Tag: lachlan stapleton

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 12 – Chargers gain on top three

ONLY one side managed to score more than eight goals in Round 12 of the 2019 NAB League season, with Oakleigh Chargers among the big winners having knocked off Sandringham en route to equal third. Ladder leader, Eastern remained a game clear with a win in its split fixture against Tasmania two weeks earlier, while Northern enjoyed the bye.

The round’s first game promised to be a corker, as Sandringham hosted a climbing Oakleigh side at Trevor Barker Oval. While neither side was at full strength, there were some notable top-agers in action and a raft of bottom-agers ready to prove their worth in the highly-anticipated contest. Oakleigh would overcome a half time deficit in the end to run out 18-point winners on the road, as the Dragons posted 1.8 in the final term.

Potential 2020 number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was one of three Chargers to boot multiple goals, notching a game-high three from 10 disposals. Richmond draftee Hugo Ralphsmith was joined by Oakleigh bottom-ager Reef McInnes as the leading ball winners, racking up 23 touches each with added time around the contest.

Heading into Saturday afternoon, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV)  got back on the winners list after a tight loss the round before, more than doubling Dandenong’s score to finish 28-point winners on the road. The Rebels were only behind at the first break, but fought back well at the scoring end to pile on five goals in the next term and set up a game-defining lead. A mere collective three goals were added in a lacklustre second half.

Mitch Martin and Harry Sharp led the scoring stakes with two goals each for the winners, as Martin played a particularly influential role. A pair of Stingrays, Jack Toner and Clayton Gay had the most ball though with 25 and 24 disposals respectively, while Mitchell Burgess was the sole Rebel to tick over 20 touches on the day.

Only 15 minutes later that same afternoon in Echuca, Murray got the better of Bendigo in another low-scoring slog. The Bushrangers were remarkably held goalless for the entire first half, and booted over two goals worth of behinds before finally finding the big sticks in term three. Their final effort of 3.22 was enough to carry them to a 10-point victory, despite Bendigo managing one more major.

Five Bushrangers kicked multiple behinds, with leading ball winners Jye Chalcraft (33 disposals, 0.3) and Jimmy Boyer (27 disposals, 1.4) among the main culprits, while Charlie Byrne provided a refreshing sense of accuracy to boot two-straight goals from his 18 touches. James Schischka saw most of the ball for Bendigo with 28 touches from defence, with Noah Walsh the next best on 23.

Gippsland survived a scare over as part of the Shepley Oval double-header, made to work for its four-point win over the languishing Geelong Falcons via an incredible final term comeback. The Falcons started strongly and led at all of the first three breaks to boast a 27-point buffer heading into the final term. But the Power would enact a 31-point turnaround in the final 25 minutes, piling on six goals after managing just two beforehand to sneak over the line. Zach Reid was the hero as he swung forward for the winning goal.

A bottom-aged Sam Berry was also a key player in the comeback, finishing with three goals from 20 disposals via the engine room as Gippsland’s leading ball winner alongside Leo Connolly. Chas Karpala managed the same feat for Geelong with a game-high 22 touches, followed closely by Charlie Lazzaro. 2020 Falcons co-captain Gennaro Bove also stood up with two goals.

The sole Sunday fixture saw two top eight Metro sides battle it out at Highgate Reserve, with Calder coming out a 22-point victor over Western – again, doubling its opponent’s total. The scoreboard at the first break looked like that of a soccer game as Calder led 4-3, with Sam Paea‘s second term goal the only one come half time. Eddie Ford booted Western’s first after the break, but the Cannons were too strong and kicked away comfortably.

Mason Fletcher booted a third of the winners’ six goals as the lone multiple goalkicker, with six others finding the big sticks overall. Carlton draftee Sam Ramsay led all comers with 31 disposals as teammates Curtis Brown and Harrison Minton-Connell had 29 and 27 respectively. Daly Andrews managed 25 touches for Western, with Ford’s goal coming from a serviceable 21 disposals.

In a standalone fixture two weeks earlier, Eastern travelled down to Tasmania to take on the Devils in an entertaining clash. The home side, not in a great vein of form, started strongly and matched it with Eastern for all of three quarters, but the eventual minor premier would skip away at the end, breaking to a 22-point victory on enemy territory.

Devils bigman Jackson Callow had a dominant first half, finishing with 4.3 from 14 disposals as the clear-best forward afield. Jamieson Rossiter (two goals) was a threat up the other end, while the trio of Mitch Mellis (33 disposals), Zak Pretty (23) and Lachlan Stapleton went to work in the engine room. Oliver Davis found the most ball for Tasmania with 23 touches as the bottom-agers once again led the way.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 11 – Gippsland the big winners on super Saturday

FIVE of the six fixtures scheduled for Round 11 of the 2019 NAB League were played out on a super Saturday, with Gippsland among the big winners. In an interesting quirk, the eventual top four sides all squared off against each other, with the Power facing Oakleigh, while Eastern and Sandringham went head-to-head in Sunday’s lone fixture. Mars Stadium in Ballarat hosted the lone double-header of the weekend, while Tasmania was again raided by a Victorian side and Calder enjoyed the bye.

That side was Northern, who came out narrow nine-point winners against the Devils at Kingston Twins Ovals. The Knights looked to be coasting to victory having led at every break, laying claim to a 19-point buffer at three-quarter time, and extending the margin out to 34 points less that 10 minutes into the final term. A late charge by the home side would fall short as Northern took its foot off the gas, but still travelled back to Victoria with the four points.

Tasmania’s Jordan Lane booted a game-high with three majors as his side’s only multiple goalkicker, while Carlton draftee Sam Philp shared top honours in the ball winning stakes alongside Josh D’Intinosante with 30 disposals apiece. Oliver Davis fared best for Tasmania in that department with 28 touches, while fellow bottom-agers Patrick Walker (25 disposals, one goal) and Jackson Callow (16 disposals, 1.2) also impressed.

Heading back to Victoria, and Western made its trip to Ballarat a fruitful one by trumping the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by seven points. In a similar vein to Northern, the Jets led at every break in the low-scoring affair, but were made to work for their victory as GWV pulled to within a single point midway through the final term. The fightback would again prove too little, too late though, as Western held on to secure its seventh win.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton was the only player to boot multiple majors (two), with individual goalkickers spread across the two sides. Liam Herbert (28 disposals) and Mitch Martin were among the Rebels to find a good amount of ball and the big sticks, with Carlton rookie Josh Honey (16 disposals) Western’s highest disposal winner to also bag a goal. Daly Andrews impressed with 27 touches, as did the pairing of Josh Kellett and Lucas Rocci in defence.

They say when it rains, it pours, and that proved the case for Dandenong after having its undefeated streak snapped in Round 10, following it up with another loss – this time to the Murray Bushrangers to the tune of 34 points. Murray’s inaccuracy was the only factor keeping the Stingrays in the game for the best part of three quarters, with its 25 scoring shots to 11 only yielding a 19-point lead at the main break. The Bushrangers finally managed to reverse the trend in the fourth term to run out comfortable winners.

Ryley Bouker and Dominic Bedendo were a couple of bottom-age Bushrangers to impress in front of goal, evenly sharing six of their side’s goals in the win. Another bottom-age pair, Max Gregory and Jai Neal also booted multiple goals, combining for four of Dandenong’s 10 majors. Murray’s hold on the game shone through in its ball winners, with Cam Wild (29 disposals) and Jye Chalcraft (27) well ahead of Dandenong’s best in Bayleigh Welsh, who managed 19 touches and a goal.

In the second game of Saturday’s Ballarat double-header, two country sides went at it for the second time in season 2019. Bendigo would again come up trumps over Geelong, setting up the 29-point win with a six-goal to one second term and holding on to secure victory despite being kept scoreless in the final quarter. The Falcons’ superior finish provided a slight positive despite the loss, as the young side had become known for late fade-outs.

Big-bodied bottom-ager Josh Treacy had a good day at the office with four goals, while the over-age Harry Stubbings also booted multiple goals (two) from his 19 disposals. Sharing the spoils as top ball winners were Geelong’s Keidan Rayner and Bendigo’s Ben Worme with 26 touches apiece, while 2020 Falcons co-captain Cam Fleeton continued his mid-season rise with 21 disposals from defence, and Swans draftee Brady Rowles found the ball 15 times.

Morwell was the next country venue to host NAB League action, as Gippsland took on Oakleigh in what would end up being a qualifying final preview. But the strong Power unit took home the points on this occasion against the undermanned Chargers, keeping them scoreless in the third term while booting five majors of their own to make up most of the eventual 46-point winning margin.

The day arguably belonged to rookie draftee Fraser Phillips, who booted 5.3 from 20 disposals in a huge outing, with Tom Fitzpatrick the sole other multiple goalkicker. St Kilda recruit Leo Connolly led all comers with 32 disposals and a goal, while bottom-ager Sam Berry and former skipper Brock Smith were among three players to notch 26 touches. Vincent Zagari (22 disposals) was Oakleigh’s leading ball winner, followed by bolting 19-year-old forward Cooper Sharman (20 disposals, one goal) on a down day for the eventual premiers.

Sunday’s sole fixture again proved to be a finals preview, as Eastern and Sandringham did battle in a top of the table clash at Box Hill City Oval. Both teams were slightly undermanned, especially the Dragons, and it somewhat showed as the low-scoring affair was played on the terms of the structured and disciplined Ranges side. They would prove a tough nut to crack, holding out for the 18-point victory and keeping Sandringham goalless in the final term.

Big forwards Ben Hickleton and Billy McCormack combined for five of Eastern’s eight goals, with no Dragon able to find the big sticks on multiple occasions. Darcy Chirgwin led the ball winning stakes though with 32 touches, while eventual draftee Ryan Byrnes managed 21 of his own. Jarrod Gilbee (26 disposals) was Eastern’s leading possession getter, followed closely by usual suspects Zak Pretty (24) and Lachlan Stapleton (22).

Classic Contests: Ranges raid Launceston in split fixture

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 9 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Tasmania Devils and Eastern Ranges. In this edition, we wind back the clock just one year to when the sides met for their first clash since the Devils’ instatement as a full-time NAB League side.

2019 NAB League, Round 12
Saturday July 13, 10:45am
UTAS Stadium

TASMANIA DEVILS 5.1 | 6.3 | 7.6 | 8.7 (55)
EASTERN RANGES 4.0 | 6.4 | 7.9 | 11.11 (77)

Draftees in action:

Tasmania – Matthew McGuinness (North Melbourne), Mitchell O’Neill (West Coast)
Eastern – Nil

Eastern and Tasmania did battle on the Apple Isle on a weekend where every other NAB League side enjoyed a bye, with the standalone Round 12 fixture taking place two weeks later. The hosts were in the middle of a form slump, losing in four of their previous five outings to hold a 4-7 record outside of the top eight equation, while Eastern was riding high atop the table with its five-game winning streak and 9-2 overall record.

The Ranges had been pushed all the way by a struggling Murray side the week before, while Tasmania went down comfortably to Bendigo in a low-scorer, making its run of three-consecutive home games largely fruitless. But in another home outing, there would lie a bit of hope in causing an upset against the well-drilled and organised Ranges as both sides boasted near full strength squads.

Any form of confidence would have been justified, too after a high-scoring opening term, as Tasmania more than matched the Ranges to lead by a goal at the first break. The five-goal to four period of play was followed by far closer ones as the Ranges shut up shop and snuck ahead by under a goal at the next two breaks to set up a grandstand finish.

But that was not entirely to be as the visiting side piled on four goals to one to kick away to a 22-point victory in their highest-scoring term for the day. While it was a valiant effort given the conditions and circumstances, Tasmania simply could not match it with the Ranges for the full four quarters as they tightened their structure and forced the game to be played on their terms after quarter time.

The sole eventual draftees afield, both for Tasmania had decent days; with Matt McGuinness (16 disposals, five marks) assuming his usual role in defence, while Mitch O’Neill had his day cut short through injury after collecting 12 touches. Bottom-age Academy members Oliver Davis (23 disposals) and Sam Collins (16) were also prominent, while Jackson Callow had a big day out with his 14 disposals, six marks, and 4.3.

Eastern’s trio of ball winners again did the job, with Mitch Mellis‘ 33 disposals leading all comers, while Zak Pretty (23, one goal) and Lachlan Stapleton (22) played their usual roles. Bottom-age guns Wil Parker (22 disposals) and Connor Downie (19, one goal) also had their say on the game, with Jamieson Rossiter enjoying one of his better outings for the year in bagging two goals from 16 touches.

The Ranges would of course go on to finish as minor premier and avoid Wildcard Round, making it all the way to the grand final where they would lose by 53 points to Oakleigh. The Devils finished outside the top eight and would go down to Calder by a goal in Wildcard Round, slashing their finals hopes.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 6 – Academies bow out, Stingrays go top

FANS, recruiters, and pundits alike were treated to another eight games in Round 6 of the 2019 NAB League, with the early-May weekend serving as the last for each of the five Northern Academies’ cameos. Reigning premier Dandenong broke clear as the sole undefeated side left, while Gold Coast was crowned the Academy Series victor via percentage after Sydney lost its only game for the season. A thrilling finals preview also went down as Gippsland and Eastern battled it out, with the Power getting the better of the eventual premiers on home turf.

The round kicked off in North Hobart, with Tasmania playing host to the heavily-depleted Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday morning. It was the visitors who managed to scrape home in a nail-biting, low-scoring slog by the slimmest of margins, overcoming a half-time deficit to keep the Devils at bay. Winning skipper Trent Bianco, the only national draftee afield dominated with 42 disposals as he stepped-up in the absence of some key personnel.

Fellow top-ager Josh May was also influential with 28 touches, while bottom-aged midfielder Fraser Elliot had it 23 times, and Thomas Lovell put in his best shift for the season with four majors. For the Devils, Harrison Ireland was named best for his work as an undersized ruck, with bottom-age gun Oliver Davis getting to work at ground level with a team-high 21 touches, and fellow Allies Hub member Sam Collins not far behind on 18.

The GWS Academy and Murray Bushrangers went to battle on the New South Wales-Victorian border at midday, with the GIANTS coming away with their second win from five attempts. It was a well drawn out win for the ‘away’ side in its home state, leading at every break but being made to earn the 11-point victory. In another game headlined by the dominance of a future draftee, Tom Green amassed 37 touches for the GIANTS in a mammoth performance.

Over-agers Jeromy Lucas (33 disposals) and Ed Perryman (31) were not far behind, while Harry Grant put in a big shift for 3.2 from his 23 touches, and 2020 19-year-old hopefuls Matt McGrory and Liam Delahunty also got busy. Green’s current GIANTS teammate Lachlan Ash collected 27 touches and booted a goal as Murray’s skipper, aided by Dylan Clarke and Cam Wild who matched his ball-winning output. Jimmy Boyer also impressed with three goals from over 20 disposals, while former GWS Academy member Charlie Byrne had 20 touches exactly.

Saturday’s final fixture took the competition back down to Victoria, as Calder and Bendigo met at Highgate Reserve. It was the Cannons’ day in another low-scoring affair, leading relatively comfortably at every break to eek out a 16-point win over the Pioneers on home turf. The leading Calder draft candidate to that point, Daniel Mott led the way with 36 disposals and a goal in a game which featured just two eventual draftees.

Jacob Martin enjoyed a breakout performance, racking up 36 touches of his own alongside Mott, while skipper Brodie Newman had 21 from defence and Carlton recruit Sam Ramsay had 16 on the same line. James Schischka was Bendigo’s leading ball winner with 20 disposals, with Sydney draftee Brady Rowles collecting his season-high haul of 17 in tricky conditions.

Heading up north to South Pine in the Sunshine State, Gold Coast took out the overall Academy Series with a well-earned 14-point victory over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The visitors pushed the talented academy prospects all the way despite trailing for the game’s entirety, with captain and SUNS AFL rookie Connor Budarick capping off a stellar month with another terrific performance.

His 23 disposals led all comers, with the exciting Hewago Paul Oea managing 19 and two goals, while Ashton Crossley provided good fold in midfield with 19 touches. Bottom-ager Max Pescud booted a game-high four majors, matched by Rebels’ Nick Caris in his second consecutive four-goal game. 2020 over-age hopeful Isaac Wareham notched two goals of his own, with fellow Vic Country representative Mitch Martin also impressing, but Jay Rantall kept quiet at just 14 disposals.

Completing the South Pine double-header were the Brisbane Lions Academy and Dandenong Stingrays, with the visitors claiming a resounding 71-point win on their travels up north. After a low-scoring first half, the Stingrays clicked into gear after the main break with 10 goals to one to comfortably ensure they would remain undefeated and atop the NAB League ladder.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn stood tall in the defeat with a typically professional 32-disposal performance, with fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland (26 disposals) also returning a good shift. 19-year-old Tom Matthews matched Cumberland’s effort, with bottom-agers Will Tasker and Tahj Abberley also impressing. For Dandenong, new Bulldog Cody Weightman bagged three goals, while fellow draftees Hayden Young (28 disposals), Sam De Koning (17, seven marks) Ned Cahill (21, 1 goal) strutted their stuff. Bottom-ager Clayton Gay was another to catch the eye, booting two goals from 21 touches.

A touch earlier and back in Victoria, the Geelong Falcons proved too good for the previously undefeated Sydney Swans Academy in their clash on neutral territory, upsetting the northern hopefuls with a 31-point win. The home side’s four-goal to one fourth term sealed the final margin, with the contest a touch tighter to that point.

It was the bottom-ager who stole the show in this clash, as Ollie Henry booted four goals for the Falcons alongside Charlie Brauer‘s two, while Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden both managed 22 disposals and a goal each. Geelong captain Jesse Clark was the leading ball winner on the ground with 25 touches, followed closely by Sydney top-ager Sam Thorne (24).

Not much may have been expected of the Gippsland-Eastern clash coming into the season, but it proved to be a belting finals preview as the Power took out the four points in Morwell. The game was tight the whole way through, with the high-quality contest ending in a 10-point triumph to the home side.

As had been the case in previous fixtures, the cream rose to the top as Sam Flanders (25 disposals, two goals), Brock Smith (27 disposals), and Fraser Phillips (20 disposals, three goals) all enjoyed fantastic outings for the winners. The midfield trio of Zak Pretty (28 disposals), Lachlan Stapleton (28), and Mitch Mellis (21) was just as handy for Eastern, while forwards Bailey White and Ben Hickleton notched three goals apiece.

The final game of the round saw a seventh venue used in Ikon Park, as the Northern Knights held off a fast-finishing Northern Territory Thunder Academy. A six-goal third term saw the Knights double their goal tally, and it set up a match-defining margin as they went on to salute to the tune of 38 points. The NT’s campaign would finish winless, but not for a lack of trying and talent.

Josh D’Intinosante and Jackson Davies both had a good amount of ball while also booting two goals each for the winners, while 2020 Vic Metro Hub member Liam McMahon also managed two goals from his 15 disposals and eight marks. Ben Jungfer was the Thunder’s leading ball winner with 22 touches, but it was Malcolm Rosas Jnr who shone with 21 and two goals, while Joel Jeffrey found the ball 21 times, Beau O’Connell 19, and Brodie Lake 16.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 5 – Dragons, Ranges humble Academies to go top

ROUND 5 of the 2019 NAB League season saw the Victorian mainstays peg back their Northern visitors in an action packed nine-game weekend. Sandringham and Eastern delivered big wins over the two Queensland academies at Trevor Barker Oval, while the Sydney Academy won strongly to remain undefeated alongside Dandenong (3-0-1).

But first to take the field were the Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights at Queen Elizabeth Oval, with the visitors taking four points back to Preston after trailing at every other break. After streaming ahead by 17 points at half-time with double the goal tally, the Pioneers ran out of legs to be held to just one major in the second half as the Knights snuck ahead to come away five-point victors.

As was a theme in Round 5, both sides were weakened but had some solid talent running around from each age bracket. Josh D’Intinosante and Sunny Brazier had plenty of the ball while also hitting the scoreboard, while Lachlan Potter created some zip on the outside. Top-age Pioneers James Schischka, Ben Worme, and Logan Fitzgerald all had 25 touches, while bottom-age jet Jack Ginnivan showed promise with 20 and a goal.

Sam Philp was the best ball winner of the 2019 draftees, earning 17 touches for Northern, while Swans recruit Brady Rowles had just 11 as he popped up in spurts. Ryan Sturgess, who almost joined Philp at the Blues as a supplementary top-up, was also impressive with 21 disposals and seven marks.

Saturday’s first game opened a Blacktown double-header as the Swans Academy accounted for Murray in a close encounter to move to equal-first. The Sydneysiders shot out of the blocks with five goals to nil to open the match, adding another four in the second term to lead by six goals at half time. Although they fared much better in the second half, the Bushrangers could not fully recover the deficit and went down by 24 points.

Sydney over-ager Kyle Martin led all comers with 29 disposals, just one touch ahead of Bushrangers runner Cam Wild (28, one goal). Dylan Clarke also led the way for Murray with 23 disposals, with Jye Chalcraft, Jimmy Boyer, and Sam Durham all also ticking over the 20-mark. Max Geddes (23 disposals) was also influential for the Swans, but it was big man Hamish Ellem who stole the show with 22 disposals, nine marks, and 3.3 in a performance which went a long way to securing him an Allies berth.

The GWS Academy was next up on its home turf against another Victorian country side in Gippsland, only it could not repeat the feats of its New South Wales rival. The GIANTS trailed at every break but brought the contest to the highly-fancied Power, getting within a single point at three-quarter time before falling by nine points.

Harry Grant had an outstanding game for GWS, booting two goals from his game-high 31 disposals, while Oakleigh squad member Jeromy Lucas had 24 touches and newly-transferred Northern Knight Liam Delahunty booted two goals. But a talent rich Gippsland unit was led well by Brock Smith (24 disposals, seven rebound 50s) and Hawthorn rookie Harrison Pepper (26 disposals, one goal), with Riley Baldi also stepping up through midfield. Draftees Kyle Dunkley, Leo Connolly, Fraser Phillips, and Charlie Comben were also in action for the Power.

Skipping back, and Dandenong extended its unbeaten start to the season with a huge win over Oakleigh on home turf. After a tight opener, the Stingrays played the conditions perfectly to pile on eight goals in the second term, and seven in the last to storm away 70-point victors with 11 individual goalkickers.

Lachlan Williams and Ned Cahill slotted three majors each for the winners, while bottom-ager Will Bravo slotted two and Richmond recruit Bigoa Nyuon managed one from 17 touches. Cahill was the leading disposal getter with 29, while Joe Ayton-Delaney, Lochlan Jenkins, and Trent Bianco all managed 24 for the Chargers. Port draftee Dylan Williams went goalless in a different role, while Gold Coast mid-season recruit Mitch Riordan had 15 touches and Melbourne rookie Austin Bradtke had just eight disposals and a goal.

Saturday’s other double-header began with Sandringham thumping the Brisbane Lions Academy by 97 points on home turf. The Lions had won just one game to that point, and were in for more immediate pain as the Dragons helped themselves to 13 first half goals while holding the visitors to one. There was no way back from there, with Sandringham coasting to victory.

Brisbane skipper Will Martyn was one of the sole Lions to stand up all day, collecting a game-high 31 touches while fellow Richmond draftee Noah Cumberland was kept to just nine. Louis Butler and Ryan Byrnes strutted their stuff for the Dragons to win plenty of the ball, while Miles Bergman started to get into his stride with 17 touches, Jack Bell impressed with two goals from the same disposal haul, and Blake O’Leary finished with a game-high three goals.

Eastern completed the academy rout with a defensively sound 59-point thumping of Gold Coast’s academy, keeping the SUNS to just two goals. After just three goals were scored in the first half, the Ranges clicked into gear to break the game open with seven in the third term and run home comfortable winners.

Zak Pretty had a monster day out with 37 disposals, aided well by Lachlan Stapleton (27) and Mitch Mellis (24), while bottom-age defenders Wil Parker and Josh Clarke also impressed. Bailey White led the goal count with four, while Jamieson Rossiter managed three and Cody Hirst played one of his last games before being snapped up by Sydney. Skipper Connor Budarick was the standout for Gold Coast, accumulating 27 touches, with bottom-ager Max Pescud also thereabouts, and fellow SUNS recruits Matt Conroy and Patrick Murtagh also taking the field.

Saturday’s final fixture saw Calder edge Geelong in a close battle at Highgate Recreation Reserve, with both sides enjoying time in the lead. The Cannons looked the goods after coming out on top in a low-scoring first half, but were pegged back to within a point at the final break. Keeping their heads, the hosts held on to win by seven points.

Sam Ramsay was the sole draftee afield, and he had a decent outing with 27 disposals – behind only Daniel Mott (29) and Brodie Newman (36). Ned Gentile booted three goals from 21 disposals to also be among the best, while skipper Jesse Clark claimed that honour for Geelong. Nineteen-year-old Charlie Sprague was another to impress with two goals from 18 touches, with fellow over-ager Henry Stubbings managing 20.

Fast-forward to Sunday, and Western got the better of Tasmania in their trip to the Apple Isle, trumping the hosts by 47 points to get within touch of the top four. A steady opening half saw Tasmania prove wasteful, booting 1.6 as Western eventually took flight to run home with six goals to two after half-time.

Competition leading goalkicker Archi Manton took full toll with a game-high three majors, supported well by Carlton rookie Josh Honey (two from 25 disposals) and bottom-age jet Eddie Ford (two from 16 disposals). Darcy Cassar racked it up across half back to finish with 31 disposals, while Patrick Walker and Bailey Gordon shared that feat for Tasmania (25). Isaac Chugg was also impressive on debut for a Devils side which was missing a lot of its star power.

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels took home a huge win in the round’s final match, defeating the Northern Territory Thunder Academy by 55 points on neutral territory. The Rebels never looked back after a 10 goals to one opening half at Windy Hill, which proved more than enough for the win despite a more even second half.

Nick Caris led the goal count with four for GWV, while Jay Rantall (27 disposals, two goals), Matty Lloyd (28, two), and Riley Polkinghorne (23, two) all had an impact. There was plenty of class on show for NT despite the loss too, with Beau O’Connell (29 disposals, two goals) having a day out, while Ben Jungfer had it 28 times, Joel Jeffrey had 24 touches and six marks, and new SUNS rookie Malcolm Rosas Jnr also got on the park.

Classic Contests: Seven-goal third term sees Eastern douse Suns

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 5 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Eastern Ranges and Gold Coast Suns Academy. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 in what has been the only clash between the pair.

EASTERN RANGES 1.3 | 2.5 | 9.7 | 11.11 (77)
GOLD COAST SUNS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.5 | 2.6 (18)

Round 5 | Saturday, April 27, 2019
Trevor Barker Oval, 1.15pm

After four rounds of the NAB League Boys season, Eastern Ranges were looking good thanks to three consecutive victories to have them fourth with a 3-1 win-loss record. Though Gold Coast Suns Academy had also notched up three consecutive wins, albeit against fellow Academy sides and a weakened Oakleigh Chargers outfit the week before. It still mean the Suns sat atop the ladder with a a massive percentage of 237.5.

The first half was certainly not one to write home about with just three goals kicked from both sides. Bailey White was the first one the board with a major in the 12th minute of the game, while Ben Hickleton made it two early in the second term to hold a 14-point lead. In the last couple of minutes, Riley Buckland finally brought the 48-minute goalless drought for the visitors and despite it being the Suns first major of the match, they trailed by just eight points at the major break.

It was the third term where the Ranges put the foot down and won the game. Keeping their opponents to just two behinds in the quarter, Eastern piled on 7.2 in a dominant performance that would be indicative of the Ranges ability to win when challenged. Zak Pretty was first on the board in the second half, followed back back-to-back goals to White who had three to his name. Jamieson Rossiter got in on the party with two majors of his own, before two late goals in the last two minutes – to Cody Hirst and a remarkable fourth to White after the siren – had Eastern 50 points up with a quarter to play. Danger signs were there when Rossiter booted his third and his side’s eighth consecutive goal just 45 seconds into the last term. Luckily for the Suns, the defence managed to stem the flow over the next 20 minutes until Hickleton converted the Ranges’ 11th and his second for a 65-point advantage. A consolation goal to Ethan Dawson with three minutes to play ensured the Suns at least finished with two goals on the board.

From the 11 goals, White, Rossiter and Hicketon would combined for nine of them in a remarkable effort up forward, also combining for 35 disposals, and 12 marks in the process. From Eastern’s dominant midfield, Pretty had an absolute day out, feasting on 37 disposals (21 contested), five tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal. Fellow consistent ball winners, Lachlan Stapleton (27 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) and Mitch Mellis (24 disposals, three tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s) were busy, while bottom-age talents Wil Parker (23 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds) and Josh Clarke (21 disposals, five marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and seven rebounds) were also prominent. Riley Smith was a star in the ruck wiht 37 hitouts from 19 touches, while future Swan Hirst finished with 20 disposals, three marks, four tackles and a goal on the day.

Eventual Hunter Harrison Medallist, Connor Budarick had a team-high 27 disposals, six marks, 16 tackles and five for the Suns, as well as three clearances and four rebounds. Max Pescud (23 disposals, four marks, three tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and six rebounds) and Ashton Crossley (22 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds) also found plenty of the ball. In defence, Brandon Deslandes and Corey Joyce combined for 13 rebounds from 39 disposals and seven marks.

Eastern Ranges would go on to earn the minor premiership, making it all the way to the NAB League Grand Final before bowing out to Oakleigh on the big stage. Gold Coast Suns would still win the overall Academy Series thanks to defeating Sydney Swans Academy for the title.

Classic Contests: Flanders and Phillips star as Gippsland finds a way against Eastern

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 4 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Gippsland Power and Eastern Ranges. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 when the teams played out a see-sawing affair in Morwell as the Power held on for victory.

GIPPSLAND POWER 4.1 | 8.2 | 9.7 | 12.9 (81)
EASTERN RANGES 5.1 | 7.2 | 9.3 | 11.5 (71)

Round 6 | Sunday May 5, 2019
Morwell Recreation Reserve, 1pm

The pre and post-National Championships periods often see NAB League sides stacked to the brim with top-end draftable talent, and it was no different in last year’s Round 6 contest between Gippsland and Eastern at Morwell Recreation Reserve. The Ranges had shot out of the blue to make a 4-1 start to the season, but a meeting with the highly-fancied Power side awaited – on the road, no less – and would always prove a test of their true credentials. The Power were 3-1 having already notched up a bye, going down only to reigning premier, Dandenong to that point. Both sides came in off wins over Northern Academies, with Gippsland scraping over the line against GWS, while Eastern comfortably accounted for Gold Coast.

Five eventual AFL draftees lined up for the hosts, as Sam Flanders, Brock Smith, Fraser Phillips, Charlie Comben, and Harrison Pepper formed a formidable spine, with 2020 top-ager Zach Reid only consolidating it at full back. While the 2019 Ranges squad only produced one mid-season draftee (Cody Hirst), there were a bunch of notable players in the line-up. 2020 over-ager Jamieson Rossiter slotted in at centre half-forward, with top-aged Academy members Connor Downie and Joshua Clarke also on the team sheet. 2019 Vic Metro representatives Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis, and James Ross made for reliable operators all year, and would certainly have their hands full against quality opposition in this fixture as leaders of the group.

A high-scoring opening term set the stage for an action-packed clash, with both sides shooting sharply in front of goal to register a combined 9.2. It was the Ranges who found their way on top though thanks to their superior five-goal effort, hitting back at each of the Power’s advances and gaining the ascendancy late as Bailey White cancelled out Flanders’ equalising goal. But with the advantageous end, Gippsland began to have their say with a four-goal to two second stanza – all while both sides maintained remarkably accuracy. In an end-to-end final five minutes of the half, Phillips and Riley Baldi put the Power two goals ahead, before White’s second goal brought the margin back to single digits.

It was again Eastern’s turn to shift the tide and the Ranges somewhat managed to do so with two goals to one in the third term as the contest tightened up. Harvey Neocleous’ third-minute major did little to stop Eastern from hitting back with six-pointers as the Power began to stray in front of goal. With the lead cut to four points heading into the final change, a grandstand finish awaited. Ben Hickleton immediately put the pressure on the Power as he goaled with two minutes on the clock in the final term, putting the Ranges in front before Billy McCormack extended the buffer to eight points. But the cream rises to the top, especially in the clutch, as Flanders and Comben goaled to reinstate Gippsland’s ascendancy. Tom Fitzpatrick’s major with a tick over six minutes left meant the Ranges required two goals to win, but they could only managed a single behind as the hosts held on for victory.

Eastern’s ball magnets stood up in the engine room despite the losing effort, with Stapleton (28 disposals, nine tackles, six inside 50s) and Zak Pretty (28 disposals, six inside 50s) leading all comers, while Mellis found it 21 times. White and Hickleton were the main culprits in front of goal, each bagging three majors while McCormack managed two as the only other Eastern multiple goalkicker. 2020 top-agers Downie (10 disposals) and Clarke (13) had steady games, with Rossiter able to claim one major from his eight disposals.

For the stacked Gippsland side, Flanders led the way with two goals from his 25 disposals and five inside 50s from midfield, trailing only Phillips (20 disposals, seven marks, three goals) in terms of scoreboard impact. Skipper Smith racked up a team-high 27 touches from defence, while Riley Baldi (26 disposals, one goal) and Ryan Sparkes (21 disposals) were others to stand out. The remaining two draftees, Pepper and Comben, managed 18 and 14 touches respectively, with bigman Comben also notching six marks and a goal.

The two sides would meet just once more in 2019, with Eastern getting the chocolates in their preliminary final tie to the tune of 30 points. The Ranges, who also ended up minor premiers, fell short of a rampant Oakleigh side in the grand final, while Gippsland bowed out at that preliminary final stage after finishing one game adrift in second.

Classic Contests: Chargers pip Ranges in Box Hill thriller

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 3 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019 for a top four clash which produced plenty of highlights across a number of momentum shifts, with the Chargers getting on top at the ideal time.

EASTERN RANGES 4.2 | 6.2 | 9.5 | 11.9 (75)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 0.2 | 6.6 | 8.10 | 12.11 (83)

Round 14 | Saturday, July 20, 2019
Box Hill City Oval, 2.15pm

Coming into the Round 14 clash, Eastern Ranges sat top of the table, two wins and percentage clear of the next three sides, Gippsland Power, Oakleigh Chargers and Western Jets. The Chargers were getting players back after the Under 18 Championships, and the game at Box Hill City Oval shaped as an absolute blockbuster between two premiership contenders. It would also end up being a grand final preview. With Gippsland winning the earlier game against Tasmania Devils at the ground, the Power now held a strong advantage in second and moved to within four points of the Ranges inside the top two. It would be important for Oakleigh to win considering its run home and the importance of securing a top four spot.

Eastern started the better of the two sides, booting four goals to zero in the opening term and holding the Chargers goalless until the fifth minute of the second quarter. By the time the Ranges’ leading goalkicker Jordan Jaworski put through his second 10 minutes into the quarter, the home side led by 29 points with six goals to one on the board. The momentum began to soon swing with Oakleigh remarkably booting the last five goals of the half, including a couple to Cooper Sharman, and then one right before the half-time break to Dylan Williams who put his team in front for the first time.

The teams traded blows in the second half, with Beau Tennant opening proceedings five minutes into the term, before Sam Woodward extended the lead out to seven a couple of minutes later. This was countered by Oakleigh’s Xander Tassell to cut the deficit to two midway through the term, but once again Eastern had the answer, this time through Tom Weir. The home team led by eight points, but Thomas Graham who was finding plenty of the ball through the ruck, kicked a crucial one late in proceedings to cut the deficit to just three points again. He missed a chance to put his side in front a moment later, and then a desperate rushed behind had the three quarter time siren sounding with Eastern just a solitary point in front.

Sharman stepped up to boot a third goal just three minutes into the term, before Tennant was quickly on the board once again, slotting his side’s first major to take back the lead for Eastern. A fourth to Sharman and one to Giorgio Varagiannis opened up the largest margin of the game for the Chargers – 10 points – but goal sneak Jaworski refused to let the game slip away and converted the Ranges’ 11th major with 10 minutes to go. Billy McCormack missed a chance with the time ticking down and the deficit now three points, before future Port forward Williams again stepped up when his side needed him most, converting a crucial goal with a few minutes left to seal the deal and Oakleigh was able to hold on and win by eight points, 12.11 (83) to 11.9 (75).

There was a host of talent running around that day with Trent Bianco leading all-comers thanks to a whopping 34 disposals, eight marks, four tackles, six inside 50s and 10 rebounds, while Jeromy Lucas (27 disposals, three marks and four tackles) and Kaden Schreiber (20 disposals, four marks and two inside 50s) also found plenty of the ball. From the bottom-age contingent, Lochlan Jenkins and Will Phillips both had 22 disposals and combined for 13 clearances and seven inside 50s. Sharman’s four goals from 18 touches, six marks and four inside 50s were crucial in the win, while Williams finished with two goals from eight disposals, three marks and three inside 50s. Graham (17 disposals, six marks, 14 hitouts and one goal) and Bailey Laurie (14 disposals, six rebounds) were others who impressed in the win.

The Ranges had a number of standout players too in the absence of Mitch Mellis, James Ross and Jamieson Rossiter, with bottom-age speedster Wil Parker tearing up the track with 26 touches, five marks, four tackles and five inside 50s, while Zakery Pretty (23 disposals, seven clearances) and Lachlan Stapleton (20 disposals, four clearances and six inside 50s) were busy. Chayce Black (17 disposals, five marks, four tackles and seven inside 50s) and Tyler Edwards (17 disposals, four clearances, four tackles and four inside 50s) got the ball moving in transition with Tennant and Jaworski combining for seven goals up forward.

As history would show, these sides would go on to make the 2019 NAB League Grand Final, with Oakleigh Chargers getting up and winning the premiership in terrific style.

NAB League Boys 2019 Throwback: Round 2 – Academies join competition

ROUND 2 last year will be forever known as the return of Allied teams to the Victorian Under-18 boys competition. While some states have participated in past years on and off, all four northern Academies, along with Northern Territory Thunder joined the competition. Tasmania Devils also joined in, but on a full-time basis, with the Devils playing their first official match in the round across a whopping nine games.

Kicking off the round as part of a Triple Header at Blacktown, Tasmania travelled north for its first game, coming up against Sydney Swans Academy. The Devils had to wait until the second term to score, as the Swans booted 3.7 before Nicholas Baker made history as the first official goalkicker for the Devils. A goal to Jye Menzie just 19 seconds into the third term saw the margin cut as little as five points, but that was as close as it got for the rest of the game as the Swans booted the last three goals of the term to be 26 points up at the final break. Jackson Callow converted another major in the opening minute of the final term to give his team a sniff, and by the time Will Harper put his second on the board, the margin was just nine points with 14 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the visitors, Marc Sheather kicked a settling goal to help ease the pressure and the Swans got up by 14 points.

Bottom-age talent, Errol Gulden had a day out with 33 disposals, six marks, three tackles, two clearances, eight inside 50s, four rebounds and two goals, with Sam Thorne (23 disposals, four marks, four clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal) also prominent for the Swans. Another talented bottom ager in Braeden Campbell collected 15 disposals, three marks, eight tackles and five inside 50s, while Kyle McKellar and Jackson Barling were also impressive. For the Devils, overager Matthew McGuinness picked up 27 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds, working hard with Patrick Walker (25 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds) and Sam Collins (23 disposals, five marks and nine rebounds) in defence. The Devils’ top rated prospect, Mitch O’Neill helped himself to 21 touches, nine tackles, 12 clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds in the loss.

In the next game at Blacktown, the Brisbane Lions Academy fought back from a disappointing first quarter to down the GIANTS Academy, winning 14.12 (96) to 10.10 (70). GWS led by 19 points at quarter time, but a six goals to three second term had Brisbane just three points down by the main break. A seven goals to three second half saw the Lions run over the top of the GIANTS despite the best efforts of GIANTS star, Tom Green (29 disposals – 18 contested – nine clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and three tackles).

Will Martyn (30 disposals, nine marks, five clearances, five inside 50s and a goal) was busy, as was the likes of Tom Griffiths (20 disposals, six marks and four tackles), Ethan Hunt (19 disposals) and Bruce Reville (16 disposals, eight marks and five inside 50s). Aside from Green, Jeromy Lucas had his fair share of the ball with 24 touches, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Matt McGrory (18 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s), Nick Murray (19 disposals, 10 marks), Lachlan Squire (15 disposals, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Liam Delahunty (15 disposals, seven marks, three inside 50s and three goals) all impressed.

Rounding out the triple header at Blacktown, Gold Coast Suns Academy never looked like losing to Northern Territory. The Suns piled on eight goals to one in the opening half, and while the Thunder hit back in the third term to cut the deficit to 31 points, Gold Coast stepped up again to boot three goals to one in the final term and win by 44 points.

Ashton Crossley had 27 disposals and seven clearances through the midfield, while top prospect, Connor Budarick racked up 22 touches, six marks, nine tackles, five inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal across the ground. Bottom-age talent, Alex Davies had 22 touches, nine clearances, four tackles and four inside 50s, while Max Pescud (20 touches, three clearances and three inside 50s), Hewago Paul Oea (16 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal) and Josh Gore (15 touches, three marks, seven tackles and three goals) all looked lively. Future Sun, Matthew Conroy looked strong through the ruck with 22 hitouts from 15 touches, three marks and a goal.

Heading down to Victoria and Dandenong Stingrays caused a boil-over against premiership contenders, Gippsland Power. The reigning premiers had a new-look line-up after the 2018 success, but started strongly to lead by a goal at quarter time. Gippsland hit the front to have the advantage by half-time, but it flipped again by the last break with the Stingrays in front by four points. When Bailey Schmidt kicked a goal with six minutes to play, the Stingrays hit the front and never surrendered it in a match that had a whopping 11 lead changes.

Mitch Riordan picked up 23 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds in one of his few games before being selected in the mid-season draft, as captain Hayden Young was strong off half-back with 21 disposals, four marks, five tackles and three rebounds. Jack Toner (19 touches, two marks, five tackles, five clearances and seven inside 50s) had a truckload of the ball, while future first round pick, Cody Weightman racked up 14 disposals, five marks, six tackles and a goal. Other future draftees who played in the game included Ned Cahill (12 disposals, seven tackles and a goal), Bigoa Nyuon (six disposals, four marks, four tackles and a goal) and Sam De Koning (four disposals).

For the Power, first round picks Sam Flanders (23 disposals, four marks, four tackles, eight clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) and Caleb Serong (21 disposals, nine tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) were prominent. Another mid-season recruit in Kyle Dunkley (20 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) was lively again, while Leo Connolly (16 disposals, three marks and six rebounds), Fraser Phillips (15 disposals, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) and Harrison Pepper (14 disposals, two marks, two tackles, three clearances and one goal) were among other future draftees who impressed.

In the other Saturday game, Murray Bushrangers had a second heart-breaking loss in a row, losing by five points to Bendigo Pioneers after dropping their first game by under a kick. They led by 18 points at the first change, but the Pioneers booted three goals to zero in the second term to lead by half-time, and then a see-sawing contest ensued with the Pioneers saluting in a thrilling game.

Thomson Dow was busy with 24 disposals, four marks, four tackles, seven clearances and a goal, as fellow first round pick, Brodie Kemp had a strong day out with 17 touches, four marks, three tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s and a goal. Future Swan, Brady Rowles would have 12 touches, two clearances and two inside 50s, while Logan Fitzgerald (22 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and four rebounds) had plenty of the ball. Cam Wild was the prominent ball winner with 30 touches, seven marks, seven tackles, seven clearances, three inside 50s and six rebounds, while top five pick Lachlan Ash had 26 touches, eight marks, three clearances, three inside 50s and seven rebounds. Jye Chalcraft (26 touches, four marks, six clearances and two goals), Will Quirk (23 disposals, 10 marks) and Elijah Hollands (22 disposals, three marks and a goal) were also impressive.

Looking to Sunday, Sandringham Dragons continued their form to start the season with a comfortable 43-point win over Northern Knights. The Dragons booted six goals to two in the opening half and then kept their opponents at arms-length after that to secure a strong win in the first of two games at Trevor Barker Oval.

Ryan Byrnes picked up 24 touches, two marks, four tackles and six clearances, as Louis Butler looked lively across the ground thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Jack Mahony (17 disposals, four marks, seven tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s), Hugo Ralphsmith (17 disposals, three marks), Josh Worrell (17 disposals, seven marks and three rebounds) and Finn Maginness (14 disposals, six tackles and four inside 50s) were among future draftees to win plenty of the ball as Charlie Dean caught attention with four majors from 15 touches and eight marks. Adam Carafa (28 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, seven clearances and four inside 50s) and Sam Philp (18 disposals, eight marks and five clearances) were busy through midfield, while Ryan Gardner (19 disposals, five inside 50s) worked the outside and Ryan Sturgess (22 touches, eight rebounds) was strong in defence.

A dominant six goals to zero first term set Eastern Ranges up for an impressive 63-point win over Western in the second game of a double header at Trevor Barker Oval. With 13 scoring shots to one in the first term, the margin could have been bigger than the 42 points, and while Western managed to stem the bleeding after that, the Ranges had opened up a 58-point lead by the final break to ensure they would enjoy a big win.

Mitch Mellis (35 disposals, four marks, four clearances, five inside 50s and three goals) and Lachlan Stapleton (33 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, six clearances and 10 inside 50s) ran rampant as future Swan, Cody Hirst (29 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and three rebounds) and inside midfielder, Zakery Pretty (23 disposals, two marks, five clearances and five inside 50s were also prominent. Bottom-ager Josh Clarke work hard with his run-and-carry picking up 15 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and a goal, while Josh Tilly capped off his day with three majors. For the Jets, Darcy Cassar had the ball on a string from defence, racking up 31 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and nine rebounds, working in tandem with Daly Andrews (24 disposals, six marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and eight rebounds). Josh Kellett was instrumental mopping up in defence as well with 12 rebounds to go with his 20 touches in the defeat.

In the final game of the round, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels put the Round 1 heart-breaking loss to Dandenong Stingrays to the back of their mind as they came from behind to down the Geelong Falcons by a point in a thrilling contest. Darcy McEldrew kicked the winning goal late in the fourth term to get his side over the line. Jay Rantall was enormous in his second game for the Rebels, racking up 24 disposals, three marks, six tackles, six clearances, seven inside 50s, four rebounds and a goal, while James Cleaver booted two majors from 17 touches in his new role up forward. Cooper Craig-Peters impressive with six clearances, five inside 50s and three rebounds from 19 disposals and eight tackles, while Riley Polkinghorne had seven rebounds working hard out of defence.

Cooper Stephens led from the front in his last full game prior to injury, amassing a game-high 28 touches, four marks, five tackles, four clearances and a goal, while Charlie Lazzaro worked hard as a bottom-ager to pick up 26 touches, four marks, five clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds. Out of defence, Keidan Rayner racked up 10 rebounds with his 25 disposals, while Jesse Clark had nine and 16 respectively. Also busy but in the other half of the ground was Charlie Sprague (23 disposals, three marks and seven inside 50s).

Classic Contests: Downie kicks after-the-siren winner for Ranges

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 2 clashes in the NAB League this year between Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2019, and for Ranges fans, this will be one to savour, while for Cannons fans the ending was a heart-breaking one.

CALDER CANNONS 3.1 | 4.1 | 7.6 | 9.9 (63)
EASTERN RANGES 1.4 | 4.5 | 6.7 | 10.7 (67)

Round 17 | Saturday, August 17, 2019
Avalon Airport Oval, 12.30pm

It was the final round of the season last year and two of the top five teams were doing battle with plenty on the line. While the top of the table Eastern Ranges had sewn up the minor premiership – they were only four points clear of Gippsland Power but a good 28 per cent in excess – it was all about Calder Cannons who sat fifth on the table and percentage out of the top four. The match straight after would see fourth placed Sandringham Dragons and third placed Oakleigh Chargers go at it, with a loss to Sandringham allowing Calder to sneak into fourth spot on the ladder ahead of Wildcard Round if the Cannons could get it done. The Ranges would refuse to make it easy on the Cannons and one of the games of the season ensued with a see-sawing contest with plenty of swings and one of the best end-to-end last plays possible.

Eastern was coming off a narrow five-point win over Dandenong Stingrays a couple of weeks prior – with a development weekend in between – while the Cannons had not played since July 28 where they survived a scare from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels to win by four points. The first term of the clash saw Calder race out of the blocks as Harrison Jones, Curtis Brown and Jackson Cardillo all piled on goals with Eastern’s inaccuracy hurting the Ranges. Trailing by 15 points at one stage, Ranges’ forward Ben Hickleton got his side on the board with a late major. It sparked four consecutive goals for the minor premiers either side of the break as Eastern showed it had come to play. Draft prospects, Jamieson Rossiter, Lachlan Stapleton and Lachlan Gawel all booted majors with Calder not scoring until the 21st minute when Jake Sutton put through a crucial settler. Heading into the main break, the Ranges were back on top, but only marginally – by four points.

Eastern’s leading goalkicker, Jordan Jaworski got his name on the board just 90 seconds into the third term to stretch the margin to 10, before Sutton kicked his second, and defender-cum-forward Mason Fletcher regained the lead for the Cannons with a major 15 minutes into the term. Another lead change occurred when Mihaele Zalac found the big sticks, but that lasted three minutes as Sutton’s third goal provided the Cannons with the lead at the last break. The fourth term might have been slow to get going, but the finish was insane, with the first goal coming 11 minutes into the quarter to Calder’s Jeremy O’Sullivan. Two minutes later, Riley Smith pulled the deficit back to a goal and less than 60 seconds more had expired on the clock when Stapleton levelled the scores. Fletcher booted his second goal of the match 16 minutes into the term and the Cannons held a crucial six-point lead, with a rushed behind to the Cannons with five minutes to play a potential separator between the teams. Hickleton converted his second with four minutes to play, but the Cannons still held the lead. A behind to Ned Gentile made the margin two points with a couple of minutes on the clock, ensuring the Ranges would have to kick a goal to win.

Fast forward to the last 32 seconds of play. The Ranges still trail by two points with the ball in defence and in possession of the pill. They need a near perfect end-to-end play in order to execute the unthinkable and win the match. For Calder, one mark would surely be enough to chew up the clock and hold on for a remarkable upset. With 32 seconds left, Parker has the ball and looks straight down the middle of the ground. He uses his pace to give himself some extra space on an opponent and hits up a loose Mitch Mellis on the back of the centre square. He turns around hoping to play on but an opponent is there, so he thumps the ball as far as he possibly can to a one-on-one at half-forward. Chayce Black and Giacomo Thomas grapple in a marking contest and the umpire determines both – or neither – have infringed and the ball spills to ground. The class and quick thinking of Under 16s star, Tyler Sonsie comes to into play as he collects the loose ball, runs a few metres to the top of the 50 with 17 seconds remaining and puts a lace-out pass to Smith. He has the front position, but Calder’s Declan Tully does enough to force a spill. Brown pounces on the loose ball and goes to take off but runs into teammate, Ben Overman. He bounces back and is immediately set upon by Connor Downie with the ball spilling free with less than 10 seconds on the clock. Overman picks up the loose ball but no sooner has he done that the whistle sounds. The umpire had cited incorrect disposal and now Downie would take the free kick from just 25 metres out on a 35-degree angle. The Calder players protest the free, but it falls on deaf ears as Downie, one of the most accurate kicks for goal in the competition – with 14.2 for the season to that point – slotted the winner. Teammates flocked from everywhere to celebrate, and for the Cannons it meant a missed opportunity to potentially steal fourth spot.

Calder would end up going through to the semi-finals to play Sandringham Dragons – their likely opponent in that match up anyway if they had won this match – before going down, while Eastern would reach the Grand Final with wins over Sandringham and Gippsland Power before falling to eventual premiers, Oakleigh Chargers.

In terms of the performers on the day, the Eastern midfield trio of Mellis (26 disposals, four marks, six clearances and three rebounds), Stapleton (23 disposals, three marks, six tackles, seven clearances, three inside 50s and two goals) and Zakery Pretty (24 disposals, two marks, five tackles, four clearances and four inside 50s were all busy. In defence, James Ross had 17 touches, three marks, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Sonsie showed his class despite being two years below many of his peers with 17 disposals, three tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebounds. In defence, Todd Garner and Billy McCormack combined for 10 rebounds, while the hero Downie had 12 touches, three tackles, three inside 50s and that match-winning goal.

For the Cannons, future-Blue Sam Ramsay had a game-high 27 disposals, two marks, seven tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and two rebounds, while Daniel Mott (21 disposals, four tackles, 10 clearances and six inside 50s) and Gentile (20 disposals, two marks, three tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s) were both busy. Cardillo was lively in the attacking half of the ground with 19 touches, four marks, five tackles, three clearances, five inside 50s and a goal, while Brown was just as prolific in the back half with 17 disposals, three marks and six rebounds. Of the other draftees, Jones had 17 disposals, four marks, four hitouts, two inside 50s and a goal, while Lachlan Gollant finished with 10 disposals, two tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s in the loss.