Photo: Evette Johnson
The TAC Cup Grand Final in 2012 was one of the great grand finals to ever be played in the premier under 18 competition, with Oakleigh prevailing over Gippsland by just the solitary point in ‘golden point’ extra time. The 2013 grand final was built up to be another close contest, with both the Eastern Ranges and Dandenong Stingrays in good form. Unfortunately by halftime the Eastern Ranges already had one hand firmly on the premiership cup, and by the final siren it was a trouncing, with the Eastern Ranges kicking 10 last quarter goals to stride to a 112 point grand final thumping, 24.8.152 to 5.10.40 over the Stingrays.
It all fell perfectly into place for Eastern leading up to the grand final, with star forward and probable number one draft pick Tom Boyd being included in team for his first game in almost three months after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in the National Championships. Eastern also were able to regain young gun Mitch Honeychurch, who was a welcome inclusion into the side who missed the upset against Geelong Falcons in the preliminary final a week earlier.
Michael Apeness was able to open the account for the Ranges with a goal after a strong contested mark, and it would set the standard for the morning as the Dandenong defenders struggled to contain the three big forwards in Michael Apeness, Tom Boyd and star under-ager Christian Petracca, who helped contribute to the Ranges 16-point lead at the first break. Tom Boyd started off as if he hadn’t missed a game to date, kicking three goals in the first quarter, and captain Ben Cavarra was also prominent with 10 first quarter possessions through the midfield.
The second quarter saw the Eastern Ranges really put the Stingrays to the sword, and were able to beat Dandenong all over the ground, most notably shutting down prominent Dandenong ball winners Billy Hartung and Zac Jones, which slowed the Stingrays offence and movement out of their back half. The Ranges kicked six goals straight to just three Dandenong behinds. Daniel Welsh, the speedy Eastern midfielder was the star of the quarter, kicking three goals, and helping the Eastern Ranges to extend the lead to 49 points by halftime, with Cavarra continuing to get the ball, with 18 first half possessions.
Dandenong couldn’t wait to hear the halftime siren. Halftime gave them a chance to go downstairs, regroup and think about how they could chip away at the 49-point deficit, but Eastern had other ideas. Within the two minutes, after some good pressure from the Stingrays, the Ranges quickly moved the ball from end to end, and Mitch Honeychurch finished off with a classy goal to extend the lead to 55 points. Ben Cavarra continued to get the ball at will, reaching 23 disposals late into the third quarter. Dandenong just couldn’t keep up with the pressure and skills of the Ranges, with the Stingrays giving the ball up on countless occasions, including inside their defensive 50 and the Ranges pounced on these mistakes, using them to build a big 64 point three quarter time lead, holding the Stingrays to a lowly three goals for the game.
By the start of the fourth quarter, Dandenong had all but conceded that they were going to lose the grand final, but Eastern decided to not take the foot off the pedal in the last quarter and within the first minute, Mitch Keedle put the lead out to 70 points with his first major and it was all one-way traffic from then on. The Eastern Ranges piled the goals against the normally stingy Stingrays defense. They smashed Dandenong, kicking 10 goals to two in the last quarter to run away with a huge 112-point victory.
The Eastern Ranges defense held the Stingrays to just five goals for the game, an outstanding effort. With 13 individual goal kickers for the match, the Eastern Ranges deserved the win and were the much better side on the day. Afterthree goals in the first quarter, Tom Boyd finished with only four goals, but created countless contests that lead to opportunities for his teammates. After Daniel Caprion was switched to the big forward, he did well to hold him to just one goal after quarter time, earning best on ground honours for the Stingrays. For the Eastern Ranges, to compliment Boyd’s four-goal haul, Honeychurch, Traynor and Welsh all kicked three goals, with Apeness and Petracca two each, and Keedle, O”Sullivan, Gibson, Walker, Hannon, Crowe and Evans the single goal kickers. The best on ground medal was awarded to Eastern captain Ben Cavarra, who finished with 30 possessions as he tore apart the midfield with his dash. The best on ground medal added to Cavarra’s outstanding season, after he picked up the Morrish Medal for the league best and fairest, tying with three other winners.
The Ranges played almost the perfect game on Saturday, and they showed how skillful their talented list really was. Although the season is over, the excitement leading up to the draft awaits, with the Ranges having several players in contention to be added to an AFL list come November. Congratulations to the Eastern Ranges on a fantastic season, and good luck to all players in contention for the 2013 NAB AFL Draft.