THERE are five games this weekend in the TAC Cup, with Sandringham Dragons and Eastern Ranges having a weekend off ahead of their standalone clash on June 30 – during the school holidays. The five games throw up some interesting possibilities given ladder positions as we pass the halfway mark of the 2018 TAC Cup season.
GEELONG FALCONS v. WESTERN JETS
Round 9 – Saturday, June 16, 11am Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee
Both sides head into this Round 9 clash relatively understrength with all of Western’s Vic Metro representatives out of the side, while Geelong just has the returning Dane Hollenkamp, and Blake Schlensog (who has been named as a Vic Country emergency) in the team. A win for the Jets is crucial given a loss could mean they drop outside the top four, while victory would potentially see them move to second on the TAC Cup table with a Gippsland loss. For Geelong, a big win could see them jag eighth spot off the Cannons, but a loss could see them slip one spot to eleventh on the table. Western has a relatively stable clearance midfield with Jaden Rice, Connor Thar and Jack Watkins all able to extract the ball from a stoppage. They will likely take advantage of a Geelong side without its first choice midfield, however Baxter Mensch has been a big ball winner and clearance player this season, while Charlie Harris on the wing and Brayden Ham at half-forward can also win the footy and impact up the ground. It is great to see Titit Nyak back in the team after a long absence through injury, with Geelong’s defence remaining relatively untouched given the 1-2 combination of Hollenkamp and Cooper Cartledge has been solid for the Falcons. Without Emerson Jeka, the Jets will look to Aaron Clarke and the 190cm Tom Warner to provide the tall timber. Steven Kyriazis and last week’s best on ground Darcy Cassar are set to do the ground level work. Given the outs it is hard to predict a winner in this one, with the Jets likely to prevail in the midfield battle, but Geelong has had a lot of continuity this season with its top-end talent at either school football or out for AFL Academy duties.
DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Round 9 – Saturday, June 16, 2.15pm Shepley Oval, Dandenong
If we are talking about top-end talent missing, then you need not go further than this game with the most representatives from both of the Victorian sides – Dandenong for Country and Oakleigh for Metro – having a big impact on the team selection. Both teams will be relying on their bottom-agers and non-school football players, in a game that resulted in Oakleigh getting up in Round 5. This time around the Chargers are digging deep into their list, and it will take a mighty challenge to up-end the in-form Stingrays, who welcome back potential number one pick next year Hayden Young, as well as Will Hamill and Bailey Schmidt – the latter having played for Vic Country last week. For Oakleigh, Bailey Griffiths will hope to take advantage in the ruck in what will be a fantastic battle with Schmidt, as the Chargers have Xavier O’Neill, Lachlan Bugeja and Sam Harte among others through the midfield who can win plenty of the football. They will go up against Dandenong skipper Campbell Hustwaite, Hamill, and Lachlan McDonnell who has been in good form. Angus Patterson will line-up at full-forward as Matthew Cumming and Sam De Koning hold down the key defensive posts. The likes of Matthew Gahan and Jamie Plumridge will look to create some run out of the back half. For the Chargers, they have a number of defensive forwards who can kick goals including Atu Bosenavulagi and Daniel Scala, while over-ager Tom Hogan has the unique opportunity to face his teammates from last year, crossing from the Stingrays in the off-season after missing out on being drafted last year.
BENDIGO PIONEERS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Round 9 – Sunday, June 17, 12pm Queen Elizabeth Oval, Bendigo
The TAC Cup Radio team head up to Bendigo for the clash between the Pioneers and Murray Bushrangers. The Pioneers had a really competitive effort last week against the Western Jets, levelling with just a few minutes left on the clock, before going down by seven points. The Bushrangers had a disappointing loss to a strengthened Oakleigh side, feeling the brunt of missing many players for Vic Country and Allies duty. It does not get any easier for the Bushrangers, losing one of last week’s best in Mathew Walker to Allies duty, and a couple of consistent defenders in Nick Murray and Ajak Dang to injury. Mark Marriott was impressive in his first game back from injury and will look to press for Vic Country claims with a good performance here, taking on another in-form ruck in Daniel Keating. With Ben Kelly and Jordon Butts lining up in the forward line, the Bushrangers will look to stretch the Pioneers defence, especially given Bendigo has lost full-back Josh Grace for this match. The 191cm William Wallace will have his hands full with the 202cm Kelly and 197cm Butts, and given the strength in the Bushrangers midfield, Bendigo defence will need to be on its game. Arguably the most important players for the Pioneers are Noah Wheeler, Zane Keighran and Hunter Lawrence, who will rotate through that midfield and just simply have to win the clearances. The Perez brothers – Oscar, an overager and Flynn, a bottom-ager – were impressive last week and will hope to continue that form. James Schischka is a Vic Country player who will be keen to impress for a call-up, while Liam Marciano has been consistent out of defence. For the Bushrangers, Ely Smith continues to tick boxes week-in, week-out, Dylan and Kyle Clarke are always busy, and the forward line that contains Bailey Frauenfelder and Jye Chalcraft is always going to be dangerous. The Bushrangers will be looking to bounce back after a big loss last week, but at home in Bendigo, and after a really promising performance last week, you cannot rule out the Pioneers, either.
GIPPSLAND POWER v. CALDER CANNONS
Round 9 – Sunday, June 17, 1pm Morwell Football Ground, Morwell
Over in Morwell, the Gippsland Power take on the Calder Cannons. Gippsland were missing most of its top-end talent through resting for Vic Country representation last round, but it mattered little as they stormed past the Geelong Falcons, and now welcome back hard nosed defender/midfielder Brock Smith and livewire forward Irving Mosquito – the latter of whom has returned from injury. While the likes of Xavier Duursma, Sam Flanders, Caleb Serong, Matt McGannon and Kyle Reid will be in Adelaide for Vic Country’s clash with South Australia, the Power are in a very good position. They sit second and could well be top-of-the-table by round’s end if Oakleigh can upset first placed Dandenong on Saturday. For Calder, they are eighth, but have the GWV Rebels, Geelong Falcons and Eastern Ranges chomping at their heels. They also lose a truckload of top-end talent for this game, with AFL Academy members Jack Bytel and Curtis Taylor, co-captain Mitch Podhajski, and Vic Metro representatives Lachlan Sholl and Jack Evans all out. Consistent key position player Daniel Hanna returns, as do a number of solid bottom-agers, but there is no doubting Calder will be looking for something special from its next tier of players to come away with the win. John Roumeliotis made a successful return from injury, and he and Jake Riccardi might pose some problems for the Gippsland defence with their strength, while Tye Browning and Sam Graham are always players that can get their hands on the ball. For Gippsland though, they have a relatively stable team despite some of the big outs. They will be looking to capitalise with Rylan Henkel rucking to Smith along with Mosquito and Riley Baldi looking like an ominous prospect, as is the forward line with Noah Gown and Josh Smith who have been known to hit the scoreboard. Couple that with the fact Jake Van der Pligt and Ryan Sparkes have been in good form rebounding out of defence, and Gippsland look to be clear favourites in this one. The Cannons changes do bring an air of unpredictability about them however, with backs against the wall, anything can happen.
GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Round 9 – Sunday, June 17, 1pm MARS Stadium, Ballarat
In the final game of the round, the GWV Rebels host the Northern Knights. The Rebels are coming off a great away win over Calder Cannons and will be keen to make it two on the trot and three for the season. The Knights on the other hand, will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing loss at home to the Eastern Ranges, and get a win in what is expected to be a typical Ballarat day – wild and windy. The Rebels lose Tom Berry and Matty Lloyd to Vic Country duties which will hurt given their influence on the contest. But Scott Carlin remains in the side despite being named as an emergency for Vic Country, and one would expect he might be an omission from the next round for the All-Victorian battle at the MCG. Carlin and Harris Jennings will look to provide run out of defence, while the returns of Josh Chatfield and Izaac Grant will give the home side another dimension. Given Charlie Wilson rotates forward, a forward combination with Chatfield, Grant, Wilson, Jed Hill and Tylar Watts suddenly looks a lot more dangerous and capable of kicking a winning score. It does not help with Northern losing its two in-form rebounding defenders, bottom-agers Ryan Gardner and Lachlan Potter for the match, however Stefan Uzelac was best on for the Knights last week, while Mitch and Cameron Wild will be keen to stand up in the absence of their teammates. Northern also have a damaging forward line, with Sunny Brazier continuing to kick goals, Josh D’Intinosante ever-dangerous and Harrison Grace the smooth mover from midfield through to half-forward. Ryan Sturgess and Kobe Brandt are others who have shown signs throughout the season what they are capable of, and will test themselves against Matt Schnerring, Ben Annett and the in-form Elliot Lamb. While both sides are more than capable of a win here, I am leaning towards the Rebels at home, with some key forward inclusions and some big losses for the Knights in defence. But it honestly is a fairly 50/50 contest.