Classic Contests: Big first half sets up Rebels for away 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 14 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Eastern Ranges and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. In this edition, we wind the clock back to 2016, when some star studded sides faced off – and the Rebels were known as North Ballarat – in what turned into a thriller at Box Hill.

2016 TAC Cup, Round 6
Saturday May 28, 1:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

EASTERN RANGES 2.2 | 7.2 | 11.6 | 14.7 (91)
NORTH BALLARAT REBELS 5.1 | 11.3 | 12.6 | 15.9 (99)

GOALS:

Eastern: C. Wakefield 5, T. North 2, J. Hannon 2, J. Haynes 2, J. Stephenson 2, J. Lynch.
North Ballarat:
J. Wheelahan 3, I. Johnson 2, N. Hausler 2, S. Beks 2, K. Gray, J. Johnston, L. Meek, C. Wellings, R. Taylor, W. Drew.

BEST:

Eastern: J. Begley, J. Haynes, T. North, H. Nolan, C. Wakefield, Z. Elms
North Ballarat:
N. McRoberts, W. Drew, T. Williamson, T. Lawrence, J. Wheelahan, L. Huppatz

Draftees in action:

Eastern: Tom North, Josh Begley, Jaidyn Stephenson, Sam Hayes, Jackson Ross
North Ballarat:
Willem Drew, Tom Williamson, Lloyd Meek, Jamaine Jones

Two sides that were battling it out in the mid-table logjam early in the season were North Ballarat Rebels and Eastern Ranges. Coming into the clash between the sides at Box Hill, they were sitting fifth and sixth respectively, and had some serious top-end talent on their lists. Whilst a combined nine players from the match would go onto be drafted, there were a lot more who joined the AFL ranks from the respective lists that did not run out onto the field for the Round 6 match.

The winner of the match would at least be secure in the top five by four points, as both teams were locked on 16 points – four wins from seven matches – with Oakleigh Chargers the third side with the same win-loss ratio. All three sides were eight points clear of three other teams, as well as Queensland who had played a couple of invitational games in the TAC Cup that year.

The match started with the Rebels having all the momentum, booting five goals to two in the opening term and stunning the home side to lead by 17 points at the first break. They stormed to an even bigger lead by half-time as fans witnessed an 11-goal second quarter. The Rebels kicked six goals to five as both teams showed off their impressive forward lines. Trailing by 25 points at the main break, the Ranges fought back to cut the final quarter deficit to a solitary kick. In a see-sawing second half and final term, neither side would give an inch up until the final siren with the Rebels eventually getting up by eight points.

Future Port Adelaide midfielder, Willem Drew had a big day out, named among the Rebels’ best with 21 disposals, two marks, eight tackles and a goal, while the outside run of Tom Williamson (19 disposals, nine marks, seven tackles and two behinds) was important. Named his side’s best in the win, Naish McRoberts picked up 16 disposals and seven marks, while Todd Lawrence had 20 hitouts and six tackles. The enigmatic forward in Jacob Wheelahan booted three goals from 20 touches, 10 marks and four tackles, whilst three other players kicked multiple goals. Lloyd Meek (11 disposals, four marks, six tackles, nine hitouts and one goal) and Jamaine Jones (16 disposals, six marks and five tackles) also performed strongly.

For the Ranges, Josh Begley was his team’s best roaming up the field for 19 disposals, three marks and two tackles, while future Docker, Tom North booted two snags from 18 disposals and two marks, while Jordan Haynes also kicked two goals from 20 touches, seven marks and six tackles. Future top 10 draft pick and AFL Rising Star, Jaidyn Stephenson kicked a couple of majors from 16 disposals and six marks – two contested – while Jackson Ross (15 disposals, three marks) and Sam Hayes (eight disposals, 17 hitouts) also played for the Ranges in the narrow loss.

By season’s end, North Ballarat Rebels would finish third on the table, but eventually would drop out in straight sets, losing to Geelong Falcons in the qualifying final at the same venue – Box Hill – where Max Augerinos tagged Hugh McCluggage out of the game. The Rebels would then go on to bow out at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers by a kick the next week missing a host of players. Eastern Ranges would scrape into the finals series but fall agonisingly short, losing to Sandringham Dragons by two points in one of the best finals games in recent times.

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