TAC Cup Girls preview: Dandenong Stingrays

DANDENONG Stingrays are coming off a solid inaugural TAC Cup season, winning three of their five games and having a pair of draftees don the Navy Blue in the AFLW this year. The Stingrays showed throughout the shortened 2017 season that they were competitive, and had the equal best player in the competition, as key position utility Bridie Kennedy took out the joint TAC Cup Girls best and fairest.

Kennedy shared the award with Calder Cannons’ Chloe Molloy with both expected to land at AFLW clubs after a consistent top-age year and performances in the VFLW – Kennedy with Cranbourne. The Stingrays’ tall had a nervous wait on draft night, eventually plucked by Carlton with the final Victorian pick – joining teammate Georgia Gee at Ikon Park. Gee made her debut in round one under lights in front of a packed home crowd against arch rivals Collingwood, while Kennedy had to wait until round four to get her first taste of senior football, in another special match – the Pride Game against the Western Bulldogs.

The Stingrays belted Gippsland Power by 72 points in round two last season, following a 24-point victory over Oakleigh Chargers. While neither of their opponents finished the season with a win, Dandenong did roll GWV Rebels in round four by 37 points, a performance which raised eyebrows given the Rebels were equally as strong throughout the season. Their two losses came against two of the top teams from 2017 in the Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons, playing competitively in both matches.

In 2018, Dee Longwill has a squad which has some top-end talent as well as depth, with Jordyn Allen the top prospect for the Stingrays. In four games last season, Allen showed she is capable of playing anywhere on the field and is a player others look to in transition and for leadership. She is the type of player who can stand up in tough circumstances and will captain the side for the second successive year following her stint in the role as a bottom-ager last season.

Along with Allen, midfielder-forward Courtney Jones is another prospect who stood out last season. Jones booted five goals in her four games, including multiple goals against the GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers, finishing second overall in the Stingrays’ goalkicking behind Samantha Ryan. She is a smart player who uses the football effectively and in her top-age year is expected to be a strong performer through the middle of the ground while still hitting the scoreboard.

Speaking of Ryan, she is now a top-ager as well and will be aiming to build on her eight goals last season. Ryan scored in four of her five games, including three against Gippsland Power, and two each against GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers. This season she will be one of a number of players looking to standout in front of recruiters with strong performances inside 50.

Other players that stood out last year were Brooke Struylaart, a versatile player who can play in any third of the ground; and Ashley Sibly, a bottom-age forward who played every game as a 16 year-old last season. Much like any other TAC Cup side, the Stingrays will have a number of players crossing over from other sports and there will undoubtedly be much interest in how they transition into the sport.

Dandenong starts its TAC Cup Girls season off at Beaconsfield this weekend as part of a double header, taking on the Northern Knights. The Stingrays then travel further east to Healesville to do battle with the Eastern Ranges a fortnight later, before heading down to Geelong to face the Falcons in round three.

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