Tag: Connor Thar

Oakleigh makes statement with commanding win

OAKLEIGH Chargers have made one almighty statement with a huge 120-point win over the Western Jets at Ikon Park yesterday. In a half of football the Chargers booted 14 goals to five and looked every bit a premiership threat, never taking the foot off the pedal. The second half was just as impressive piling on 11 goals to one, to storm to a 20-goal victory in what seemed like a challenge back at Dandenong Stingrays.

Just 24 hours earlier, Dandenong put the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels to the sword with a 110-point thumping, and in what was a reminder of what they were equally capable of, the Chargers showed off their versatility up forward with a mammoth 25.13 (163) to 6.7 (43) victory. Much like the Stingrays, the Chargers had no shortage of winners on the day, with nearly every player contributing to the cause. So much so, the lowest disposal winner – and only player under 10 touches – was defender Charlie Beasley, who still had seven, and two rebounds. On the other end of the scale, 10 players had 20 or more disposals, as the Chargers monopolised the ball, not only winning a whopping 187 more disposals, but taking 46 more marks and had 21 more inside 50s.

It was the Chargers’ highest score of the season, and the second highest winning margin of the year, but it did not look like being a blowout early. A pinpoint perfect pass from Trent Bianco to Matthew Rowell inside 50 saw the bottom-ager convert the set shot and get the Chargers on the board, but then back-to-back goals to the Western Jets through Daly Andrews and Jack Watkins proved the sixth placed side was up for the fight. Xavier O’Neill and Matthew Day got to the right positions and gave Oakleigh back the lead, before potential Carlton father-son prospect, Oskar Manton delivered a timely blow with a perfect set shot from long range.

Jake Gasper pounced as he so often has before, on a loose ball inside 50 and converted, while Charlie Whitehead looked equally as dangerous around goals and got his first for the afternoon. When Daniel Pantalleresco found space close to goal and got one back for the Jets, the margin was just eight points with four minutes remaining in the first term. Unfortunately for the Jets, two late goals to Riley Collier-Dawkins (an impressive 50m bomb no less) and bottom-ager Dylan Williams pushed the margin out to 20 at the first change. Remarkably despite the impressive seven-goal quarter, Oakleigh talent manager Craig Notman told TAC Cup Radio they were not happy with the clearances, forward entries and work around the ground.

By half-time it would be hard not to be impressed with the Chargers’ work as they effectively ended the game with 25 minutes of unbelievable football. Jay Robertson got the ball rolling early in the term, and Williams booted another two majors either side of a Steven Kyriazis set shot. It would be the only Jets goal for the term, as Whitehead headed into the rooms with three goals to his name like Williams, while Gasper had two by the main break, and even Bailey Wraith – who was dominating in the ruck – went forward and kicked a strong set shot goal. In the blink of an eye, the margin was 59 points, and as Western Jets coach Torin Baker told TAC Cup Radio at the final break, the coaching staff knew the result from half-time, but still wanted to get something out of the second half.

Admitting so few winners across the board, the Jets skipper, Xavier O’Halloran was terrific in fighting against the tide, marking on the 50m arc and rather than passing off, took the responsibility upon himself, launching a massive set shot from 55m out and not making the umpire do any work, putting it straight through the middle. It was a little too late for the Jets however, as Atu Bosenavulagi kicked the first of his three majors, while Matthew Day joined the multiple goal kickers list with a second. Williams looked unstoppable up forward, booting another two majors to take his total to five by the final break, while Bosenavulagi and Gasper added to their goal tallies for the day with Oakleigh pushing the margin out to 91 points by the final break. The scary thing is, Oakleigh missed a number of gettable chances that could have pushed the margin beyond three figures.

It took just 75 seconds for that to happen, as Bosenavulagi converted one of the quickest goals from the first bounce with just 22 seconds passing, before less than a minute later, Williams had his sixth. Bosenavulagi kicked his fourth in the ninth minute to put the margin at 114 points, and a score of 154. With the record score for the season at 167 and record margin of 126 points – Dandenong Stingrays against Western Jets at Shepley Oval – on the line, they pushed right until the end, with the crowd wondering just how far they could go.

The last 15 minutes was a combination of missed opportunities for the Chargers, and some great defensive efforts from the Jets, who as a proud group would not have been pleased with the result. If there was anything to take out of the result, it was restricting Oakleigh to just 1.3 in that final 15-minute period. Day had a chance to break the season highest score with a shot after the siren, but pulled his set shot, meaning the Chargers had to settle for the 120-point win, and the 25 goals in the bank.

Picking the best for both sides was a difficult task with Oakleigh genuinely having 15 or more players who could force their way into the bests, while for Western, there were only a handful who stood up in disappointing day which saw one of the premiership contenders put in an eye-opening performance. By the final siren, Williams was the best on ground with six goals from 15 touches and eight marks (two contested), while fellow bottom-agers Noah Anderson (23 disposals, five marks and six inside 50s) and Rowell (22 disposals and seven marks) just kept winning the football.

Joe Ayton-Delaney was superb in defence with 24 disposals, three inside 50s and three rebounds, while James Jordon played an underrated role through the midfield that is not represented on the stats sheet with 20 disposals, six marks and three inside 50s. Bosenavulagi’s four goals from 17 disposals and four marks was the best performance of his season, and any Collingwood fans hoping to snare him cheaply would be cursing under their breath with a terrific performance, including a dazzling run through midfield putting on the jets to burn off Buku Khamis. Collier-Dawkins stepped up as well, with 20 disposals, four marks, three clearances and three inside 50s, while Jack Ross had a team-high seven clearances from 24 disposals. Wraith’s ruckwork to beat opposing man mountain Darren Walters despite giving away massive centimetres and kilograms was superb, having 35 hitouts from 11 touches. Whitehead and Gasper’s three goals each were other highlights, but the list could go on in what was arguably the performance of the season.

For the Jets, O’Halloran never stopped trying and constantly put his body on the line for 17 disposals, two marks, six clearances, eight inside 50s and a goal in what was a clear best on for the Jets. Khamis could also hold his head high in defence with four rebounds from 15 disposals and six marks (one contested), while Watkins (21 disposals, three marks, four clearances, four inside 50s and a goal), Connor Thar (18 disposals, five marks, five clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds) and Manton (11 disposals, two marks and one goal) also kept trying. But with only four players amassing more than 12 touches and half the side not reaching double figures, it was a day to forget in a season which had plenty of highlights.

With Oakleigh to meet Gippsland Power next weekend, there is little doubt that Power coach, Leigh Brown will have plenty of work to do in the lead-up to the big clash.

OAKLEIGH 7.2 | 14.6 | 20.10 | 25.13 (163)
WESTERN 4.0 | 5.1 | 6.3 | 6.7 (43)

GOALS:

Oakleigh: Dylan Williams 6, Atu Bosenavulagi 4, Jake Gasper 3, Charlie Whitehead 3, Jay Robertson 2, Matthew Rowell, Riley Collier-Dawkins, Xavier O’Neill, Bailey Wraith.
Western: Jack Watkins, Xavier O’Halloran, Daly Andrews, Oskar Manton, Steven Kyriazis, Daniel Pantalleresco.

ADC BEST:

Oakleigh: Dylan Williams, Atu Bosenavulagi, James Jordon, Riley Collier-Dawkins, Joe Ayton-Delaney, Noah Anderson.
Western: Xavier O’Halloran, Buku Khamis, Jack Watkins, Connor Thar, Oskar Manton, Jack Papachatzakis.

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.

Weekend Wash-up: TAC Cup – Wildcard Round

WILDCARD Round is done and won, and four sides are out of the premiership race. While Geelong Falcons, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets advance to the finals, Calder Cannons, Northern Knights, Eastern Ranges and Bendigo Pioneers seasons are over.

 

Calder Cannons 8.7 (55) defeated by Geelong Falcons 8.8 (56)

By: Brandon Hutchinson

In one of the games of the year, and for a second week in a row, the Geelong Falcons snare a come from behind victory against the Calder Cannons to eliminate them from the finals race. Struggling to capitalise with their scoring shots in the third, the Falcons turned the tables in the final term, kicking three goals to one and winning from an 11-point deficit at the break. The Cannons’ big third quarter effort put them ahead and gave them the largest lead of the game. Neither team was ever out of the race, but in the end, it was a behind and the Falcons’ defensive pressure that snatched away the victory.

Cooper Stephens was instrumental with three rebounds, four inside 50s, five clearances, a game-high 27 disposals and a final quarter goal. Co-captain Sam Walsh finished similarly with four rebounds, three inside 50s, five clearances and 26 disposals racking up an impressive 16 contested possessions. Sam Conway dominated in the ruck with 27 hit outs, beating the Cannons’ total hit outs of 25 on his own. Jay Dahlhaus (16 disposals, five marks, five inside 50s and two goals), Oscar Brownless (18 disposals, four clearances and two goals) and Ned McHenry (20 disposals and two goals) impressed in front of goals, with Doyle Madigan (23 disposals, 15 contested, four clearances and two inside 50) also proving very dominating.

Will Jury had a strong performance with a game high 16 contested possessions (19 disposals), three marks (one contested), five clearances and six inside 50s. Lachlan Sholl (23 disposals, six marks, two inside 50s and one clearance), Brodie Newman (13 disposals, six marks and four rebounds) and Daniel Hanna (16 disposals and seven marks) all presented strong overhead. Curtis Taylor (11 disposals and five marks) and Jake Riccardi (12 disposals, three marks, six hitouts, three clearances and four inside 50s) kicked two goals each, while Jacob Martin (17 disposals, four clearances and six inside 50s) and Rhylee West (12 disposals, six clearances, five inside 50s and one goal) were among the best for the Cannons. 

 

Northern Knights (3.4.22) defeated by Greater Western Victoria Rebels (14.7.91)

By: Brandon Hutchinson

Finals are now well and truly over for the Northern Knights after being handed a smashing by the GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium. Though only a point between them come the second quarter, the GWV lifted to produce a 37-point second quarter, with seven shots on goal to two. The third proved just as disappointing for the Knights with just the one point scored for the quarter, summing up a rather dismal performance with 21 scoring shots to seven.

Riely Ranieri’s work in the Rebels’ defensive half was extremely pivotal in their win, racking up 19 disposals (11 contested), four clearances, and seven rebounds. Matt Schnerring boasted a team-high 22 disposals, moving the ball well with three inside 50s and two rebounds, and contributed to their big second quarter with a late goal. Matty Lloyd capped off a solid game with 20 disposals and kicked two big goals, with Scott Carlin close behind on 19 disposals, five clearances and two goals of his own. Jed Hill and Harrison Butler also put two each on the board, while Patrick Glanford (11 disposals, 27 hit outs, four clearances and three inside 50s) performed well in the ruck alongside Darcy McEldrew (18 hitouts).

Despite their poor showing, the Northern Knights still had plenty of strong performers on the day. Sam Philp had a game-high 23 disposals and dominated out of the stoppages with 9 clearances. Philp moved the ball well to collect six inside 50s for the match. Similarly, Tom McKenzie delivered well with his seven inside 50s, showcased his strong hands (six marks) and got a bit of footy with 20 disposals. Adam Carafa (four clearances, two inside 50s, three rebounds), Josh D’Intinosante (three clearances, three inside 50s, two rebounds), Jackson Davies (four clearances, four inside 50s and three inside 50s) and Braedyn Gillard (10 contested possessions, three clearances and three inside 50s) also had considerable impacts.

 

Western Jets 12.12 (84) defeated Eastern Ranges 7.4 (46)

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets survived an early Eastern Ranges onslaught to claim a 38-point win and earn their spot in the TAC Cup final eight. The sixth-place Jets had every reason to be nervous coming into the game against second-last Eastern given both sides outside of the top eight beat their more fancied counterparts in the previous day’s play, and that fear would have been heightened as the Ranges stormed out to a first half lead. Three first half majors to bottom ager Ben Hickleton put Eastern in good stead, as they put on five straight goals to open the game and kept Western goalless in the second term to hold a 16-point buffer at the main break.

Their run came to a grinding halt once the ball went down to start the third term, as key Western ball-winners Xavier O’Halloran and Morrish Medal runner-up Connor Thar came into the game, with Stefan Radovanovic solid down back and Emerson Jeka providing a target forward of centre. Western jetted into the lead with four goals to none in the third term, and kept their form in the last as they piled on another five to Eastern’s one.

For the winners, O’Halloran (17 disposals, four tackles) stepped up when it counted, while Thar (32 disposals, six tackles, four marks nd one goal) was arguably their best. The Western forward line was dangerous as ever too, with Daniel Pantalleresco and Jeka claiming three majors each, while 23rd man Cassius White was also dangerous, booting two.

In one of Eastern’s better displays, Kye Quirk continued to rack up the possessions with 24 touches, 10 handball receives and six marks, while Joel Burleigh and Xavier Fry were their main ball-winners with 32 touches each. Bottom ager Hickleton also impressed with his three goals, finding himself in good areas inside 50.

The Jets now face an in-form Oakleigh side full of stars in the first week of finals, while Eastern’s season ends on the back of a fighting effort.

 

Murray Bushrangers 9.18 (72) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 6.9 (45)

By: Michael Alvaro

Murray Bushrangers rounded out the TAC Cup wildcard round with a comfortable, yet wasteful 27-point win over Bendigo Pioneers. Having been booted out of the top four in the last two rounds, the Bushies looked to have learned a lesson from the previous wildcard games as the favourites broke out to a 22-point lead to open the game, keeping the Pio’s goalless.

To Bendigo’s credit, they didn’t give in and hit back with three goals of their own in the second term to reduce the margin to 12 points at the main break. Neither side could really snatch a good run of momentum, as the buffer stayed at a steady three-four goals going into the final break – with Bendigo’s accuracy (6.4) keeping them within reach in quarters two and three as Murray complied a wasteful 5.8 in comparison.

But the class of Murray proved too much as they held on with a further 1.5 in the fourth quarter to shut out the trying contest and their nagging opposition. Ely Smith continued his good form in the midfield to be named Murray’s best with 29 disposals and six tackles, while Mathew Walker (21 disposals, nine tackles, six marks and three goals) was not far behind. Zane Barzen and Lachlan Ash were the Bushranger’s other multiple goal kickers with two each, with the latter also gathering 20 disposals in a more advanced role.

For Bendigo, Jacob Atley was the clear standout up forward as he collected 21 disposals and marked well while claiming half of his side’s six goals. Liam Marciano was also industrious with his 27 disposals, six tackles and five marks and one goal, while Bailey Henderson (22 disposals and six marks) was also solid. Jye Caldwell also showed some brilliant glimpses before unfortunately injuring his hamstring.

Murray will go on to face the Sandringham side which snatched their top-four spot in what looks like being a tantalising contest.

Liam Stocker takes out Morrish Medal in close vote count

WHEN Liam Stocker came from the field with a broken jaw in Sandringham Dragons’ clash with Gippsland Power at Morwell, it meant the talented midfielder’s hopes and dreams of representing Vic Metro were dashed. Instead of worrying about the uncontrollable factors, Stocker went head first into his recovery, shortening it from eight weeks to six and getting out on the park the first chance he got. From then on the inside midfielder went from strength to strength, earning the admiration of not only his teammates and coaches, but the umpires as well.

Stocker out last night’s 2018 Morrish Medal, the accolade awarded to the player judged as the best and fairest in the TAC Cup competition, joining the likes of Brisbane’s Hugh McCluggage and Richmond’s Jack Higgins as winners of the award. Stocker finished the vote count with 18 votes, two ahead of Western Jets midfielder Connor Thar.

The inside ball winner has been uncompromising in his approach to his football this season, overcoming that broken jaw to play 12 games for the season. Stocker averaged 22.8 disposals, 2.8 marks, 4.8 tackles, 5.7 clearances, 5.2 inside 50s and 2.1 rebounds. He has won 55.6 per cent of his possessions at the coal face.

Speaking of the moment his season would change, Stocker recalls how it was just a concoction of bad luck.

“Basically I got an errant handball, and stuck my jaw out where it was meant to be hit and copped a shoulder across the face,” Stocker said. “I sort of woke up in a daze – I think I was out for a minute and a half or so. “It was more the concussion that got me in strife, but went in and had surgery at the end of that week and I knew I had a pretty long road ahead.”

Stocker’s injury dealt him a heavy blow when he missed opportunities to play with Vic Metro – including running out on AFL venues, the MCG and Optus Stadium. He turned the disappointment into motivation and, coupled with a huge preseason, believed they were the factors instrumental for his strong back end of the season.

With a big shift in perception following his injury, Stocker sought to reestablish himself as a real competitor in the TAC Cup before season’s end. According to the Morrish Medal winner, much of this success came off the back of his new mindset instilled by Sandringham Dragons’ Senior Coach, Jeremy Barnard

“I sort of thought ‘you know what you can go and be a mediocre player for the rest of the year and not care about your performance, or you can take some attention to detail and knuckle down,” Stocker said.

Knuckle down, he did. So much so he finished the season as the best player in the competition in the umpires eyes. When asked about his success, Stocker believes he was lucky with the team he had behind him. He said the medal is more a testament to the talent of Sandringham’s midfield group and their continued support, claiming it as more as a collective reward than his own.

“I had a couple games around the season where having the support of my teammates probably helped me a lot more than anything else, so I kind of view this less as a personal award and more as, you know, the midfield group behind me with Bailey (Smith), Ryan Byrnes, Kai Owens behind me,” Stocker said. “They kind of got to me the situation I’m in now, rather than just a huge personal effort.”

The Sandringham Dragons have selection challenges throughout the year with so much of their list playing school football, but luckily for Stocker, the midfielder knows how to adapt. He has a unique backstory having spent a portion of his childhood in Hong Kong, remembering how tough it was playing against bigger bodies as a child.

“The only access we really had to footy was Grand Final day where all the Australians in Hong Kong would go and watch the Grand Final together,” he said. “Beyond that, I went to Auskick in the summer, but you have 16 year olds over there thinking they can make the AFL from Hong Kong Auskick. “It wasn’t much fun there, I was sort of getting poleaxed 24/7 as an eight year-old.”

He has not had to worry about that much lately, with the strong midfielder able to use his bigger frame to win the contested ball. The potential first round pick will be hoping to do plenty of that as he leads the Dragons onball brigade in September, starting with the Murray Bushrangers in the elimination final this weekend.

Morrish Medal Leaderboard:

1 Liam Stocker – Sandringham Dragons (18)
2 Connor Thar – Western Jets (16)
3 Atu Bosenavulagi – Oakleigh Chargers (14)
3 Campbell Hustwaite – Dandenong Stingrays (14)
3 Sam Walsh – Geelong Falcons (14)

Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Wild Card Round

FOR players of four TAC Cup sides, they will run out for the final time this weekend with the new concept of a Wild Card Round giving every team the chance of winning a premiership, regardless of finishing position during the season. The four games will be played across two days, with a Double Header at MARS Stadium on Saturday, before a Double Header takes place at Ikon Park on Sunday.

 

CALDER CANNONS v. GEELONG FALCONS

Wild Card Round – Saturday, September 1, 11:30am
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

It will be a case of déjà vu for fans who make the trip to MARS Stadium tomorrow. The Calder Cannons take on the Geelong Falcons at 11.30am, an identical match, time and place of their Round 16 clash a week ago. In that game, the Falcons proved too good, coming from behind at quarter time to run away with the game before the Cannons kicked back to go down by just 15 points. Arguably the Falcons should have won by more, as despite having 29 scoring shots to 19, they ended the match with an inaccurate 11.18 for the match. Co-captain Sam Walsh was a clear best on ground. Brayden Ham, while inaccurate in front of goal with 1.4, was exciting in the forward half, as was Connor Idun. Cooper Stephens and Ned McHenry were tough on the inside, while Cooper Cartledge and Charlie Sprague played their roles up their respective ends. For the Cannons, Rhylee West was sensational drifting forward to boot three goals, while Daniel Mott and Mitch Podhajski were strong through the midfield, with Podhajski getting forward to finish with two goals. Harrison Jones enjoyed a great game in the ruck, while Lachlan Sholl and Brodie Newman continue to impress behind the ball. Daniel Hanna has been named in the Cannons’ extended team, and will be a crucial inclusion to take a tall in the Falcons forward line, allowing the smaller rebounders to create more run out of defence. Geelong rightfully hold favouritism after last week, and pushing the minor premiers the week before, but both these teams are sleepers in the premiership race, and it is somewhat disappointing one has to go.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS

Wild Card Round – Saturday, September 1, 2:00pm
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

The second game marks the third time that the Northern Knights will travel to MARS Stadium for the season to tackle the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The venue holds no fears for the Knights, who have been victorious twice, once with a come-from-behind victory in Round 9 by four points, and then again in Round 12 when they won by 22 points. In the first encounter, it took until the 21st minute of the final term for the Northern Knights to hit the front for just the second time that day, with a Patrik Della Rocca goal. That was also the breakout game for bottom-ager Izaac Grant, who booted seven of the Rebels’ nine goals for the day. Elliott Lamb, Scott Carlin and Lochie Dawson were named the Rebels best on the day with Grant, while for the Knights, James Lucente‘s five majors saw him named the best, along with Della Rocca and Stefan Uzelac. In the second encounter, Sunny Brazier and Charlie Wilson booted three goals for their respective sides, while Cooper Craig-Peters and Patrick Glanford were the Rebels’ best. Adam Carafa had a day out with 37 disposals, while speedster Lachlan Potter was also impressive. On form, the Knights will head in as favourites, but some crucial inclusions for the Rebels in Carlin, Grant and Craig-Peters should be equally as important as Lucente and Ryan Sturgess for Northern.

 

WESTERN JETS v. EASTERN RANGES

Wild Card Round – Sunday, September 2, 11:00am
Ikon Park, Carlton North

On Sunday, the Western Jets will take on the Eastern Ranges in a game that is one of two that should be fairly straight forward. As we have seen with finals or pre-finals however, anything can happen and regular season form means nothing now that we are at the knockout stage of the season. Eastern had just the two wins, but pushed Western all the way back in the only encounter between the sides this season. In blustery Williamstown, the Ranges led throughout the match and only trailed by a goal at the final break – mostly due to the Jets inaccuracy, booting 2.12. The home side found its kicking boots in the final term however, booting five goals to one and ran away with the 31-point win. Steven Kyriazis booted two goals that day, while Zak Butters earned best on ground honours (he will not be out there this weekend) and Connor Thar and Stefan Radovanovic were also impressive. Billy McCormack was the multiple goalkicker for Eastern, while Jarrod Gilbee, James Ross and Mitch Mellis were the top Ranges. Mellis will be the only one of the trio playing on Sunday, with Eastern hoping to cause an upset. The winner will face Oakleigh Chargers in the elimination final, so will want to hit the game with some great form.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Wild Card Round – Sunday, September 2, 1:30pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Murray Bushrangers were the side unlucky to drop out of the top four race, but by being the top-seeded team in the Wild Card Round, they take on the bottom-placed Bendigo Pioneers. The Pioneers have just had the two wins so far this season, while the Bushrangers won both their previous encounters against Bendigo. Murray won by 57 points in Round 2 up in Shepparton, before claiming a 40-point win at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Round 9. In the first game, Laitham Vandermeer was named best on ground, with the injured speedster not able to be out there on the weekend, but his partner in crime that day, Lachlan Ash will be, as will Nick Murray who was impressive in defence. Noah Wheeler was unsurprisingly named best for the Pioneers with another top performance, while Jye Caldwell amassed 24 disposals and laid seven tackles in his only TAC Cup game until last weekend. He will be crucial for the Pioneers this weekend if they are to get the upset, however the Bushrangers look to be too strong on season form. In the second encounter, Ely Smith was best on ground with 28 disposals and nine tackles, while Jordon Butts slotted six goals in a terrific effort up forward. Oscar Perez and Zane Keighran booted two goals each, while ruck Daniel Keating was named the Pioneers’ top player. With no Wheeler, Keighran or Keating this weekend, it will be a big ask for the Pioneers to get up, but there is no coming back. 

2018 AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year announced

GIPPSLAND Power and Murray Bushrangers make up one third of the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year, with four nominees each in the side. Every side except Eastern Ranges is represented in the team, with minor premiers Dandenong Stingrays (three), Calder Cannons (two), Geelong Falcons (two), Northern Knights (two), Oakleigh Chargers (two) and Western Jets (two) all having multiple nominees. Bendigo Pioneers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have one nominee in the starting team each.

Gippsland Power has plenty of talented bottom-agers, but its four National Combine invitees made our Team of the Year in 2018, lead by captain Xavier Duursma, over-ager Matthew McGannon, and bookends Kyle Reid and Noah Gown. Murray also had four nominees with key forward Hudson Garoni, reliable midfielder Ely Smith, the versatile Jordon Butts, and bottom-ager Lachlan Ash, all making the side. Dandenong Stingrays trio, Bailey Williams and Riley Bowman provide the ruck and forward depth, while captain Campbell Hustwaite has had a superb season.

Amongst the sides with dual nominations are Calder Cannons, with co-captain Mitch Podhajski and serial rebounder Lucas Cavallaro making the side after consistent seasons. Geelong Falcons co-captain Sam Walsh is no surprise in the team, captaining the team with teammate, Brayden Ham his vice-captain. GWV Rebels’ forward Charlie Wilson is the sole Rebel in the side, but his eight nominations – equal with Walsh and Ham – have earned him vice-captain with Ham.

Northern Knights duo, Tom McKenzie and Josh D’Intinosante have made the side, with McKenzie being a rare inclusion given he has missed a lot of football due to school commitments. But the football he has played, he has starred and has earned a place in the side. Oakleigh Chargers also have two nominees in the team despite most of their side missing at times, with Jack Ross and Trent Bianco impressing when at TAC Cup level, making the Team of the Year.

The remaining members of the best 24 are Western Jets duo, Xavier O’Halloran and Connor Thar, as well as the sole Bendigo Pioneers nominee, Noah Wheeler, who slots onto a half-back flank. Much like the All-Australian side, the three bottom-agers in Ash, Bianco and D’Intinosante have been named on the bench.

AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Week nominations:

8: Brayden Ham, Sam Walsh, Charlie Wilson
7: Campbell Hustwaite, Ely Smith
6: Noah Gown, Mitch Podhajski, Noah Wheeler
5: Lachlan Ash, Xavier Duursma, Jack Ross, Connor Thar, Bailey Williams
4: Trent Bianco, Riley Bowman, Jordon Butts, Lachlan Cavallaro, Josh D’Intinosante, Hudson Garoni, Matthew McGannon, Tom McKenzie, Xavier O’Halloran, Kyle Reid, Liam Stocker

In the Second Team of the Year, Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Western Jets all have three nominees each to fill out more than 60 per cent of the team. Dandenong Stingrays, Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons each have two nominees, while Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power and GWV Rebels have a sole nominee in each in the team. Bendigo Pioneers is the only side without a nominee in the Second Team of the Year.

Eastern Ranges’ Ben Cardamone is the only player with four Team of the Week nominations to miss out on the Team of the Year, so he captains the Second Team of the Year. There are five bottom-agers who have made the side, with Ryan Byrnes, Adam Carafa, Jye Chalcraft, Mitch Mellis and Sam Flanders all earning their places in the Second Team of the Year.

 

Consistent Connor continues to make the most of his TAC Cup journey

WHEN he missed out on getting the call-up to Vic Metro, Connor Thar was admittedly “pretty shattered”. But instead of worry about the things outside of his control, Thar buckled down in the TAC Cup and became the most prominent ball winner in the competition. The Western Jets midfielder has racked up 412 disposals at an average of 25.75 per game, playing every game in 2018 and has been ranked in the top five for clearances, and top 10 for tackles. His final round was quite possibly his best, racking up 32 disposals on his way to the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Player of the Week award for Round 16.

“I’m very passionate about the game,” Thar said earlier in the season. “Coming to training I always wanted to improve and learn, work on my craft and the relationships you have with footy, nothing can beat it. “The coaches, the friends you make, even people that aren’t in the team at the moment, you’re friends with them for life anyway and that’s the main thing. “Going out on the weekend and getting wins and after the game celebrating, it’s like all the hard work has paid off and nothing beats that.”

Thar has been lucky enough to have plenty of continuity in his game, playing for Werribee Districts his whole life, joining the Western Jets system as soon as he could, and has been a part of that system ever since. He has been exposed to the first teams in each of his years despite his slight stature (174cm and 69kg at the start of the season). For Thar, he wanted to build his fitness in 2018, while using his smarts around the ground to play the game on his terms.

“The way I can read the game, my football IQ (is my main strength),” Thar said. “I’m not the fittest boy going around, but I use my smarts and my brains around the field, my quick hands and my silkiness around the ground helps me. “Definitely my fitness, every Tuesday I come to training earlier, I work with Tony the boxing coach, do a couple of rounds of boxing. “That’s pretty tough, and then on the weekends I do two cardio sessions trying to improve the cardiovascular side of it.”

Thar has played predominantly midfield in 2018, reflecting his huge ball-winning numbers, but he has shown the capability to play anywhere on the field.

“Last year I played everywhere, I played on the wing, backline, forward,” Thar said. “I went back for a couple of games and that was different, that was a good, new role. “I was able to get my hands on the ball. “The defensive side I was still improving on, but I like going forward as well. “Everywhere you play, you’ve got different styles, you have to put into the game.”

The top-age Jet is level headed and understands the reality of the draft system – with so many players striving to play AFL, you have to stand out and push yourself to the limits. For Thar, he goes out each and every week never losing the faith, as shown in his consistency.

“It’s been my dream my whole life really,” Thar said. “Obviously there’s a little voice in your head saying it’s not always going to happen, you’re aware of that, but you’ve got to aim high and that’s what I’ve been trying to do, but I’ve set my little goals to get there, and it’s obviously everyone here at the Jets dream, it’s everyone’s dream to play AFL. “It’s a long road ahead but it’s the dream.”

As for the Jets, they are headed into a finals series with the Wild Card Round match against the Eastern Ranges this weekend ahead of an elimination final with Oakleigh Chargers, should Western defeat the Ranges. Thar said the team had belief in its system and everyone was on the same page.

“There was a lot of hype around this season because last year we always knew we had real good bottom-age talent and everyone had the right mindset coming into the season,” he said. “We all knew that if we put our minds to it, we could have a big season. “It showed with our start. “There’s a lot of positivity around the club, everyone wants to get better and improve, and it shows on the training track, we’re all connected.”

AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year 48-man squad announced

WITH the conclusion of the TAC Cup season, AFL Draft Central has released its 48-man squad for the TAC Cup Team of the Year. The AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year takes into account the top performers across the TAC Cup season, not incorporating any performances at school football or National Under 18 Championships, which is why some top-end stars that have missed most of the season through school football such as Bailey SmithNed McHenry and Ben King have not been included. In fact, just three players made the team from school football, with Tom McKenzie the most remarkable, making four Team of the Week nominations from six games, having played the least of any player.

For our TAC Cup Team of the Year, we will construct two 24-player squads with the Team of the Year, and the Second Team of the Year, rewarding all those who have performed strongly across the course of the season. The Team of the Year is worked out first and foremost by our TAC Cup Team of the Week nominations, with all players in the team having at least FOUR Team of the Week nominations. The Second Team of the Year squad is made up of players with between TWO and FOUR nominations.

In terms of club-by-club nominations, Murray Bushrangers has the most, with six players making the squad of 48, while top four sides, Dandenong Stingrays, Gippsland Power and Oakleigh Chargers, all five. The Calder Cannons and Western Jets are also among the sides with five nominees each. Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights had four nominees, while Eastern Ranges and Sandringham Dragons had three each. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels (two) and Bendigo Pioneers (one) round out the remaining sides. The AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Year will be announced on Friday.

ADC TAC CUP TEAM OF THE YEAR FULL SQUAD:

Bendigo [1]: Noah Wheeler

Calder [5]: Lucas Cavallaro, Mitch Podhajski, Jake Riccardi, Lachlan Sholl, Curtis Taylor

Dandenong [5]: Riley Bowman, Zac Foot, Campbell Hustwaite, Lachlan McDonnell, Bailey Williams

Eastern [3]: Ben Cardamone, Mitch Mellis, Kye Quirk

Geelong [4]: Brayden Ham, Baxter Mensch, Blake Schlensog, Sam Walsh

Gippsland [5]: Xavier Duursma, Sam Flanders, Noah Gown, Matthew McGannon, Kyle Reid

GWV [2]: Jed Hill, Charlie Wilson

Murray [6]: Lachlan Ash, Jordon Butts, Jye Chalcraft, Hudson Garoni, Ely Smith, Mathew Walker

Northern [4]: Adam Carafa, Josh D’Intinosante, Tom McKenzie, Stefan Uzelac

Oakleigh [5]: Trent Bianco, Jake Gasper, Xavier O’Neill, Isaac Quaynor, Jack Ross

Sandringham [3]: Ryan Byrnes, James Rendell, Liam Stocker

Western [5]: Buku Khamis, Xavier O’Halloran, Stefan Radovanovic, Connor Thar, Jack Watkins

Team of the Week: TAC Cup – Round 16

IN the final round of the TAC Cup season it was incredibly hard to narrow down the best 22 to create the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Team of the Week for Round 16. In the end, with impressive wins to Dandenong Stingrays, Oakleigh Chargers and Western Jets each team had three players named in the side, while losers Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers had two representatives with the other winners. Equally, Northern Knights had just the one representative indicating the team effort to get the job done against Murray, along with the remaining losers of Round 16.

Dandenong’s big win over Sandringham Dragons resulted in defender Matthew Gahan, forward Sam Sturt, and inside midfielder, Matthew Cottrell earn their places in the Team of the Week. Fellow top four side, Oakleigh had a huge win over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, and also had three players make the best 22 for the week with Bailey Wraith‘s ruck performance, James Rowbottom‘s midfield work and Atu Bosenavulagi‘s forward craft among the deserving nominees. Oakleigh had plenty of others who could have made the side as well, including Charlie Whitehead and Noah Anderson.

Western Jets also had three players in the Team of the Week, with consistent midfielder, Connor Thar, and speedster Daly Andrews making the team, as did key forward Aaron Clarke. Captain Xavier O’Halloran came close to making the side yet again but just missed out. Geelong Falcons duo Sam Walsh and Brayden Ham have been regulars in the Team of the Week this year and Round 16 was no different, as Ham was named on the half-back flank having played at both ends. Their opponents, Calder Cannons had just the one nominee in Rhylee West who stood tall up forward, but Daniel Mott was considered unlucky and was the 23rd player in the team.

Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges both had two players make the Team of the Week from their clash, as key forward, Noah Gown and captain, Xavier Duursma made the team once again backing up their impressive recent form. For Eastern, Xavier Fry and Kye Quirk slotted into the best 22. Murray Bushrangers also had two talls make the side despite the loss, with Nick Murray and Jordon Butts slotting into the key defensive posts. While Butts did not play the role on the weekend, he has the versatility to play anywhere and deserved to make it into the 22 after a strong performance.

Of the remaining players in the 22, those who made the Team of the Week as individual nominees were the hardworking Noah Wheeler (Bendigo Pioneers), GWV Rebels forward Jed Hill, Northern Knights midfielder Justin McInerney and Sandringham Dragons star Liam Stocker. Stocker’s teammate, James Rendell was unlucky not to make the team, as was McInerney’s bottom-age teammate, Adam Carafa who could both be hypothetical emergencies in the Team of the Week.

 

Player of the Week: TAC Cup – Round 16

HE has been consistent all season and in the final round, Western Jets’ Connor Thar has taken out the AFL Draft Central TAC Cup Player of the Week for Round 16. The consistent midfielder was named best on ground in the Jets’ win against the Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval, amassing 32 disposals (at 66 per cent efficiency), taking five marks, producing three clearances, laying three tackles, having five inside 50s, two rebounds, and finishing off with two goals, one behind.

He won the Facebook poll with 53 per cent of the vote against Geelong Falcons’ Sam Walsh to become the first Western Jets player nominated for the year. After falling behind early in the vote, Thar staged a remarkable comeback in one of the closest Facebook polls to date, earning 750 votes ahead of Walsh’s 675 to take home the nomination.

AFL Draft Central’s TAC Cup Player of the Week:

Round One: Bailey Smith (Sandringham Dragons)

Round Two: Max King (Sandringham Dragons)

Round Three: Sam Flanders (Gippsland Power)

Round Four: Hudson Garoni (Murray Bushrangers)

Round Five: Joel Burleigh (Eastern Ranges)

Round Six: Mitch Podhajski (Calder Cannons)

Round Seven: Jamieson Rossiter (Eastern Ranges)

Round Eight: Matthew Day (Oakleigh Chargers)

Round Nine: Jake Riccardi (Calder Cannons)

Round 10: Ely Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Round 11: Charlie Wilson (GWV Rebels)

Round 12: Jake Gasper (Oakleigh Chargers)

Round 13: Mat Walker (Murray Bushrangers)

Round 14: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh Chargers)

Round 15: Riley Baldi (Gippsland Power)

Round 16: Connor Thar (Western Jets)