OAKLEIGH CHARGERS (3rd, 11-4) vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS (4th, 9-6)
Saturday September 14, 11:00am
Ikon Park, Carlton North
The Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons meet for the fourth time this year with both sides looking to book their tickets to the NAB League Grand Final.
These sides have produced two of the highest quality Under-18 games in recent memory with both squads at full strength, with Sandringham prevailing by 10 points in Round 3, but going down in the Round 17 grudge match which saw the Chargers snatch third spot. The mid-year fixture between the sides should not be discounted either, as Oakleigh’s Round 12 win over the depleted Dragons produced the greatest margin of the three bouts (18 points).
While the Dragons have shown their capacity to do so, Oakleigh is typically the higher-scoring team and pose dynamic threats inside 50 in the form of athletic talls Cooper Sharman and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Add Noah Anderson to that mix and you have a trio of game-winners, with Anderson’s top-two touted mate Matt Rowell an ever-consistent force through the midfield. But that is not to discount Sandringham’s star power around the ground, with the Dragons boasting a whopping 18 combine invitees and a chance to field at least 16 of them as Jack Mahony hurries back from injury. Should he be included, another dimension would be added to the all-important midfield battle which Oakleigh so resoundingly won late-on in the sides’ Round 17 meeting. Finn Maginness and Darcy Chirgwin have been the answers on the inside, with the likes of Hugo Ralphsmith and Miles Bergman able to impact the contest from the wing or half-forward. Their dynamism will also be key inside 50 with Charlie Dean one who could be forced to move back given their athletic capabilities.
Speaking of backlines, Oakleigh co-captain Trent Bianco will look to out-do Sandringham counterpart Louis Butler for damage and rebound off the flanks, while Corey Watts looms as an intercepting threat for the Dragons – a role he performed so well last time out against Oakleigh. Whichever side shuts down the space best is likely to get on top, with both teams possessing weapons going forward in the kicking department.
Going on recent form and the ledger between these two high-class teams in 2019, it is hard to look past the charging Oakleigh side. They found a way when down and out in Round 17, so that has to be a mental factor whichever way this game goes. The pair of Anderson and Rowell is also key, with no side able to truly match them. They may well again drag Oakleigh over the line, but discount the Dragons at your own peril.
Prediction: Oakleigh by 13 points
Cooper Sharman vs. Corey Watts
Keeping both Sharman and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan quiet will be no mean feat, but Watts tried his level best to do so in Round 17. He seldom found himself in one-on-one duels with the pair, but matched up on Sharman when deep inside 50 last time out and could find himself doing the same here. Watts’ reading of the ball in flight will be important as he is given the license to intercept, but that kind of game while manning the dynamic Sharman is a difficult balancing act. The Chargers have many avenues to goal and a bunch of X-factor type players, so nullifying at least one of them will be key for the Dragons.
Noah Anderson vs. Finn Maginness
This is nothing short of a dream match-up. Anderson and Maginness put their respective teams on their backs in Round 17 with three goals apiece among their midfield work, and their capacities to influence the game in each area of the ground makes them so important. Sandringham were beaten at the crunch moments that day and coach Josh Bourke has asked for them to respond, so watch for someone like Maginness to lead that cause on the inside. On the other hand, Anderson is rarely kept quiet and stands up when it counts, so will inevitably have his own say on the contest.
Head to Head:
Oakleigh Chargers – 2
Sandringham Dragons – 1
Oakleigh Chargers – 24
Sandringham Dragons – 23
B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie
In: G. Varagiannis, S. Tucker, Y. Dib
B: 18. J. Lloyd, 33. C. Watts, 37. W. Mackay
HB: 13. L. Butler, 12. C. Dean, 7. J. Voss
C: 43. J. Bowey, 5. R. Byrnes, 15. A. Hanrahan
HF: 9. N. Burke, 26. J. Castan, 16. J. Mifsud
F: 36. O. Lewis, 6. M. Bergman, 11. H. Ralphsmith
R: 30. A. Courtney, 2. D. Chirgwin, 4. F. Maginness
Int: 3. G. Grey, 51. D. Hipwell, 10. J. Le Grice , 74. H. Loughnan, 17. T. Milne, 39. B. O’Leary, 14. K. Yorke
23P: 35. C. Chesser
In: T. Milne, D. Hipwell, K. Yorke, J. Le Grice
Out: O. Lord