Tag: bendigo

Long travel hours not a deterrent for footy “addict” Williamson

THE total kilometres Swan Hill’s Megan Williamson clocks up each week on public transport might be mind boggling for many, but for the Bendigo Pioneers skipper and now Williamstown VFL Women’s midfielder, she would not have it any other way.

Williamson has university in Melbourne from Monday to Thursday, but it does not stop her attending three nights of football training a week and travelling countless hours a week for the game she loves.

“I live in Swan Hill but I’m currently at uni in Melbourne,” she said. “On a Sunday arvo I get on the train from Swan Hill and travel back to Melbourne four hours, and then Monday night I go to Williamstown VFL for a recovery, and then Tuesday nights is my own personal fitness things. “Then Wednesday nights I’m back at Williamstown for footy training. “I finish class on a Thursday, get straight on a train at Southern Cross head to Bendigo, have my Pioneers training and then travel another two hours home after footy training back to Swan Hill. “Then wherever TAC (Cup Girls) is for the weekend, travel there. “Then travel back to Melbourne for uni for the week. “So I’m travelling a fair bit, but it’s so I can fit all my studies, footy and seeing family in.”

For someone so dedicated to the sport, it is hard to believe she is relative newcomer to the code, having crossed over from the roundball counterpart.

“I was a crossover, so I’ve only been playing footy for four years,” Williamson said. “I was doing a few other sports and mainly soccer, but it was just a matter of my hometown Swan Hill – we got a local girls side – so we got the Woorinen Youth Girls and it was the first season for them starting and I thought ‘why not?’. “Footy was growing, I’ll have a go.”

At first, Williamson tried her hand at juggling both sports, but her attention turned to the newest addition in her repertoire.

“I was playing footy and soccer both at the same time and enjoying both, and then eventually, footy was just of more interest,” she said. “I had a great group of friends there and it’s an addictive sport to be honest. “It was clear the choice to give up the soccer and really focus on my footy and I’m glad that I have, because it’s starting to take me places now.”

But what is it about football that is so addictive to the 18 year-old?

“There’s probably two aspects,” she said. “It would certainly be the sisterhood that you create with the girls that you play with week-in, week-out, you’re there battling each week and I think there’s a sort of sense of family; you look after each other. “You don’t want to let anyone down, so I think the bonds you create is something really exciting. “You want to come back each week, you want to get to training, you want to see your girls again. “Certainly the atmosphere it creates, it’s pretty exciting. “Each contest is a new battle and it’s exciting and your blood’s always pumping and when the crowd gets behind you it’s a good feeling.”

It is no surprise to see the Bendigo Pioneers’ captain named in the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Girls’ Team of the Year after a consistent season, as well as earning Vic Country honours for the upcoming National AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

“I’ve been genuinely happy with my season,” Williamson said. “I think I’ve tried to take the approach that how you train is how you play so I’ve tried to make the most of every training, especially since I travel back two hours to get to my Pioneers training. “I think I’ve worked hard during the season and I’m starting to reap the rewards a little bit. “A few more team wins would have been nicer, but genuinely happy.”

The Pioneers had just the one victory – a Round 1 win over Western Jets. But when asked of her highlight for the year, Williamson named another TAC Cup Girls match.

“I think seeing the girls grow and I think if I pick out one game, it would probably be our game against Eastern Ranges,” she said. “It wasn’t a scoreboard win, but it was definitely an effort-based win. “Week-in, week-out we try to base our team games on effort and being ruthless at the ball and I think that game against Eastern Ranges our backs were against the wall and they’re a great side. “I think we really put it up to them and that was a defining moment, a line in the sand. “Whilst we might not have the girls the other teams do and whilst we have bottom-agers and we don’t get to train together very often, that was the moment if we give it our best, we can put it to the better sides.”

The season ended with four consecutive 10-goal losses, and while travel is always a factor for a young side, Williamson said the travel is what also made it special.

“Yes and no [the travel affected the side towards the end of the season],” she said. “But I think that’s why it’s great. “Footy is such a really inclusive, team sport and that bond. “It’s not a lonely sport, so they can travel that far and they see us girls and we get around them and we can carpool together and make the time worthwhile. “So I think because there’s that great bond, it eliminates the loneliness.”

Williamson has become renowned for being an uncompromising inside midfielder who never takes a backwards step – an area of her game she recognises as one of her strengths.

“I’d like to say I’m a see-ball, get-ball player,” she said. “I like to work my game around being hard at it and hard at the footy and try and get other girls involved. “This year something different [happened] – I’ve never had a leadership role in footy before but this year being captain that was something that was a new challenge. “I really enjoyed a leadership side of it and trying to get more of a team aspect going and make sure the girls are enjoying it and learning and growing. “So as well as trying to play good footy myself, trying to get good team outcome as well.”

As for her improvements, Williamson said she is hoping to become more versatile throughout the year.

“I’d like to become more than just a midfielder, I’d like to have something else to my name,” she said. “If I can improve myself down back which is what I tried to do this year, but as being captain, I tried to take it on board that I wanted to help out the backline. “I think that’s what I’d like to see in my game that I can be an onballer and be hard at it and be good at that, but also float back in defence and try and help out my team as well.”

Last weekend, Williamson made her debut in the blue and gold, with the new Seagull wasting no time at senior level. She picked up 15 disposals, took five marks, laid nine tackles and booted a goal to be named among the best. What made it all the more sweeter – it was Williamstown’s first victory for the season, overcoming Richmond by 31 points.

“I’ve been training with them since I moved down to Melbourne, so it’s been really exciting,” Williamson said. It’s been great having that extra training in and a new team to learn and go with so I’m very excited to start with them. “They’re a great bunch of girls and I’m looking forward to playing some good footy and improving myself and hopefully some wins.”

If the first game is anything to go by, there is no doubt all of those wishes will come true.

TAC Cup Girls preview: Western Jets

IN 2017, the Western Jets finished on the bottom of the ladder, but there were plenty of positives in terms of their development. They were able to hold the Sandringham Dragons to just 22 points in round four, bouncing back from a big loss against the Calder Cannons. Sharnie Whiting was the star of the season, getting on the scoreboard numerous times and making her presence known in front of goal. Madison Lister also had an impressive season, taking out the club’s best and fairest.

This year, the Western Jets welcome in Kelera Ratu, who comes from an impressive athletic background. Ratu has been training in America for athletics, and has consequently missed some Western Jets training sessions. Nevertheless, Jets’ female talent manager Claudia Davey believes that the future for the under-16 player is incredibly bright.

“[Ratu has] an amazing athletic background already,” Davey said. “You need to be able to go for the full game which is a series of short sprints, so she should be really good.”

The Western Jets also boast an AFLW Academy player and daughter of a footballing legend. Isabella Grant played four games for the Jets last year, and is the daughter of Chris Grant, who played 341 AFL games, and is the current Director of Football at the Western Bulldogs. Despite a promising season in 2017, Davey says the 17 year-old is only getting better.

“She (Grant) was quite athletic already [and] she’s put on a bit of muscle,”Davey said.

“At training she’s a bit of a quiet, silent leader… She leads by example, but she’s working really hard.”

“[Grant] will probably have a good career in footy.”

Another famous football relation at the Western Jets is Mary Daw. Daw is the sister of North Melbourne’s Majak Daw, and the 16 year-old is likely to set the competition alight.

Montana Ham will be another impressive young player for the Western Jets, after playing interleague football for the Essendon District Football League (EDFL) last year. Ham was amongst the best in almost all of the interleague matches, and will now have an opportunity to prove her worth at the TAC Cup level. She will be definitely be one to watch over the next couple of years.

The Jets also have a wealth of girls who are balancing year 12 studies with elite football. But Davey said the girls should continue to focus on the academic side of things, whilst keeping football in mind.

“We do want them (the players) to be great footballers, but we also really want them to have good academics and a job, because obviously women’s footy isn’t full-time yet, and the pay isn’t massive, so we really do encourage them to work hard for their academics,” she said.

“If they have a test coming up or anything like that, they always let us know and we can work that into the training or give them a night off, that’s no problem.”

The female talent manager has a key strategy in place to maintain contact with her players. Smartabase is an athlete management system, which is filtering into the TAC Cup clubs to track how their players are performing outside the club. Davey explained the benefits of the system in the Western Jets program:

“Basically, we have all the athletes in our team and they can input their wellness – so sleep, soreness, how they’re feeling overall and how hard they were working in that session,” Davey said.

“We can see that just on our phones and on the computer, and they can put that in every day, like I said because we’re not seeing those athletes every single day so it’s hard to monitor.

“It’s just tracking how they’re going, the coach can also put in their goals and they can also write their own personal goals, or how they went on the weekend, so they can communicate that way which is really helpful.”

In the off-season, the Western Jets were blessed with great news, with star player Cam Rayner drafted to the Brisbane Lions. Davey said it had a huge impact on the girls, not just the boys in the program.

“It kind of makes them excited about what could happen for them in the future,” she said.

“They know that a lot of the older girls are getting scouted now and not as many from TAC (Cup), but they know it’s coming up, especially for those under 16s.

“So hopefully the next few years the scouting from TAC Cup clubs and drafting from TAC Cup clubs will be a lot more, which should be great.

“But they’re (the girls) just really supportive of the boys as well, and the boys drafted this year, and they’re really proud of them. “

Watching them on TV and how they present themselves in the media this year and how they present their clubs, they really look up to that too.”

In round one this season, the Jets will travel to Bendigo, where they have an opportunity to begin 2018 with a bang. Then in round two, Gippsland makes the trip to Casey Fields to play the Jets, in what looks to be a gripping encounter.

The final frontier: TAC Cup sides jostle for finals spots

WITH just two rounds remaining, the top two sides are locked in, the third to sixth sides cannot move from those four positions, seventh is almost secured, and eighth is up for grabs. Eleven teams are still in the hunt with a fortnight to go, but that can all change this weekend, with several crucial finals-defining clashes occuring. We take a look at the possibilities and which sides face off in the final two rounds of the TAC Cup season.

1 Geelong Falcons – 13-3 | 162% | 52 points
R17: Eastern Ranges
R18: Dandenong Stingrays

It seems to be said every season, but Geelong has set itself up to be in the best position come finals time. They cannot drop out of the top two with just two games remaining meaning they will face either Northern Knights, or one of the four teams battling for eighth spot. Given the tight proximity between the top six sides, finishing top two is incredibly important under the new finals series where there are no double chances. The next two games will be tough for the Falcons, with the two sides the top two premiership contenders from the start of the year. Given there’s every chance the Stingrays and Ranges face off in the first week of finals, they will be keen to knock off the Falcons and head into the finals series with some serious momentum behind them.

2 Oakleigh Chargers – 13-3 | 160% | 52 points
R17: Bendigo Pioneers
R18: Eastern Ranges

After a year that ended one short of the big dance, the Chargers are back in contention again, and, like the Falcons, have wrapped up a top two spot. The Chargers will face either Northern Knights or one of the four teams battling for eighth spot, which is a better result for them than a potential clash with a full strength Sandringham or Eastern. The Chargers should beat the Pioneers this weekend, but Jarrod Brander and possibly Lochie O’Brien back in Bendigo colours, it could be a closer match than many might anticipate. A final round showdown with the Ranges will be a good tune up for the finals series.

3 Dandenong Stingrays – 11-5 | 121% | 44 points
R17: Sandringham Dragons
R18: Geelong Falcons

This weekend’s clash with Sandringham will determine if the Stingrays finish top four or fifth. They would guarantee a top four spot with a victory over the Dragons, while a loss would mean they could slip as far as fifth this weekend. They cannot drop further than fifth given their superior percentage over Eastern, but with the new finals series, it means the Stingrays will face one of Eastern, Sandringham or Murray in the first round of finals. They played well on the weekend against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels, but with two very tough encounters in the next fortnight, nothing is a given from here on in.

4 Sandringham Dragons – 10-6 | 123% | 40 points
R17: Dandenong Stingrays
R18: Northern Knights

The Dragons are locked in a percentage battle with Murray Bushrangers and would be keen to grab some percentage boosting wins over the next fortnight. Unfortunately for the Dragons, both the Stingrays and Knights could be very stiff opposition, but it’s fair to say the Dragons will need to win at least one of those to guarantee a top four spot. With the new finals series that does not mean a double chance, but at least it potentially means facing a full-strength Murray in the finals – which it would have seen throughout the season – than a full-strength Eastern or potentially Dandenong again should it lose. Murray has the easier run home so the Dragons will need to win both to assure a top four place.

Sandringham Dragons midfielder Charlie Constable is peaking at the right time to push the Dragons towards back-to-back premierships.

5 Murray Bushrangers – 10-6 | 122% | 40 points
R17: Northern Knights
R18: Gippsland Power

The Bushrangers could theoretically drop to sixth with a couple of losses, but in all likelihood they finish fourth or fifth. The Bushrangers have been consistent all season and while Geelong had their measure on the weekend, the Bushrangers will head into their final two games as favourites. They should beat Northern on form, but again that is a line-ball call, while Gippsland have shown heart throughout the season and are no easy-beats either. But win both and they finish higher than their opponents in the first week of finals.

6 Eastern Ranges – 9-7 | 99% | 36 points
R17: Geelong Falcons
R18: Oakleigh Chargers

Eastern Ranges cannot drop out of sixth so the final two games will ultimately test where they are situated heading into the finals series. Playing the top two sides without the fear of falling any lower is a positive thing for the Ranges, knowing if they can match it with the Falcons and Chargers, they can knock off anyone in the finals series and be the ‘dark horse’. Many tipped them for the flag, and now they have a full-strength side together, expect the Ranges to put the foot down and show their premiership wares with the likes of Sam Hayes, Jaidyn Stephenson and Joel Garner all rotating through the midfield which is ominous for any opposition side. The loss of Adam Cerra (out for the season with a shoulder injury) will be a blow, but the Ranges have shown they have plenty of depth in the midfield with the likes of Dylan Moore and Trent Mynott both having represented Vic Metro during the season.

7 Northern Knights – 6-9-1 | 82% 26 points
R17: Murray Bushrangers
R18: Sandringham Dragons

Northern are in a position where they cannot afford to rest on their laurels and fall into finals, both because A) they are not locked in and B) because they cannot drop a few games to finals-bound sides heading into the post-season series. The Knights have performed well throughout the season, but coming up against full strength sides they have drifted slightly, and they will have their work cut out for them in the final fortnight. They face Murray and Sandringham, two sides looking to cement a top four spot, even though top four is not what it used to be. For the Knights to drop out of the eight, Gippsland would need to win at least one game, and/or Calder, Western or GWV Rebels win both games. It’s an unlikely, but still possible scenario, with one win in the final two rounds to sew up a finals spot.

8 Gippsland Power – 6-10 | 87% 24 points
R17: Western Jets
R18: Murray Bushrangers

The Power continue to impress and just grind out wins despite momentum seemingly against them at times. The Pioneers threw everything at them and the Power wilted the storm and ran out victors on the weekend to retain eighth spot. It means they now not only have a four-point advantage over their rivals, but a big percentage difference too. A victory against Western this weekend will all but sew up a spot, with Calder needing to win its final two games and chase down 11 per cent to make finals. A loss to Western however, and the Power would almost certainly need to knock off Murray in the last round to secure eighth. Regardless, if they make finals they will face either Geelong or Oakleigh in the first week.

Gippsland Power’s Callum Porter has been one of the Power’s best players in 2017.

9 Calder Cannons – 5-11 | 76% | 20 points
R17: GWV Rebels
R18: Western Jets

The Cannons are still well and truly in the finals hunt, but need to win their games and hope either Gippsland or Northern drop their matches. The Cannons are just as likely to win their final two games as they are to lose them, with the sides they face backing themselves in to take home the points. If Calder can get the job done and watch the Power or Northern lose both, then the Cannons could jump as high as seventh with a bit of luck. But lose to the Rebels this weekend and their finals campaign is done and dusted with a huge percentage chase required in the final round to catch up.

10 Western Jets – 5-11 | 75% | 20 points
R17: Gippsland Power
R18: Calder Cannons

The Western Jets arguably hold the most power in their hands because they can knock off their two closest rivals for eighth spot. If they can defeat Gippsland this weekend, then all of a sudden they arguably sit in pole position for eighth spot. The Power would go in as underdogs against the Bushrangers, while the Jets would face the Cannons for the final top eight spot. But if the Jets lose to the Power this weekend, then it is game over, no second chances. A victory against the Power this weekend is non-negotiable and with Lachlan Fogarty and Cam Rayner in the side and the team hitting form, they would back themselves to win the final two games.

11 GWV Rebels – 4-11-1 | 80% | 18 points
R17: Calder Cannons
R18: Bendigo Pioneers

Much like the other bottom four sides, the Rebels will head into the final two rounds confident of coming away with two wins. But even then it may not be enough because the permutations required to make finals are hopeful more than realistic based on the face the other sides battling for eighth are facing each other and therefore a side must win (or draw). One aspect on the Rebels’ side is their percentage, which is higher than Calder or Western, but with a draw, they are two points adrift from those two teams. It does help them if they can win both and Northern lose both as chances are the Rebels make up the two per cent difference. But even then, they need Gippsland to either lose both, and the winner of the Western and Calder clash to lose their other game. Basically, the Rebels need Calder to defeat Western, Western to defeat Gippsland and Gippsland to lose to the Bushrangers.

12 Bendigo Pioneers – 3-13 | 71% | 12 points
R17: Oakleigh Chargers
R18: GWV Rebels

It is a genuine shame that Bendigo will miss out on finals for another year given it has had its strongest side in some time with three first round prospects and a number of others likely to get drafted. Unfortunately, school football and state representative duties have hurt the Pioneers and they cannot finish higher than tenth, and even then they would need Western and the Rebels to lose both. I imagine Oakleigh would be wary of the Pioneers this weekend given they are much better than their ladder position suggests, while a final round clash with the Rebels could end the Rebels’ finals hopes.

Weekend That Was – Round 6

A STERLING victory by Bendigo Pioneers over Sandringham Dragons has helped the Pioneers move within percentage of a top eight spot.

Bendigo led throughout the game, but it was a six goals to three third term which saw the Pioneers move 19 points clear, before holding on in a dour final term to win 11.13 (79) to 8.10 (58).

Darby Henderson led all comers with 35 disposals, eight marks, five clearances, six rebounds and three inside 50s, while Angus Schumacher (28 disposals, eight marks, four clearances, four inside 50s and five rebounds) and Matt Harvey (23 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and two goals) were also impressive.

For the Dragons, Hamish Brayshaw had another big day across the ground with 32 disposals, four marks, five tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and four rebounds. Fellow over-ager Ari Sakeson also racked up 30 disposals and 11 marks, while Quintin Montanaro had 25 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and kicked a goal.

TAC Cup scouting notes: Round Six

A strong third term by Oakleigh Chargers put their result beyond doubt against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. The Chargers booted six goals to zero in the premiership quarter to lead by 45 points at the final break, before holding up the Rebels with the breeze in the final term, to win 12.10 (82) to 6.6 (42).

Jack Higgins collected 28 disposals, four marks, four clearances and booted a goal, while Louis Cunningham continued his good form with 24 disposals (16 contested), 10 clearances, 10 tackles, five inside 50s and a goal playing further up the ground than his typical defensive role. Sam Harte had 27 disposals, four clearances and four inside 50s, while Jordan Troiani laid seven tackles to go with his 21 disposals, seven inside 50s and two goals.

For the Rebels, Callan Wellings laid nine tackles from 19 disposals in defeat, while Jordan Johnston (16 disposals, five marks and five clearances) and Matty Lloyd (16 disposals, eight tackles and nine rebounds) were also in the Rebels’ best.

Murray Bushrangers held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit during the Bushrangers’ 19-point win over the cellar dwellers. Leading by five goals at half-time, the Bushrangers had their work cut out for them in the third term as the Cannons booted six goals to two, clawing their way back to within 10 points. The Bushrangers steadied in the final term, booting 3.4 to 2.1 to win 10.17 (77) to 9.4 (58).

Harry Jones was busy once again with 26 disposals, four clearances, eight inside 50s and seven tackles, while Nick Richards (25 disposals, four marks and five tackles) and Ben Paton (19 disposals, four marks and five rebounds) were also important for the winners.

Mitch Podhajski (24 disposals, nine marks and seven rebounds) and Ben Caluzzi (22 disposals, six marks and seven rebounds) were prominent behind the ball, while Aidan Tilley took 12 marks (three contested) from 18 disposals playing in the defensive half. Top prospect Noah Balta had 13 disposals, 19 hitouts, three clearances and six inside 50s.

Eastern Ranges held on against a fast finishing Gippsland Power to record their second win over the season. Leading by 17 points at half-time, the Ranges had to battle tooth and nail in the second half as Gippsland booted six goals to four to come within two points at the final siren.

Sam Hayes’ draft stocks continued to rise with six goals and 18 hitouts for the Ranges with a best on ground performance by the big man. Others to impress were returning midfielders Dylan Moore and Trent Mynott who combined for a whopping 65 disposals, 19 clearances, 20 tackles, 10 inside 50s and two goals, while Thomas North and Jordan Lynch were also promising again.

For Gippsland, Will Stephenson continues to put his hand up into draft calculations with 25 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s, 12 tackles and two goals. Callum Porter was just as impressive with 25 disposals, three marks, seven clearances, eight inside 50s and 13 tackles, while Aiden Quigley had 21 disposals, three marks, three clearances, four tackles and a goal.

In another tight encounter, Northern Knights got up over Dandenong Stingrays by three points after an impressive final term. The Knights trailed by 15 points at the final break, but added 4.6 to Dandenong’s 2.0 to run over the top of the Stingrays 10.9 (69) to 9.12 (66).

Mitch Andrews had 33 disposals, 12 marks, seven rebounds and five tackles, while Jamison Shea (25 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s, four goals and 10 tackles) and Jack Petruccelle (20 disposals, four marks, six tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) were the Knights’ best. Nicholas Coffield booted the winning goal of the day, one of two from the Knights’ skipper, who also racked up 22 disposals and six marks.

PLAYER FOCUS: Nicholas Coffield

For Dandenong, Hunter Clark had a day out with 34 disposals (20 contested), four marks, 11 clearances, seven tackles, 10 inside 50s, five rebounds and a goal – but his efficiency by foot was poor. Over-ager Tom Murphy racked up 29 disposals, six clearances and seven inside 50s, while Tom De Koning booted three goals from 17 disposals.

In the other remaining game, top-of-the-table Geelong Falcons got the job done against Western Jets in a four-goal victory. They did not have it all their own way and only led by six points by the final break before kicking away with the only three goals of the last quarter to win 15.9 (99) to 11.9 (75).

Sam Walsh had 34 disposals (18 contested), eight clearances, eight inside 50s and six tackles, while James Worpel had his best game of the year with 32 disposals, five marks, 11 clearances, eight inside 50s, nine tackles and two goals. Bayley Cockerill also had 11 clearances and seven inside 50s from 30 disposals, while Gryan Miers booted four goals from 17 disposals.

For the Jets, Nicholas Stuhldreier continues to stand up with another 34 disposals (17 contested), six marks, seven clearances, seven tackles and four inside 50s. Jaden Rice had 27 disposals, eight clearances and 12 tackles, while Matthew Volkanovski had a dominant 40 hitouts from 11 disposals in the middle.

Scouting notes: TAC Cup bottom four round

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Northern Knights 11.12 (78) def Western Jets 10.4 (64)

Josh Poulter’s scouting notes:

Northern Knights

#4 – Chas Roberts

Spent the majority of the game in the ruck for the Knights with a strong work-rate and second efforts being notable. Roberts looked like he easily outmuscled both Walters and McGregor at the ruck contest, and followed up well on the ground by getting on hands and knees finishing the game with 19 disposals and 28 hitouts. Took a few marks along the line to bail out the Knights as well on occasion. It is a shame we won’t see him in the finals to see if he can boost his draft stocks even more.

#6 – Patrick Naish

Naish was by far and away the best player on the ground in the first half of the game. The potential Richmond father-son was the go to player for the Knights in all areas of the ground. Ball use was good overall but at times it cost the Knights on the rebound, especially by foot. Faded out in the second half but did bob up at times, but mainly put his stamp on the game in the first two quarters.

#9 – Lachlan Murphy

At all clearance opportunities, Murphy was the go-to player for Knights, sharking from the ruck contests multiple times. Set the Knights up going out of the contest, showing he can win a great mix of inside and outside football and using his already developed frame collecting 30 disposals.

#12 – Patrick Lipinski

Going into the game, there was hope Lipinski would continue his rich vein of form in the midfield, but mainly played the key pillar up forward alongside Clancy Bland. Showed his athleticism and leap many times, and finished off the game with 3 goals. With every game his stock his rising and this one was no different.

#47 – Joel Naylor

Impressed in the first-half with his dash and ball-use out the backline, being able to run off-his opponent deep in defence and set of Knights into attack. He copped a heavy knock in the 3rd quarter which forced him off the ground, but came back on for the 4th quarter and was put up forward where he kicked 3 goals.

Western Jets

#5 – Luke Hitch

Consistent as ever in defence, continued on his great year by being the hard-nosed shut-down defender that he is. Was able to beat his direct opponent on many occasions and also then go to win the ball with his second efforts and clear the 50 for Jets. His tackling again was also his highlight with many strong tackles.

#7 – Nicholas Buykx

Was by far and away the best Jets midfielder for the day, leading by example in tight and also on the outside. Tackling was a highlight and his leadership around the ground was also evident as well. Ball use was average, but also showed dash at times along the wing.

#39 – Harrison Bult

Showed his versatility throughout the day, playing everywhere and even had a short stint in the ruck. His exquisite kicking skills were also a highlight, both from kicking out of full-back and in general play. Also went into the forward line in the last quarter and kicked a goal from nearly 50m out.

#44 – Oscar Junker

Easily the best player on the ground, and his performance was nearly a match-winning one for the Jets. Kicked 3 goals in the 2nd quarter and also pinch-hit in the midfield at times. Played both at Full-Forward and at Centre-Half Forward but didn’t look lost in either and was the target going inside 50 most of the time whilst being the X-Factor in the game.

#48 – Brock McGregor

Battled hard and had handled most of the ruck duties alongside Darren Walters. Much like opponent Chas Roberts, showed great work rate around the ground and was a strong target. Showed great hands on the ground and also great evasiveness able to get his hands free and get past a few tacklers. Though he at times did try to do much with the ball, he was generally very good. Won the Jets’ match ball for their best player on the ground on the day.


Gippsland Power 17.16 (118) def Bendigo Pioneers 12.5 (77)

Peter Williams’ scouting notes:

Bendigo Pioneers

#1 – Joe Atley

Typical working class effort from Atley. Won a bit more outside ball than usual and kicked a great running goal bouncing off an opponent to steady and snap. Just a consistent performer who is a no-fuss footballer. Doesn’t have the X-factor of other players, but just goes everything right and is a good team player who never panics.

#2 – Kane Farrell

Was good early, but like many Pioneers went quiet after half-time. Kicked an impressive running goal in the first term and has a bit of pace about him. Small midfielder who can move forward and snag a couple.

#6 – Lochie O’Brien

Stood out with his clever ball use on his left foot and moving in transition from half-back to half-forward. Kicked a couple of goals early and helped the Pioneers get off to a great start.

#8 – Paddy Dow

Good overhead for his size and can roost it from 50 if required. Another good bottom-ager who is coming along nicely for the Pioneers. Is a player to watch next season.

#9 – Laine Fitzgerald

Has no problem finding the footy and getting out of tight situations. Can find a small gap and work with it to clear it from congestion. Undersized, but works hard in the midfield.

#13 – Jarrod Brander

Good contested mark and nice mover for a big bloke. Reads the play well and kicked a couple of goals. Still a bottom-ager and I imagine he will want to bulk up a bit, but a good athletic forward who can clunk marks.

Gippsland Power

#2 – Nick Hogan

Tenacious small forward who can play up the ground and is dangerous around goals. Really quick and evasive, kicked a couple of impressive goals, including one from long range. Doesn’t find a heap of it compared to others, but is a very reliable kick for goal.

#5 – Ben Ainsworth

A class above. While everyone else was missing targets both in play and for goal, Ainsworth was a dead-eye, never looking like missing, kicking both on the run and from set shots. Plenty of X-factor and strong in the contest, the forward cum-inside midfielder just wins the footy and fires out quick handballs. Isn’t afraid to demand the ball if he feels he can deliver for his team. Collected plenty of the ball in the final term when the game was done and dusted. Finished the match with 33 disposals and 10 marks.

#15 – Cody Henness

Really like his closing speed. Twice he caught a Pioneers defender cold with a brilliant run down tackle. He hit the post with his first set shot, but nailed his second opportunity. Strikes me as that defensive forward who kicks a couple of goals a game in the Tyson Goldsack style.

#20 – Nathan Voss

Played forward and his biggest highlight was goal of the year. Tight up against the pocket under pressure, he somehow snapped an inside out banana goal and could hardly believe it himself. Did his chances no harm with a few majors and provided pressure inside 50.

#22 – Josh Patullo

Big bodied ruck/forward who shared the ruck duties throughout the game. Took an impressive mark and really imposes himself on the contest. Not overly mobile like other rucks, Patullo still covers ground well, and can influence up forward. Really influenced at the forward stoppages with his hitouts to advantage.

#30 – Jai Rout

Don’t mind Rout as a prospect, he has a long kick and played that high half forward role. Was among the Power players who stood up in the third term, kicking a couple of goals and assisting in a few more. Didn’t find a heap of it and went in and out of the contest like others, but looked good in that purple patch.

#32 – Kade Renooy

Seems to find a lot of the ball without being noticed, but today he was instrumental in turning the game in the Power’s favour. When they needed a goal, he bobbed up with two in the third term, kicking two in a row to push the margin from three points to 15 and the Pioneers never came back from that.

Top talent on offer in bottom four final show

Northern Knights midfielder Lachlan Murphy has flown under the radar in 2016.
Northern Knights midfielder Lachlan Murphy has flown under the radar in 2016.

WHILE they might not have made finals, the unique last round will give players of bottom four sides a chance to impress in front of recruiters at Ikon Park.

It is a first for 2016, allowing TAC Cup finalists to have a week’s bye in between the final round of the regular season and the first week of finals.

The top eight was decided a fortnight ago and with that, came the two matches to be played out this weekend.

Given the Pioneers and Jets clashed in round 16 and the Knights and Power just last week, it made sense to switch the match-ups around so the Knights played the Jets and the Power faced the Pioneers.

Despite four points not being on the line, it is one last match for these young men who may never play with any of their teammates again and move on to AFL, state leagues or local leagues to continue their football.

Northern Knights vs. Western Jets

Northern Knights are a hard working team that is well disciplined and seemingly in the contest more often than not, fading away in the last quarter to lose by more than they should. Western Jets have some sensational games and some poor games, and it has become quite obvious that the difficulties of trying to pick when they will win or lose is similar to that of Richmond or Collingwood.

SHAKING AND SPEARING THE COMPETITION: An insight into the Northern Knights

In this match there are plenty of versatile midfielders to watch out for that could stake their claim in the National AFL Draft later this year. For the Knights, Mason Blakey and Luke Bunker are the inside grunt workers, often pushing back behind the ball to try to keep the team in possession. The two most damaging players for Northern are Matthew Signorello and Lachlan Murphy, both for different reasons.

NK - Matthew Signorello 2
Northern Knights midfielder Matthew Signorello

Signorello has the acceleration that just burns an opponent off racing out of a contest, and he can impact the scoreboard as well. Signorello though will miss the class with a shoulder injury but has showed enough signs at school and TAC Cup level that he may be drafted. Murphy is more of a half-back that can play on the inside, who has a penetrating left boot that really stands out at this level. Jake Bradley is an over-ager that Carlton fans will be keen to watch, with the son of Craig doing some nice things, however is more of a rookie prospect than anything else.

FATHER/SON PROSPECTS

Western’s highest draft hope is Daniel Venables, a potential first rounder and likely top 30 pick. The inside midfielder/forward is a tireless worker who is strong one-on-one and can be a dominant force up forward. Venables will miss the clash through injury and is unlikely to play in the All Star match later in the season. Inconsistency can plague Venables at times, but he’s still a very valuable player who will no doubt find an AFL home in November.

Otherwise, the Jets have Brodie Romensky, Oscar Junker and Judah Dundon that will be on recruiters’ watch lists. Romensky finds the ball at will, often from a half-back flank and can be a link-up player in Western’s chain of possession. Junker and Dundon do not find as much of the football, but generally use it well and can break a game open with quick handballs or forward thrusts. Dundon misses the clash with a leg issue, but the Jets are hopeful he’ll be back for testing in October. One name quietly going about his business is Brock McGregor. The Jets ruckman is one of a handful of rucks that could be drafted later in the year, and will be keen to impress this weekend.


Gippsland Power vs. Bendigo Pioneers

Gippsland versus Bendigo is less likely to produce as many draftees as the other match. The Power have one genuine star first round pick in Ben Ainsworth, while the Pioneers have top 40 prospects Kobe Mutch and Joe Atley.

Mutch hasn’t played much TAC Cup football of late with injury and once again has been ruled out of this weekend’s game. Atley last month tried his hand in the VFL for Geelong, booting two goals and collecting 16 disposals on debut. Kayle Kirby is another who got a taste of VFL football last week, but the goal sneak Pioneer did not just taste it, he lapped it up. Kirby booted five goals in Richmond’s upset win over Sandringham and really threw his name out there to be considered in November. Kirby once again will be with the Tigers on the weekend, missing the final clash of the season for the Pioneers.

 

For those who do not know much about Mutch or Atley, Mutch is a balanced midfielder who finds a truck load of possessions and is a solid all-round prospect. While he could kick a few more goals, Mutch works hard defensively and is a very solid kick of the football. Atley is an inside midfield beast who can win the footy on the outside too, and is the brother of North Melbourne’s Shaun.

Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.
Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.

The other Bendigo Pioneer who has some clubs interested is Cooper Jones, a developing tall forward who is a late to rookie prospect. The Pioneers have largely played a young side throughout 2016 and the signs that players such as Lochie O’Brien and Jarrod Brander have shown throughout the year, will give them hope for a better 2017.

For the Power, Ainsworth is clearly the standout player, with a possible top 10 selection to be used on the half forward. He has the potential to kick plenty of goals and has a strong body to win the ball at the coal face. A booming kick and plenty of confident, he is a likely type that most clubs will consider.

Other than Ainsworth, Sean Masterson and Will Leslie have a few clubs poking around. Masterson is a versatile player who has played mainly in defence but can play forward if required. Leslie is a midfielder who does not win a lot of the football, but has stood up while Ainsworth missed due to representative duties and suspension.

Lively forward Nathan Voss is another who may catch the eye of clubs. Voss booted 3.3 last weekend against Northern and had three score assists bringing plenty of energy inside 50 for the Power.

Overall, this game is likely to be about the potential top end talent and if any diamonds in the rough emerge from the match.

Final hurdle for finals-bound clubs

DS - Sam Fowler
Dandenong Stingrays small Sam Fowler against NSW/ACT in the 2016 TAC Cup.

FIVE of the six TAC Cup games remaining in the home and away season will have bearing on the finals order.

As it stands the four country teams will earn the double chance and the four metropolitan teams will face off in the elimination rounds.

But, that can change with a couple of results, as could the actual fixtures.

The top five teams are locked into those top five positions, while the sixth to eighth teams will definitely play an elimination final in the first week.

The first game on Saturday takes place at RAMS Arena with the finals-bound Cannons looking to capitalise against the Western Jets.

The Cannons’ percentage is well below that of the Ranges or Chargers, so victory is needed to have any chance of leapfrogging those teams into sixth.

However should one or both of those teams cause upsets, then the Cannons would remain in eighth and a match-up against the Rebels or Dragons would loom.

For the Cannons, they rely on their group as a collective with less top-end talent than other sides, they have a hard working midfield that digs deep defensively and tries to undo the opposition with their ball movement.

With Hayden Blythe, Jackson McDonald and Zach Guthrie among the names to watch, the Cannons might not be a premiership contender, but they have the capability to cause an upset on their day.

For Western Jets, they have had a shaky end to the season, but almost all was forgotten with a sterling win over the Bendigo Pioneers last weekend.

The Jets are missing their star Daniel Venables, while Brodie Romensky and Oscar Junker are a couple of players that would be on recruiters lists.

 

The Saturday game likely to shape the eight the most will be the North Ballarat Rebels versus Eastern Ranges.

If the Rebels win, then the top four is sealed regardless of Sundays results, however if the Ranges get up, then the door is left ajar for the Sandringham Dragons who are hot favourites to knock off the Bendigo Pioneers.

North Ballarat has a host of talented players, led by Hugh McCluggage, Cedric Cox, Jarrod Berry and Willem Drew in the midfield.

North Ballarat Rebels midfielder Hugh McCluggage in action against Calder Cannons in the 2016 TAC Cup.
North Ballarat Rebels midfielder Hugh McCluggage in action against Calder Cannons in the 2016 TAC Cup.

Throw in capable key position players and crafty smaller players, the Rebels should go in favourites, especially at home.

But at full strength, Eastern will certainly consider themselves a chance given their long list of All-Australians, including Dylan Clarke, Jack Maibaum, Callum Brown and Sam Hayes who are likely to have a say on how far the Ranges go in September.

Another benefit for the Ranges if they win is they will not have to face the Dragons or in fact Rebels in the elimination final, rather taking on either the Calder Cannons or Oakleigh Charges.

The game that impacts both the top four and bottom four of the eight is Oakleigh Chargers versus Murray Bushrangers.

Murray has enough percentage on Sandringham to ensure a top four place regardless of the result, however could slip to fourth if North Ballarat defeats Eastern.

For the Bushrangers, there is no shortage of stars with Todd Marshall, Will Brodie, Zachary Sproule and Ryan Garthwaite among a host of draftable players, and the league’s most northern side has achieved a double chance without the injured Jy Simpkin.

Murray Bushrangers tall Todd Marshall in action for Allies in the Under 18 Championships.
Murray Bushrangers tall Todd Marshall in action for Allies in the Under 18 Championships.

Oakleigh is gunning for its third consecutive flag and fourth in five years when it enters the finals series this year.

It won the 2015 premiership from sixth and is still in with a chance to finish there again.

Should they win, the Chargers will not finish lower than seventh and could well steal sixth if the Ranges lose.

The Chargers have a lot of tall prospects worth keeping an eye on including Patrick KerrJordan Ridley and Nick Larkey, while Sam McLarty is still out injured. Other players such as Taylin Duman and Lachlan Walker have also attracted interest from recruiters.

While eyes will be on most of the games this round, the one game that is unlikely to have any bearing other than pride is the Northern Knights hosting the Gippsland Power.

Both teams have improved as the season has progressed, but neither side will challenge for finals.

The winner is likely to avoid the wooden spoon, while the loser could collect it depending on other results.

Northern have a number of players that have caught the eye this season including Matthew Signorello, Luke Bunker, Lachlan Murphy and Patrick Lipinski.

For the Power, Ben Ainsworth is the leading hope and likely first round prospect, while Sean Masterson is another that earned a state combine invitation.

The first game on the card for Sunday will be the Sandringham Dragons taking on the Bendigo Pioneers.

Both sides had poor losses last week and the Pioneers will be keen to turn it around in their final home and away game.

The Dragons have more on the line however and will need victory for a top four spot.

Sandringham has the advantage of knowing its equation heading into the match with the Rebels and Ranges facing off the day before.

The only other way the Dragons could secure a top four spot is with a 14 per cent differential with the Bushrangers, meaning that not only would Sandringham need a thumping win, but Murray would need to be belted by the Chargers for the Bushrangers to drop out of the four.

Sandringham is the slickest of all teams with Andrew McGrath, Tim Taranto and Oliver Florent among the smoothest movers in the draft crop, while Jack Scrimshaw has attracted a lot of interest from recruiters after missing most of the year through injury.

For the Pioneers, Joe Atley will be the key player to watch, while Kobe Mutch yet again misses as does Kayle Kirby who is playing Richmond VFL.

Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.
Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.

It is hard to see the Pioneers really challenging the Dragons given the Dragons’ top-end talent, but they have the power to cause an upset if they are on their game.

The final match of the round is more about determining top spot with Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays facing off at Simonds Stadium.

Both will finish first and second, it will be a simple equation with the winner claiming the minor premiership.

One side will take on Murray, while the other will meet either the North Ballarat or Sandringham.

The Falcons belted Calder last week and hit the form they are capable of ahead of finals.

Missing Alex Witherden, at least for now, the Falcons have relied on the likes of Jack Henry, Jack Blood, Max Augerinos and Paddy Dowling among others to keep their season running smoothly.

For Dandenong Stingrays, it has a wide variety of draftable players, with Josh Battle, Reece Piper, Sam Fowler and Myles Poholke just to name a few.

If the Stingrays get on top and all their players fire, they are right up there in contention for the flag.

With a round to play, there is still plenty on the line for the TAC Cup clubs.

For the finalists, there will be a week off before finals with the four bottom teams playing at Ikon Park on August 27.

Weekend That Was – Round 15

 

pco

THE 2016 TAC Cup finalists were officially decided in a round that could prove to shape the eight.

In arguably the two most important games for determining the eight sides competing in finals, Oakleigh Chargers won and Bendigo Pioneers lost, meaning anything short of a disaster/miracle would turn the teams’ retrospective seasons around.

Oakleigh had the first crack at locking away a top eight spot and it certainly did not come easy.

Despite playing the lowly Northern Knights, the Chargers were pushed the whole way and trailed by seven points at the final break.

Luckily, with the carrot of finals dangling in front of them, the Chargers steadied and booted five goals to three to run out 16.8 (104) to 15.8 (98) winners.

Bottom-ager Jack Higgins again starred with 34 disposals, seven marks, three tackles and three goals, while for the Knights, Luke Bunker was crucial in the midfield battle with 34 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and three goals.

Meanwhile the Bendigo Pioneers were unable to overcome a powerful North Ballarat Rebels side.

The Rebels had a few players missing who competed for St Patrick’s in the Herald Sun Shield grand final at the MCG on Saturday, but it mattered little as they fought over a dogged Bendigo Pioneers with a superb third quarter burst.

After trailing by six points at quarter time and seven points at half-time, the Rebels flicked a switch, slamming on 10 goals to two in a dominant quarter to lead by 45 points at the final break.

They continued their good form with three last quarter goals, to make it a 58-point win, and a 65-point turnaround since half-time.

There are very few superlatives left to describe potential number one draft pick Hugh McCluggage, who brought his own ball with him, amassing 37 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two goals in a dominant performance.

Over-ager James Gow finished with 27 disposals and seven marks, while for the Pioneers, bottom-ager Darby Henderson topped the disposal count with 30 disposals, three marks, two tackles and a goal.

At the other end of the ladder, Geelong Falcons managed to hold on to top spot – or so it thought – with a narrow seven-point victory over Eastern Ranges.

Trailing by 10 points at half-time, the Falcons nutted out a four goals to two third term, which proved to be the difference as they managed to get up 13.14 (92) to 13.7 (85).

Zachary Zdybel impressed from the ruck with 21 disposals, eight marks and a goal to go with his 19 hitouts, while for the Ranges, top 10 bottom-age prospect Jaidyn Stephenson booted five goals in an impressive performance up forward.

While victory seemed the logical way for Geelong to maintain the top spot, percentage came into play and Dandenong Stingrays stole pole position with a huge 62-point win over the Western Jets.

Not many people gave the Jets a chance after a few down weeks, and Dandenong made sure it did not either with a seven goals to one opening term to race away to a 39-point quarter time advantage.

Western fought its way back to within 26 points at half-time, before the Stingrays reloaded and booted eight goals to three in the second half and run out 62-point victors.

Myles Poholke led all comers with 29 disposals, five marks and a goal, while small forward Sam Fowler had his best game for the season with 28 disposals, six tackles and two goals.

For the Jets, Brodie Romensky racked it up with 38 touches, three marks, seven tackles and five hitouts in a strong all-round game.

In the battle for third spot, Murray Bushrangers got the better of Sandringham Dragons with a 17-point win.

The Dragons blew Murray away in the first term, holding them scoreless as they booted 5.4.

Murray clawed its way back into the contest with a three goals to one second term, but Sandringham managed to hold a 19-point advantage at the final break.

It was not long before Murray cut the deficit, slamming home seven goals to one, running over the top of the Dragons and securing the 11.10 (76) to 8.11 (59) win.

Zach Sproule finished with 25 disposals, while James Cousins and Todd Marshall both booted three goals for the Bushrangers.

For the Dragons, Hamish Brayshaw had a rounded performance with 24 disposals, 10 marks, 10 tackles and a goal, while Corey Lyons collected 32 disposals.

Sixth spot suddenly looks in danger after Calder Cannons dropped their match to Gippsland Power by 23 points.

After trailing by 15 points at quarter time, the Cannons booted five goals to one to head into the main break 13 points in front and many thought that would roll on in the second half.

Instead, Gippsland came out firing, booting 8.9 to 1.0 in a complete domination that resulted in a 38-point last break lead.

While Calder fought back with a four goals to two final quarter, it was a case of too little, too late for the Cannons with the Power recording an impressive 14.16 (100) to 11.11 (77) victory.

Josh Patullo had a day out for the Power with 29 disposals, five marks, 27 hitouts, 12 clearances, two tackles and a goal in a best on ground performance.

For the Cannons, Mitch Lewis finished with 33 disposals, 13 marks, 12 hitouts and four goals in an equally impressive

Pioneers rely on Knights in last gasp finals hope

Round 3 of the TAC Cup begins Friday night under lights at Bayswater.

THE top eight of the TAC Cup is not yet sealed, but the lid is quickly closing.

After Bendigo Pioneers’ upset of Oakleigh Chargers last weekend, the Pioneers and to a lesser extent the Western Jets, still have a chance of making the eight.

But for the Pioneers, their finals hopes lie with the Northern Knights in the hope that the twelfth placed Knights can upset the Chargers this weekend.

If, and it’s a big if, that the Knights can get the job done and Bendigo can upset the North Ballarat Rebels, then all of a sudden, the door is ajar for the competition’s underdog.

Next round, the Pioneers take on the Jets with a real chance to win, while the Chargers meet a full-strength Sandringham Dragons and Murray Bushrangers in the last two rounds.

In other words, if the Pioneers can win the next two matches and Oakleigh lose, the door is ajar.

But they will need a repeat performance like they did against the Chargers to get the job done.

In other matches, Dandenong Stingrays will be highly fancied to potentially steal top spot with victory over the Western Jets.

The Stingrays are seven per cent behind Geelong Falcons, but if last week’s form is anything to go by, the Stingrays will be highly fancied.

For the Jets, much like the Pioneers, they will need to win against the Stingrays and then defeat Bendigo to steal eighth spot.

They could also win their last two matches, but would need to rely on other results up until that point.

In the match of the round, fourth placed Sandringham Dragons takes on Murray Bushrangers.

With the top four seemingly locked away a couple of weeks ago, it is now very much up for grabs.

Both sides will also be hoping the Pioneers can cause an upset against the Rebels, who are coming hard and fast at the top four.

Just six points adrift of both the Bushrangers and Dragons, a win against Bendigo would see them get within two points of one of the sides.

Or maybe even four points of both of the sides should they draw, and while most might think that is a slim possibility, many will remember the tough fought draw between the teams in Wangaratta earlier in the year.

The winner gets a top four spot, the loser will have to win the remaining games to guarantee itself a place in the top four.

Meanwhile we have talked about the consequences for Oakleigh if they lose to the Knights, but for Northern, they have an opportunity to jump to tenth with a win against the Chargers.

If they can do that, then they will be pleased with their second half form and will only finish a couple of wins outside the eight.

In one match that probably has less bearing than the others is the Calder Cannons vs. Gippsland Power clash.

Calder’s loss to North Ballarat has ruled it out of a top five spot, meaning it will likely face Eastern Ranges in the elimination final.

Whether the Cannons are the sixth of seventh placed team is yet to be seen, but unless Oakleigh causes a few upsets or Calder completely falls off the bandwagon, that is the one final which is locked in.

The final match of the round will create some intrigue around the make-up of the top four.

Geelong takes on Eastern Ranges in what is quite simply a must win game.

The Falcons might not be likely to drop out of the top four, but drop this match and North Ballarat might give them a run for their money.

Geelong are a consistent top four side, but have not had as much success in finals as other teams with travelling catching up with them and the metropolitan teams going back to full strength.

The Falcons have good depth, but will want to put themselves in the best possible position heading into finals.

For Eastern, a victory will just assure them of that top seven spot, and the Ranges can book a date with Calder in the elimination final.

With three rounds remaining, the weekend preview will provide a predicted ladder and first week of finals based on what I expect to happen in the remaining rounds.

Peter Williams’ Predicted ladder:

1 – Murray Bushrangers (54)

2 – Dandenong Stingrays (52)

3 – Sandringham Dragons (50)

4 – Geelong Falcons (48)

5 – North Ballarat Rebels (48)

6 – Calder Cannons (36)

7 – Eastern Ranges (32)

8 – Oakleigh Chargers (24)

9 – Bendigo Pioneers (20)

10 – Northern Knights (16)

11 – Western Jets (16)

12 – Gippsland Power (12)

Week 1 predicted finals:

QF1: Murray Bushrangers vs. Geelong Falcons

QF2: Dandenong Stingrays vs. Sandringham Dragons

EF1: North Ballarat Rebels vs. Oakleigh Chargers

EF2: Calder Cannons vs. Eastern Ranges

Last chance for finals hopefuls

Ikon Park hosted the Vic Country trial games on Sunday.

FOR some teams, Round 14 of the TAC Cup will be a final chance to stake their claim for finals.

Others will look to the weekend as a way of cementing a double chance, or taking away a top eight spot from an opposition team.

A number of clashes are expected to highlight the round on both Saturday and Sunday which should provide entertaining matches.

Kicking off the round is arguably the match of the round when Sandringham Dragons host Dandenong Stingrays at Trevor Barker Oval.

The Dragons are marginally ahead of the Stingrays by two points, so this game could alter the top four places.

With a win, Sandringham will at worst, move four points clear of third, while if the Stingrays get the points, they will leapfrog the Dragons and put pressure on the top-of-the-table Falcons.

Across at Preston, Northern Knights take on the Eastern Ranges, in a match that will have greater ramifications for the latter if the result causes an upset.

The Ranges seem home and hosed inside the top eight, but a loss could see them drop to the edge of the eight and potentially only percentage ahead of Western Jets – the side they dismantled last week.

For the Knights, finals has been a fair way out of the picture, and barring an unbeaten run to the finish, will be eyeing off impressing recruiters and trying to wreck the Ranges’ finals chances.

Up north, Murray Bushrangers host Western Jets in Wangaratta.

In what could be the strongest Bushrangers side to date, the Jets would be forgiven for being a little daunted on the bus trip north.

Coming off a hiding against Eastern Ranges, they will look to bounce back against the Bushrangers, however Murray will be keen to secure a top four spot with a win.

If the Bushrangers win, it is going to be tough for anyone to push inside the top eight, with an eight-point gap potentially opening up between eighth and ninth.

The one match not too many people will cast an eye over is the Gippsland Power and Geelong Falcons match.

But don’t be fooled, while it may appear as a one-sided contest between first and last, there will still be plenty of talent on show.

Both sides have talented bottom-age players who could stake a claim early for next year’s draft, while there is not only pride on the line for the Power.

If Gippsland shock the Falcons, it will give the Power confidence heading into the final rounds and could get off the bottom with a win against the Knights in the final round.

For Geelong, they simply cannot lose. If they do, then they will forfeit top spot, but win and they could maintain a gap on the rest of the competition and officially claim a double chance.

In the last game on Saturday, Oakleigh Chargers will effectively play off for a top eight spot with the Bendigo Pioneers.

Win, and the top eight seems done and dusted with an eight-point gap.

Lose, and suddenly it could be wide open with the Pioneers and Jets both chasing that eighth spot.

It will mean more for the Pioneers to win after two disappointing losses against sides it would have hoped to have beaten, and if they lose here, it will be curtains on their season.

Win, and their finals hopes still have a heartbeat, albeit a faint one.

In the final match of the round and the exclusive Sunday game, North Ballarat Rebels will take on Calder Cannons in a battle of fifth versus sixth at Eureka Stadium.

If the Rebels win, the top five are settled, however lose and the Cannons draw level and all of a sudden the sides could battle for the two spots.

It is unlikely Calder will challenge for a top four spot being 10 points behind, however if the Rebels win, they could draw within as little as four points.

Keep an eye out on AFL Draft Central for the recap of all the games.