NAB League Girls Round 2b & 7a preview: Casey Fields and Highgate to host midweek fixtures

IN a split first couple of nights, we take a look at the two games on Wednesday and Thursday night, with the Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges game to be previewed on Thursday. Tonight it is Dandenong Stingrays up against Sandringham Dragons.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Wednesday, March 17 @ 7.30pm
Casey Fields

The first clash of the week takes place tonight and it is another Round 2 fixture that was missed during the Victorian snap lockdown, so both the Dandenong Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons will have to double-up over the weekend. The Stingrays will face Bendigo Pioneers up at Epsom Huntly on Saturday afternoon, while the Dragons will be up bright and early for a head-to-head with Western Jets at RSEA Park on Sunday morning. These teams come into the clash with 2-2 and 1-3 records respectively, though the Dragons won well against winless Gippsland Power, and pushed the undefeated Chargers all the way in the past two weeks, whilst the Stingrays are coming off tight losses to Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils back-to-back.

Emily Shepherd will remain a key out for the Stingrays, with the inside midfielder injured before half-time during Dandenong’s loss to Oakleigh 12 days ago. She will watch on as the likes of co-captains Ashleigh Richards and Abbey Jordan look to control the tempo, while the versatile Jemma Radford has been named in the middle. Expect the Stingrays to rely on their rotations, with Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort in the key position defence slots, though Eardley has been known to swing forward in the second half and hit the scoreboard. A player that has no problem hitting the scoreboard is Amber Clarke, who has been piling on multiple scoring shots every week. She remains the danger player inside 50 for the home team, while Charley Ryan and Grace Chapman are others to keep an eye on.

For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell returned last week after missing several weeks through an ankle injury sustained in the opening match, but with no Shepherd onball, she will be a crucial addition to the side for this game. Sofia Hurley is arguably one of the most in-form players in the competition of late, and is dominating around he stoppages, and spreading well. With Keely Coyne having a great season, and the forwardline duo of Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos combining well, the Dragons are quite consistent across the board. Mia Zielinksi is a real young talent to keep an eye on up forward, having already hit the scoreboard multiple times in her first two games, whilst Pia Staltari, Kiana Lynch and Tayla Jones are among the other players who have impressed thus far this season.

The game is a 50/50 match and under lights at Casey Fields should make for an amazing atmosphere. Dandenong should have the upper hand, though the Dragons have proven to have a versatile forward line that could do a lot of damage.

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES
Thursday, March 18 @ 7.00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

The second midweek clash of the round sees the start of Round 7 and the Calder Cannons up against Eastern Ranges at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Cannons have strung three consecutive wins together since dropping their Round 3 game to Oakleigh, and accounted for Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights in tight contests, as well as a strong victory over Gippsland Power. Eastern Ranges on the other hand sit with two wins and two losses, starting the season off in good form with a victory over Western Jets, followed by a thumping of Gippsland Power. Since they they have gone down to Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights with the latter game of those results being one they let slip after being in control for most of the match.

Calder comes into the lineup with an incredibly strong side that just keeps ticking over the wins. The midfield of Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell and Olivia Manfre will be a tough one to combat, with Mali McLeod’s run on the outside, and the rotation of Emelia Yassir and Jessica Zakkour ensuring the Cannons bat pretty deep across the ground. In terms of talls, the Cannons have the reliable Kasey Lennox at the back, and Neve Crowley – who booted three goals in the last match out – up front alongside damaging smalls in Alisa Magri and Reese Sutton. As one of the most balanced sides that can scrap away and tick over the wins even when the game is not going their way, the Cannons will be favourite heading into the clash.

Eastern Ranges also have plenty of depth through the midfield with Bridget Deed, Jade Hutchinson and Isabel Khoury roving to Georgia Campbell whose contest with Gillard will be the matchup to watch on the night. Eastern have an advantage on the outside with the class and skill of Jorja Livingstone and Keeley Sherar who move the ball quickly and can impact the contest heavily. Up forward, Alyssia Pisano has already proven to be a damaging player when she gets on that left foot, with Scarlett Potter and Matilda Hardy also forward threads. In defence, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch have performed at a high level, whilst the Ranges will also bring in a debutant with Ayla Cosgrove coming into the team for the game.

The midfield battle in particular will be fascinating to watch. The Cannons just keep getting it done, whilst the Ranges will be hungry to turn it around and make up for last week with a big four-quarter effort.

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