Tag: Hayden Blythe

TAC Cup to the VFL An AFL Victoria pathway

FOR every player that achieves his dream of playing AFL from his top-age year of TAC Cup football, there are many more that sadly miss out. For one reason or another, they are not drafted in that year, but could be the next, or the year after that; or perhaps, many years down the track.

There are a number of TAC Cup players who go on to play at VFL level to try and put their best foot forward, add another string to their bow and convince AFL clubs they are worth a shot. In 2017, many VFL spectators might see some familiar names if they attended the TAC Cup in 2016.

Coburg has picked up a whopping 13 TAC Cup players, including league leading goal kicker Karl Brown and tireless inside midfielder from Northern, Luke Bunker. Coburg’s affiliation with Calder Cannons saw them pick up seven players including Hayden Blythe and Jackson McDonald who received state combine invitations last year.

Three Western Jets have moved on to their VFL affiliate in Williamstown, with Brodie Romensky unlucky not to have found an AFL home in the 2016 drafts. Some of the players will already have a good feel around their new club with guys like Campbell Lane (Oakleigh) having played at Collingwood throughout last year. He will be joined by new teammates, former Dragon Kye Beveridge former Stingray Matthew La Fontaine.

The talented Josh Patullo will join Footscray, while former Gippsland Power teammate Kade Renooy will now aim to rove his taps as an opposition player when his new club Port Melbourne meets the Dogs. While this list may not be complete 100 per cent, it was accurate as of January from the AFL Victoria website. If there’s others who have made the transition, let us know and we can add them to the list so everyone can keep tabs on their development.

VFL:

Coburg:

Bendigo: Josh Formosa

Calder: Ben Barton, Hayden Blythe, Karl Brown, Billy Cannolo, Jackson McDonald, Jaidyn Owen, Jack Reaper

GWV Rebels: Connor Byrne

Murray: Lachlan Waite

Northern: Luke Bunker, Corey McKay, Matthew Perry, Chas Roberts

Collingwood:

Dandenong: Matthew La Fontaine

Oakleigh: Campbell Lane

Sandringham: Kye Beveridge

Essendon:

Western: Wilson Berry

Footscray:

Gippsland: Josh Patullo

Northern Blues:

Northern: Jake Bradley

Port Melbourne:

Dandenong: Dylan Atkins

Gippsland: Kade Renooy

Oakleigh: Jono Aujard, Ethan Hanley, Sam Michael, James Pullan

Sandringham: Hugh Johnson, Charlie Kelso, Ash Krakauer, Jesse Smith

Sandringham:

Dandenong: Daniel Hughes

Sandringham: Reuben Hayward, Conor Larkin, Josh Trew

Williamstown:

Calder: Lachlan Bramble

Murray: Fletcher Carroll

Western: Nick Giarrizzo, Max Philpot, Brodie Romensky

Finals preview: Saturday’s games

CC - Tyson Lever

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Calder Cannons

FANS will not have to wait long to find out the first team to be eliminated from the 2016 TAC Cup finals series, with no coming back for the loser of Oakleigh and Calder. The teams will take to the field from 11.30am on Saturday, with a number of top-age and bottom age prospects to watch for.

For Oakleigh, its strength is in its forward line, with Patrick Kerr, Toby Wooller, Nick Larkey, Jack Higgins and Dion Johnstone all capable of kicking a bag on their day. While their midfield might not have the silky clash of past years, they have a number of players that can find the ball and get it forward, which is all they need to do with the firepower forward of centre.

Their defence has a few talented players likely to end up on AFL lists, starting with Taylin Duman, a composed user of the ball, as well as the athletic and versatile Jordan Ridley. The Chargers have good depth in their 23, with their 23rd player still able to provide a role on the day.

For Calder, their strength lies at either end. In their defence is Hayden Blythe, Lachlan Bramble and Zac Guthrie all on clubs radars and will be keen to impress. In the forward line, Karl Brown is the league’s leading goal kicker, while Muhammed Saad booted seven goals in a game, with Mitch Lewis and Noah Balta (bottom ager) another two forwards to keep an eye on. Their midfield like Oakleigh’s, is not as strong as in past years, but the likes of Tyson Lever, Ben Ronke and Jackson McDonald are more than capable of winning their own ball. Ovie Magbegor is likely to have a fascinating duel in the ruck with Ned Reeves, with Magbegor a potential rookie selection.

What is the key to winning the match?

Ball movement will be a huge factor in the difference between winning and losing, with both teams willing to take risks through the centre corridor and kicking long down the line.

Who could be the difference for each side?

Jack Higgins (Oakleigh) is a natural ball winner and just finds plenty of space. More importantly, he can kick multiple goals in a short space of time and really turn a game on its head.

Zac Guthrie (Calder) will have one of the most important roles on Saturday, not only needing to likely nullify Nick Larkey, but also provide run out of defence. He loves to run, but can often rush his kicks, something he cannot afford to do in a final.

What do Oakleigh need to do to win?

The midfield battle is important to win, but their defence uses it well and they have plenty targets up forward that are not only strong overhead, but mobile as well. If the ball hits the ground, you can back the Chargers’ crumbers to make the most of their opportunities.

What do Calder need to do to win?

Simply, they must win the midfield battle. It is the one area they can top Oakleigh, and might even win the clearance count with an abundance of inside midfielders. Magbegor should win the hitouts and give the midfielders first touch, but they need to make the most of it. If Brown and Saad can get off the chain, then they are half a chance, but they cannot afford to engage in a shoot-out because it will not end well.

Who will win?

For mine it’s hard to go past Oakleigh. I respect Calder for what they have been able to do without an elite talent, but the cream rises to the top in finals, and Oakleigh has that cream.

Tip: Oakleigh by 35 points.



Geelong Falcons vs. North Ballarat Rebels

The second Saturday match is the qualifying final between the Geelong Falcons and North Ballarat Rebels. The Falcons held top spot for most of the season and had a massive win over Calder in the second last round before surrendering the minor premiership to Dandenong in the final round.

North Ballarat is on a huge high following a strong second half showing to snatch third after looking destined to finish fifth for most of the season. This game could be a low scoring game with both sides’ forward lines the lowest of the finals teams in my opinion.

While the Falcons have Brett Blair and Zachary Zdybel, Zdybel often rotates through the ruck with Sean Darcy, while Hayden Elliot also floats through both positions. Aside from those two key forwards, a lot of their goals come from midfielders, which is great because of the unpredictability, but it also means if you are losing the midfield battle, chances are you will lose the match.

The Rebels have a very solid defence with Jarrod Korewha, Clay Bilney and Hunter Dawborn able to match up on the taller players, while Tom Williamson and Callan Wellings provide movement from half-back and through the midfield.

North Ballarat Rebels’ midfield is the best in the competition, with Hugh McCluggage, Willem Drew, Jarrod Berry and Cedric Cox all to be drafted in November, and quite possibly in the first 40 picks.

It will be a tough ask for Geelong, with top prospect Jack Henry (probably a later National Draft selection) and James Worpel (bottom ager) as they provide the class, while the likes of Max Augerinos and Lockey McCartney provide the inside grunt. Sean Darcy is a monster in the ruck, but the Falcons will need to overcome a lack of star power across the field to win.

In defence there are a few underrated players in Jack Blood and Mitch Diamond, while Sam Simpson and Pat Dowling can kick a few goals on their day up forward. Overall, it will be a case of whether Geelong’s working class midfield can upstage the polish of North Ballarat’s midfield.


What is the key to winning the match?

The key in my opinion is converting opportunities. Both forward lines might not have big names in there, but have shown to still kick big scores on occasions with midfielders rotating through.

Who could be the difference for each side?

James Worpel (Geelong) is a star and still 12 months away from being drafted. The inside midfield beast can go forward and kick goals, and I think he will get to go head-to-head with another contested beast in Willem Drew.

It is hard to go past Hugh McCluggage for the Rebels, with the likely number one draft pick all class and seemingly unstoppable in the second half of the season. McCluggage does it all from finding space, moving through traffic and kicking goals, of which he kicks an absurd amount for a midfielder.

What do Geelong need to do to win?

Geelong will have to play a possession style game and nullify North Ballarat’s better ball users in McCluggage and Cox. If Geelong can win the football at the coal face and try and reduce the amount of pain the Rebels can cause them on the outside, then they are certainly in with a chance. On paper they lack the class, but a blue collar side are not afraid to get down and dirty and if it’s a tight game, they are the ones that often close out matches.

What do North Ballarat need to do to win?

Simply, put it in the hands of their better ball users in McCluggage and Cox. Exactly the opposite to Geelong – give it to them and let them work their magic. If both have days out, then the Rebels will win. They also have more run around the ground than the Falcons, so they can afford to take the game on with big kicks Korewha and Berry able to clear zones. They will need to be smart going forward as their most dangerous targets are small to medium types, whereas Geelong is good at getting across and spoiling.

Who will win?

I’m tipping North Ballarat as I believe they can go all the way and win the flag. But in saying that, Geelong are in with a shot if they can win the inside battle and get it to their big forwards. If North Ballarat can open the game up, then they will really apply pressure on their opponents, and much like the Oakleigh/Calder game, class rises to the top.

Tip: North Ballarat by four points.

2016 TAC Cup Finals preview

IMG_8821

1st Dandenong Stingrays

Dandenong Stingrays are arguably the most consistent team across the board, without a distinct strength, but very few weaknesses.

They have talented players in the defence, through the middle and up forward, and work well as a cohesive unit, particularly at Shepley Oval.

Their top prospect for this year’s draft is Josh Battle, a key forward who is the smartest tall in the draft, and an accurate set shot for goal.

Roving around his feet is Sam Fowler, a dangerous goal sneak who has gained more midfield minutes lately and is adding an extra string to his bow.

Chuck in bottom-ager Tom De Koning and they have more than enough targets up forward that can kick a big score.

In the midfield, Myles Poholke is the man to watch, with plenty of eyes set to be on him this finals series.

An inside midfielder who can impact the scoreboard, Poholke is in great form and primed for a big finals series.

Joining him in the middle are over-agers Thomas Glen and Tom Jok, both of whom can win the footy, with Glen a consistent ball winner, while Jok has the evasion to do the unthinkable.

Looking down back, Bailey Morrish and Reece Piper are the players chosen to move the ball in transition and are among a list of names on recruiter’s lists given their impressive seasons.

Dandenong Stingrays fans can also enjoy some of the country’s most talented bottom-agers with Hunter Clark, Aaron Darling, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Oscar Clavarino named in the Level Two AFL Academy squad with De Koning.

In terms of premiership credentials, in the discussion of “contender or pretender”, I rate Dandenong third overall behind the Bushrangers and Dragons when teams are at full strength and therefore are truly a “contender”.

The aspect I like most about Dandenong is they do not rely on their top-age talent, nor do they have a star they need to rely on.

They have players across the ground that can play their role and in finals this is often what can get the job done.

I would be very surprised not to see them featuring in at least the preliminary finals this year.

Overall, I think they have a solid chance at taking out the premiership, but will be tested in the first final to see exactly where they are at in 2016.A


2nd Geelong Falcons

Geelong Falcons are a perennial finals team that seem to make top four before falling ahead of the big dance.

In 2013, their star studded team filled with would-be AFL players Lewis Taylor, Paddy McCartin, Hugh Goddard, Jackson Nelson, Darcy Lang and Darcy Gardiner was unable to get the job done.

Since then they have continually pushed teams throughout the year, but travel, or ultimately the fresher metropolitan teams have caught up with them.

In 2016, Geelong have been the pace setters from the get-go and until last round held pole position for most of the season.

After losing AIS Academy member and talented running defender Alex Witherden for the year early, the Falcons have made do since and have racked up the victories.

The biggest query on them is the fact that they lacked Vic Country representatives for the most part and therefore were close to full-strength beating understrength sides.

However, the experience as a cohesive unit should not be understated, with a number of players to watch in the finals series.

James Worpel is one name that will be on every recruiter’s list for the 2017 draft.

Worpel was recently added to the AFL Academy Level Two squad after missing selection the year before.

The rugged inside midfielder has a fearless approach to the way he plays his football and he has fantastic goal sense as well.

James Henry is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on, with the tall midfielder a smooth mover with a booming kick.

To me he seems like a barometer and when he is up and going, so is the rest of the side.

He is surrounded in the midfield by reliable, consistent midfielders including Max Augerinos, Mitch Diamond, Jack Blood and Cassidy Parish.

With two strong contested marks up forward in Zachary Zdybel and Brett Blair, and the monster that is Sean Darcy in the middle, Geelong’s best chance of winning the premiership in 2016 is possession football.

They keep hold of it and give their forwards a chance of marking it and they will go a long way to winning the game.

Other names draft watchers should look out for are Patrick Killen, Harry Benson and Lockey McCartney, all of whom can impact on their day.

In terms of whether they could win it, I do feel a lot would need to go their way.

Firstly stay injury free and then play possession football to stop stronger opposition midfields dominating the game and putting their defence under siege.

The Falcons’ forward line and run are amongst their strengths, backing themselves to take the game on and get it forward.

If they can give their forwards opportunities they will be a good chance, but they will need to be at their best against strong first-choice midfields, particularly in the top five sides.


3rd North Ballarat Rebels

North Ballarat Rebels are a side that at full strength have the capability to beat anyone.

While they do not have the star key position posts of other sides, they have a shared contribution from players around the field that chip in and hit the scoreboard.

Their midfield is first class with the likes of possible number one pick Hugh McCluggage, inside bull Willem Drew and the underrated Callan Wellings.

With Lloyd Meek winning the hitouts more often than not, the midfielders often get first use.

With Jarrod Korewha, Jarrod Berry and Cedric Cox stationed at half-back, the Rebels also have plenty of run coming out of the defensive 50.

Berry can move forward and have an impact, while Tom Williamson can be fitted in just about anywhere and is a smooth mover with a bit of toe.

Heading forward, Shannon Beks is the most likely prospect to kick a bag of goals, however he has struggled with inconsistency at times.

Rotating with the likes of Meek and Todd Lawrence in the ruck, Beks is strong overhead and a solid set shot, he just has to get to the right positions more often.

Another underrated player at the Rebels is Sam White, who can play at either end, starting as a key defender, but has spent time up forward lately.

He can take a grab, earn a free and kick goals, so could be a secret weapon in the finals series.

The big question is how far can the Rebels go?

I think matching up one-on-one against any side, they can beat them, it will be whether or not they get it done on the day.

I rate the Rebels as the fourth best side, however they are not far off the Stingrays in third.

With a well-balanced midfield, a hard working forward line and a defence that takes the game on, you can never discount the Rebels and they would have to be considered in contention for the premiership.


4th Murray Bushrangers

Murray Bushrangers are the team I am most looking forward to watching in the 2016 finals series.

They have an honest, hard-working ball-winning midfield and a forward line to die for.

I have no qualms placing them as my favourite for the flag, simply because they have so much inside grunt that just win the ball and get it forward – simple football.

The one question mark I have is over their class compared to other sides, because while they have a blue collar midfield, they might lack those couple of classy runners who slice up oppositions with their foot skills.

Led by potential number one draft pick Will Brodie, the Bushrangers have a two-way running midfield which includes James Cousins and Fletcher Carroll.

Up forward, the Bushrangers have a wealth of options with likely top 10 pick Todd Marshall, Esava Ratugolea, Trent McMullanZachary Sproule and Max Lynch all able to take a contested mark inside 50.

Of late, McMullan and Lynch have been sharing the ruck duties, while Sproule has played higher up the ground and as a key defender, making Marshall and Ratugolea the two key targets inside 50.

Their defence should not be underrated either with the likes of Ryan Garthwaite and Harry Morrison, both of whom are solid users of the ball, but have not been able to sustain a run on the park because of injuries.

One of the most impressive aspects about the Bushrangers is they have been able to secure a top four spot without arguably the best small forward in the competition who suffered a season ending injury just one match in – Jy Simpkin.

The Bushrangers arguably have the most draftable talent of any TAC Cup club, with many coming under Greater Western Sydney’s Academy program.

No less than eight Bushrangers could find homes in November’s draft, and they could head onto AFL lists on the back of a TAC Cup premiership.

However like every year, it will come down to whether the travelling catches up to them.

They should make it through to a preliminary final, but face a fresh metropolitan team and that is where it goes pearshaped for the country sides.

Murray has their best list when it featured the likes of Steele Sidebottom and Tom Rockliff in 2008, as they stormed to the TAC Cup premiership.

If they have enough run in the legs and sustain their performance for the next four weeks, they could very well break the metropolitan team’s stranglehold over the title.


5th Sandringham Dragons 

The Sandringham Dragons are aguably one of the favourites to take out the 2016 TAC Cup title. Despite dropping out of the four, Oakleigh showed last year that the top four isn’t a prerequisite for success- especially given all eight clubs had the bye over last weekend.

Boasting a midfield with names such as Andrew McGrath, Will Setterfield, Tim Taranto and Oliver Florent, expect Sandringham to get their hands on the football.

McGrath could well warrent a Top five pick come November and has shown twice this year he can win his own football collecting over 40 disposals against Gippsland and Bendigo.

Setterfield made a successful return from injury against Bendigo, playing one of his best games for the season in the midfield.

Across half back, Ari Sakeson and Jack Scrimshaw have shown some good agility getting round their opposition and will be crucial for the Dragons to rebound the ball out of defence.

The Dragons will look to get the ball in Scrimshaw’s hands to catapult them forward and their opponents will need to watch Scrimshaw carefully in an attempt to keep him out of the play.

Inside 50, Sandringham have relied on bottom age talls Hayden McLean and Isaac Morrisby.

Both talls have shown good signs this season, being apart of the Vic Metro U17 Futures squads throughout the year. You could make a case that McLean will be in the first handful of talls for the 2017 draft pool.

Both are sound overhead and are strong enough to out muscle their opponents.

Vic Metro ruckman Lachlan Filipovic‘s hitout numbers have been good in the ruck and he will be crucial for the Dragons to get first use of the ball.

Filipovic is relatively new to football and has mounted a case that should see him earn a rookie spot come November 28.

For me, I think the Dragons are the best Metro side that made it through the finals. They will have to do it the hard way and win four games to be crowned as premiers, but their midfield is the best in the competition and if they can go in and win the hard stuff they’ll be tough to beat.

Missing finals in 2015 was a kick in the guts for Sandringham and they won’t want to let this opportunity slip at glory. If their defence can hold up against Eastern’s strong forwards, they shouldn’t have any issues accounting for the elimination final.


6th Oakleigh Chargers 

Can they pull off a three peat? Oakleigh have won back-to-back finals and have well & truly been the benchmark over the last few seasons. This year they haven’t been able to gel it all together, with injuries, Vic Metro and school commitments meaning they haven’t had their Best 23 on the park each week.

Bottom age midfielder Jack Higgins has been crucial on the inside for the Chargers when he hasn’t been away playing school football. Higgins has averaged 22 disposals and two goals throughout the season and looms as a first round pick in 2017.

19-year-olds Campbell Lane and Lachlan Walker have been superb throughout the season, able to find the footy without any issues. Both are the only two Chargers to have averaged over 25 disposals, having played 27 games between them.

Up forward Oakleigh will be looking to Patrick Kerr to hit the scoreboard. Kerr booted three in their elimination final last year and if he can repeat that effort again throughout the finals they should be able to progress to the second week.

Kerr is a tough opponent on the lead and has worked on his cleanliness at ground level. Josh Daicos has the potential to be damaging inside 50 and may provide the spark they need to get through the first final.

Toby Wooller has also been prominent inside 50 and will be another target the Chargers will look for after he dominated APS school football for Scotch College.

Swingman Nick Larkey will move between ends and has been known to float forward late in games and boot goals.

Medium defenders Jordan Ridley and Taylin Duman both had a taste of Vic Metro football in June and will be two names that could really push themselves up draft orders should they play well.

Oakleigh may not have had the best year- But they did knock off Sandringham Dragons a few weeks ago and if they produce an effort similar to that they could be hard to stop.


7th Calder Cannons

There is no denying the Cannons are a hard team to read.

They have benefited from having less state representatives from other teams and just purely won the games they had to win in order to make finals.

There are a few players in the line-up that could get called up on draft day, but the side is not the powerhouse of a couple of seasons ago.

Looking through the list, the likes of Hayden Blythe and Jackson McDonald jump out through the defence and midfield, standing up despite not winning a lot of the ball.

Defensively they match up well, but offensively they can find themselves exposed against the top teams.

Tom Burnside is a player that I really enjoy watching when he is on his game.

A athletic tall that breezes around the field, he takes marks, kicks goals or can work defensively to shut out an opposition tall.

More importantly he can play a lanky midfielder, so there is scope there for him to improve at the top level.

It is hard to talk about the Cannons without mentioning leading goal kicker Karl Brown.

A lot of draft fans look and see he kicks bags most weeks but is never in talks about his draft ability.

I think the biggest knock on him is his size – medium height – and the fact he needs to do more when not in possession of the ball.

Brown could be a contributing factor in the finals series, but he will often beat opponents on experience or use his smarts to win the footy.

Up the other end there is Zac Guthrie who is a very strong rebounding defender with a bit of toe.

He looks pretty impressive tucking the ball under his arm, but his kicking needs work.

In 2016, Calder has a lot of half-chances for draftees, which in my terms are players that have some potential, but their deficiencies are also pretty clear.

It would not surprise me to see a lot of Cannons taken in the rookie draft as opposed to the National Draft just due to this fact.

As for the finals series, it is hard to see them getting past the country teams or full-strength metropolitan teams.

I could envision them challenging Oakleigh or Geelong on their day, but the depth that has got them this far will need to stand up in finals against stronger top-end talent.

But, I am always one for the underdog and if they can click as a group in September, as they say, you have to be in it to win it, and the Cannons are in it.


8th Eastern Ranges 

Eastern Ranges are the wildcard in the pack, with a hard working midfield and an incredibly strong forward line.

The Ranges have finished eighth but they are far from making up the numbers, with many of their top talents missing through the year due to school football and state commitments.

Their midfield comprises of Dylan Clarke, Callum Brown, Josh Begley and Jordan Gallucci, all of whom can influence a game.

The forward line is a bottom-age line-up to die for with the lines of Joel Garner, Sam Hayes and Jaidyn Stephenson all expected to be high picks in 2017.

In defence, the likes of All-Australian full back Jack Maibaum lead the charge with the ever reliable Harrison Nolan and Josh Hannon there for support.

In the past, sides with strong forward lines have got the job done, and Eastern, along with Oakleigh, have certainly got that.

What will be interesting is whether the Ranges’ blue collar midfield will have enough outside skill under pressure to deliver to targets up forward.

There is no doubting their inside capabilities are as good as the likes of North Ballarat and Sandringham, if not better, yet both those sides have outside pace and plenty of it.

If they can get the ball in the hands of bottom-ager Adam Cerra, then he could really influence the game as he did as a 16 year-old in last year’s finals series.

For me, Eastern Ranges are a genuine contender if they can get past Sandringham who is one of the premiership favourites.

As a whole, Eastern have a well balanced team and I think the blow torch will be on the midfield this September to get first hands to it, because if they can, they are every chance of winning the flag.

They have recent success in finals, where they won the premiership back in 2013, with Tom Boyd booting four goals in the grand final as the Ranges obliterated the Dandenong Stingrays.

This year will be tougher, but they have the cattle on the park to get there, it will just be a case of if they can put it together on the day.

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.

Draft dream not over for state combine nominees

Vic Metro midfielder Luke Bunker headlines the 2016 state combine invites.
Vic Metro midfielder Luke Bunker headlines the 2016 state combine invites.

Following from last Monday’s announcement of the 80 players invited to the National Combine, 100 players from around the country have been nominated by clubs to attend the State Combine.

80 PLAYERS INVITED TO THE 2016 AFL DRAFT COMBINE

Each state will run individual tests, with clubs sent the data to analyse before November’s draft. Similar to the process for the national combine, each club nominated a list of players that they wanted to see test. To receive an invite to the AFL State Combine, players must receive at least two expressions of interest from AFL clubs.

Vic Metro midfielder Luke Bunker averaged 22 disposals in the Under 18 championships and headlines the list of names that was released by the AFL today.

One of the big surprises invited to the combine is Alex Mastromanno. Mastromanno missed the Sandringham Dragons Under 18 cut earlier in the year and has dominated the APS school boy competition kicking just under 35 goals for Brighton Grammar.

Mastromanno also booted four goals at U19 Level for the VAFA representative team and has kicked seven goals in two senior VAFA games for Old Brighton.

Tasmania have a sole invite to the combine with Harrison Pearce making the list of a 100. The Glenorchy midfielder has a superb dash of speed but has missed a large chunk of football this season with an injury.

Former Gold Coast Sun, Andrew Boston, who played 16 games from 2013-15 has been named after a dominant season for Southport in the NEAFL.

Dandenong Stingray exciting small forward Sam Fowler will also test and provides a real point of difference in the draft pool. The 169cm player nicknamed “Rat” is the third leading goal kicker in the TAC Cup, with 33 goals this season.

After a strong last quarter performance on Sunday, Oakleigh Charger tall Nick Larkey has made the cut. The utility has played at both ends of the ground throughout the year and will likely be seen as a project for clubs looking for a tall.

Western Bulldogs father-son hopeful Michael Romero will also be there and the Dogs will be keeping a close eye on him. Romero has spent his time at Calder and in the Footscray VFL side, along with playing his school football at St Kevin’s College throughout the season. Romero is the son of Jose, who played 211 AFL games.

Numerous brothers of current AFL footballers have also been nominated with Corey Lyons (brother of Jarryd), Zach Guthrie (brother of Cam), Will Leslie (brother of Jack) and Jamie Hampton (brother of Curtly) making the list.


NSW-ACT (6)
Jake Brown
Jordan Harper
Ryan Hebron
Lucas Meline
Matt Wilson
Lachlan Tiziani

Northern Territory (3)
Jamie Hampton
Willie Rioli
Rohan Armstrong 

Queensland (5)
Andrew Boston
Daniel Charlesworth
Blake Grewar
Jack Rolls
Max Spencer

South Australia (17)
Tye Bedford
Lachlan Cameron
Mitch Carter
Tom Charlton
Sam Draper
Brayden Kirk
Peter Ladhams
Jackson Lee
Liam Mackie
Connor Noonan
Andre Parella
Toby Pink
Jake Pitman
Steven Slimming
Jordan Sweet
Dylan Whimpress
Lewis Young

Tasmania (1)
Harrison Pearce

VFL (6)
Robbie Fox
Declan Keilty
Rowan Marshall
Oscar McInerney
Sam McLachlan
Tom Stewart

Vic Country (18)
Dan Allsop
James Cousins
Mason De Witt
Pat Dowling
Sam Fowler
Cooper Jones
Jermaine Jones
Kayle Kirby
Jarrod Korewha
Will Leslie
Sean Masterson
Liam McKay
Lloyd Meek
Louis Pinnuck
Reece Piper
Sam Simpson
Isaac Wallace
Callan Wellings

Vic Metro (28)
Jono Aujard
Hayden Blythe
Harrison Bult
Luke Bunker
Harrison Burt
Louis Cunningham
Lachlan Filopovic
Zach Guthrie
Kane Keppel
Nelson Lane
Nick Larkey
Mitch Lewis
Jordan Lynch
Corey Lyons
Alex Mastromanno
Jackson McDonald
Brock McGregor
Lachlan Murphy
Ed Phillips
Cam Polson
Brodie Romensky
Michael Romero
Ben Ronke
Jack Roughesedge
Ari Sakeson
Callum Searle
Matthew Signorello
Lachlan Walker

Western Australia (16)
Bailey Banfield
Tarir Bayok
Darcy Cameron
Brad Fullgrabe
Jeremy Goddard
Noah Hura
Luke Meadows
Jimmy Miller
Chad Pearson
Tyson Pickett
Liam Ryan
Keanu Shandley
Luke Strnadica
Matt Taylor
Calvin Thorne
Stan Wright