IT is that time of year again where the best sides take to the field and determine which TAC Cup clubs are contenders and which are pretenders. In the past years, the junior competition has seen the finals series take on the identical look to that of the AFL, but in 2017, the finals will be three weeks of pure knockout. The last two games to kick off the round are second taking on seventh and fourth playing fifth. So without further adue, we take a look at the fourth match of the finals series.
Sandringham Dragons vs. Murray Bushrangers
Sandringham: 4th, 11-7, 1360 points for, 1104 points against, 123%
Murray: 5th, 10-8, 1574 points for, 1380 points against, 114%
Not much has separated Sandringham and Murray all season, but based off the scores alone it is clear Sandringham play a patient, possession game and restrict their opponents defensively and are not afraid of a dog fight. Murray on the other hand have the most points for of any TAC Cup side, but have also conceded 176 points more than any of the top four sides.
Sandringham come into the match with some indifferent form, having won just one match of their past four – a 45-point win over Northern last week after losses to fellow finalists Dandenong, Oakleigh and Eastern, albeit all by a combined 24 points. But Murray’s formline heading into the finals series is one of the worst of all teams, with just an 82-point thrashing of Bendigo Pioneers amongst five losses, including defeats to bottom four sides Calder Cannons and GWV Rebels, as well as seventh and eighth placed sides Gippsland Power and Northern Knights.
Back on May 13, Murray got the better of Sandringham in a 23-point win at Norm Minns Oval. On that day, Ben Paton had 26 disposals and four inside 50s, while Will Donaghey and Angus Hicks had a combined 40 disposals and 10 inside 50s. Meanwhile Hamish Brayshaw had a typical performance with a lazy 32 disposals (16 contested), eight clearances, eight tackles, five inside 50s, two rebounds and two goals, while Max Lohan (20 disposals, 10 rebounds), Quintin Montanaro (22 disposals, four clearances) and Aaron Trusler (18 disposals, two goals) were also solid in defeat.
Charlie Constable (Sandringham Dragons) 23.1 disposals, 6.1 marks, 2.7 tackles, 1.0 goals
The potential top 10 pick has been ultra-consistent this season, but I am looking forward to seeing if he can really take control in the finals series and being this year’s Tim Taranto. He has a big frame and is so well balanced and he is a player that can do some serious damage to opposition teams. I called for a lift from Luke Davies-Uniacke in yesterday’s game and he duly delivered, so now Charlie it is over to you for a best on ground performance.
Ben Paton (Murray Bushrangers) 23.5 disposals, 5.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 0.2 goals
The rebounding over-age defender will be crucial in Murray’s quest for a win here given Jordon Butts is out with injury. While Butts’ loss is offset by the injury to Hayden McLean, top 10 pick next year Max King returns and slots straight into a key forward post. Despite being ill in recent weeks, Paton will need to provide plenty of intercept marks and rebound if his side is to win.
The Final Word:
Looking at pure form and potential it is hard to go past Sandringham in this match. The reigning premiers have a ridiculous amount of players who have been nominated for the national and state draft combines and their depth is crazy good. The Bushrangers produced their best earlier in the season, but will need to rekindle that form if they are to be a chance in this game as the return of the star players from the National Under 18s Championships have dropped Murray down a peg or two.