Tag: TAC Cup

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

GRAND Finalists were decided, premierships determined, and controversy reigned supreme in a highly memorable weekend of football.

TAC Cup Grand Finalists determined

Given the results from the week before, it was no surprise to see Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers emerge as the two grand finalists for 2018. The Stingrays belted the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 110 points, then knocked off Sandringham Dragons by seven goals in the finals series, while the Oakleigh Chargers made light work of both Western Jets (120 points) and Gippsland Power (93 points) to hold a mind-boggling 101-point average winning margin in their past three games. It is hard to imagine the side with just one loss for the season – and that being a six-point defeat – might head into the decider as underdogs, but the Chargers form has been so strong, it will be interesting to see how much pressure the Stingrays can put on them. Hopefully it is a belter of a game.

Cats claw their way into decider

Geelong’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side only just made it into the finals with a round to go, having stiff competition from Darebin Falcons in the run home, but they made the most of their finals series, with terrific wins over the top two teams heading into the final round in Northern Territory (NT) Thunder and Collingwood. The Magpies were bundled out in straight sets after losing to Hawthorn in the semi-final, and then Geelong in the preliminary final on the weekend. Now the rivalry between Geelong and Hawthorn will reignite in the VFL Women’s with certainly no love lost between the two supporter bases.

Dream prelim set up

It was the potential preliminary final that practically everyone wanted to see – the two biggest supporter based AFL clubs in Collingwood and Richmond facing off under lights. The Tigers deservedly go in as strong favourites, but with the game sold out within an hour to anyone not holding a Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) or AFL membership – and no general admission tickets available – the MCG will be rocking on Friday night with likely the largest crowd for a preliminary final on record. Richmond has beaten Collingwood both times this season, but the Magpies have pushed them for three quarters despite sustaining two injuries early in the games. Everyone wants an absolute cracker, so hopefully that is how it turns out.

Nineteenth man controversy strikes twice

It is hard to believe in this day and age teams can make the mistake of having 19 men on the field, but that is exactly what happened, not once, but twice on the weekend. It was not in a local bush league, but in two important state league knockout finals. Southport was found to have 19 men on the field in the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) Grand Final against Sydney Swans reserves, and even got done after a headcount. But rather than wipe their score – as is an option – the Sharks were that far ahead it was deemed that nineteenth man had no bearing on the outcome. However, it was much trickier in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL), when North Adelaide came back from 47 points down to run over the top of Woodville West Torrens in the preliminary final. The Roosters had a nineteenth man on the field for five minutes when they booted 1.2, and the final result? North Adelaide won by five points. In the end, it went to a tribunal hearing, and it was decided the result would stand, but North Adelaide would be fined $10,000 and docked four premiership points for the start of next season. It will be interesting to see how the grand final plays out, with Norwood the side awaiting the Roosters in the Grand Final.

North Launceston claims flag

North Launceston backed up its terrific regular season form with a five-goal win over Lauderdale in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) Grand Final on the weekend. The Bombers finished five games clear on top of the table, and were red-hot favourites going into the clash, but had to overcome an early challenge from their opponents to get the job done. North Launceston lead by just one point at half-time, before piling on four goals to one in the second half – albeit with some horrendous inaccuracy – 13 behinds. It was enough to get the job done, however as North Melbourne Next Generation Academy player, Tarryn Thomas booted two of his side’s seven goals – and took a massive hanger in the goalsquare – and was named in the best in a strong performance in the red and black.

Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Preliminary finals

WE are down to the final four TAC Cup sides for season 2018, with Dandenong Stingrays taking on Sandringham Dragons, and Gippsland Power facing Oakleigh Chargers to determine the two, 2018 Grand Finalists.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Preliminary Finals  – Saturday, September 15, 11.30am
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Last week:

In the first of two preliminary finals, we take a look at the minor premiers, Dandenong Stingrays, taking on the fourth placed Sandringham Dragons. Last weekend, the Stingrays were on another level compared to the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, thumping them by 110 points, while the Dragons proved too good for the Murray Bushrangers in a 43-point win.

Last time:

Sandringham Dragons 6.10 (46) defeated by Dandenong Stingrays 14.9 (93)

In the final round of the TAC Cup season, Dandenong Stingrays ensured the Dragons had a nervous wait across the weekend, with a top four spot on the line. Sandringham luckily witnessed Northern Knights upsetting Murray Bushrangers to earn a weekend off. On the day, Sam Sturt and Finlay Bayne both booted three goals, while Matthew Cottrell claimed best on ground for the Stingrays. For the Dragons, Angus Hanrahan was the only multiple goal kicker with two majors, while James Rendell and Liam Stocker were impressive – Stocker picking up the three votes in the match despite the 47-point loss.

 

THE KEY – INSIDE MIDFIELD

The big key in the game is which side can win the ball at the coal face and get the ball down to their key forwards and crumbers. Both sides have good firepower inside 50, and the clearances will be an area to watch with the teams having strong contested ball winners. Looking at the starting midfields, there is not much to split them with clearances and contested possessions practically even. Dandenong’s starting three midfielders lay more tackles, with Toby Bedford also spending time up forward and adding pressure up there.

Sandringham:

Liam Stocker 12.5 contested possessions, 5.6 clearances, 4.5 tackles
Harry Reynolds 10.0 contested possessions, 3.3 clearances, 2.3 tackles
Kai Owens 8.7 contested possessions, 3.8 clearances, 6.2 tackles

= 31.2 contested possessions, 12.7 clearances, 13 tackles

vs.

Dandenong:

Sam Fletcher 13.4 contested possessions, 5.2 clearances, 7.7 tackles
Campbell Hustwaite 11.0 contested possessions, 5.0 clearances, 6.1 tackles
Toby Bedford 8.0 contested possessions, 2.3 clearances, 5.7 tackles

= 32.4 contested possessions, 12.5 clearances, 19.5 tackles

 

WHY THE TEAMS WILL WIN?

Dandenong: The best team all year, depth that is envious of any other side and equal to that of fellow challenger, Oakleigh. They seem to have winners across all thirds of the ground and just made the Rebels look silly last week. A last round win against the Dragons will have the Stingrays’ confidence high to repeat the effort again. The Stingrays love a scrap and will be keen to beat the Dragons at the contest and use their bigger bodies to extract the ball and pump it long.

Sandringham: Any side with Ben King inside 50 is a threat, and the Stingrays will not only look to nullify him, but just cut off the delivery to him, full stop. But if the Dragons midfielders can get on top on the inside, then the Stingrays defence could be under siege. They also possess the ball really well and will look to play the ball on their terms with slick, short ball use.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Preliminary Finals  – Saturday, September 15, 2pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Last week:

Gippsland Power managed to get over the highly dangerous Geelong Falcons with a 35-point victory at Ikon Park. They took four quarters to do it – leading by just eight points at the final break before a five-goal final term saw the second placed Power storm away with the game. The Chargers had a much easier game against Western Jets, shaking off an early challenge by the Jets to post a massive 120-point victory to earn a place in the preliminary final.

Last time:

Oakleigh Chargers 8.7 (55) defeated by Gippsland Power 9.6 (60)

Not much can be read into it given Oakleigh was missing the majority of its best 22, but Gippsland got the job done in a thriller at Warrawee Park with a Noah Gown goal in the dying seconds sealing a great comeback win. Noah Answerth bombed through a goal on the siren, but not release the ball until a second too late. The result left Oakleigh’s top four hopes in the lurch, but an impressive win over Sandringham Dragons and a 15-goal rout of the GWV Rebels put any threat of missing the week off to bed pretty soon. Daniel Scala booted four goals for the Chargers, while Trent Bianco and Sam Harte were named Oakleigh’s best in the loss. For Gippsland, Gown, Harrison Pepper and Sam Flanders all booted two goals, while Gown and Boadie Motton were named in the Power’s best.

 

THE KEY – FIREPOWER FORWARDS

Both Gippsland and Oakleigh head into the clash as sides that have dynamic forward lines. Gippsland has more structure to it, with two traditional talls in Gown and Josh Smith, while Oakleigh relies on a number of medium-talls and smalls rather than a key position monster. Last week, Dylan Williams booted six goals, while Atu Bosenavulagi, Jake Gasper, Charlie Whitehead and Jay Robertson all contributed multiple goals, while Gippsland had 10 individual goal kickers, with their club leading scorer Gown, contributing just the one.

As you will see from the below total, the top six goal kickers playing in the match provide plenty of options for midfielders to kick to, with some of the forwards spending time through the middle. Oakleigh’s six will largely form the six-man forward line against the Power, while Gippsland’s will see a number of their players begin in the midfield and rest forward.

Gippsland firepower:

Noah Gown – 30.18
Josh Smith – 20.7
Sam Flanders – 19.18
Austin Hodge – 14.13
Irving Mosquito – 14.4
Xavier Duursma – 13.5

Top 6: 110.65 (725)

Oakleigh firepower:

Jake Gasper – 38.15
Matthew Day – 20.10
Dylan Williams – 18.12
Jay Robertson – 15.8
Charlie Whitehead – 14.10
Atu Bosenavulagi – 13.9

Top 6: 118.64 (772)

 

WHY THE TEAMS WILL WIN?

Gippsland: The Power play an exciting brand of football that blends both speed and pressure which is really eye-catching, and will look to match Oakleigh at its own game of doing the same. The Power must simply bring the heat to the contest, because letting Oakleigh have too much time and space results in undesirable results for the team doing so.

Oakleigh: You cannot read into the season of the Chargers despite still finishing third. They are right up there with Dandenong in terms of premiership favourites and have stamped their authority with 90 and 120-point wins in their past two outings. They have ridiculous amounts of midfield depth and big bodies to control the inside while using their runners on the outside.

Fantastic Five: Memorable moments from the weekend

INDIVIDUAL and team success, and some emotional moments highlighted what was a huge round of finals football, both on and off the field.

Two Seagulls and a Tiger taste success

It was the Victorian Football League (VFL)’s night of nights, and it had a definitive Williamstown flavour. Former Murray Bushrangers midfielder, now Seagull, Michael Gibbons shared the J.J Liston Medal with Richmond’s Anthony Miles, while fellow Seagull, Jess Duffin took out the newly named Lambert-Pearce medal for the VFL Women’s best and fairest award. Miles did his chances of finding a new AFL home no harm with a top season, while Gibbons has been talked up as a potential draft choice as one of the state leaguers that bottom clubs will have priority access to prior to draft day.

Dandenong, Oakleigh emerge as TAC Cup titans

Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers are sizing each other up from opposite sides of the finals draw after smashing their respective opponents by triple figures across the weekend. The Stingrays belted the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 110 points on Saturday, before the Chargers went 10 points better with a 20-goal victory over Western Jets. The two sides face off against Sandringham Dragons and Gippsland Power respectively who are worthy preliminary finalists, but the pair go in as strong favourites considering their remarkable form, particularly the Chargers who have a two-game accumulative winning margin of 210 points.

Hawks through, Cats to face Pies

Ladder positions mean very little when it comes to finals and that proved true on the weekend in the VFL Women’s competition. The second placed Hawks upset the top-of-the-table Magpies, while Geelong toppled pre-season premiership favourite Northern Territory (NT) Thunder. Now with no turning back, Collingwood will have to knock off Geelong to earn the right at another crack at the Hawks, and avoid the dreaded straight-sets exit.

Demon fans celebrate

It has been a long time between drinks – 12 years to be exact – but the Demons fans burst into jubilation when their side toppled Geelong with relentless pressure and a four-quarter effort. They booted five goals to zero in the opening term and never let-up to keep the Cats at arms-length, frustrating the likes of Joel Selwood into giving away free kicks on a night that the Geelong faithful would rather forget. But for the long-suffering Demons fans, it was the monkey off the back and they have even started booking plane tickets to Perth for the following week!

Travis Varcoe stands tall

Not many could even imagine what Collingwood’s Travis Varcoe has had to endure the past fortnight following the tragic passing of his sister, Maggie. But such is the bond at football clubs, Varcoe chose to play in the first final over in Perth and was his sister was honoured by a minute’s silence prior to the National Anthem. Then, a moment that could not have been better even if it had been scripted. The exciting speedster won the ball at half-forward, sprinted inside 50 and nailed a running goal from the boundary line. His teammates came from everywhere and no doubt the whole football world was behind him at that moment.

Scouting notes: TAC Cup – Wildcard Round

FOUR teams advanced through to the finals in the Wildcard Round and our writers were on hand to take notes on how some of the combine invitees and Under 17 Futures players went in the knockout weekend.

Calder Cannons vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

Calder:

#5 Curtis Taylor

Started the game really strongly and even though he had the two goals to his name, he could have had more. After starting quietly in the past two weeks, it was great to see him up and about creating space. He was leading hard up at the footy and looked really dangerous. Importantly, he was zipping around inside 50 forcing ground level pressure as well, including acts that would not be recorded on a stats sheet. Faded out of the game in the last term, so is still looking for that four quarter effort, but got the Cannons going early and was still a target in the third term.

#8 Lachlan Sholl

Was under siege in the final term and ended as one of the Cannons best in defence. He had a couple of moments he would want back again such as trying to kick the ball off the ground instead of picking it up late, but when coming off half-back he looked good. Earlier in the game he had an absolute elite pass across his body coming out of defence hitting up a teammate on the wing. Saved a certain Oscar Brownless goal, jumping up on the line and getting finger tips to it as Brownless’ snap sailed through midway through the last term.

#20 Rhylee West

Did not win a truckload of the ball like he can do on some occasions, but had a high impact per possession game. His stoppage work was first class and his ability to move through congestion seamlessly, was a highlight. He kicked a ripping goal off hands at a stoppage to bend it around the post and in, and just has those highlight-worthy moments. Also made sure the likes of Sam Walsh and Ned McHenry knew he was up for the fight, pestering his opposition fellow AFL Academy members.

#23 Daniel Hanna

Returned to the side after some experience with Essendon’s Victorian Football League (VFL) side, and was one of the top players in the first term. His composure and cleanliness at ground level was good, and he took a number of intercept marks dropping into the hole. It also released Lachlan Sholl and the like to play more free with their game-style off half-back. He almost had a horror moment dropping what appeared to be a standard uncontested mark in the final term, but the kick was called back and he would have breathed a sigh of relief. Showed some promising signs in that key defensive post.

#30 Mitch Podhajski

Did not have his most prolific game, but just stands up when he is called to do so. Kicked an early goal in the opening term and provides a target when forward, or a big body around the stoppages in the middle.

#57 Josh Kemp

An exciting talent who looked very good in the opening term, flying for marks and backing up his highlight-worthy moments with good pressure plays. He had just three touches after quarter time, drifting right out of the game, but does have some exciting traits – that vertical leap being one.

 

Geelong:

#8 Ned McHenry

A terrific game from McHenry, possibly his best for the season. He might have had just the 20 touches, but his ability to stand up when the game was on the line and with the Cannons focused on Sam Walsh, McHenry was terrific. He kicked Geelong’s first major of the game and then nailed the first of the final term – the most important of the game because of the balance between the sides with Calder leading by 11. He swung the momentum back in Geelong’s favour, and was fierce around the stoppages and just turned it on in the second half to be a crucial player.

#20 Brayden Ham

Did not have the scoreboard impact he has had in recent weeks, starting in defence then moving forward in the second half – a trend which has become the norm for Ham over the past month in particular. Ham also spent time in the midfield and did not look out of place around the stoppages. He uses the ball well, has a high impact per possession count, and takes the game on with his blistering speed and huge tank. Had a big third term presenting up the ground and had an opportunity to cut the final break deficit to six with a set shot from tight in the pocket, but just missed. Has become an important player in the Falcons’ outfit.

#22 Sam Walsh

Had limited influence compared to past weeks, but you can never keep him down entirely, showing his class on multiple occasions throughout the four quarters. The big thing with Walsh is, when he cannot impact offensively, he gets his hands dirty defensively, and can switch between the roles. He knew he was copping close attention on the weekend, so he turned it back on his opponents and instead laid multiple tackles and had one of his better defensive games. Walsh’s massive tank allows him to cover the ground and run opponents into it, so he managed to still find the pill in each third of the ground.

#30 Oscar Brownless

Booted a couple of goals and played what has become a typical Oscar Brownless game. Not always the cleanest player, but he just works hard time and time again. He was in the thick of the action when Calder let the Falcons know they were up for the fight, and Brownless booted his goals when the game was hot early. It was his tackling pressure that stood out, locking the ball in and restricting his opponents from an easy exit. Had a snap out of nothing to put the Falcons up by six midway through the last term, but it was touched on the line by Lachlan Sholl.

#36 Charlie Sprague

Such a smart player, he is that hybrid forward who leads out, can take strong marks, but is not lost to the contest when it hits the ground. If anything, his best piece of play was a touch that will not get a statistic, but it was a deft tap on to Ned McHenry in the final term who burst away and nailed the all-important first goal of the quarter. Did not have heaps of opportunities, but nailed a terrific set shot goal in the opening term. Had a goal assist in the final term with a nice chip pass to Jay Dahlhaus 15m out rather than having a snap.

#39 Connor Idun

Had a quiet game up forward, while still presenting. Went into the ruck to start the final term and had an immediate impact by contesting at ground level, and his follow-up work earned him a free kick for a tackle on Rhylee West. Finished with the 10 hitouts, using his body well at throw-ins. The highlight for mine was his tackle in the final term on Lucas Cavallaro leading to Charlie Sprague winning the spilled ball and setting up a Jay Dahlhaus goal.

#41 Cooper Stephens

Showed off his spacial awareness and vision in tight with some fantastic deft handballs to teammates on the outside. He has that knack for not overdoing it, and was able to turn on a dime under pressure. The most eye-catching thing about Stephens is his ability to just play within the tempo of the game because he can blaze away and kick long when required, or take weight off the kick and retain possession for his side when it is needed. Kicked a goal in the final term showing his class, with a snap off one step and using pure instinct.

 

Northern Knights vs. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels

By: Brandon Hutchinson

Northern:

#4 Tom McKenzie

McKenzie brought clean hands to the loose ball and delivered effectively by foot inside 50, having seven effective kicks for the day. McKenzie was unlucky not having his work rewarded through the passage off his seven deliveries inside 50, but regardless his work rate did not waiver. His 20 disposals for the day and 16 uncontested possessions stand as a testament to his ability to cut off the footy (six marks) and create space upfield. Though grabbed a few times, McKenzie did not get dispossessed or brought to ground, withstanding the waves of GWV’s abuse. His invite to the National Combine stands as no surprise when he stand outs as possibly the match’s best player in the losing side.

#8 Adam Carafa

Carafa positioned well around the stoppages, boasting loads of second efforts. He did his best to clean up some of the sloppy work out of the stoppage, laying tackles in succession in the first half. He finished with four clearances, two inside 50s, three rebounds and tied game high 14 contested possessions (Sam Philp). He was unlucky not to hit his shot at goal around the body, but that seemed to be the theme for the Knights’ day.

GWV:

#14 Jed Hill

Hill kicked the first and only goal for the Rebels in the first quarter off a strong lead into the goal square. He followed it up with a second, kicking off GWV’s 37-point second quarter. Hill’s impact continued up the ground, moving swiftly with the ball and creating space with short, effective kicks. Despite not kicking a goal in the second half, Hill kept a strong forward half presence. He worked well around the contest and took three marks (one contested) for the day. He was unlucky not to kick the day’s best goal after taking the ball and kicking from the boundary on the run. If it was not touched on the line, it would have been his.

#21 Izaac Grant

Took a brilliant intercept mark through the passage in the third, opened the ground and delivered the ball well by foot. His delivery by foot was impressive, picking his man well and hitting them up with short, sharp kicks (7 effective kicks). Despite this efficiency, Grant’s two shots on goal both resulted in behinds. Regardless, he helped create these opportunities, which was something the Knights had a lot of trouble doing. Constantly first to the football, Grant snatched up an impressive eight marks (one contested), getting in front of man with a good burst of speed while showing off strong hands over head. He judged the flight of the footy well, especially those hurried out of their defensive 50.

#24 Matty Lloyd

Lloyd delivered the ball well by foot along the wing, easily breaking down the Knights’ forward trap. Six minutes into the second he found space 45 metres out and landed his first goal. Lloyd’s work by foot was immense, delivering the ball well up the field with 10 effective kicks, three inside 50s, two rebounds and 20 disposals. He was pivotal in creating opportunities at goal, even flexing his own talents in front as well. He boasts good composure despite pressure from the Knight’s forward line. This became more evident in the fourth as he collected the ball off the deck from a poor kick and slotted his second goal for the day.

 

Western Jets vs. Eastern Ranges

Western:

By: Ed Pascoe

#17 Daly Andrews

Andrews had a quiet first half but he had one good moment in the first quarter making a nice run and penetrating kick down the line. Andrews started to lift as the team did in the third quarter, he laid a nice tackle and had a few runs on the wing and kicking long effectively on a few occasions. He finished the game well with some nice run around the ground. He had a running shot at goal which he just missed and showed good attack on the contest in the backline winning the hard ball cleanly and dishing off the handball which was a fair effort with the recent rain making the ball harder to handle. Andrews finished with 14 disposals and four inside 50s.

#24 Josh Honey

He has a touch of class with the way he goes about it. Does not need a lot of the ball to have a high impact on the game and is similar to a fellow Jet, in Zak Butters, Can hurt the opposition when he gathers it inside 50, and finished with one goal from 14 disposals.

#33 Xavier O’Halloran

O’Halloran like his teammates had a quiet first half, but he had a great bit of play late in the first quarter bursting from the stoppage with a penetrating kick, then following up bursting away from the opposition and a nice handball out wide. O’Halloran lifted his side in the third quarter to give his team the lead going into the last quarter, he managed to win the ball inside and outside the contest with a few nice kicks on his opposite foot and some hard ball gets at stoppages getting out of tackles with sheer willpower. His best piece of play came in the last quarter where he was able to drift forward to impact a marking contest he would then follow up with a hard tackle and follow the ball up another 25 metres before getting involved in the attacking chain and kicking back inside 50 on his left foot, this really showed off his desire for the contest. O’Halloran finished with 17 disposals, four inside 50s and four tackles.

#38 Buku Khamis

Khamis took the no-fuss approach to his game against Eastern laying plenty of spoils and only running off when necessary. He took plenty of intercept marks during the game, including one in the last quarter showing great courage coming back with the flight and taking a nice grab. Khamis used the ball well on his trusty left foot often hitting targets long and short. Khamis only had nine disposals but he also had five tackles showing off his fantastic defensive work and he will need to bring that next week with the potential matchup against a dangerous Oakleigh forward.

#39 Stefan Radovanovic

Radovanovic played a consistent game over the four quarters playing a number of roles for the team in the midfield and down back and up forward. Radovanovic showed plenty of run throughout the game with a few give and gets from the back half and he used his speed to get separation around the ground. Radovanovic has a running shot at goal but missed in the last quarter which involved his trademark dash, a goal would have been reward for effort. Radovanovic finished the game with 15 disposals, four inside 50s and four tackles.

 

Eastern:

By: Michael Alvaro

#7 Lachlan Stapleton

The bottom-ager was industrious as usual in the engine room, extracting from congestion and tackling hard. He was a regular at the stoppages and found most of his ball there, and while he has a good work rate to get there, Stapleton would do well to find more ball on the outside, too. The midfielder finished with 18 disposals and six tackles.

#11 Mitch Mellis

Mellis was at his productive best across the day, starting on the wing and zipping around the outside of stoppages to compile 31 quality possessions. While he won a good amount of his own ball, Mellis was most often either a link in the chain or the one to push the ball out into space, receiving handballs 16 times and taking four marks. The bottom-ager was one of the better users on the day too, going at 77 per cent overall, and particularly standing out with his 88% handball efficiency. Mellis’ best moments came when gathering and flicking out handballs quickly, while he also darted a nice kick inbound in the opening term which caught the eye.

#31 James Blanck

It’s rare that Blanck ever troubles the statisticians too heavily, but his impact is more often than not valuable. He started off a little shakily with a dropped mark inside defensive 50, but quickly bounced back to show his composure and excellent decision making – reading the ball well in the air and coming off his man to good effect. His intercept mark in the opening quarter led to a Ranges goal, and Blanck found himself in the right spot to intercept once again in the following term to provide the catalyst for another opportunity. He finished with a nice one on one mark in the final term to cap off a solid, but not perfect day.

 

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

Murray:

By: Craig Byrnes

#2 Jordan Butts

It was a solid outing by the overage forward who was born on the last day of the millennium, despite not hitting the scoreboard. He plays in front and constantly presents on the lead, giving his midfielders an option to lower their eyes to. It saw him take a respectable eight marks from his 18 disposals, proving to possess strong hands on occasions. He is a nice field kick for his size too, hitting Boyer inside 50 earlier in the game with a brilliantly weighted pass. Butts was a tad fumbly at times below his knees, but produced enough moments to suggest he has improved.

#5 Ely Smith

The prolific big-bodied midfielder won a game high 29 disposals and was making his presence known in and around the stoppages as usual. He is incredibly strong and at times is happy to run directly through an opponent, knowing they won’t be able to hold him, instead of attempting to get around. This successful tactic often left Bendigo opponents on their backsides, as Smith forcefully broke through to continue running or release the ball by hand. While his possessions were not always influential or pretty, he has that knack of finding the ball and does all he can to get it forward.

#6 Will Chandler

The bottom-aged New South Welshman still does not turn 17 for a few months, but is showing promising signs in the forward half. He leads to dangerous positions and loves to turn onto his left boot. It could have been a very fruitful day if he was more accurate in front of goal, kicking three behinds, but is coming along nicely and he is one to look out for next year.

#7 Zane Barzen

Barzen continues to drift in and out of games, but those occasional glimpses of talent are forever making you think what ceiling he possesses and what he can become at the next level. He has natural instincts that you really cannot teach, as shown when he snapped a lovely left foot goal in the first term, movements that are not generally associated with 193cm kids. He kicked a second goal from a well read intercept mark inside 50, but was missing for long periods in between. The talent is there.

#9 Mathew Walker

The GWS Academy prospect generally gives hints of the attributes that are transferrable to the next level, but he displayed those skills on a more consistent basis on Sunday. Whether it was forward or at the stoppages, he had an impact on the game, collecting 21 disposals, seven clearances and most importantly hit the scoreboard with three goals. He has genuine goal sense inside 50, slicing the goals with a snap, inside out banana on the run and a lovely long set shot. He was clean in the contest or at the stoppages, often getting forward of centre and kicking efficiently to scoring positions. While he does not appear to be blessed with great pace, he has a solid frame to grow into and could become a bit of a bargain later in the draft.

#12 Lachlan Ash

Ash is going to be a player highly sought after in 2019 and did not do anything to hurt that reputation on Sunday. Starting in defence, he got in ball winning positions and made excellent decisions as we’ve become accustomed to. He spent more time forward as the game went on, kicking two goals including a brilliantly crumbed effort in the third term. He is underrated in the air too, taking two contested marks and competing whenever the opportunity presented. Exciting talent.

#16 Nick Murray

The Murray Bushrangers skipper is a tad underrated when discussing the key position defender options for the upcoming draft, despite earning himself a state combine invite. His strength is reading the ball in the air, where he is capable of taking high intercept contested marks as shown twice on Sunday. If he cannot mark the ball, he looks to impact a contest with aggression, generally killing the ball and taking bodies with him. While clubs want their KPDs taller than 193cm these days, he still could have something to offer if he ends up on a list.

#18 Hudson Garoni

The thick-framed key position forward started the game in a lively manner, presenting up to the ball and was often rewarded on the lead. He hit a nice pass inside 50 and looked to be playing a very team oriented role by feeding his teammates as opposed to kicking the goals himself. He took a particularly strong contested intercept in the third term, but drifted out of it a little as time wore on. Still ended up with 18 disposals and seven marks, but was goalless.

#19 Jimmy Boyer

The underage Boyer looks a solid prospect for next year, despite having quiet patches on Sunday. He spent time in defence and forward, getting on the end of a pass inside 50 during the second which he couldn’t convert. He is a really well balanced player and appears a calming influence with ball in hand.

#26 Riley Bice

Starting mostly on the wing, Bice is a player the Bushrangers want with ball in hand. He is an exquisite left foot kick and makes great decisions too. He has good height at 185cm and despite being extremely light, tackles hard as shown in the fourth term. He doesn’t win huge amounts of the ball, but doesn’t have to as he’ll make things happen more often than not. He is an interesting player who probably just needs one big outing to get more clubs on board.

 

Bendigo:

By: Ed Pascoe

#4 Jye Caldwell

Caldwell was the player most came to see at Ikon Park, with the highly touted midfielder starting the game superbly showing his class with his kicking to teammates advantage and his work by hand often hitting them with speed and precision. He had a nice bit of play in the middle of the ground where he stood up in a tackle and managed to keep his composure and fire out a nice handball. Caldwell looked every bit a first round prospect before injury struck again with another hamstring injury very late in the first quarter, Caldwell had six disposals in the first quarter and looked set for a productive game.

#8 Brodie Kemp

Kemp was left to fill the hole that Caldwell left after his injury, Kemp was the main playmaker for Bendigo showing off his class in the contest. He dropped an easy mark in the first quarter but his spin out of trouble to follow up was sublime, Kemp came off in the second quarter looking wobbly which spelled disaster for Bendigo but he managed to come back and better than ever playing behind the ball using his smarts and play making ability. He showed plenty of dash which was impressive for a bottom age player standing at 193cm, despite one poor kick his kicking was sublime out of defence and his follow up work to try and tackle was admirable. Kemp finished with 23 disposals, eight marks and seven tackles, and he was the clear best player for Bendigo and he looks to be their number one prospect in the 2019 draft.

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.”

Falcons, Cannons to open TAC Cup Wild Card Round

THREE of the sides that graced MARS Stadium will run out there again with an identical match-up between the Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons to headline the beginning of the brand new Wild Card Round which takes place over Saturday and Sunday ahead of the Morrish Medal presentation on Sunday night. The Wild Card Round fixtures were released by AFL Victoria this morning.

The Falcons won the match between the sides on Saturday and will be keen to repeat the effort when the pair goes head-to-head at the same time this weekend. Following that game, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will get a home game despite finishing ninth, tackling the eighth placed Northern Knights. On Sunday, Western Jets and Eastern Ranges will lock horns at Ikon Park, followed by Murray Bushrangers and Bendigo Pioneers.

The Dandenong Stingrays, Gippsland Power, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons have earned the weekend off after finishing top four and automatically qualifying for finals. The Stingrays will take on the winner of the Rebels and Knights; the Power will face the winner of Geelong and Calder; Oakleigh will meet the victor between Western and Eastern; and the winner of Murray and Bendigo will take on Sandringham.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1

MARS Stadium, Ballarat

11.30am – Geelong Falcons vs. Calder Cannons
2pm – GWV Rebels vs. Northern Knights

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

Ikon Park, Carlton

11am – Western Jets vs. Eastern Ranges
1.30pm – Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

 

ELIMINATION FINALS:

EF1: Dandenong Stingrays vs. Winner of GWV Rebels/Northern Knights
EF2: Gippsland Power vs. Winner of Calder Cannons/Geelong Falcons
EF3: Oakleigh Chargers vs. Winner of Western Jets/Eastern Ranges
EF4: Sandringham Dragons vs. Winner of Murray Bushrangers/Bendigo Pioneers

PRELIMINARY FINALS:

PF1: Winner of EF 1 vs. Winner of EF4
PF2: Winner of EF2 vs. Winner of EF3

GRAND FINAL:

GF: Winner of PF1 vs. Winner of PF2

Last stanza: TAC Cup final round permutations

EVERYONE loves grabbing the calculator and working out the possible outcomes from final round clashes, so we take a look at the TAC Cup and how each team shapes up with a game to go. We look at the best and worst possible results, as well as the likely result if all the higher ranked sides were to win.

 

1 Dandenong Stingrays | 56 points – 211%

vs. Sandringham Dragons – Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Best result: 1st
Worst result: 1st

What a season. The Stingrays can make a real statement in the final round against Sandringham. Not only will it give them a confidence boost, but also a mental advantage given the teams will likely meet in finals. Lose and the Dragons will remind them of it come finals time if they do meet.

 

2 Gippsland Power | 48 points – 154%

vs. Eastern Ranges – Morwell Recreation Reserve

Best result: 2nd
Worst result: 2nd

Cruising along very nicely, the Power are remarkably flying yet do not have the same plaudits as the other three top four sides. They would be expected to take care of business against Eastern and will be keen to finish strongly – but it will not matter as they have already locked up second spot. They did lose to the Pioneers earlier in the season, so will be wary not to lose this game.

 

3 Sandringham Dragons | 40 points – 85%

vs. Dandenong Stingrays – Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Best result: 3rd
Worst result: 5th
Likely result: 5th

Their best is good enough, but can they topple the Stingrays? Dandenong play a different brand of football to last week’s opponent, Oakleigh, but that brand has worked all year long, so the Dragons will need to be at their best if they are any chance of winning. The message during the week will be that top four is in their own hands and a win will result in a week off. Could get a reprieve if either the Rebels or Knights upset Oakleigh or Murray respectively.

 

4 Oakleigh Chargers | 38 points – 132%

vs. GWV Rebels – MARS Stadium

Best result: 3rd
Worst result: 5th
Likely result: 3rd

If Oakleigh play the same way they did in the wet against Sandringham, then good luck Rebels. They looked every bit a premiership contender and should lock up a top four spot with a win here. The Chargers will most likely take third spot if the Stingrays topple the Dragons. But cannot afford to drop the game against the Rebels either with the Bushrangers hot on their tail and able to pounce the next day.

5 Murray Bushrangers | 36 points – 118%

vs. Northern Knights – Norm Minns Oval

Best result: 3rd
Worst result: 5th
Likely result: 4th

Unlike the other two teams battling for a top four spot, they not only need to win, but have to rely on one of the others to lose. As the last team to play out of the three sides, the Bushrangers will know what they are playing for heading into the match. They will hope the Stingrays can knock off the Dragons, which is the most likely scenario, because if last week’s Oakleigh performance is anything to go by, it is hard to see the Rebels toppling the Chargers.

 

6 Western Jets | 32 points – 90%

vs. Bendigo Pioneers – Queen Elizabeth Oval

Best result: 6th
Worst result: 7th
Likely result: 6th

A win is crucial for the Jets, because victory means they guarantee a clash with Eastern Ranges next week. We saw the Falcons push the Stingrays all the way last week and the Jets would be keen to avoid them at all costs if they are up and firing.

 

7 Calder Cannons | 30 points – 106%

vs. Geelong Falcons – MARS Stadium

Best result: 6th
Worst result: 7th
Likely result: 7th

Hard to see the Jets losing to the Pioneers, so this is more than likely the early taste of the Wildcard Round clash between the Cannons and Falcons a week later. If the Pioneers do shock the Jets, they can move to sixth and face the Pioneers instead (or Eastern if they also upset the Power).

 

8 Northern Knights | 26 points – 88%

vs. Murray Bushrangers – Norm Minns Oval

Best result: 8th
Worst result: 9th
Likely result: 8th

Order does not matter, as the Knights will face the Rebels in the Wildcard Round. They can influence Murray’s top four aspirations with a win, and will have the Dragons faithful barracking for them if Sandringham loses to Dandenong.

 

9 GWV Rebels | 22 points – 87%

vs. Oakleigh Chargers – MARS Stadium

Best result: 8th
Worst result: 9th
Likely result: 9th

For the Rebels the order matters little as they look set to face Northern in the Wildcard Round – and at home too. If Sandringham loses to Dandenong, all Dragons will keep a close eye on this game as they need the Rebels (or Knights) to win to keep a top four spot.

 

10 Geelong Falcons | 16 points – 79%

vs. Calder Cannons – MARS Stadium

Best result: 10th
Worst result: 10th

Locked and loaded for tenth the Falcons cannot move up or down. Ironically though they will get a nice rehearsal against the Cannons who seem destined to be their Wildcard Round opponent unless Bendigo cause a boilover against Western.

 

11 Eastern Ranges | 8 points – 62%

vs. Gippsland Power – Morwell Recreation Reserve

Best result: 11th
Worst result: 12th
Likely result: 11th

While many might not see the difference between eleventh and twelfth on the table, aside from avoiding the wooden spoon, it means they will face Western Jets – still a tough task regardless – rather than a potential Sandringham Dragons.

 

12 Bendigo Pioneers | 8 points – 56%

vs. Western Jets – Queen Elizabeth Oval

Best result: 11th
Worst result: 12th
Likely result: 12th

Winning would be massive for the Pioneers, especially if it potentially means facing the Jets a week later if the Falcons topple the Cannons. Otherwise a win means they face Calder. In all likelihood they will meet Sandringham in the Wildcard Round, however could face Oakleigh or Murray depending on results.

 

Potential Wildcard Round: If likely finishes occur

WC1: Sandringham Dragons vs. Bendigo Pioneers
WC2: Western Jets vs. Eastern Ranges
WC3: Calder Cannons vs. Geelong Falcons
WC4: Northern Knights vs. GWV Rebels

Elimination Finals:

EF1: Dandenong Stingrays vs. Winner of WC4
EF2: Gippsland Power vs. Winner of WC3
EF3: Oakleigh Chargers vs. Winner of WC2
EF4: Murray Bushrangers vs. Winner of WC1

Preliminary Finals:

PF1: Winner of EF1 vs. Winner of EF4
PF2: Winner of EF2 vs. Winner of EF3

Grand Final:

Winner of PF1 vs. Winner of PF2

Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Round 15

TAC Cup football is back and with two rounds left, the end of the season is near. For the penultimate round of action there are some big guns back, while others head out to play the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final on the MCG tomorrow.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 10am
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

In the opening game of the round, two top four sides go head-to-head in a season-defining clash for both teams. Gippsland will lock away second spot with a victory, while Murray will need to win to put itself in the best position for a top four position as Oakleigh Chargers sit just two points adrift of the Bushrangers. The Power has only had the two losses this season, with two draws in season 2018 – against Calder Cannons and Northern Knights. It will be a good opportunity for the Power to grab the four points as the Bushrangers have a number of key outs. The side has lost Kyle Clarke and Jacob Koschitzke to injury, as well as Ely Smith to the VFL. The previous two head-to-head clashes between the teams have also gone the way of the Power, winning both by more than seven goals. Gippsland come into the game in good form coming off a victory against the Chargers. With Noah Gown and Fraser Phillips causing headaches up forward, Xavier Duursma in midfield and Kyle Reid in defence, they will be tough to beat. Their bottom-age brigade of Riley Baldi, Josh Smith and Brock Smith among others form a strong group, but Murray is a side that can topple anyone on its day. Hudson Garoni and Jye Chalcraft are always capable to creating scoring opportunities, while Jordon Butts is a very handy inclusion, patrolling the airways and finding plenty of the football. Jimmy Boyer, Willson Mack and Will Chandler are just a handful of talented bottom-agers for the Bushrangers who could have an impact against the Power. Gippsland head into the game as deserving favourites, but you can never write-off the Bushrangers.

 

GEELONG FALCONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 12.30pm
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

The midfield battle between Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays is poised to be a battle within a battle. Sam Walsh, Ned McHenry and Oscar Brownless will go head-to-head against the likes of Campbell Hustwaite, Sam Fletcher and Finlay Bayne, while Baxter Mensch and Cooper Stephens rotate through there, as will the likes of Zac Foot and Jamie Plumridge. Dandenong’s advantage has always been in the ruck, with Bailey Schmidt joining Riley Bowman and Bailey Williams between there and the key forward posts. The Falcons are in great form after a big win last round and will love the challenge of testing themselves against the benchmark in this game. For the Stingrays, they’re not in so much good form as they have never been in anything other than good form this season, dropping just the one game – by a kick no less. Now they travel up to MARS Stadium with top spot locked up, and will look to have a good win against the side that knocked the Stingrays out of the finals series last year. Expect this game to be a cracker and the likes of Dane Hollenkamp, Connor Idun and Blake Schlensog to have their work cut out against quality talls, while Brayden Ham continues to impress by hitting the scoreboard on a regular basis. Up the other end, Toby Bedford is sure to cause a few headaches with his tackling pressure and goal nous.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 3pm
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

The final game up in Ballarat is a battle between the country rivals in Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers. The teams have played twice, with the head-to-head split one each. The Pioneers won the round one game by a point coming home strongly in the final term, before the Rebels accounted for them in the next clash. With the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final on at the MCG, the GWV Rebels’ depth will be tested, making at least 10 changes to their line-up, losing the likes of Scott Carlin, Matty Lloyd, Lochie Dawson, Josh Chatfield and Izaac Grant among others, while Tom Berry is of course out for the season through injury. For the Pioneers, they have strengthened their line-up massively with the inclusions of bottom-age tall Brodie Kemp, brothers Flynn and Oscar Perez, and the ever-consistent Bailey Henderson. If there was a game the Pioneers would go in as favourites despite being bottom of the ladder, it would be this one. Spectators will get a great indication of the strength of the Rebels’ depth, while also seeing if the Pioneers can utilise their speed and bottom-age talent to get the job done. While Jye Caldwell is still not out on the park, the Pioneers go in with one of their strongest line-ups this season and will back their chances here. GWV Rebels’ forward Charlie Wilson has been named in the middle, with he and Jed Hill the keys to putting scores on the board with so many outs in the team. Mitch Martin showed some great signs in the Under 17 Futures game and has a big opportunity in the midfield here, while Harris Jennings and Ben Annett are others who have shown signs throughout the season this year.

 

WESTERN JETS v. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 10am
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

Moving to the Sunday games, two sides in the bottom half of the eight do battle with Western Jets hosting Northern Knights. Captain Xavier O’Halloran will swap Avalon Airport Oval for the MCG when he runs out for St Bernards in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final. His leadership is a big loss on-field and with Zak Butters out for the year, the Jets will look to their strong inside midfield of Connor Thar, Jack Watkins and Jaden Rice to win the footy at the coal face and distribute to their runners on the outside in Stefan Radovanovic and Daly Andrews. Northern welcomes back its captain Braedyn Gillard after a long-term lay-off due to injury. He is one of a number of crucial inclusions along with Oscar White and Lachlan Potter in defence, and Josh D’Intinosante up forward. Tom Hallebone will be a loss in the ruck, especially against Darren Walters, but the Knights will back themselves in against the Jets’ midfielders with Adam Carafa in good form, and Justin McInerney and Ryan Gardner providing good run on the outside. This is expected to be a great contest and important in the scheme of finals. While the Knights cannot make top four and the Jets need all the luck in the world, positioning in the bottom half of the eight is still important because it determines their opponents in the Wildcard Round. Both sides are well coached, well drilled line-ups so expect a hard fought battle and no-one giving an inch across the four quarters.

 

EASTERN RANGES v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 12.30pm
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

In the middle game, Eastern Ranges will be hoping to bring its A-game against a Calder Cannons team that keeps getting the job done each week. The Cannons lose a number of players to the St Bernards team in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final, but welcome back top 30 draft prospect Rhylee West, forward Josh Kemp and Vic Metro representative Jack Evans among others. Eastern also has a number of inclusions, as Lachlan Stapleton and Caleb Quirk strengthen the side in their bid to upset the Cannons in this clash. Calder’s choice of overagers this year has been very clever with Mitch Podhajski patrolling the midfield, Daniel Hanna strengthening the defence and Jake Riccardi providing a reliable target up forward. Curtis Taylor provides the X-factor up forward and Lucas Cavallaro continues to rebound the ball at will, and are two players Eastern has to keep under wraps. For the Ranges, the midfield of Kye Quirk, Mitch Mellis, Adrian Kalcovski and Stapleton is a consistent core, they just need more out of the next tier. Key defender, James Blanck will have an important role in defence for the Ranges, while Billy McCormack will keep a Cannons defender accountable up the other end. In the earlier match between these two teams, Calder got the job done under lights at RAMS Arena in chilly conditions. With the weather hit and miss this weekend, the Cannons will be hoping for a similar result.

 

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 3pm
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

The last game of the round is arguably the best, with everyone looking forward to practically full-strength Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons outfits going head-to-head in a battle between two genuine premiership contenders. Earlier in the year prior to his knee injury, Max King had a day out with eight majors against the Chargers at RAMS Arena in the Dragons’ come-from-behind win. This time around, it could be twin brother Ben who will hope to repeat the feat, with Will Kelly playing in defence this time around and a likely opponent for King. The Dragons are still missing captain Bailey Smith to injury, but Liam Stocker, Ryan Byrnes and Darcey Chirgwin is a strong core on the inside, while Alastair Richards and Angus Hanrahan provide good run and skill up either end. Draft watchers will get a first look at Harry Reynolds who makes his debut in Dragons colours, similar to Nathan Murphy last season – rewarded for school football form with a TAC Cup debut. Will Kennedy has been named forward with James Rendell in the ruck which should keep the Chargers’ talls busy. Oakleigh has its own top-end talent and depth which will test the Dragons outfit. Isaac Quaynor, Joe Ayton-Delaney and Trent Bianco is a ridiculously good small defensive trio, while Riley Collier-Dawkins, James Rowbottom, Jack Ross, Will Golds and Matt Rowell in the middle is as strong as it has been all season. They do not have the key position forwards Sandringham do at the top-end, but with Will James coming in from APS football and Dylan Williams and Noah Anderson capable of kicking multiple goals, it is likely to result in an absolute classic.

The run home: Western Jets

WESTERN Jets have had an up-and-down season to date, but still loom as a dark horse in the finals series. They sit sixth, and while they would need both Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers to lose both games to finish top four, they have enough about them to secure a top six spot and play a bottom two team in the Wildcard Round. The Jets have looked very good at times, and realistically, the blowout 20-goal loss to Dandenong Stingrays makes their points against look worse than it actually is. Defensively they stand up well, and they rate around where they sit offensively, which makes them unpredictable and good enough to cause headaches for the top sides.

Wins: 8
Losses: 6
Draws: 0
Position: 6th
Points For: 899 (6th)
Points Against: 1001 (9th)
Percentage: 90
Points: 32

Fixtures:

R15: vs. Northern Knights – Avalon Airport Oval
R16: vs. Bendigo Pioneers – Queen Elizabeth Oval

National Combine Invitations: [4] Daly Andrews, Zak Butters, Buku Khamis, Xavier O’Halloran

State Combine Invitations: [1] Stefan Radovanovic

Five players received combine invitations, with the speedy Daly Andrews and Stefan Radovanovic, intercept machine Buku Khamis, and the X-factor in Zak Butters, all earning the right to test at the National and State combines. Along with the quartet, they have consistent midfielders Connor TharJaden Rice and Jack Watkins roaming through the midfield, talls Aaron Clarke and Hamish Murphy up either end, and a host of bottom-agers who have shown enough to suggest they will have plenty of draft potential next year. Steven KyriazisLucas Rocci and Emerson Jeka provide a forward presence, while Darcy Cassar and Josh Honey link between midfield and forward.

Top Fives:

Disposals:

1 – Connor Thar – 355 (1st overall)
2 – Jack Watkins – 284
3 – Darcy Cassar – 239
4 – Jaden Rice – 221
5 – Daly Anderws – 214

Marks:

1 – Darcy Cassar – 58 (eq. 20th overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 53
3 – Buku Khamis – 52
4 – Aaron Clarke – 51
4 – Steven Kyriazis – 51

Contested Possessions:

1 – Jack Watkins – 155 (2nd overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 147 (5th overall)
3 – Jaden Rice – 142 (8th overall)
4 – Xavier O’Halloran – 104
5 – Darcy Cassar – 103

Tackles:

1 – Jack Watkins – 111 (1st overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 77 (6th overall)
3 – Lucas Rocci – 57
4 – Josh Honey – 54
5 – Jaden Rice – 53

Hitouts:

1 – Darren Walters – 285 (2nd overall)
2 – Tom Warner – 59
3 – Aaron Clarke – 58
4 – Ayden Tanner – 31
5 – Emerson Jeka – 15

Clearances:

1 – Jack Watkins – 67 (3rd overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 62 (4th overall)
3 – Xavier O’Halloran – 58 (5th overall)
4 – Jaden Rice – 52
5 – Darren Walters – 28
5 – Zak Butters – 28

Inside 50s:

1 – Xavier O’Halloran – 62 (eq. 1st overall)
2 – Jack Watkins – 50 (9th overall)
3 – Connor Thar – 47
3 – Daly Andrews – 47
5 – Darcy Cassar – 45

Rebounds:

1 – Spencer Johnson – 38 (12th overall)
2 – Hamish Murphy – 37
3 – Jack Papachatzakis – 34
4 – Stefan Radovanovic – 32
5 – Daly Andrews – 30

Goals:

1 – Steven Kyriazis – 16 (eq. 13th overall)
2 – Aaron Clarke – 13
3 – Josh Honey – 12
4 – Daniel Pantalleresco – 9
5 – Darcy Cassar – 8

The run home: Northern Knights

NORTHERN Knights have been a really solid defensive side this season, ranking sixth overall, above their eighth placed position on the TAC Cup table. The Knights have generally enjoyed low-scoring tussles, always competitive against the top sides, including a draw against Gippsland Power in Morwell – one game they would be disappointed not to come away with the four points. They look likely to finish in the top eight and take on a bottom eight side in the Wildcard Round, looming as most likely GWV Rebels or Geelong Falcons.

Wins: 5
Losses: 8
Draws: 1
Position: 8th
Points For: 843 (9th)
Points Against: 973 (6th)
Percentage: 87
Points: 22

Fixtures:

R15: vs. Western Jets – Avalon Airport Oval
R16: vs. Murray Bushrangers – Norm Minns Oval

National Combine Invitations: [1] Tom McKenzie

State Combine Invitations: [1] Justin McInerney

The Knights unfortunately had the least combine invitations of any club, with a total of two players heading to testing at national or state combines. The fact that just the two being invited yet the Knights are mid-table shows the depth of the squad they have, and the ability to match it with most other sides due to their evenness. They also have a really talented core of bottom-agers which is set to light up the TAC Cup next season. Josh D’IntinosanteRyan GardnerLachlan PotterRyan Sturgess and Adam Carafa lead a host of 16-17 year-olds who will benefit from playing at TAC Cup level in their bottom-age years. Along with top-agers Tom McKenzie and Justin McInerney, the Knights have enough about them to cause headaches for the top sides in finals.

Top Fives:

Disposals:

1 – Josh D’Intinosante – 237 (28th overall)
2 – Sam Philp – 220
3 – Joel Randall – 202
4 – Ryan Gardner – 200
4 – Ryan Bowkett – 200

Marks:

1 – Joel Randall – 67 (10th overall)
2 – Stefan Uzelac – 61
3 – Sunny Brazier – 49
4 – Ryan Sturgess – 48
5 – Ryan Bowkett – 46

Contested Possessions:

1 – Sam Philp – 139 (9th overall)
2 – Josh D’Intinosante – 136 (10th overall)
3 – Sunny Brazier – 105
4 – Braedyn Gillard – 85
5 – Brody Bell – 81

Tackles:

1 – Josh D’Intinosante – 67 (eq. 14th overall)
2 – Sunny Brazier – 51
3 – Sam Philp – 46
4 – Brody Bell – 45
5 – Patrik Della Rocca – 39

Hitouts:

1 – Thomas Hallebone – 175 (9th overall)
2 – Nicholas Barro – 111
3 – Nathan Howard – 59
4 – Zachary Hudson – 42
5 – Patrik Della Rocca – 22

Clearances:

1 – Sam Philp – 47 (14th overall)
2 – Braedyn Gillard – 41
2 – Josh D’Intinosante – 40
4 – Brody Bell – 34
5 – Adam Carafa – 27

Inside 50s:

1 – Josh D’Intinosante – 38 (eq. 37th overall)
2 – Sam Philp – 29
3 – Sunny Brazier – 28
4 – Ryan Bowkett – 24
5 – Adam Carafa – 23
5 – Harrison Grace – 23

Rebounds:

1 – Ryan Gardner – 46 (4th overall)
2 – Ryan Sturgess – 41 (7th overall)
3 – Stefan Uzelac – 39 (eq. 10th overall)
4 – Mitch Wild – 36
5 – Joel Randall – 35

Goals:

1 – Sunny Brazier – 16 (eq. 13th overall)
2 – Josh D’Intinosante – 15
3 – Patrik Della Rocca – 12
3 – James Lucente – 12
5 – Ryan Bowkett – 11