Classic Contests: Eight-goal first quarter sets up impressive Stingrays win

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 1 clashes in the NAB League this year between Dandenong Stingrays and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. We travel back to Round 3, 2017 when the sides met at Queen Elizabeth Oval (QEO) after both teams had received a hiding from Geelong Falcons in the opening two rounds, and the Stingrays were without a number of stars due to the AFL Academy match.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 8.0 | 12.3 | 14.3 | 16.6 (102)
GWV REBELS 1.1 | 3.3 | 9.7 | 12.10 (82)

Round 3 | Saturday, April 8, 2017
Queen Elizabeth Oval, 2pm

Heading back to Round 3 in 2017, the newly rebranded GWV Rebels (originally North Ballarat Rebels) travelled to Bendigo to take on the Dandenong Stingrays as part of the traditional Country triple header. Neither side had lit the world on fire coming into the contest, with the highly fancied Stingrays 1-1 from two games, while the Rebels sat 0-2 with a percentage of 60.34. The week before, Geelong Falcons had given the Stingrays a 77-point touch up at Kardinia Park, while the Rebels had lost by 12 points to Bendigo Pioneers the day after. It was a better result from the week before when the Falcons flexed their muscles on the Rebels, winning by 82 points at home, while across at Morwell, the Stingrays got up over Gippsland Power by 16 points.

The first term of the Round 3 clash was an absolute stampede of goals from the favourites, with the Stingrays piling on eight majors to the Rebels’ one to open up a remarkable 41-point lead at quarter time. Shellshocked at the first break, the Rebels managed to stem the bleeding a little bit in the second term, booting 2.2 themselves this time, though the Stingrays still piled on 4.3 to race out to a nine-goal advantage at half-time. The game seemed done and dusted, as Dandenong appeared to take the foot off the gas in the premiership quarter, while the away team – through the work of midfield accumulator and captain, Callan Wellings, and talented clever forwards, Jed Hill and Jordan Johnston started to get the ball back on their terms.

To that point, the Rebels had struggled with the forward line structure of the Stingrays who had a plethora of talls rotating through there from Bailey Williams to Bailey Schmidt and Riley D’Arcy. They were without three of their stars in Hunter Clark, Luke Davies-Uniacke and Oscar Clavarino, but had got the fast start and were seemingly in control. That changed in the third term when the Rebels gained ascendancy to boot six goals to two and draw within 26 points. Unfortunately it would not be enough in the end despite an even third term, with the Stingrays holding on a Rebels fightback to win by 20, 16.6 (102) to 12.10 (82).

Despite the game missing a number of key talents due to the AFL Academy clash against Northern Blues, Williams was impressive for the Stingrays with three goals from nine disposals and four marks (one contested), while D’Arcy also booted three goals from 11 disposals and four marks (one contested). Mitch Cotter was voted the top Stingray on the day, racking up 27 disposals (15 contested), eight clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds, teaming up with the slick Ali Zijai who finished with 23 disposals (87 per cent efficiency and 61 per cent contested), two marks, nine tackles, nine clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds. Future Gold Coast Sun, Mitch Riordan had the 14 disposals and four clearances, while North-bound Tom Murphy booted two goals from 12 disposals, five marks and five inside 50s. The key goalkicker on the day was Jai Nanscawen, with the small forward snagging four majors from 12 disposals. Bottom-agers, Toby Bedford (seven disposals, two inside 50s) and Will Hamill (six disposals) also played on the winning side.

Wellings was the standout player for the Rebels with a massive 30 disposals (18 contested), 10 clearances, four marks, five tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds in the loss, while Matty Lloyd had 17 disposals, four marks and seven rebounds out of defence. One of the Rebels’ top prospects from that year, Aiden Domic had 14 touches and five rebounds, while Johnston and Hill had a combined 13 inside 50s and booted a goal each. The Rebels had a few future draftees running around for them that day, with Lloyd Meek‘s work in the ruck impressive against the multiple talls, picking up 29 hitouts to go with 10 disposals, two marks, five tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s, while Tom Berry (16 disposals, two marks, three clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) and Flynn Appleby (eight disposals, two rebounds) also contributed.

Fast forward to the end of the season and Dandenong Stingrays reached the preliminary finals before bowing out to eventual premiers, Geelong Falcons. The GWV Rebels ended up finishing 11th overall with five wins and a draw to their name, but only two points off ninth spot and eight points off a finals position in an even bottom six.

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