Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Elimination finals

THE weekend is set for four huge games, with no turning back for the eight sides running out on Ikon Park in the elimination finals this weekend. Here is a quick look at how the four games shape up.

Dandenong Stingrays vs Greater Western Victoria Rebels

Saturday, September 8, 12pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

The Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels face their most daunting challenge yet as they come up against the Dandenong Stingrays in the first round of finals at Ikon Park. GWV faced the Northern Knights the week prior and won comprehensively, but unfortunately the Stingrays are a much different beast. With 15 wins and a single loss, Dandenong sit three wins ahead of second place (Gippsland Power) and boasts 17 Combine invites compared to the Rebels’ four. Dandenong bolter Sam Sturt has been the talk of the town lately, with every club interested in the forward, while Zac Foot, Bailey Williams and Will Hamill are among some of the names who loom as big players in the finals series. The last time the pair faced in Round 10, the Rebels copped a 59-point loss at the hands of the significantly undermanned Stingrays as they had many players competing in the National Championships. While at neutral territory this time, the Rebels face a complete Stingrays side. If they win, it will be arguably the upset of the season, so it is important for GWV’s talent to embrace the challenge.

Jed Hill had a strong showing against the Knights last week, kicking two goals and again proving useful by foot. Riley Ranieri rebounded well and earned the contested ball, with Matt Schnerring getting plenty of the pill and Matty Lloyd caressing the ball well along the wing. Lloyd, along with Scott Carlin and Harrison Butler, all put two each on the board, while Patrick Glanford and Darcy McEldrew both did well in the ruck. Dandenong’s boys are well and truly rested as Riley Bowman returns to the side for Bailey Schmidt. The Stingrays look to add a perfect finals run to an amazing year of footy and take home their first premiership ever.

 

Gippsland Power vs Geelong Falcons

Saturday, September 8, 2.30pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

The last time they faced, the Falcons were severely let down by their accuracy in front of goal, kicking three goals from 16 shots. Comparatively, the Power kicked 10 goals from their 15 shots, having seven goalkickers compared to two. It was not the Falcon’s finest game, but Saturday is a new day, and this time they have Connor Idun, Charlie Sprague, Oscar Brownless, Ned McHenry and possible number on pick, Sam Walsh. In the Wildcard Roound, the Falcons only just snared a victory from the Calder Cannons, coming back from an 11-point deficit at three quarter time to win by a point. While this game could go either way, the Power finished second on the table for a reason. If Cooper Stephens and Walsh can maintain their form from last week, the Power are bound to have some trouble.

The Power will be looking for Xavier Duursma to have a significant impact, racking up 29, 26 and 21 disposals in his three August games, and placing high in the Morrish Medal vote count. The Gippsland Power captain is one of many players looking to cement a future in the AFL and can do so by helping eliminate the Falcons from the finals race. McHenry and Brownless impressed with their two goals against the Cannons last week but could have some trouble going shot for shot with Noah Gown, who kicked four in his last game and placed fourth for the home and away season in goals. Sam Flanders also poses a threat up forward coming in at eleventh in the overall goal kicking tally.The Power will have their work cut out against this full-strength Falcons side, with no telling how it will go down. It is a game to watch.

 

Oakleigh Chargers vs Western Jets

Sunday, September 9, 12pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Not much separates the Oakleigh Chargers and the Western Jets, sitting a single win apart at the end of the home and away season. In terms of form, the Chargers emerged as a genuine premiership contender in the final couple of rounds, while the Jets will need to be at their best here to challenge them. In the Wildcard round last week, the Jets had some issues dealing with the Eastern Ranges’ first half onslaught. While managing to lift in the second half to secure a 38-point win, the Jets will not be able to get away with those standards against the Chargers.

Pivotal in their success were Xavier O’Halloran and Connor Thar who combined well in the midfielder, with Thar earning best on ground honours. Emerson Jeka kicked three while Stefan Radovanovic remained a pillar in the backline. While the Jets took the win (19 points) the last time they faced the Chargers, the team they faced were not a complete Oakleigh side, playing without the likes of Will Golds, Will Kelly and James Rowbottom. The difference is evident since Round 15.  In Round 16, the Chargers defeated GWV Rebels by 90 points, giving them their largest winning margin all season. Oakleigh will be looking for a huge performance from Riley Collier-Dawkins if he aims to increase his stock come draft night. Similarly, O’Halloran will need to bring his best if the Jets are to get up. Potential first-rounder, Isaac Quaynor is also pegged to have a big game for the Chargers with a strong month leading into finals. Chargers are tipped to win, but the Jets are still a chance to surprise a few people.

 

Sandringham Dragons vs Murray Bushrangers

Sunday, September 9, 2.30pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Unlucky not to land a top four spot, the Murray Bushrangers made short work of the Bendigo Pioneers over the weekend to move on to the Elimination Finals and face the Sandringham Dragons. Both teams have not been in their best form these last few rounds, with the Bushrangers losing their last three during the home and away season, and the Dragons losing their final two. Unlike the Dragons though, the Bushrangers are coming into this game with a win, simply outclassing their opposition at Ikon Park.

Ely Smith’s clearance and contest work was at his usual standard, mopping up the footy off the hit outs and breaking lines with booming kicks. Mathew Walker’s pressure was well over standard as well, laying nine tackles. The test they face is whether they can minimise Liam Stocker’s impact for the Dragons. The Dragons’ Morrish Medal winner stands to make a big statement, playing to earn a finals appearance and a possible top 10 pick in the National Draft. His work on the inside has been his biggest highlight for the month, stepping up in Bailey Smith’s absence. Ben King, returning in Round 15, is also set to make waves and prove himself as a potential number one pick. The last time they faced, the Bushrangers claimed a 65-point win, with Hudson Garoni kicking eight. The Bushrangers forward was kept goalless last week so could be ready to prove himself come the weekend. The Dragons are still favourites to take the win and eliminate the Bushrangers from the race, but it will be a hotly contested match.

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