Weekend previews: TAC Cup – Round 8

THERE are just the five games this weekend, with many TAC Cup clubs opting to rest players who had played all or most of the games so far this season to ensure they are fit for the National Championships which start next weekend.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. EASTERN RANGES

Round 8 – Saturday, June 2, 11:15am Preston City Oval, Preston

Northern will miss their captain and clearance expert Braedyn Gillard for the weekend’s game, with the inside midfielder having notched up 21 more clearances than the next highest Knight. In his place, the likes of Brody Bell and Harrison Grace will lead the midfield, with Bell likely to provide the inside presence, while Grace (66 per cent by foot) will provide the outside class the Knights need to get the job done. Eastern are solid on the inside, with Joel Burleigh, Adrian Kalcovski and Lachlan Stapleton providing a hard edge to the midfield, while their defence holds up well under pressure. The big question mark for Eastern is whether they can put enough scoreboard pressure on the Knights, and Jamieson Rossiter might be the one they look to after a six-goal haul in Eastern’s first win of the year against Bendigo in Round 7. Northern’s defensive duo of Ryan Gardner and Lachlan Potter provide plenty of pace out of defence, while Ben Cardamone and Kye Quirk will provide similar support up the other end with the latter rotating through the midfield.

WESTERN JETS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Round 8 – Saturday, June 2, 2.15pm Williamstown Football Ground, Williamstown

In the second game, two teams with vastly different form-lines face off in Williamstown. The Jets have won their past three games and sit inside the top four, while the Pioneers are still searching for their second win of the season since running over the top of the GWV Rebels in Round 1. Xavier O’Halloran will be a loss for the Jets after a really consistent first couple of months, but Western have a deep midfield that will trouble most teams. Of the top six clearance winners, Western has five, with Jaden Rice, Connor Thar and Zak Butters leading the way, while Noah Wheeler is the top extractor for the Pioneers. It gives the Jets a big advantage in the middle, and will give their forwards first opportunity. Bailey Henderson will be a big loss for the Pioneers, and the likes of James Schischka, Zane Keighran, Liam Marciano, Daniel Keating and Hunter Lawrence will be the ones the young side looks to, as will Jacob Atley who returns to the side this weekend. Stefan Radovanovic returns for the Jets and will likely spend most of his time in the midfield, but he provides speed and strength off half-back if required.

CALDER CANNONS v. GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS

Round 8 – Saturday, June 2, 2.15pm RAMS Arena, Cragieburn

Two sides fairly close to full-strength do battle at RAMS Arena tomorrow afternoon, with the Cannons hosting the Rebels. Co-captain Jack Bytel returns from injury, while Curtis Taylor is coming off a best on ground performance in Round 7. While Rhylee West is still playing school football, the Cannons will back in their side with its versatile midfield who can play forward or back. Bytel and Lochie Dawson are their respective sides’ biggest ball winners this season on pure numbers while Scott Carlin and Lachlan Sholl are the strong users off half-back. Jack Evans has played as a defender most of his Cannons days, but was up the ground in the last match and trialled forward with success for Vic Metro and has been named there this weekend. He could have an entertaining battle with Carlin or Matty Lloyd who the latter will be looking to back up for his second Rebels game this season. Mitch Podhajski is that bigger body in the midfield which gives the Cannons an advantage and the game might come down to whether or not Calder can execute with the opportunities its forwards will receive, because the bigger midfield will likely take control in this contest.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 8 – Sunday, June 3, 10.45am Shepley Oval, Dandenong

On Sunday, both Dandenong and Sandringham will look to their depth to get the four points with ladder position meaning little considering the amount of players not on the park this weekend. Many of the Stingrays are resting ahead of the National Championships, while the Dragons are either resting or playing school football. Hayden Young will be a welcome return for the home side, with the bottom-ager one of the brightest prospects for next year. Twin towers Matthew and Stephen Cumming are back in the line-up to counter the loss of talls Bailey Williams and Bailey Schmidt. For the Dragons, the Melbourne Grammar boys are back in the line-up, and they will be hoping to continue their winning ways from last week. Kai Owens was important in leading the midfield, and he will go up against the likes of Jamie Plumridge and Campbell Hustwaite on the ball. Harry Bede and James Rendell are handy talls for the Dragons and in good form, so the Stingrays will need to keep them under wraps if they are to win. For the Dragons, Dawit McNeish, Darcy Chirgwin and Ryan Byrnes are others in that midfield brigade who will need to get their hands on the football to stop Dandenong’s run and carry.

GIPPSLAND POWER v. GEELONG FALCONS

Round 8 – Sunday, June 3, 1.15pm Shepley Oval, Dandenong

In the final game of the round, two sides with wholesale changes face off at Shepley Oval. Both the Power and Falcons have rested the majority of their Vic Country players in a bid to keep them fresh for next weekend. It gives their next tier of players a chance to stand up and become a game winner with talls Rylan Henkel and Noah Gown important as targets around the ground, while Riley Baldi, Bailey Beck and Austin Hodge will look to win the midfield battle and get forward to kick goals. Geelong will be without its starting trio of Sam Walsh, Ned McHenry and Oscar Brownless, which means the likes of Baxter Mensch, bottom-ager Cooper Stephens and over-ager Ethan Floyd will carry the load through the centre. Brayden Ham is an important inclusion for the side, while Cooper Cartledge and Blake Schlensog will be targets at opposite ends of the ground. For the Power, Tyrone Hayes adds that speed through the midfield, while Ryan Sparkes and Jake Van Der Pligt are players who provide run out of the back half.

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