Classic Contests: Dragons break Bendigo hearts despite inaccuracy

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Bendigo Pioneers and Sandringham Dragons. In this edition, we wind back the clock just over a year to when the two sides played out a heart-stopper in Echuca.

2019 NAB League, Round 8
Saturday May 18, 1:00pm
Victoria Park, Echuca

BENDIGO PIONEERS 4.0 | 6.0 | 10.1 | 12.2 (74)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.3 | 4.10 | 6.12 | 10.18 (78)

GOALS:

Bendigo: J. Dick-O’Flaherty 3, J. Treacy 3, R. Clarke 2, J. Evans, K. Attwell, J. Schischka, Z. Murley.
Sandringham:
J. Florent 2, E. Soylemez 2, R. Bowman 2, R. Byrnes, T. Spencer, J. Bell, M. Bergman.

BEST:

Bendigo: W. Wallace, J. Treacy, J. Evans, J. Ginnivan, W. Shaw, R. Wilson
Sandringham:
C. Watts, M. Bergman, A. Hanrahan, R. Byrnes, J. Voss, J. Bell

Draftees in action:

Bendigo: Nil.
Sandringham:
Miles Bergman, Ryan Byrnes, Jack Bell

Road trips in the NAB League competition are often long and arduous, but a win can see those types of feelings dissipate in an instant. That was exactly the case for Sandringham as the Dragons travelled to Echuca to take on Bendigo in last year’s competition, looking to make up for a loss to Eastern in their previous outing. The visitors sat fourth at 4-2 after a 3-0 start, and Bendigo had endured a similar run having failed to build on its 2-0 start.

Both sides would be missing key personnel too, with Bendigo particularly impacted by the absence of Brodie Kemp and Thomson Dow, while Sandringham would have to battle without the likes of Finn Maginness, Jack Mahony and Fischer McAsey among others. It meant the Dragons would boast the only three eventual draftees to take the field; Miles Bergman, Ryan Byrnes, and Jack Bell.

The impact of the APS football season seemed to even the two sides up, while also providing a great opportunity to some bottom-age stars to shine. The greatest margin of the match would reach only a little over three goals either way, with Bendigo’s incredible accuracy, and Sandringham’s lack of keeping the contest tight. With 28 scoring shots (10.18) to Bendigo’s 14 (12.2), the Dragons only just snuck over the line by four points.

A Josh Treacy major at 59 seconds into the final term had Bendigo looking good for the win, until Sandringham slowly bridged the gap and was eventually put in front by Riley Bowman with 10 minutes left to play. James Schischka‘s goal with over three minutes remaining gave the hosts some hope of reclaiming the lead, but they would fall just short in the end.

Defenders earned best-afield honours for both sides, with Corey Watts (12 disposals, three marks) and Will Wallace (15 disposals, three marks, six rebound 50s) recognised for their efforts. Treacy’s three goals were important to Bendigo’s cause, as were Riley Wilson‘s team-high 23 disposals. Byrnes unsurprisingly led all comers with 31 touches and a goal, followed by Angus Hanrahan on 26, while Bergman booted 1.5 from his 19 disposals and five marks.

The Dragons would go on to finish fourth come the end of the regular season, and couldn’t quite improve on it during finals as they were bundled out handily by eventual premier, Oakleigh in the preliminary finals. Bendigo ended up in 11th with five wins and 10 losses, before being dumped out in Wildcard Round by Northern.

As should always be the case though, the true success of each region would have been defined by their respective hauls of draftees. Sandringham produced nine players good enough to land on an AFL list in 2019, while Bendigo ended up with four moving on into the elite system.

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