Classic Contests: Fletcher, Cannons come up clutch

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 9 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to when the sides played out a thriller in late-2019.

2019 NAB League, Round 15
Sunday July 28, 1:00pm
Mars Stadium

GWV REBELS 3.3 | 5.6 | 7.11 | 8.13 (61)
CALDER CANNONS
2.1 | 4.3 | 6.7 | 9.11 (65)

Draftees in action:

GWV – Jay Rantall (Collingwood)
Calder – Sam Ramsay (Carlton)

There was not much on the line when the Calder Cannons and GWV Rebels faced off late in the 2019 NAB League season, but it would not stop the sides from giving it their all in search of a win. The finals-bound Cannons came in riding high off an undefeated month of action, sitting sixth at 8-5 and level on points with fourth. The Rebels were on a decent run too, winning two of their last three games to improve their record to 4-8, good enough for 14th spot at the time.

Both regions named relatively unexperienced sides for the bout in Ballarat, with all three age brackets represented across the two lineups. Of course, either side still managed to squeeze in a future draftee each, with Collingwood slider Jay Rantall at the heart of GWV’s midfield, while Sam Ramsay played the same role for Calder. Ramsay would be one of four Cannons drafted in 2019, but the only one afield in this clash.

With pride on the line, the hosts looked as if they had a point to prove after what had been a lacklustre season to date, and took the lead at 10 minutes into the first term. Although Calder managed to remain just over a goal adrift at every break, GWV did not relinquish its lead until the final term, while pushing the margin out to 21 points in the second term and 23 in the third.

Inaccuracy would end up costing the Rebels, with their 21 scoring shots to Calder’s 20 still not enough to prize the four points. The Cannon’s late third quarter momentum carried on into the fourth, as Mason Fletcher found the big sticks with just over a minute played, and put his side in front shortly after. Nick Caris snatched the lead back for GWV in quick time, but that advantage would again prove short-lived as Ned Gentile booted the deciding goal with over 10 minutes left to play.

Both sides spurned opportunities to score in the late stages, with the typically windy conditions making life hard for a would-be hero. It meant the Cannons came up trumps at the ideal time, holding on to win by four points and remain in the hunt for an unlikely top three berth.

Former Essendon father-son prospect Fletcher booted 3.3, including two majors in the final term to play a key role, with his goalscoring feat match by teammate, Gentile. The Rebels laid claim to three multiple goalkickers, with Caris, Harry Sharp, and Matty Lloyd all finding the big sticks in a valiant losing effort.

Unsurprisingly, the two eventual draftees led all comers for disposals, with Rantall racking up a game-high 35 touches, while Ramsay trailed closely to notch 33 of his own – along with three behinds. The Rebels had plenty of the ball, with seven players racking up over 20 disposals, including the returning Liam Herbert (23). Among the Cannons youngsters to impress were Jackson Cardillo (18 disposals) and Harrison Andronaco (17, one goal).

Calder would go on to mount a decent finals run, advancing through Wildcard Round and the first week of finals before losing comfortably to Sandringham in the semis – all after narrowly missing out on the top three. GWV improved its position slightly to finish 10th at 6-9, before being bundled out of Wildcard Round by Western.

Rantall was the sole Rebel drafted from the class of 2020, though he could be joined by some teammates on the day in future. Calder’s impressive haul of four included Ramsay, Harrison Jones, and bolters Lachlan Gollant and Francis Evans.

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