IT was a big weekend in TAC Cup football to kick-off the season, with Western Jets winning under lights, while Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons triumphed in pouring rain. An upset to Gippsland Power saw them topple Murray Bushrangers, while Bendigo Pioneers stunned the GWV Rebels with a huge final quarter comeback, and the Dandenong Stingrays put a rubber stamp on their premiership credentials with a 53-point belting of the reigning premiers.
Western Jets vs. Calder Cannons
The TAC Cup season kicked-off on Friday night with a nail biter at RAMS Arena, where Western held off a fast finishing Calder outfit. A five-goal second term pushed the Jets out to a 20-point lead at half-time, but the Cannons came home strong outscoring the Jets but narrowly went down 12.9 (81) to 12.5 (77).
Western Jets midfielder Xavier O’Halloran was his teams best player, winning the ball from the stoppages and propelling it inside 50 on multiple occasions. Around the ground he elected to mostly go by foot and was effective finding targets ahead of him. Connor Thar and Darcy Cassar were also impressive in the attacking half of the ground and impacted the game when required. Up forward it was Aaron Clarke who booted three goals for the contest.
Lachlan Sholl’s X-Factor was on show throughout the contest, lighting up the Cannons midfield off the wing. Overager Mitch Podhajski won the football in the midfield, showing some signs that hadn’t been seen in his top-age season last year. Tye Browning was also a strong player, while Lucas Cavallaro intercepted well & rebounded well out of the Cannons’ defensive 50. Possible Top 10 draftee Curtis Taylor slotted three goals, as did bottom-ager Jeremy O’Sullivan.
Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Oakleigh came home with the victory against Eastern in wet conditions with both teams leaving nothing in the tank although it was Oakleigh’s midfield dept and class that made the difference. Oakleigh’s defence held up strong keeping Eastern to the single goal that coming in the last quarter. Despite Eastern’s depth they where up against a genuine premiership contender in Oakleigh who boast a solid defence and perhaps the strongest midfield in the TAC. The final score was 8.13 (61) to 1.5 (11).
It was tough to pick the best player for Oakleigh since they had a great mix of contributors all over the ground. The backline was lead by Isaac Quaynor who had an outstanding game, James Rowbottom and Joe Ayton-Delaney also showed a lot of class down back. Daniel Scala was the most dangerous forward bobbing up with two goals and midfielder Xavier O’Neill also kicked two and showed a lot of class up the ground. The midfield was strong with Riley Collier-Dawkins, Noah Answerth and Jack Ross winning the contested ball and 17 year olds Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson provided run and class on the outside. Dylan Williams and Trent Bianco were other 17 year olds who impressed. Father-son prospects Will Kelly and Ben Silvagni were not helped with the wet conditions playing as tall forwards but still showed some promising signs.
Eastern had a clear best on ground in Ben Cardamone who was tough as nails in defence and tried his hardest to stop the onslaught that was Oakleigh, he took countless intercept marks and was solid by foot. James Blanck was another who impressed down back, the key defender stood tall all day and was the pick of the key position players for both sides. The midfield tried hard but just came up undersized. Adrian Kalcovski, Jonte Duffy and Lachlan Stapleton toiled hard and weren’t afraid to get in and under and tackle hard. Eastern are a small and quick side so they will be suited to better conditions.
Northern Knights vs. Sandringham Dragons
In what was a tight tussle for the first half, Sandringham pulled away in the second half with their class coming to the forefront. Although the conditions were not as bad as the previous game, the ground and ball were still wet and hard to control. Northern did not let Sandringham have it easy with their forwards putting on good pressure and making the Sandringham defenders accountable. Northern have some impressive youth and despite the result showed some real dare and speed. Sandringham won 9.18 (72) to 3.9 (27).
Northern did not have many players that played a four-quarter game, but captain Braedyn Gillard could hold his head up high, he continued to put his head over the ball and force the ball forward any way he could. He was assisted by Tom McKenzie who added the class and polish to the midfield, rarely making a mistake he often got them all rolling with clearing handballs and creative kicks. The youth really stood out with 17 year olds Josh D’Intinosante and Lachlan Potter provided plenty of excitement with their speed and dare both of them added a great dynamic to the team at either end. The forward line toiled hard with Patrick Della Rocca and Nicholas Mayne providing good targets.
The very clear best on ground was Bailey Smith who had the ball on a strong for Sandringham, he won plenty of the ball in the contest and on the outside with his dangerous kicking and slick decision making on show. The Sandringham forward line worked incredibly well with each player having an impact with and without the ball. Talk forwards Will Kennedy and Josh Worrell were a real handful and provided great pressure without the ball. Small forwards Jack Denborough and Jack Mahoney were quick and sharp and set up countless scoring opportunities. Ben King went forward late to kick two goals and forward/ruck James Rendell showed good athleticism with his two goals. Other important contributors included defender Harry Houlahan, 17 year-old wingman Darcy Chirgwin and line breaker Alastair Richards.
Greater Western Victoria Rebels vs. Bendigo Pioneers
A five-goal performance from Will Holt inspired the Bendigo Pioneers to a thrilling comeback victory against the GWV Rebels on Saturday. The Pioneers clawed their way back from a 19-point deficit a three quarter time to win by 1 point on a perfect Mars Stadium deck.
Although the Rebels led for the majority of the day, the Pioneers never threw in the towel, and answered every Rebels goal with a goal of their own. Holt was not the only contributor for the Pioneers, with ruckman Daniel Keating and big-bodied midfielder Noah Wheeler giving the Pioneers first use through the middle. Keating was dominant in the ruck, and acted as a fourth midfielder at stoppages, attacking the football at ground level and winning it for his side.
The Rebels task was made more difficult by the injury to star midfielder Tom Berry. Berry, who was arguably the best player on the field at the time, hit the point post side on at full pace. Berry showed remarkable courage to walk off on his own power, but was seen icing his ribs at three quarter time. The Rebels will be hoping that Berry’s injury is only minor, as his contribution to the 2018 season will be pivotal if the Rebels are to contend this season. The losing side may have an early contender for TAC cup mark of the season however. After taking a strong mark on the wing, Jed Hill turned and kicked long into the forward line. Out of nowhere came Mitch Martin, who soared onto the back of his opponent, and took an incredible mark. The highlight was complete after Martin kicked truly and was surrounded by his teammates. Other strong performers for the Rebels, came from Charlie Wilson and Lochie Dawson, who were consistent all day, while the afore mentioned Hill had terrific second and third quarters.
The Rebels will look to bounce back next week against the Geelong Falcons at Skilled Stadium, while the Pioneers hope to build on this performance playing the Murray Bushrangers at Shepparton.
Geelong Falcons vs. Dandenong Stingrays
Dandenong Stingrays made a fairly strong statement to open the 2018 TAC Cup season with a dominant 53-point victory over reigning premiers, Geelong Falcons. Both sides had five scoring shots in the opening term at GMHBA Stadium, but the Stingrays converted three goals to zero, opening up a 15-point lead. They then built on that lead with a seven goals to one second term to storm to a whopping 40-point advantage at half-time much to the surprise of the home crowd. It was a closer affair after half-time, but the Stingrays still added to their lead, booting seven goals to five to win 15.10 (100) to 6.11 (47).
For the visitors, Aaron Darling marked a strong return after a year out with injury, booting three goals, while Campbell Hustwaite, Finlay Bayne, Jai Taylor and Riley Bowman kicked two majors apiece to share the load. Hustwaite was one of the Stingrays’ best, being a leader around the stoppages, constantly getting the ball forward, while bottom-ager Hayden Young was good in transition. Bowman was strong rotating through the ruck, while Toby Bedford was another player who used his speed to lay some bone-crunching tackles for the Stingrays.
For the Falcons, AFL Academy stars Sam Walsh and Ned McHenry were the clear standouts through the midfield with Walsh laying some huge tackles and McHenry dancing around opponents out of the stoppages with undoubtedly high clearance numbers. Charlie Sprague booted three goals but was the only multiple goal kicker for the Falcons, while Sam Conway and Blake Schlensog were strong through the ruck, while rotating forward. Oscar Brownless was another who stood up against the Stingrays to win plenty of the ball through midfield, while bottom-ager Charlie Harris provided some rebound for the homes side throughout the match.
Murray Bushrangers vs. Gippsland Power
In arguably the upset of the weekend, a primarily bottom-aged Gippsland Power side rolled the highly-rated Murray Bushrangers at the Swinburne Centre in Richmond. Undoubtedly talented, the Power had to fight for it early, trailing by a point at quarter time, before booting six goals to three in the second term to head into the main break with a 15-point advantage over their opponents. A tight three goals to two term saw Gippsland extend its lead to 20 points with a quarter to play, before running out the game with a four goals to one final term to win 15.14 (104) to 8.12 (60).
Big full-forward Josh Smith booted three goals and was among 10 individual goal kickers for the Power. Over-ager Matthew McGannon was crucial at half-back, having the ball on a string as he marked everything that came his way, providing some drive and run out of the back 50. Captain Xavier Duursma played his usual role through the midfield with much success, delivering the ball inside 50 with clean disposal. His work in close and ability to spread was good, rewarded with a goal. Bottom-agers Sam Flanders and Caleb Serong gave fans a glimpse into the future with some impressive ball-winning abilities, while Austin Hodge was strong in midfield as the 19 year-old moved forward to boot two goals for the Power.
For Murray, Lachlan Ash and Ely Smith had no trouble finding the ball, while Kyle Clarke built on his strong performances early in the season last year. Over-ager Laitham Vandermeer covered the ground well winning possessions in each third, while highly-touted tall Hudson Garoni played outside 50 taking multiple marks and hitting up targets inside the arc. Riley Bice, Matthew Walker and Patrick Warner all booted two goals for the Bushies, but it would not be enough to get the victory.