaking down opposition zones through penetrating kicks. If she does not mark it, she provides a contest and always makes life difficult for her opponents.
Tyanna Smith: Played all nine games and was named among the best on several occasions. Smith still has a couple of years in the TAC Cup Girls competition, but she moves well through the midfield and was a key cog for the Stingrays, picking up form as the season went on, also booting four goals.
Dandenong Stingrays finished the season on a high with four wins, two of which were by a combined 115 points. After five consecutive losses to start the season – and realistically they were in the game in four of them – the Stingrays finally got the rewards of their hard work with a big win over the Western Jets in Round 6. Once they had that confidence and their groove on, they won the next three games and looked every bit the contender they almost were at the start of the season. Barring an Alyssa Bannan last quarter (trailed by a few points at the final break), and a bit of luck against the Falcons (six-point loss), Rebels (four-point loss) and Dragons (got within a few points in the final term), could well have been looking at an 8-1 season. But such is the swings and roundabouts in football. Nonetheless, a 4-5 season showed the Stingrays were thereabouts and you expect them to be once again next year.