NLB GF 2019: How they got here – Oakleigh Chargers

HEADING into the year, the Oakleigh Chargers were one of the favourites to take out the 2019 premiership after going down by less than a kick in 2018 to the Dandenong Stingrays. With the likely top two picks at their disposal in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, as well as highly rated talents Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams and Nick Bryan among others, the depth at the Chargers was phenomenal. They held the 2018 Under 16s Vic Metro Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Will Phillips, as well as securing exciting tall forward, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels following his decision to play closer to where he boards at Scotch College. We look back on the Chargers’ 2019 season to see how they made it to the final match of the season.

ROUND 1:

EASTERN RANGES 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.3 | 6.9 | 10.13 | 12.16 (88)

In the second game of the double header at RAMS Arena, Eastern Ranges put up a fight before eventually going down to one of the premiership favourites in Oakleigh Chargers. The Ranges booted three goals in the opening term to lead by three points at the first break, before the Chargers hit back in the second term with four goals to one, albeit with inaccuracy plaguing them. They booted 6.9 in the first half, and then 6.7 in the second half, finishing the game strongly and holding the Ranges to just three goals in the last half. Noah Anderson was the clear best on ground with four goals from 26 disposals, while Lachlan Gawel booted two goals for the Ranges. Nick Guiney, Will Phillips and Nick Bryan were named among the best for the Chargers, while Lachlan Stapleton and Cody Hirst were impressive for the Ranges. While the loss would be disappointing, the fact Eastern was able to match it with one of the top teams will give them plenty of confidence going forward.

ROUND 2:

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.4 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 10.9 (69)

The Rolls Royce stars of Oakleigh slowly clicked into gear on Sunday, helping the Chargers to a 23-point win over Calder. The Cannons were dismantled last week and responded well to going four goals down in the opening term this week, hitting back with five majors to nil in the second stanza to take a lead into the major break. With the ledger all but level going into the home straight, the likes of Dylan Williams and Noah Anderson stood up when it mattered to drag Oakleigh over the line. Williams was kept relatively quiet, but managed to snare three goals in the fourth quarter, while Noah Anderson (44 disposals, five tackles, five inside 50s, two goals) was near-on unstoppable. Matt Rowell also showed his class for 31 disposals, with bottom-ager Finlay Macrae (21 disposals, 1.2) dangerous up forward. Just as dangerous at the other end was Josh Kemp, who pulled Calder back into the game with two crucial goals in the second quarter and ended with three. Brodie Newman (21 disposals, five rebound 50s, four marks) was a calming influence in defensive 50, and Sam Ramsay was a good forward driver with 18 disposals and five rebounds. With plenty of improvement shown, Calder will face Western Jets at RAMS next week, with Oakleigh set to meet fellow premiership fancies, Sandringham in a ripping match-up.

ROUND 3:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 5.5 | 7.9 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.5 | 8.7 (55)

Hosts Sandringham got the better of the Round 3 top-of-the-table clash, downing the Oakleigh Chargers by 10 points to remain undefeated atop of the ladder. The Dragons were in control for most of the contest in perfect conditions to showcase the raft of draftable talent on display, and held on in the face of a late Oakleigh charge. Charlie Dean started strongly up forward, clunking big marks and putting two majors on the board to remain the competition’s leading goal scorer. Hugo Ralphsmith was the only other Dragon to slot two goals, and was dangerous in each of his forward forays – much like Oakleigh’s Noah Anderson, who booted two goals from 26 disposals. Along with Anderson’s efforts, Oakleigh’s midfield force was led by Matt Rowell (31 disposals, 11 tackles, seven marks) and co-captain Trent Bianco (26 disposals, five rebound 50s, four inside 50s), but was ultimately outdone by the Dragons’ depth. The centre bounce trio of Jack Mahony (25 disposals), Finn Maginness (24, six inside 50s, one goal), and Ryan Byrnes (21, six inside 50s) worked tirelessly to win a wealth of possessions and send Sandringham forward, with Josh Worrell a force off half-back. With the amount of talent on show, the game fully delivered on expectations with respects to getting a good glimpse of the game’s future stars, and the two sides would surely provide another corker should they meet in the post-season. Both teams now go on to face academies in Round 4, with Sandringham hosting Sydney, while Oakleigh travels to Brisbane to take on the Suns.

ROUND 4:

GOLD COAST ACADEMY 1.3 | 6.4 | 10.8 | 14.11 (95)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 3.6 (24)

Gold Coast SUNS Academy became the third non-Victorian side to pick up four points on the weekend, opening Sunday’s Queensland double-header with a 71-point win over Oakleigh. The Chargers came in heavily depleted like most of their fellow metro sides, but it didn’t show early as they battled well in an even first term. It was all Gold Coast from thereon though, as the Suns pulled away to a 26-point half time lead. With eight goals to one, it was more of the same in a dominant second half from the home side as they pushed to claim top spot at round’s end. Connor Budarick again had a day out, leading the Suns with 28 disposals, eight marks, eight tackles and a goal, while Corey Joyce and Ashton Crossley won the ball well with 22 possessions apiece. Josh Gore could have had a huge game, claiming 2.5 from his 20 disposals as one of four Suns multiple goal kickers, with Mark Steiner booting two of Oakleigh’s three goals for the match. Chargers over-ager and 2018 Vic Metro representative Joe Ayton-Delaney (26 disposals) was influential through midfield alongside Kaden Schreiber (24, seven marks, five clearances), but both were beaten to being named best by ruckman Jacob Woodfull who managed five clearances from 15 disposals. With two losses on the trot, Oakleigh will look to bounce back after the break against Dandenong, while Gold Coast is set to face another metro side in Eastern as its NAB League stint edges over the half-way mark.

ROUND 5:

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.2 | 10.4 | 12.8 | 19.10 (124)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.4 | 8.6 (54)

In their first three clashes, the Dandenong Stingrays have enjoyed absolute nail-biters, winning by a goal twice, and the drawing with Geelong Falcons in Round 3. While the opening term scores suggested this one would head down the same path, the action told a different story with the Stingrays on top, but not putt ing the scores on the board. That happened in the second term when they took full control of the game from Oakleigh Chargers, piling on eight goals to one with the breeze in a windy day at Shepley Oval. In front of a home crowd, the Stingrays put an understrength Oakleigh to the sword, extending the lead to 52 points by the final break, before running away with it in the last term as both sides managed to break through for goals. Eleven majors were kicked as Dandenong won that quarter seven goals to four, and enjoyed a massive 70-point win. In the absence of Hayden Young, Ned Cahill stood tall to be the standout player on the ground, while Luke Williams also contributed with his long-range goals a highlight. Jack Toner and Clayton Gay were solid throughout, as was Sam De Koning who took a multitude of intercept marks at centre half-back. For Oakleigh, Jacob Woodfull is hard to miss, rocking a mullet, but the ruck was sensational throughout the match, while Sam Seach and Ryan Valentine were also named among the best. AFL Academy members and co-captains Trent Bianco and Dylan Williams showed signs across the ground, but the Stingrays controlled the play for the most part in the impressive win.

ROUND 6:

TASMANIA DEVILS 3.0 | 5.2 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.4 | 3.5 | 6.6 | 8.8 (56)

Oakleigh Chargers held on for a hard-fought win by the narrowest of margins over Tasmania at North Hobart Oval, helping them climb back into the NAB League top eight. After breaking to a slim quarter-time lead, the Chargers gave up a nine-point half time lead after going goalless in the second term. With their backs against the wall, Oakleigh stood up to reclaim the lead, and hold on until the final siren as both sides contributed 1.2 in the fourth quarter. Oakleigh’s Thomas Lovell was efficient in front of goal with half of his eight touches ending in six points, but it was co-captain Trent Bianco who was his side’s best with 42 disposals, five marks, seven clearances, nine tackles and eight inside 50s. Josh May was also instrumental with 28 disposals and five clearances, while ruckman Jacob Woodfull was handy with 16 disposals and 27 hitouts. Harrison Ireland was named the Devils’ best for his role as an undersized ruck, while Ollie Davis was their leading ball winner with 21 touches and five clearances. Fellow bottom-age star Sam Collins was not far behind, matching AFL Academy member Will Peppin‘s effort of 18 disposals, while Will Harper and Rhyan Mansell each booted two goals. While Oakleigh can enjoy a bye in Round 7, Tasmania faces a trip to Bendigo to face the Pioneers, who are also 2-3.

ROUND 7:

Bye.

ROUND 8:

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 6.10 (46)

Oakleigh Chargers scraped home in a dour low-scoring affair, overcoming a three-quarter time deficit to beat the Northern Knights by six points. The match served as a curtain-raiser to the NAB League Girls finals at Shepley Oval, but both sides came out slowly on the big stage to play out a deadlocked 1.2 apiece first term. It proved much of the same in the following quarter, but Oakleigh managed to hold on to a two-point lead at half time after kicking the first goal of the term through Spiros Sklavenitis. The Knights hit back following the main break after Oakleigh’s Thomas ‘Love Machine’ Lovell again ensured the Chargers had the first goal of the quarter, with majors to Ryan Gardner and Joel Trudgeon putting them in a winning position heading into the last turn. It wasn’t to be though, with Dylan Williams‘ inspired move forward proving the difference as the Oakleigh co-captain booted two last quarter goals and assisted another to help his side sneak ahead and hold on. Bottom-aged Chargers Lochlan Jenkins (23 disposals, eight clearances) and Fraser Elliot (28 disposals, six clearances) were terrific in midfield, with the wing pairing of Josh May (24 disposals, six inside 50s) and Jeromy Lucas (23 disposals) also finding plenty of the ball. Thomas Graham joined Williams as the only other Oakleigh multiple goal-kicker, with no Knight achieving the same feat. Sam Philp (28 disposals, nine clearances) and Gardner (15 disposals, seven inside 50s) were named amongst Northern’s best and also found the goals, with Ryan Sturgess (19 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) resolute in defence and Lachie Potter (17 disposals) providing plenty of run. A second-consecutive narrow win sees Oakleigh sneak into the top eight, with Northern just outside on three wins as the competition heads into a development weekend.

ROUND 9:

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 4.7 | 9.11 (65)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.6 | 8.11 | 14.12 | 18.14 (122)

Oakleigh Chargers made it three wins on the trot as they comfortably accounted for the Murray Bushrangers by 57 points, consolidating their top eight standing. After scraping over the line by under a goal in each of their last two outings, the Chargers emphatically returned to form on the back of huge second and third quarters where they piled on 11 goals to three to establish dominance. Goals came in droves for the winners, with five of their six goal kickers claiming multiples – led by bottom-ager Connor Stone and Nicholas Staphopoulos, who each bagged five majors. Both were named amongst the best, with the bottom-aged midfield pairing of Fraser Elliot (26 disposals, six inside 50s) and Lochlan Jenkins (24 disposals, eight clearances) again right in the thick of it, and Vincent Zagari (17 disposals, seven rebounds) also solid. Jimmy Boyer was the clear best for Murray on a tough day, amassing an equal game-high 27 disposals and nine rebound 50s, with Vic Country squad member Cam Wild (20 disposals, 2.3) also good. Hudson Kaak joined Wild as the only other Murray multiple goal kicker (three), with over-ager Will Christie (12 disposals, nine tackles, 26 hitouts) working well around the ground. Murray’s search for a third win heads to Tasmania next week as they ready themselves to do battle with the Devils, while Oakleigh hosts and in-form Calder side with both teams looking to stretch their win streaks.

ROUND 10:

CALDER CANNONS 2.3 | 2.4 | 3.5 | 4.6 (30)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.1 | 6.6 | 11.6 | 15.9 (99)

Oakleigh continues its charge up the ladder an into form, accounting for the Calder Cannons by 69 points in the sides’ second meeting at RAMS Arena for 2019. While they won ugly in Rounds 6 and 8, the sixth place Chargers are now on par with the top four sides after wins by a combined 126 points in Rounds 9 and 10. While a 26-point half time buffer was more than handy, Oakleigh well and truly pulled away in the second half with nine goals to two in a more typical Chargers display. The inclusion of bottom-age stars Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Will Phillips on the back of school football breaks proved telling, with the former booting five goals and the latter leading the possession count. Fellow bottom-agers Lochlan Jenkins and Fraser Elliot were not far behind Phillips in those stakes to continue their good form, while GWS Academy member Jeromy Lucas played a good hand with two goals. For the Cannons, who had previously won four of their last five, Ben Overman was named best, with Ned Gentile again among the votes alongside the likes of Jeremy O’Sullivan (two goals) and Sam Ramsay. Unable to rectify their Round 2 loss to the Chargers on the same ground, the Cannons now slip below their weekend opponents to seventh with a bye on the horizon. Meanwhile, Oakleigh will look to continue its hot form and break into the top four with a win against Gippsland in Round 11.

ROUND 11:

GIPPSLAND POWER 4.4 | 5.6 | 10.10 | 13.13 (91)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 4.7 | 4.7 | 6.9 (45)

A Vic Country bye boded well for the Gippsland Power as they climbed into third with a strong win over the dangerous Oakleigh Chargers. After kicking out to a 20-point quarter time buffer, Oakleigh hit back to find themselves just five points down at the main break with 3.5 in the second term. The see-sawing continued though, as the Chargers were held goalless in the next stanza, and could only answer back with 2.2 in the final period to the home side’s powerful eight-goal second half. Four of Gippsland’s best half-dozen were Country representatives, with Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, 5.3) enjoying a day out to lead the lot and earn a Draft Central Player of the Week nomination. Leo Connolly narrowly missed out on that gig with his game-high 32 touches and lone goal, while skipper Brock Smith, Ryan Sparkes, and bottom-ager Sam Berry each had 26 disposals as Gippsland dominated possession. The likes of Tom Fitzpatrick (17 disposals, 2.1), Harrison Pepper (20 disposals, one goal) and Mason McGarrity (18 disposals, 1.4) were others on the verge of having big days. For Oakleigh, whose winning run has snapped, Vincent Zagari was named best for his team-high 22-disposals effort, with Lochlan Jenkins (18 disposals, 10 tackles) and Josh May (18 disposals) working hard in a weakened midfield. Over-aged debutant Cooper Sharman was one who impressed among the raft of Oakleigh changes, collecting 20 disposals and booting a goal. The Chargers will look to get back on the winners list as they clash with Sandringham next time out, while Gippsland faces a Geelong team desperate for form.

ROUND 12:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.3 | 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.16 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.4 | 1.5 | 7.8 | 8.10 (58)

A wasteful Sandringham Dragons squandered the opportunity to defeat a gallant Oakleigh Chargers, kicking 1.8 in the final term in a tight contest at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. Cold and blustery conditions meant skills and finishing were made trying, however Oakleigh willed themselves over the line with some strong tackling and defensive efforts led by Lachlan Johnson and Nicholas Stathopoulos. Oakleigh kicked away halfway through the third term, slamming home six goals and taking a commanding lead into the final break. An inspired Dragons outfit came out with vengeance in the last but their inaccuracy and inability to convert their chances cost them a victory. Failing to capitalise on ample supply from midfielders Hugo Ralphsmith and Jackson Voss (five inside 50s each), the Dragons eventually succumbed to Oakleigh’s superior class and polish in front of goal. Oakleigh power forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan slotted three goals and Stathopoulos two, with midfielders Reef McInnes (23 disposals) and Lochlan Jenkins (21 touches) working hard. For the Dragons, Ralphsmith (23 disposals) and rebounding defender Will Mackay (23 disposals, eight rebounds) were dominant forces in the misfiring Sandringham line-up. Oakleigh’s win places them as a strong contender for the finals, equalling Sandringham’;s seven wins for the year.

ROUND 13:

GEELONG FALCONS 2.3 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 6.6 (42)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.4 | 10.6 | 14.8 | 20.9 (129)

All of Oakleigh’s top-end guns fired as the Chargers easily accounted for a depleted Geelong Falcons side by 87 points to see out the round. Returning co-captains Dylan Williams (five goals) and Trent Bianco (24 disposals, two goals) were fantastic, with a raft of bottom and top-age talents helping Oakleigh to their big win. Bottom-agers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four goals) and Reef McInnes (29 disposals, two goals) did their best to live up to the standard set by Williams and Bianco, with over-ager Thomas Graham (24 disposals, 23 hitouts, one goal) monstrous in the ruck and Kaden Schreiber handball-happy with 25 among his 29 disposals. For Geelong, Charlie Sprague‘s three goals were a shining light, while bottom-agers Charlie Lazzaro (23 disposals, four rebound 50s), Noah Gribble (20 disposals, five marks), Cameron Fleeton (19 disposals, seven marks) and Henry Walsh (11 disposals, 26 hitouts) gave a glimpse of the future. Desperate for form, a meeting with GWV Rebels is next for Geelong, while Oakleigh will be red hot heading into its top four clash with table-toppers, Eastern.

ROUND 14:

EASTERN RANGES 4.2 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 11.9 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 0.2 | 6.6 | 8.10 | 12.11 (83)

In the second game of the double header, it looked to be a blowout early in the match with Eastern Ranges piling on four goals to zero in the opening term and had six on the board to Oakleigh’s one midway through the second term. The Chargers then roared into action, piling on five consecutive goals to hit the front by the main break. In a see-sawing second half, both sides looked to have a stake in the win, but it was not until Dylan Williams booted a late goal in the final term – as he had done on the eve of half-time, for Oakleigh to be home. While Williams finished with two majors, Cooper Sharman was dominant with four straight goals and 18 touches, looking ever-dangerous. Trent Bianco had a day out with 34 touches and 10 rebounds, camping off half-back and keeping the ball moving forward, while Jeromy Lucas and Will Phillips were among the big ball winners for the Chargers. For Eastern, it was a rare loss for the top-of-the-table side, but Jordan Jaworksi finished with four goals – three in the first half, while Beau Tennant booted three. Lachlan Stapleton was the standout midfielder in the absence of partner-in-crime Mitch Mellis, while Wil Parker and Zak Pretty were also productive in the midfield.

ROUND 15:

Bye.

ROUND 16:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.2 | 4.3 | 10.5 | 12.8 (80)
WESTERN JETS 1.2 | 5.3 | 5.3 | 9.4 (58)

A barnstorming second half saw Oakleigh get the better of Western and slot into the all-important third place, with all teams bar Tasmania having now played 14 games. The Chargers gave up a six-point half-time lead after heading into the first break with an identical margin to the good, but turned it on in typical Oakleigh fashion to boot six goals to Western’s nil in the third term. While Western managed to claw back a bit of the margin in an improved final quarter, it was to no avail as Oakleigh held firm despite missing both of its co-captains. Chargers midfielder Lochlan Jenkins was the standout with 35 disposals, 10 inside 50s and a goal, backed by fellow bottom-age ball finder Reef McInnes (28 disposals, seven marks, nine tackles). Over-ager Jeromy Lucas (26 disposals, six tackles) was another to stand up with some of the Chargers’ guns absent, while Nicholas Stathopoulos was efficient in front of goal to prize three goals from seven disposals and Cooper Sharman (10 disposals, 2.1) continues to excite. For the Jets, Archi Manton was just as economical with 5.1 from seven kicks to do most of the damage as his side’s only multiple goal kicker, but Josh Honey was named best for his 24-disposal effort. Over-ager Daly Andrews (23 disposals) keeps on finding the ball, with returning defensive duo Lucas Rocci and Josh Kellett doing the same and bottom-ager Billy Cootee booting a couple of handy goals. Both sides are set to play their final regular season games in the Avalon Airport Oval triple-header, with Western opening the show against Northern and Oakleigh closing it in a mouth-watering clash with Sandringham.

ROUND 17:

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.2 | 5.4 | 10.6 | 13.6 (84)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.3 | 6.6 | 8.7 | 14.7 (91)

Pure star power dragged the Oakleigh Chargers over the line and into third place with an incredible seven-point come-from-behind win over Sandringham Dragons in the thick of what was a finals-like atmosphere. After the Dragons looked to have sealed the game with three goals in the first five minutes of the final quarter, a Noah Anderson-inspired Oakleigh hit back in style with four majors in the following five minutes, and ended with the last six of the game altogether to snatch victory. Both sides enjoyed spurts of momentum throughout the game and looked like getting on top on numerous occasions, but Oakleigh’s final thrust came at the ideal time as they charged home to claim the remarkable win. Anderson’s game-winning 24 disposals and three goals were arguably matched for importance by the efforts of Matt Rowell (34 disposals, seven tackles) – who hardly put a foot wrong – and skipper Trent Bianco (28 disposals). The high-marking forward duo of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman also shone, combining for six goals and a couple of highlight reel moments. For the Dragons, Finn Maginness did his level best to drag his side over the line with 17 disposals and three goals, with Darcy Chirgwin (30 disposals, seven tackles) doing the tough stuff through midfield and Angus Hanrahan influential on the outside (23 disposals, two goals). Bottom-ager Archie Perkins was another to impress with his three goals from 11 disposals, while Corey Watts put in a mammoth effort in defence with 12 disposals, six marks and seven rebound 50s. With an absolute raft of combine invitees and representative players taking the field, it was one of the highest quality Under 18 games in recent memory and truly lived up to the pre-game hype as a number of top-end stars stood up.

QUALIFYING FINAL:

GIPPSLAND POWER 2.2 | 9.2 | 11.3 | 12.3 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 5.1 | 5.3 | 9.7 | 12.11 (83)

OAKLEIGH Chargers have advanced through to the 2019 NAB League Boys Preliminary Final after downing Gippsland Power in one of the finishes of the year. Both teams had momentum swings throughout the contest, with the Chargers on top early, the Power storming in front, only for the Chargers to come again with seven of the last 10 goals to run over the top and take home the chocolates.

The first quarter belonged to Oakleigh with four consecutive goals to open proceedings, and Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan looking dangerous against a defence missing their best interceptor in captain Brock Smith. Ugle-Hagan took four marks in the first term, converting two goals from set shots and setting up another one to Bailey Laurie with class tight on the boundary. Without hesitation he spun and delivered a neat centring pass into Laurie who did not let him down with the set shot. The first goal had come from Nick Stathopoulos who found himself free inside 50 and had no problems converting the set shot from straight in front. Facing a four-goal deficit and frustrated, Gippsland Power’s Caleb Serong gave away a downfield free for a late bump, only to suck the player he knocked over to put him on the turf and his appeal to the umpire was successful to win the ball back. It seemed to ignite Gippsland who to that point had been a rung below a switched on Oakleigh side. Trent Baldi booted back-to-back goals with a set shot and then getting free and doubling back to goal to kick one from point blank on the run. Having cut the deficit to a couple of goals, it was painful when Cooper Sharman somehow got his hands free in a congested stoppage inside 50 to flick the handball behind his head to the running Reef McInnes who slammed it home seconds before the siren for Oakleigh to head into the break 17 points ahead. Serong was on fire for the Power, picking up nine touches and taking a contested mark over the much taller Nick Bryan, while Oakleigh had plenty of ball winners with bottom-agers Will Phillips (nine), Finlay Macrae (seven) and Laurie (seven) leading the way. The ominous sign for the Chargers was that despite the lead, their two biggest names in Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson had combined for just 11 touches in the first term.

If the first quarter belonged to Serong, the second quarter belonged to Sam Flanders. The dynamic forward booted four consecutive goals to steal the show and open up a massive 23-point lead at half-time. The term started with Harvey Neocleous booted a goal from a quick snap in the opening minute after great work from Serong out of the middle, before a run-down tackle from Fraser Phillips aided a goal to Leo Connolly who Phillips handed it off to on the run. The long raking kick from Connolly outside 50 sailed through and the Power were up and about. Oakleigh had a rare chance through Laurie inside 50 but his set shot missed to the left, and the Power immediately made them pay. Flanders proceeded to put in one of the best individual quarter performances, piling on 12 touches and four goals over the next 15 minutes, all of which came from set shots. He was isolated one-on-one with an opponent and time and time used great body work to nudge his opponent off and apply more scoreboard pressure. After his fourth Flanders went into the middle and immediately went to work setting up the next major, bombing long inside 50 to Serong who rotated deep with his Vic Country teammate, and it came off hands for Phillips to run onto it perfectly and dribble it home. The siren sounded with Gippsland remarkably on top after booting nine of the past 10 goals.

After counter-opposite opening terms in the first half, the third quarter became an early shootout with both sides showing off their ability to hit the scoreboard. Stathopoulos quickly added Oakleigh’s first major since the last few seconds of the first term, running into the open goal for his second goal. It seemed to open the flood gates at both ends as Tom Fitzpatrick won a 50m penalty and converted from point blank. Both Phillips’ got on the board for their respective sides, with Will turning onto his right and snapping around his body for Oakleigh, before Fraser did the same from the next clearance off his left from a Serong clearance. Flanders had an ambitious shot from the pocket but sprayed it out on the full, then Laurie made it count with a successful shot from the other end. When Stathopoulos made the crowd believe it was Groundhog Day – running into the square and booting it from point blank range again – Oakleigh was back into single digits. Will Phillips and Ugle-Hagan both had chances to cut the deficit further but missed. At the final break, Flanders (23 disposals, six marks and four goals) and Serong (20 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s) were dominant, while Phillips (20 disposals, four inside 50s and one goal) and Trent Bianco (20 disposals, four inside 50s) were the top disposal winners for the Chargers.

As if the players needed a challenge in the last term, the heavens opened and the rain poured down and it became a slog. Not before Ugle-Hagan could slot his third and cut the deficit to within a kick. Riley Baldi quickly responded as the rain began to fall, running into an open goal and answering the call with a major, but from then on goals were hard to come by. Bianco seemed to defy that though when he unleashed a bomb from just inside 50 and it sailed through for a vital major either side of a Ugle-Hagan spray from 15m out. The behinds were enough to put Oakleigh up by a couple as Gippsland desperately tried to get the ball forward. But instead it was Oakleigh through Stathopoulos who somehow found a way deep in the pocket to kick an almost impossible goal and hand the Chargers an unlikely come-from-behind win.

Rowell finished the day with an influential second half and 30 disposals, two marks, five tackles and four rebounds, joined among the big ball winners in Will Phillips (28 touches, four tackles, six inside 50s and three rebounds) and Anderson (25 disposals, three inside 50s), while Stathopoulos and Ugle-Hagan combined for seven majors. For the Power, it was the duo of Flanders (28 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s, seven tackles and four majors) and Serong (24 disposals, four marks, six inside 50s and four tackles) who did the bulk of the damage, while Connolly (21 touches, 11 rebounds and a goal) and Tye Hourigan (16 disposals, four marks, nine rebounds and two tackles) were also consistent.

PRELIMINARY FINAL:

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.2 | 8.3 | 12.6 | 17.7 (109)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.3 | 3.5 | 4.9 | 4.10 (34)

OAKLEIGH Chargers earned a second crack at premiership glory in as many years, trumping metro rivals Sandringham by 75 points at Princes Park.

The Chargers got on top early with a 28-point half-time lead and never looked back, sealing the 17.7 (109) to 4.10 (34) result.

The signs were ominous early as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan produced a mark on the lead and set shot goal typical of his form, backed by a Thomas Graham goal on the run shortly after – all within the first three minutes. But as expected, Sandringham hit back as Finn Maginness got on top at the stoppages. The Dragons even snatched the lead for the only time of the game after some improved finishing, with Kyle Yorke’s set shot sailing through. The Chargers hit back swiftly with one of their better passages forward of centre, with Noah Anderson and Trent Bianco combining to set up Ugle-Hagan’s second for the term, sealing the five-point quarter time lead.

The game began to open up as the Chargers quickly got on the board again on the back of a classy Finlay Macrae finish, and he had a say in Oakleigh’s third goal of the term with a nice baulk in the lead up to Graham’s second major. The momentum was halted momentarily as Yorke again found the big sticks with a deft dribbler over the back, but it was business as usual as Cooper Sharman got on the board with a reply and Graham roosted a huge set shot goal late on to give the Chargers an ominous 28-point half time lead.

Oakleigh again started the better in the third and broke out to a game-high lead in the back-end of the term, sparked by a couple of great moments from bottom-age forward Connor Stone. A goal to Hugo Ralphsmith on the back of a spearing Miles Bergman ball was the only form of resistance from the Dragons, as they could only stand and watch as Oakleigh put through another three goals to end the term 45 points to the good and with one foot in the grand final. With the game all but dead and buried, the Chargers added another four goals to the Dragons’ nil to see out the win in a heated final term, with state combine invitee Kaden Schreiber going in the book late on.

Matt Rowell led all-comers with a typically consistent 32 disposals, followed by Schreiber’s 28 and skipper Bianco’s 27. Will Phillips enjoyed his time through midfield with 26 touches, while Anderson was impactful with three goals from 21 disposals in a statement performance. In a dour day for the Dragons, Ryan Byrnes racked up 27 disposals in a trying effort, while Darcy Chirgwin and Maginness combined well early and Louis Butler was solid down back with Harry Loughnan.

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