DANDENONG Stingrays have produced one of their best performances in the NAB League Girls competition to-date, downing Eastern Ranges by 50 points at Holm Park Reserve in Beaconsfield. In warm conditions without a lot of breeze, the Stingrays went into the contest with a heavy bottom-age presence with talls up either end supported by a couple of more experienced players around them. It was an arm-wrestle for the most part in the first half, with Dandenong eventually turning the tables on Eastern thanks to an inspired performance by AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tyanna Smith.
While she was solid in the first quarter, it was the second term where Smith came to life, having multiple inside 50s – including three consecutive – and booting a remarkable goal from the boundary line to blow out the half-time margin to 33 points at the break. The first five minutes of the match was spent between the arcs, but a quick kick inside 50 gave debutant overager, Serene Vudiniabola the opportunity with her strong hands to dish off to Jess Matin who slotted the easiest of first goals. The Stingrays double up late in the term when Ashleigh Richards converted from 30m out straight in front, but it was off the back of a huge Mackenzie Eardley tackle, stopping Lily Peacock in her tracks on the wing. Both Smith and Olivia Meagher were battling hard for their respective sides, throwing their bodies on the line to win the contested ball despite being outnumbered.
Eardley continued in the second term where she took a huge contested one-on-one mark inside defensive 50, while Smith’s dominance came to the fore. After a couple of dropped marks by teammates and Vudiniabola’s missed chance for a goal herself, Smith gathered the ball right by the boundary line amongst traffic and snapped it across her body off a step to put it through the middle in a remarkable effort. Meagher and Jorja Livingstone were trying hard for Eastern, with Livingstone bearing similar traits to Smith with her ability to sidestep opponents and kick it clear. The Stingrays’ defence kept holding up however, and both Georgia Grimmer and Vudiniabola got on the board late in the term. Tarni Brown had a chance in the dying seconds right on the boundary but was knocked over as she kicked it, with the ball cannoning into the behind post ensuring the Stingrays were in firm control of the contest.
It did not take long in the second half for Dandenong to keep building the lead with Richards converting her second in the opening few minutes. The drought was broken for the Ranges in response when a contest deep in the Eastern forward line produced something out of nothing with Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Saskia Nannes making her mark on the game with a clever snap which bounced past a couple of defenders and home. Richards almost had a third for the Ranges, but it was touched on the way there. Meagher’s defensive work and contested ability was there throughout the four quarters, wrapping up Zoe Hill to win a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty, but her set shot drifted to the right. Not to be outdone, Smith then ran down an opponent with five minutes left in the quarter to save a certain goal, then moments later marked inside 50, 30m out on an angle. She too missed the chance to add to the lead, but Jaide Anthony did not, when a fortuitous fumble close to the line saw an opponent overrun the ball and collect her high with a subsequent snap from the free kick sailing through and the margin was 39 at the final break.
The last quarter started with more promise for the Stingrays as Vudiniabola booted her second major just 51 seconds into the contest, and Grimmer made it two for herself with a goal midway through the term with a remarkable long bomb off a snap. Unfortunately Eastern copped two injuries in the final term with players having to be helped off, but the game was done and dusted by that stage, and while a number of Ranges had impressed, it was a terrific performance from the Stingrays. Dandenong head coach, Dave Carden said it was a terrific effort from the playing group to put out the performance it did.
“It’s interesting, because you’re not really sure what to expect,” he said. “We’re such a new squad. “We had 11 debutants play their first game for the Stingrays today and we’re pretty much a brand new coaching staff. “So we’ve worked on a lot of things over the summer and it’s really been about the fundamentals. “Making sure we’re getting our kicking right under pressure. Massive focus on clean hands, but also them having the courage to take the game on. “We talked about it as players, we want them to bring their strength to the game, rather than a whole heap of structural stuff and be you. “You know what? I think they did a really, really good job right across the ground doing that.”
Smith finished with 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal, leading the way perfectly from Amber Clarke (12 disposals, two marks and four tackles), while Grimmer, Richards and Vudiniabola all booted a couple of majors each as a damaging forward combination. Eardley was superb in defence with a couple of marks, four rebounds, five tackles and seven touches, while Matin missed a couple of chances in the third term to boot a handy three majors, but finished with 1.2 from 10 disposals and four tackles. Captain Abbey Jordan also produced a lot of one percenters, recording nine disposals and two inside 50s with a lot of hard running throughout the contest. For Eastern, Meagher was the standout with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and three inside 50s, well supported by Livingstone (13 disposals, two tackles) and Brown (20 disposals, three tackles). Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, three inside 50s and two tackles) and Jess Grace (seven disposals, 12 hitouts) were also among Eastern’s best in the loss.
Next week the Stingrays head to Cragieburn to take on the Calder Cannons, wile Eastern has a bye in Round 2 ahead of a home match at Kilsyth against Tasmania Devils.
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 5.3 | 7.4 | 9.4 (58)
EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)
Dandenong: A. Richards 2, S. Vudiniabola 2, G. Grimmer 2, J. Matin, J. Anthony, T. Smith.
Eastern: S. Nannes.
Dandenong: T. Smith, M. Eardley, G. Grimmer, A. Jordan, S. Vudiniabola
Eastern: O. Meagher, J. Livingstone, T. Brown, R. O’Dwyer, J. Grace
5 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
4 – Olivia Meagher (ER)
3 – Mackenzie Eardley (DS)
2 – Georgia Grimmer (DS)
1 – Jorja Livingstone (ER)