Classic Contests: Devils take Falcons down to the wire

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 16 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Tasmania Devils and Geelong Falcons. In this edition, we wind the clock back almost a year to August 2019, when the two sides produced a thriller on the Apple Isle.

2019 NAB League, Round 16
Saturday August 3, 11:30am
North Hobart Oval

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.4 | 2.5 | 4.11 | 6.13 (49)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.1 | 5.4 | 5.6 | 8.8 (56)

GOALS:

Tasmania: J. Lane 2, J. Rand, P. Walker, J. Callow, J. Menzie.
Geelong:
C. Sprague 3, M. Annandale 2, C. Seymour, J. Clark, J. Dahlhaus.

BEST:

Tasmania: O. Davis, J. Rand, S. Banks, O. Shaw, J. Lane
Geelong:
O. Henry, C. Sprague, C. Fleeton, J. Clark, N. Gribble, H. Whyte

Draftees in action:

Tasmania: Matt McGuinness 
Geelong: 
Nil

The NAB League’s bottom two full-time sides – Tasmania and Geelong – went to battle in Round 16 last year, looking to restore some pride before the regular season drew to a close. Both were on significant losing streaks, with the Devils slumping to 4-10 on the back of six-straight losses, only to be trumped in that department by the young Falcons, who had lost in eight consecutive outings to sit at 1-11-1 in the wooden spoon position.

While neither region produced, or fielded much in the way of eventual draftees in late-2019, the bottom-age talent was there for all to see. The likes of Oliver Henry and Cameron Fleeton headlined Geelong’s talented 2021-eligible fleet, while Tasmania’s academy guns included the likes of Oliver Davis and Jackson Callow, with recently crowned Under 16 Most Valuable Player (MVP) Sam Banks also slotting into the line-up at North Hobart Oval.

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Keen to make their trip across Bass Strait a fruitful one, Geelong clawed its way back after conceding the first two goals of the game to earn a five-point quarter time lead. In impressive form, the Falcons extended the buffer to 17 points at the main break on the back of two unanswered goals, taking full advantage of the slightly advantageous scoring end.

It took a string of four behinds after half-time for the Devils to post their first major in over 45 minutes of play, with the home side threatening to break back at Geelong. But despite Jordan Lane slotting home a second major for the term, Tasmania could not quite take full toll on the scoreboard, still trailing by a solitary point heading into the final period, despite keeping Geelong goalless.

The Falcons had made a bad habit of letting winnable games slip late, and another fadeaway loomed when Jack Rand put the Devils ahead with six minutes on the clock. With the scores tied up for a third time in the fourth quarter via Max Annandale‘s boot, it was left to Chris Seymour to put through the decisive goal and ensure Geelong would head back to Victoria with the four points.

Having swung into defence, Henry led all-comers with 24 disposals and 11 marks, partnering well with Fleeton (21 disposals) as skipper Jesse Clark (21 disposals, one goal) made the move further afield. Up forward, Charlie Sprague sunk three majors to play a big role, while Jay Dahlhaus also found the big sticks in his return from a long-term injury. Davis was best afield for Tasmania with a team-high 23 touches, followed closely by future North Melbourne rookie, Matt McGuinness. Lane was the lone Devil to boot multiple goals (two).

Tasmania would go on to finish just two points clear of Geelong with a 4-11 record, before going down narrowly to Calder in Wildcard Round. Mitch O’Neill joined McGuinness as the two Tasmanian products to find a home at AFL level in 2019. Geelong added to its second win in the ultimate round to finish 3-11-1, but were thumped by Sandringham in Wildcard Round to end a disappointing season. Co-captain Cooper Stephens was the sole Falcon to be drafted.

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