WE witnessed one of the all-time great Grand Finals on the weekend, with Dandenong Stingrays holding on by a goal against the Oakleigh Chargers at Ikon Park.
By: Peter Bonadio and Peter Williams
#1 Sam Fletcher
Ball magnet during the grand final always finds a way to get the footy in his hands. Pretty good by foot in his sides win, having a massive 11 disposals in the opening term, and 18 by half-time. Won more than half of his touches on the inside, and just worked hard all day long. Finished the day with a sore shoulder and blood down his face and jumper – his second jumper of the day, having to change from the number one, to the number 61 in the second half.
#2 Hayden Young
Solid defender who reads the play well when the ball comes into defence. Great vision to sense where his teammates are and has the ability by foot to get the footy to them. Has distance by foot to switch play effectively as well. Used the ball very well and won the majority of the ball in close, can play inside or outside and will be a top pick next year. All class.
#3 Jamie Plumridge
Good hands to get the ball out of congestion and find open teammates on the outside. He showed good composure and did well when under pressure. Plumridge finished the game with 17 touches four marks, three inside 50s and three tackles.
#7 Jai Taylor
A quieter game for Taylor, but he did try and break the game open at times. Has that electrifying speed when he gets going though and had a couple of eye-catching moments. Finished with the 10 disposals and two inside 50s.
#9 Zac Foot
Two goals in a grand final, Foot has a great goal sense. He was very lively when up forward and applies a lot of pressure on his opponents. Not only was he good overhead in contests, but something good always seems to happen when he is involved in the passage of play. His best finals game with 15 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and the two majors.
#13 Riley Bowman
One of, if not his best game for the season. Bowman was terrific across four quarters and made the most of his height advantage over the smaller Oakleigh ruckmen. He was dominant at the stoppages and got first hands to it on most occasions, but also did the defensive things right, laying tackles, and putting pressure on the ball carrier. He kicked the opening goal of the game and got the crowd up and about early. He did occasionally rush a few kicks to go for distance rather than accuracy, but overall it was a strong game, and he made his presence felt with some good contested marks.
#15 Toby Bedford
He set the tone early with a great tackle inside 50 and just seemed to find space around the ground winning the ball. At times he danced around opponents and tried to set up plays, and while he was not as effective as his past two finals, still had a few eye-catching moments. He kicked an important goal in the second term to keep Dandenong’s momentum high, he just did not have the four quarter consistency on the day, picking up nine of his 10 touches in the middle two quarters.
#16 Jake Frawley
If there is one image that will stick with Dandenong Stingrays fans from the 2018 TAC Cup Grand Final, it is Frawley charging off the interchange bench to crunch Will Phillips in a bone-crunching tackle that exemplified Dandenong’s intent on the day. Unfortunately he had a mis-kick with the free he won, and his kicking was a bit hit and miss at times, but his defensive pressure and hands in close was good.
#18 Mitch Riordan
He has built some really solid form since returning from injury, and did a few nice things when the heat was on in the game. Early on he took a good intercept mark at half-back, and just used the ball really cleanly both on the inside and out. He does not win a heap of it, but he gets involved around the stoppages and provided good support along with his other midfielders.
#27 Lachlan McDonnell
The stats sheet does not do McDonnell justice for the game he played. While he was quiet early, his long kick off half-back set up a scoring chain to lead to Bailey Williams’ first goal early in the second term. With the game on the line, McDonnell’s second and third terms were very good, creating run and carry, trying to drive the ball forward. His kicking was a treat to watch, and it was his running goal from 50m in the final term that sealed the game – or so everyone thought at the time. Really strong out of defence and would have high metres gained.
#29 Bailey Williams
Had a quiet first term and was beaten on-on-one by Will Kelly, but then started to get going after that. His one kick in the first term set up a goal with a good, deep inside 50. Williams had a chance in the second term and it looked a bit of a mongrel off the boot but it floated through for his first to get the team up and about. He kicked another important goal in the third term, and missed another chance, when Oakleigh were coming at them. He did not have a massive contribution compared to some weeks, but he did kick two goals at important stages.
#58 Will Hamill
Played a really important role in the back half. He took a crucial intercept mark in the dying minutes when he read the play perfectly, floated in front of an Oakleigh forward, snatched the ball from them and kept running to kick it out of the danger zone. His decision to come off his opponent and chop off the inboard kick could have saved a goal, and potentially the match. He won a number of crucial one-on-ones throughout the match, and even coach, Craig Black praised him post-match for his consistency back there under siege. He just has that touch of class, and is a kick-first type player.
#59 Sam Sturt
The draft bolter looked lively early, and actually beat Isaac Quaynor a couple of times on the lead, forcing Oakleigh to switch Quaynor with Charlie Beasley. Sturt not only provided a presence on the lead, but his effectiveness when kicking inside 50 was a treat. He set up a goal for Zac Foot in the first term when he handballed off the deck to the waiting Foot. In the second half he hit the scoreboard, booting two goals, while finding plenty of the football for a leading forward, taking six marks and firing the ball inside 50 on five occasions.
By: Craig Byrnes
#1 Riley Collier-Dawkins
The tall midfielder was enjoyable to watch, producing an influential first half in particular that garnered 13 disposals. He was strong and clean in congestion, often getting his arms high to release or accelerating with eye catching flair into the forward half. He kicked a great goal in the first term, turning into the arc to finish brilliantly from 45 metres out. He is good overhead too, which is a pretty handy trait for a mid at 193cm, taking two strong marks from opposition kicks. He even spent some time in the ruck late, winning a couple of hit outs to advantage to the surprise of many. The first round prospect fought hard all day for his 19 disposals.
#3 Joe Ayton-Delaney
The exciting half back won his fair share of the ball, rebounding from the defensive arc with flair and vigour as we have become accustomed to. While he is encouraged to take the game on, he uncharacteristically got caught with the ball on occasions. He lost his feet and fumbled at crucial times in dangerous positions, but a lot of that can be applauded to Dandenong’s brilliant defensive pressure. He still had a good offensive outing though, giving his team drive and carry with the occasional evasive trick during the Charger’s final term comeback to end with 18 disposals.
#4 Will Kelly
Started the game in defence as one of Oakleigh’s KPDs, manning the dangerous and athletic Bailey Williams and began in fine fashion. He killed a couple of difficult entrances to the favour of Williams in the first term and consistently read the flight of the ball well. He won plenty of leather in the first half too with 13 disposals, but this is where he sometimes let himself down. Despite possessing a technically correct and attractive kicking action for his size, he often over hit his kicks which led to turnovers, including one that directly became a Dandenong goal. Spent more time up the ground in the second half, including stints in the ruck where he won eight hit outs. He finished with 19 disposals and is a great looking prospect for Collingwood as a father-son selection.
#5 Xavier O’Neill
The smart midfielder had his moments throughout the afternoon, spending time at the stoppages and finding the ball on the offensive side of the contests. He generally used the ball well, but had times when he could have made better decisions going forward. He did create some fast links though, including a long handball through the corridor in the third quarter and a brilliantly won ground clearance in the final term when Oakleigh were fighting back into contention. He finished with 17 disposals and five tackles in what was a solid outing for the Chargers.
#9 James Rowbottom
The usually prolific midfielder was in and around the ball, but struggled to have his usual influence at the stoppages. While he often finds a way to make time slow down in congestion, that relaxed manner saw him holding the ball for too long against the Stingray’s ferocious pressure in the first term and he was chased down. His intensity lifted after that, as he started accumulating ball and taking the first option to create faster link ups for his side. He released some really creative handballs during the final term in particular, nearly all of which ended as Oakleigh scores. Certainly did not disgrace himself, winning 18 disposals in a consistent performance.
#11 Matt Rowell
If you did not know much about the Charger’s bottom-aged star, you should be all over him now as he again proved to be a high priority selection for clubs at the 2019 Draft by being a rare best on ground recipient in a losing team. He is an elite decision maker with ball in hand, a player that creates comfort for his teammates and coaches. While his 31 possessions provided many excellent moments, his clear highlight was a brilliant kick to Dylan Williams inside 50 under extreme pressure. He took the game on in the corridor to get his side back in the game and while that led to some uncharacteristic errors, he was hugely influential in getting Oakleigh close. This kid is a genuine star and a worthy medallist.
#12 Noah Answerth
I really enjoyed the game of the Charger’s skipper, a competitor that was never going to let Dandenong have anything easy in any circumstance. He started at the first centre bounce and often went back to help his defence by sitting in the hole or directing traffic. He produced a big moment in the second term, chasing down the dangerous Toby Bedford deep in defence who looked like snapping a simple goal. He was effective at the stoppages too, using his body to advantage, spinning out of trouble and quickly releasing at one point in the second quarter. He was not far off Rowell and Collier-Dawkins as Oakleigh’s best, collecting 26 disposals, four clearances and six rebound 50s.
#13 Atu Bosenavualagi
The Collingwood Next Generation Academy prospect is giving clubs plenty to think about. He is one of the big improvers in the competition and his AFL attributes are becoming more obvious by the week. He set the early pressure intensity for Oakleigh, making himself known without the ball and being physical towards his opponents. Although it is his attacking play that has really come on in recent weeks. A subtle side step out of traffic to create a goal for Williams gave Oakleigh an early lead late in the first term, while he took a clever mark from behind his opponent later in the first half. In the third term he burned off an opponent to give his side a genuine spark by kicking a bounce and carry goal. He is lively and if he wins 17 disposals like he did on Saturday, he will more than likely have an impact.
#22 Dylan Williams
Another bottom-aged star that had a relevant influence on the close result. Williams continued his outstanding purple patch of goal kicking form to finish with four goals from full-forward. While he only had nine disposals in an underrated one on one battle with Daniel Frampton, he created problems for the Dandenong defender whenever the ball entered his zone. Three of his goals came from left foot snaps or “J-curve” set shots, a skill he already appears to have mastered. His best came from a freakish, almost half-volley pick up from which he swung onto his left again with absolute class. He also smartly went around the corner to set up a goal for Robertson in the opening term and took an excellent contested mark against three opponents in the goal square for his first goal. This latest haul means he has kicked a total of 14 goals for the finals series, a very early indication that this kid has the tools to be a big game player at the top level.
#23 Isaac Quaynor
Probably one of the higher rated players that Oakleigh would have liked to get more out of. Quaynor started the game on Dandenong’s dangerous hybrid forward Sam Sturt, who exposed the Collingwood Next Generation Academy prospect on the lead early. It led to Quaynor being moved off him before the end of the first quarter and he immediately looked more comfortable as the extra defender. With ball in hand he was calm and made good decisions behind the ball, before being moved to the midfield later in the game. He did not get a great opportunity to settle, but we already know what he offers and the Pies will be more than happy to match a bid come November.
#31 Will Golds
The predominantly outside midfielder or wingman consistently found himself with ball in hand, winning it 25 times in a very productive outing. He is a player who loves to be on the move when in possession, whether it is darting through traffic or running to space to create a link up option. He is smart and releases it quickly, often with the next play up the field in mind. He gets in good positions and knows where to find a handball receive, while his kicking was creative despite a missed short pass in the middle that became a turnover during the third term. He did present Collier-Dawkins with a lovely long weighted pass inside 50 in the first quarter that helped earn his teammate a free kick and regularly hit up targets on the run.
#32 Jack Ross
The thick set inside midfielder has been generating a bit of interest in recent times and again produced some good moments in the Grand Final. He impressed when he went back with the flight and then laid an aggressive tackle, gathered the loose ball cleanly and quickly released to start the chain for an important Dylan Williams goal in the first term. He also won an excellent ground ball in the third term that set up Atu’s memorable running goal, again at a vital period to keep Oakleigh within reach. He then got on the end of one to kick a goal that got his side within two goals in the final term. He is a good player and most importantly rose when his team needed it most in an underrated outing to finish with 19 disposals.
#64 James Jordan
The draft bolter of Oakleigh’s midfield started the game on fire, winning 10 first quarter possessions to be one of the best players on the ground early in the contest. He won two extremely clean ground balls during that period, releasing both to the advantage of his teammates. He was having a genuine influence, but certainly quietened as the match went on. He earned a free kick in the final term after putting his head over the ball, but was rarely sighted otherwise after the first break. He ended the game with a respectable 17 disposals and it will be interesting to see where clubs rate him, as there is certainly some talent.
Non-Combine invitees who stood out:
#23 Campbell Hustwaite (Dandenong) – 19 disposals, four marks, five inside 50s, three rebounds and four clearances – huge contributor in the midfield by the co-captain.
#41 Lachlan Stenning (Dandenong) – 21 disposals, two marks, four clearances, four inside 50s, six rebounds – clean out of defence and stood out throughout with some important rebounds.
#10 Charlie Whitehead (Oakleigh) – 17 disposals, four marks, three tackles, three inside 50s – put pressure in that forward 50 as he always does and could hold his head high.