Tag: classic contest

Throwback: 2019 AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser

WITH news that Western Australia will take on South Australia in an epic Under 19-themed AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser event, we take a look back at the last time budding AFL Draft prospects took the field ahead of their future counterparts, in 2019. The annual Under 17 Futures All Star clash has been scrapped for the last two years due to Covid restrictions, but proved a valuable sighter for the 2020 crop.

46 of the nation’s best talents got together to form Team Brown (black) and Team Dal Santo (white), battling it out on the big stage in what ended up being a very rare occasion for last year’s draft class, given it was ridded of an Under 18 National Championship and plenty of regular season football.

Of the 46 players afield, 36 have since been drafted with 22 making their AFL debuts this season. Among them was Sydney Swans Academy graduate Braeden Campbell, who shot into top 10 consideration with a best afield performance for Team Brown, who ran out 47-point winners.

A teammate of Campbell’s on the day, Jake Bowey also showcased his class with quick and clean skills, and will likely line up for Melbourne in this year’s AFL decider – bringing his journey full circle. Also available for selection in the big dance is Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who featured for Team Brown and was last year’s number one pick.

Eight of 2020’s top 10 draftees took the field, and it would have been a perfect record had Denver Grainger-Barras and Nik Cox been available. The earliest pick to miss selection was Luke Pedlar, who was snapped up by Adelaide with pick 11. A range of first round bolters also missed, including 2021 debutants Tom Powell, Conor Stone, Max Holmes, and Brayden Cook.

While the showcase nature of the game makes for required viewing for most keen draft watchers, fans would also have taken a keen interest given the whopping 18 club-tied players who were selected. It was no secret from even that early stage that the 2020 draft would be heavily compromised, and that figure only proved as much.

Nine Northern Academy talents took the field, with Campbell and his Swans Academy teammate Errol Gulden the standouts. Of the seven-man Next Generation Academy crew, Ugle-Hagan, Lachlan Jones (Port Adelaide), and Reef McInnes (Collingwood) were all selected in the first round, while Taj Schofield landed at Port as a father-son candidate. Luke Edwards also fell under father-son eligibility, but was taken by West Coast in the open draft after Adelaide passed on nominating him.

While there were plenty of eventual draftees who missed out on selection in this game, but later proved their worth, the Futures fixture has long been an important one in identifying the next generation of talent. In 2019, it proved particularly essential given the class of 2020 endured a heavily interrupted season and limited opportunities to shine on the big stage.

This year, with another clash between WA and SA, there looms another critical opportunity for budding prospects to stake their claims as genuine contenders under a grand spotlight. There will inevitably be a riser, a surprise packet, one who stamps his first round credentials. We’ll find out who on September 25.

Featured Image: Port Adelaide’s Taj Schofield in action during the 2019 Futures All Star showcase | Credit: AFL Photos

Classic Contests: Ranges find a way to hold on against plucky Bushies

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 one of the would-have-been Round 18 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers. In this edition, we wind the clock back just over a year to when the two sides played out the closest contest between them in nearly a decade.

2019 NAB League, Round 13
Saturday July 6, 2:00pm
Norm Minns Oval

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 3.0 | 5.5 | 9.6 | 11.9 (75)
EASTERN RANGES 5.5 | 9.7 | 11.7 | 12.7 (79)

GOALS:

Murray: H. Kaak 3, J. Boyer 3, J. Chalcraft, E. Baxter, M. Holt, Z. Maher, W. Chandler
Eastern:
B. Hickleton 4, M. Mellis 2, C. Downie, H. Keeling, T. Edwards, C. Black, T. Hardstaff, M. Zalac

BEST:

Murray: W. Christie, J. Chalcraft, Z. Barzen, S. Durham, Z. Maher, K. Chalcraft
Eastern:
J. Nathan, B. Hickleton, B. McCormack, M. Mellis, C. Black, T. Garner

Draftees in action:

Murray: Nil
Eastern:
Nil

Two teams in hot form met come Round 13 of last year’s NAB League competition, though there was plenty separating them in terms of ladder position. In the red corner was Eastern, flying high on the back of five-straight wins which put the Ranges firmly in the box seat with a 9-2 record. In the blue corner, Murray had a patch of mid-late season form to string together three-consecutive wins coming into this contest, but would have to challenge the ladder-leaders without co-captains Lachlan Ash and Dylan Clarke.

That factor looked like having a telling impact early at Norm Minns Oval. While the sides went goal-for-goal across the first ten minutes with two apiece, the Ranges began to take hold of the opening term. If not for some inaccuracy (5.5), the visiting team would have been further in front, but were made to settle for a 17-point buffer.

In a case of déjà vu, the Bushrangers again found the opening major in term two, but were sucked into another goal-for-goal sequence – this time across the first 15 minutes of the term. The Ranges would break away again with two late majors, extending the margin to 28 points at half time.

Murray fell away, then reversed the pattern in the third term to get back to within three goals heading into the final break, giving them a fighting chance at snatching the win. After just six minutes in the fourth period, the hosts had managed to get back to level pegging, but Ben Hickleton‘s goal three minutes later to put Eastern back in front would prove the last major score of the game. As good teams do, Eastern simply found a way to win once again, having made the most of their opportunities after half time with 3.0 to Murray’s 6.6.

Hickleton finished the game with four goals, including the all-important game winner, with Mitch Mellis Eastern’s only other multiple goalkicker (two) to go with 22 disposals. Jimmy Boyer and Hudson Kaak each bagged three majors for Murray, while Jye Chalcraft led all comers with 29 disposals. Zak Pretty joined Mellis on 22 touches to be Eastern’s leading ball winners. Bigmen Joel Nathan (14 disposals, three marks) and Will Christie (19 disposals, eight marks, 25 hitouts) were named best afield for their respective sides.

The Ranges would of course go on to win the minor premiership in grand style on the back of a 12-3 record, but fell at the final hurdle to a rampant Oakleigh side in the decider. Murray added just one more win to its tally across the final month, and was bundled out in Wildcard Round by Dandenong after finishing ninth. Ash was the sole player across the two regions to be picked up in the 2019 National Draft, after Eastern’s Cody Hirst got his chance at Sydney at the mid-season opening.

Classic Contests: Cassar, Honey star as Jets soar past the Devils

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 17 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Western Jets and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind the clock back just one year to Round 5 of 2019, when the Jets soared to a comfortable win away from home.

2019 NAB League, Round 5
Sunday April 28, 11:45am
UTAS Stadium

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.4 | 1.6 | 2.7 | 3.8 (26)
WESTERN JETS 2.0 | 4.3 | 7.8 | 10.13 (73)

GOALS:

Tasmania: T. Penwright, L. Gadomski, I. Chugg.
Western:
A. Manton 3, J. Honey 2, E. Ford 2, A. Clarke, C. White, J. Horo.

BEST:

Tasmania: O. Burrows-Cheng, P. Walker, M. McGuinness, B. Gordon, L. Viney, O. Shaw
Western: 
D. Cassar, K. Borg, J. Kellett, J. Horo, W. Kennedy, L. Rocci

Draftees in action:

Tasmania: Matthew McGuinness
Western:
 Josh Honey

Two sides with a couple of wins already under their belts went head-to-head early in last year’s NAB League campaign, with Tasmania hosting the Western Jets at UTAS Stadium in Launceston. The Devils had made a positive start in their maiden full-time season, enjoying a bye in Round 1 and bouncing back from their Round 2 loss to take a 2-1 record heading into this clash. Western sat similarly poised at 2-2, having just secured a rebound victory over the Northern Territory a week earlier.

While the two regions would lay claim to a pair of draftees each come the end of the year, only one would take the field on either side; with North Melbourne rookie Matt McGuinness lining up for the home side, while Carlton recruit Josh Honey ran through midfield for Western. The Jets were missing Emerson Jeka, with Tasmania also down a tall target as Jackson Callow came out of the side. Fellow Academy-based bottom-agers Oliver Davis and Sam Collins were also absent alongside Mitch O’Neill in a blow to the Devils’ chances.

The losses seem to take toll early, as the Devils failed capitalise on their domination of the territory and possession. A 20-minute goalless patch ensued after debutant Isaac Chugg put through the game’s first goal, only for Western to hit back twice within the final five minutes of the opening term to hit the front. It seemed to sink the Devils a touch, as they went on to go goalless throughout the second stanza, while giving up another two goals and a 15-point deficit at half time – albeit in a low-scoring contest.

Lachlan Gadomski broke Tasmania’s hour-long goal drought with a major nine minutes into the third term, but it proved a feeble form of reply as Western continued to pile on the scoreboard pressure and extended the margin to 31 points at three quarter time. It was an unassailable gap, and the Jets only further ensured it would be a bridge too far as they kicked away to a nine-goal lead, only to settle for the final 47-point margin.

Darcy Cassar ran the show off half-back for Western, proving a key player in shifting the early momentum back into the Jets’ favour. He finished with 31 disposals, 13 marks, and eight rebound 50s, while Honey booted two goals from his 25 touches. Tasmanian pair Bailey Gordon and Patrick Walker matched that feat to be their sides’ leading ball winners. Archi Manton led the goalkicking stakes with three goals, followed by bottom-aged Eddie Ford and Honey on two. Oliver Burrows-Cheng and McGuinness were named among the Devils’ best.

Tasmania would go on to add just two wins to its record across the season, finishing in 12th spot at 4-11 and bowing out during Wildcard Round to Calder. The Jets earned a seventh-place finish, storming into finals where they upset Northern in the elimination stage, but had their run ended by Gippsland in the semi finals a week later.

Classic Contests: Cannons grab momentum at ideal time to upset Bushies

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 Calder Cannons and Murray Bushrangers. In this edition, we wind the clock back to 2017, when Calder got up on the road in a game defined by heavy momentum shifts.

2017 TAC Cup, Round 13
Sunday July 16, 1:00pm
Deakin Reserve

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 7.1 | 8.5 | 12.6 | 15.8 (98)
CALDER CANNONS 2.2 | 9.5 | 11.12 | 15.17 (107)

GOALS:

Murray: D. Johnston 6, Z. Barzen 3, J. Trotter, N. Murray, J. Richards, J. Butts, J. Lane, J. Wilson.
Calder: 
J. Velissaris 3, M. Moustafa 3, A. Tilley 3, D. Landt 2, M. Podhajski, B. Caluzzi, B. Bernacki, S. Skidmore.

BEST:

Murray: D. Johnston, B. Paton, J. Lane, R. Bruce, W. Donaghey, N. Murray
Calder: 
N. Balta, B. Bernacki, J. Firebrace, A. Tilley, P. Mahoney, M. Podhajski

Draftees in action:

Murray: Ben Paton, Jordon Butts, Mathew Walker, Ely Smith
Calder: Noah Balta, Jake Riccardi

It seemed we were in for a straightforward result when the 9-3 Murray Bushrangers were poised to host the 3-9 Calder Cannons in Round 13 of the 2017 TAC Cup, but Calder must have missed the memo. The Bushrangers had won in three of their last four outings having come out of the mid-year patch relatively unscathed, while Calder benefited from the period to pick up three wins in its last six games with a consistent win-loss pattern. Importantly, the Cannons had lost last time out, so were due for a win according to form.

The withdrawal of Lachlan Sholl on gameday hardly helped the Cannons’ cause, leaving them a man down heading into the clash at Deakin Reserve. It seemed to show in the early goings, as Murray stormed out of the blocks with the game’s first six majors to set up a five-goal advantage at the first break. Cue the first momentum shift, as Calder carried on its form from late in the opening term to reply with seven goals in the next period. The flurry put the Cannons a single straight kick ahead at the main break.

After two very different periods of play, Calder would keep up with the rampant Bushrangers but was unable to convert enough chances to apply the rightful scoreboard impact. A wasteful 2.7 put the Cannons level with Murray at three quarter time, after the Bushrangers converted four of their five scoring shots. With the scores tied up at 78 points apiece heading into the final term, the game was poised for a grandstand finish.

Murray looked to be well on its way to outlasting the Cannons after Joe Richards and Daniel Johnston booted majors early in the final stanza, but the Cannons would rally and have their greater wealth of scoring opportunities count to come out unlikely nine-point victors. The win saw Calder jump from 11th to ninth, maintaining its win-loss pattern and putting the Cannons back in the race for finals amid a mid-table bottleneck.

Richmond utility Noah Balta was outstanding for the victors, racking up 31 disposals and seven marks in a powerful display, with three behinds making his outing a would-have-been blinder. Cannons leader Brad Bernacki was at his consistent best with 26 touches, nine tackles, and a goal, while new GWS mature-age recruit Jake Riccardi was kept to just two minor scores from his nine disposals. TAC Cup leading goalkicker Johnstone earned plaudits for his six-goal haul on the losing side, while St Kilda’s Ben Paton had 23 disposals, five marks, and five tackles. Fellow draftees Mathew Walker (17 disposals, eight marks), Jordon Butts (16 dispsosals, six marks), and Ely Smith (19 disposals) also contributed solidly.

Come season’s end, ninth would be all the Cannons could manage, finishing the regular season at 6-12 and a game and a half off eighth spot. Murray only added one win to its tally for the remainder of the season, ending up fifth with 10 wins and eight losses, only to lose comfortably in week one of finals to eventual grand finalist, Sandringham.

Classic Contests: Cannons hold off Pioneers in slow-scoring affair

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 Bendigo Pioneers and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind the clock back just one year to when the two sides met in early in the season for a low-scoring slog.

2019 NAB League, Round 6
Saturday May 4, 2:15pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

CALDER CANNONS 4.3 | 6.5 | 7.6 | 7.10 (52)
BENDIGO PIONEERS 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.3 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS:

Calder: M. Fletcher 2, B. Rigoni, N. Gentile, J. O’Sullivan, D. Mott, M. Allison.
Bendigo:
E. Roberts, R. Ironside, J. Ginnivan, Z. Murley, C. Fisher.

BEST:

Calder: J. Martin, D. Mott, J. Hotchkin, T. Browning, N. Gentile, B. Newman
Bendigo:
J. Treacy, R. Ironside, S. Conforti, J. Schischka, B. Vaz, W. Wallace

Draftees in action:

Calder: Sam Ramsay
Bendigo:
Brady Rowles

There have not exactly been many ‘classic’ contests between these two sides over the past decade, but they got within 16 points of each other in Round 6 of last year’s NAB League season in a decent showing. The Cannons were beginning to shake off a slow start to their campaign, improving to 2-3 with a win over Geelong in Round 5. Conversely, Bendigo was beginning to slide after a rampant 2-0 start, sitting at 2-2 with a bye in tow.

The Cannons may have been missing a couple of their eventual, surprise draftees, but would go into the clash boasting most of its top-end talent at the time. Of them, Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay took the field, while Bendigo’s sole draftee on the team sheet was Sydney speedster, Brady Rowles. The absences of key players and first round picks Brodie Kemp and Thomson Dow would prove costly for Bendigo over the stretch, as it looked to reclaim some of its early season form.

True to form, Calder made the hot start with a four goals to one opening term. While Bendigo was accurate with its sole scoring shot for the quarter, the Cannons could only put away four of their seven attempts. It seemed the Cannons were en route to a big win having kept their opponents to just one goal in the second term too, adding another couple themselves to set up a 28-point lead at half-time.

But that was when the Pioneers began to shake off the potential wares of their big road trip, doubling their goal tally in the third term to shave the margin to 21 points heading into the final period of play. Still, they would need to double their tally again to sneak over the line while keeping Calder goalless. Bendigo managed the second feat, but lacked the firepower in tough conditions, falling just under three goals short to the better fancied Cannons.

Former Essendon father-son prospect Mason Fletcher booted two majors in a day which was scare of goals, while midfield ace Daniel Mott also found the goals with one of his game-high 36 disposals. Brodie Newman managed 21 along with 12 marks, while James Schischka (20 disposals) was Bendigo’s leading ball winner. Rowles had one of his more influential outings with a season-high 17 touches, with Ramsay kept to 16 on the opposing side.

The Cannons would go on to finish two games outside of the top three, notching a 9-6 record to sit fifth. After a win in week one of finals, their season would end at the hands of Sandringham in the semi finals. Bendigo failed to make its own post-season splash, bundled out in Wildcard Round after amassing a 5-10 come the end of the regular season.

Classic Contests: Bianco’s Chargers survive Devils scare

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 Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind the clock back just one year to when the two sides met in Tasmania’s maiden full-time campaign.

2019 NAB League, Round 6
Saturday May 4, 11:30am
North Hobart Oval

TASMANIA DEVILS 3.0 | 5.2 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.4 | 3.5 | 6.6 | 8.8 (56)

Goals:

Tasmania: R. Mansell 2, W. Harper 2, M. McGuinness, S. Banks, B. Gordon, J. Callow
Oakleigh:
T. Lovell 4, T. Graham, L. Westwood, H. Mundy, A. Tassell

Best:

Tasmania: H. Ireland, R. Mansell, O. Davis, P. Walker, L. Viney, I. Chugg
Oakleigh:
T. Bianco, J. Woodfull, J. May, H. Mastras, L. Westwood, S. Seach

Draftees in action:

Tasmania: Matthew McGuinness 
Oakleigh:
Trent Bianco

Oakleigh may have been the much higher fancied side in 2019 when compared to incoming full-time side, Tasmania, but the two regions sat level on points coming into their Round 6 NAB League clash. The Chargers got up in Rounds 1 and 2, but were starting to feel the effects of school and representative football commitments having suffered three-straight losses. A second interstate trip in three weeks would hardly help, with Tasmania gaining the benefit of another home game to help buoy its 2-2 record. The Devils had notched consecutive wins after their Round 2 debuts, but lost to Western in Round 5.

Co-captain Trent Bianco would taking the reigns solo as the sole eventual draftee in Oakleigh’s side to make the trip, while North Melbourne rookie Matt McGuinness was Tasmania’s lone AFL product afield with Mitchell O’Neill absent. In a boost to the Devils’ lineup, they would boast bottom-aged Allies hub members Oliver Davis, Sam Collins, and Jackson Callow, along with Patrick Walker and leading 2021 hopeful, Sam Banks.

As the action got underway at North Hobart Oval, the Victorians were unable to take full advantage of starting at the scoring end, taking a four-point lead into the first change as their four superior scoring shots all ended in behinds. Tasmania, blessed with kicking boots, showed them the way in the second term, keeping the Chargers goalless while adding two majors to snatch a nine-point buffer heading into half time.

One of the outstanding traits of Oakleigh’s side in 2019 was it was able to score quickly, and signs began to look ominous as the Chargers booted three goals within the first 11 minutes of the third term. The Devils were able to mount somewhat of a comeback, but some inaccurate kicking of their own late in the piece would prove costly. A grandstand finish was set up with just one point separating the sides heading into the final term, and the two teams did not disappoint.

Four lead changes would occur, with Banks giving Tasmania the jump early, only to see Thomas Lovell edge Oakleigh back in front twice with his third and fourth goals. Jye Menzie‘s shy at goal with under three minutes left on the clock would prove Tasmania’s last chance at victory, as Oakleigh broke the hearts of home fans and travelled back to the mainland with four points.

Lovell came up clutch with his four goals making up almost half of Oakleigh’s tally, but it was Bianco who proved the standout of the day. The Collingwood draftee was a cut above the rest, racking up a monster 42 disposals in what was a complete performance, putting him 14 touches ahead of the next-best ball winner – Josh May, 28 disposals. Fraser Elliot was another Charger to impress from midfield, while Davis (21 disposals) was Tasmania’s leading ball winner, and the pairing of Will Harper and Rhyan Mansell combined for four goals.

The Devils would go on to add just two more wins to their tally in 2019, putting up a valiant effort in Wildcard Round to lose by only six points to Calder. Oakleigh finished the regular season in third at 11-4, and went on to win the NAB League premiership on the back of an unstoppable late-season run. Six Chargers, including Bianco were drafted. Most famously, the region boasted both of the first two picks in the 2019 draft as Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson headed to the Gold Coast SUNS.

Classic Contests: Jets stream past Dragons with inspired third term

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 13 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons. In this edition, we wind the clock back just one year to when the two sides did battle in early July.

2019 NAB League, Round 13
Saturday July 6, 11:00am
Downer Oval, Williamstown

WESTERN JETS 3.2 | 4.4 | 12.5 | 12.7 (79)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.2 | 5.6 | 6.7 | 10.10 (70)

Goals:

Western: A. Clarke 3, L. Failli 3, A. Manton 2, H. White, W. Kennedy, L. Green, J. Horo.
Sandringham:
C. Dean 2, H. Ralphsmith 2, B. O’Leary 2, R. Byrnes, F. Maginness, K. Yorke, J. Worrell.

Best:

Western: W. Kennedy, C. Raak, J. Honey, J. Horo, B. Ryan, A. Clarke
Sandringham:
H. Ralphsmith, L. Carrigan, J. Voss, N. Burke, B. O’Leary, C. Dean

Draftees in action:

Western: Josh Honey, Emerson Jeka
Sandringham:
Finn Maginness, Ryan Byrnes, Hugo Ralphsmith, Louis Butler, Josh Worrell, Jack Bell

It seemed the end of the 2019 Under 18 National Championships, and a school football bye would spell trouble for the Western Jets as they readied to face Sandringham Dragons in Round 13 of the NAB League, but one inspired term helped the hosts pull of an unlikely victory at Downer Oval.

The Dragons welcomed back a host of big names, with six of their eventual nine draftees taking the field; including the likes of Josh Worrell, Finn Maginness, and Round 4 AFL debutant Louis Butler. Western would also lay claim to a good bunch of its top-end talent, led by 2019 rookie draftees Josh Honey and Emerson Jeka.

Some more respect could, or perhaps should have been shown to Western from the neutral, as the two sides sat level with 7-4 records to that point. Further to it, Sandringham’s form had somewhat abandoned them during an undermanned period, losing its last two matches and narrowly escaping a defeat to the lowly Geelong Falcons. Western had also lost in Round 12, but picked up wins in its previous four outings to contend for a top three spot.

Just as there was nothing to separate the sides’ win-loss records, they went into the first break level at 3.2 apiece. That was before the Dragons threatened to take hold, edging out to an eight-point lead at half time with help from the scoring end.

Speaking of taking hold, that was exactly what Western was able to do in a game-defining third quarter. Having managed eight total scoring shots for the entire first half, the Jets piled on the same number of goals within an electric 25-minute period, keeping Sandringham to just one in the process.

While the Dragons’ top-end talent help to enact a late surge from 34-points down at the final break, the damage was well and truly already done, seeing Western hold on to win by nine points on its home deck. The win saw the Jets leapfrog Sandringham on the ladder, but both sides were also jumped by Oakleigh, who also came into Round 13 with a 7-4 record.

The small and tall combination of Lucas Failli and Aaron Clarke produced an evenly-split 6.4 towards Western’s total, just over half of the winning score. They were two of three Jets to boot multiple goals, while Hugo Ralphsmith led a trio of Dragons to manage two majors each.

Sandringham’s ball winners got to work despite the loss, as Ryan Byrnes led all comers with 28 disposals and a goal, while Maginness (24 disposals, one goal) and Butler (23 disposals) also impressed. Bailey Ryan was Western’s leading ball winner with 19 touches, followed by Honey on 18 and Morrish Medalist Lucas Rocci (16).

In an odd quirk, ex-Sandringham ruck Will Kennedy was named best afield for Western on the back of 15 disposals, six marks, 33 hitouts, and a goal. Bottom-agers from either side were also recognised, in the form of Western’s Cody Raak and Sandringham’s Lachlan Carrigan.

The Jets would go on to drop slightly to a seventh-place finish at 8-7, beating out Northern in an epic elimination final but going down to Gippsland in the semis. Sandringham remained consistent to finish fourth with nine wins and six losses, but fell short of its premiership dream in a preliminary final loss to Oakleigh.

Classic Contests: Williams the hero as Chargers scrape home over Knights

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 13 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to when the two sides met for a low-scoring thriller.

2019 NAB League, Round 8
Saturday May 18, 10:00am
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.2 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 6.10 (46)

Goals:

Northern: S. Brazier, R. Gardner, S. Philp, J. Zapantis , J. Trudgeon
Oakleigh:
T. Graham 2, D. Williams 2, T. Lovell, R. Sklavenitis

Best:

Northern: S. Philp, R. Sturgess, R. Gardner, L. Potter, K. Brandt, J. Davies
Oakleigh:
L. Jenkins, D. Williams, J. Woodfull, J. May, S. Seach, M. Steiner

Draftees in action:

Northern: Sam Philp, Ayce Taylor
Oakleigh:
Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams

Two metropolitan sides would meet on neutral, country territory come Round 8 of last year’s NAB League season, as Northern and Oakleigh went to battle at Shepley Oval. The highly fancied Chargers had only just fought to an even 3-3 record to that point, snapping a three-game losing run upon the commencement of school football with a one-point win over Tasmania. Northern managed to retain most of its key talent, and had won two games on the trot after a lacklustre 0-5 start to its campaign.

While Oakleigh’s two co-captains in Dylan Williams and Trent Bianco took the field, the Chargers’ remaining four 2019 draftees – including top two pair Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson – were absent. Northern evened the ledger in terms of future AFL products with bolter Sam Philp a mainstay in the side, and 19-year-old Adelaide top-up Ayce Taylor also running out with plenty of interest.

As expected, Oakleigh arguably had the better of the opening exchanges, but could not quite capitalise on its territorial pressure as the sides entered the first break level at 1.2 apiece. The theme continued into the second term as both sides proved inaccurate in front of goal, but the Chargers’ superior two scoring shots saw them sneak ahead at half time by two points.

That was where the buck stopped for Northern, as it began to better take hold through midfield and apply scoreboard pressure in the process. A slender four-point lead at the final break was stolen back almost immediately by Williams in the following period of play, before Philp did the same for Northern. A second from Williams after Thomas Graham reclaimed the lead would prove the sealer for Oakleigh in a real scare, getting over the line by six points.

Williams’ move from half-back to his more comfortable forward role in the final term proved a game-winning decision, as the Port draftee booted two defining goals to see the Chargers home. Co-captain and new Collingwood recruit Bianco was kept relatively quiet for 17 disposals as bottom-ager Fraser Elliot led all comers with 28 touches, and partner-in-crime Lochlan Jenkins was named best-afield for his 22.

Philp returned a performance consistent of his form for the Knights throughout 2019, racking up 28 touches and booting an important goal in the losing effort. A player who very nearly joined him at Carlton, Ryan Sturgess was also influential with 19 disposals from defence, on top of having the difficult task of manning Williams at the death. Taylor was quiet with seven disposals but laid six tackles to display his versatility.

Northern would go on to finish sixth at 8-7 and disposed of Bendigo in Wildcard Round, but came undone against Western come finals time to see an end to its season. Oakleigh won the NAB League premiership from third, storming undefeated through a brilliant finals campaign which culminated in a 53-point triumph in the decider.

Classic Contests: Dragons blow Devils away on the road

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 12 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Sandringham Dragons and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind back the clock almost a year to late-2019, when the two sides met for the first time since Tasmania’s full-time induction into the competition.

2019 NAB League, Round 15
Saturday July 27, 11:00am
Invermay Park, Launceston

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.0 | 2.1 | 3.3 | 4.4 (28)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.3 | 6.8 | 11.10 | 13.15 (93)

Goals:

Tasmania: O. Sanders, L. Gadomski, J. Chaplin, J. Callow.
Sandringham:
A. Hanrahan 3, K. Yorke 2, R. Bowman 2, R. Byrnes, J. Bowey, J. Bell, B. O’Leary, J. Mifsud, M. Bergman.

Best:

Tasmania: L. Viney, J. Callow, O. Davis, S. Collins, R. Mansell, M. McGuinness
Sandringham:
A. Hanrahan, R. Bowman, J. Bell, R. Byrnes, D. Chirgwin, M. Bergman

Draftees in action:

Tasmania: Matt McGuinness
Sandringham:
 Ryan Byrnes, Miles Bergman, Jack Bell

Not much more than pride was up for grabs as Sandringham travelled down to Tasmania to take on the Devils in Launceston, with the fate of the two sides all but already sealed. The Dragons were gunning for a top three spot to avoid Wildcard Round, while Tasmania was simply battling for position having fallen to 13th spot.

Neither side was in particularly outstanding form either, with Sandringham coming in having won in its previous outing against Dandenong, but the Dragons had lost three straight games before that and five of their last six overall to sit 8-5 in fourth. The Devils were 4-11 on the back of a five-game losing run, which would end up stretching to seven by season’s end.

Of significance were also the absentees for both teams, too, with Sandringham missing a raft of eventual draftees and combine invitees, including the likes of top 30 picks Fischer McAsey, Finn Maginness, and Josh Worrell. Mitch O’Neill was the biggest name missing for Tasmania, one of its two 2019 draftees, but the Devils maintained their four 2020 AFL Academy prospects in the side.

Keen to flex their superiority and gain some winning form on the eve of finals, the Dragons took control from the get-go with six scoring shots to one in the opening term helping them to a 15-point lead at the first break. They would extend it to 31 points by half time, again restricting Tasmania to just one major while piling on another three of their own.

Having got the jump, Sandringham well-and-truly put the result beyond doubt with a game-high five goals in the third term, and a couple more in the closing stanza for good measure as the Devils could only again manage a goal per the final two terms. The final margin sat at 65 points in favour of the travelling side, marking Sandringham’s third win by over 10 goals at that point in the season.

Over-ager Angus Hanrahan had a day out, leading all comers for goals (three) and disposals (33), with St Kilda draftee Ryan Byrnes (28 disposals, one goal) another to find both the ball and the goals. Matt McGuinness was Tasmania’s leading ball winner with 26 touches, while of the other draftees afield, Miles Bergman booted 1.2 from his 19 disposals, and Jack Bell also booted a major in his forward/ruck duties.

Despite boasting one of the more stacked Under 18 squads of recent times, Sandringham fell short of the top three and its premiership dream as injuries and some bad luck took toll, finishing fourth at 9-6 and losing to eventual premier, Oakleigh in the preliminary finals. Tasmania would end up losing seven-straight games to finish the season at 4-11 in 14th, but gave Calder a scare in Wildcard Round as the Devils went down by a single goal.

Classic Contests: Jets hold off fast-finishing Rebels

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 11 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets. In this edition, we wind back the clock to just one year to mid-2019, where the Metro side snuck home on enemy territory.

2019 NAB League, Round 11
Saturday June 22, 11:30am
Mars Stadium

GWV REBELS 1.3 | 1.7 | 4.7 | 7.9 (51)
WESTERN JETS 3.1 | 4.2 | 6.3 | 9.4 (58)

Goals:

GWV: C. Giddings, L. O’Brien, C. Nagorcka, L. Herbert, F. Marris, M. Martin, N. Caris
Western:
A. Manton 2, E. Ford, M. Cousins, K. Borg, J. Honey, H. Schumann, N. Reynolds, L. Vidovic

Best:

GWV: L. Herbert, M. Martin, R. Polkinghorne, M. Burgess, M. Herbert, N. Stevens
Western:
C. Raak, L. Rocci, J. Kellett, L. Phillips, E. Ford, M. Cousins

Draftees in action:

GWV: Nil
Western:
Josh Honey (Carlton)

A battle of the two western sides went down in Round 11 of the 2019 NAB League, with GWV Rebels hosting the Western Jets in Ballarat on a late-June Saturday morning. Both sides were a touch undermanned amid the national carnival, with just one future draftee taking the field in Western graduate and Carlton rookie, Josh Honey.

The form between the two sides was heavily contrasted, with the Rebels coming off a 111-point belting at the hands of Eastern where they were kept goalless, capping a five-game losing run. The Jets were faring much better at that point, earning three wins on the trot including the scalp of Gippsland in Round 10 as they readied for their first meeting with GWV for the year.

It all meant Western came in right in the thick of a top three charge, sitting just two points off third and four off first in fifth spot at 6-3. On the other hand, the Rebels were down in 15th with their 2-7 record, but had some decent talent in which would have been hungry to arrest their alarming form slump.

For not of a lack of trying, the hosts found themselves immediately behind as Western adjusted better to the conditions, booting 1.3 to the Jet’s 3.1 in the opening term. The yips carried through to the second term for the Rebels too, this time exceeding Western’s scoring shots with a total of four, but putting them all through the behinds as the Jets managed 1.1 to open up a 13-point buffer at the main break, with double GWV’s score.

But with the game opening up slightly and the Rebels still within striking distance, we had a game on our hands. The home side proved as much, straightening up in front of goal to slam home three-straight majors in the third term to close the gap to eight points heading into the final stanza. While a goal to Mitch Martin midway through the term brought the margin back to a single point, Western had all the answers to run home seven-point winners in a tense finish.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton was the only player to notch multiple goals with two on a low-scoring day, with 14 individuals across either side finding the big sticks. GWV’s Liam Herbert led all comers with 28 disposals and a goal, followed by Riley Polkinghorne (26) and Martin (20) for the Rebels, while Daly Andrews (27) was among four Jets to rack up over 20 touches. Honey was impactful with a goal from 16 disposals, but it was Western Bulldogs NGA hopeful Cody Raak who was named the winners’ best with 14 disposals and three marks from defence.

The two sides would go on to meet again in Wildcard Round, with Western advancing to the finals on the back of a 50-point win having finished 7th at 8-7. The Jets would crash out to Gippsland in the semi-finals after overcoming Northern in their elimination bout, with GWV’s 6-9 season ending at that. Jay Rantall would be the sole GWV graduate to find a home at AFL level, though that could well change in future, while Honey and Emerson Jeka were both picked up in the rookie draft following their time at Western.