Tag: murray

Q&A: Ally Morphett & India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

THE 2021 NAB League Girls season bounces down on Saturday, and Draft Central‘s coverage of the elite talent pathway is heating up. We chatted to a raft of prospects at the recent NAB League Girls preseason testing day, hosted by Rookie Me, with a running theme between the players their eagerness to get back to competitive action after an 11-month layoff.

Murray Bushrangers products Ally Morphett and India Lehman were among them, two top-agers keen to show their worth in 2021 as draft-eligible talents. Morphett is a ruck/key forward who was named in this year’s AFLW Academy, while Lehman is a roving small who runs through the midfield and forwardline.

Check out what they had to say on the season ahead in a Q&A special, with video content from their Bushies teammates set to hit our YouTube channel in the coming days.

>> 2021 Season Preview: Murray Bushrangers 


Q: What has your footballing journey been like so far?

Morphett (AM): “It started in 2018, I got asked by one of my school teachers to come and play school footy. “I’ve been around footy my whole life, my family and parents have always been into it so why not? (I) just jumped into it, had a go. “I suppose my parents and coaches saw potential in me and I got invited to Riverina trials and it just kept going further and further from then, on.”

Lehman (IL): “I started back when I was a young one, my local town had a little Auskick program happening. “There wasn’t very many of us, there were only a couple of little girls running around. “I remember only one of my close mates was with me then, running around the Auskick field. “There was a bit of primary school footy after and mainly school footy got me into where I am now.”

Q: What kind of role or position are you looking to play this season?

AM: “Most people see me more as a ruck but I would like to be a bit more of a versatile player and be more a key forward as well. “(Playing forward) is fun but I do enjoy both roles very much.”

IL: “I’ll look to hopefully play in the midfield, keep in my position there. “I look to be a better player each game, improving my game, learning more skills and applying them.”

Q: What are your best on-field strengths?

AM: “My strengths would probably be strength in the air and in the ruck… and probably just a big kick as well.”

IL: “My strengths I’d see as speed, I’ve definitely got that on me. “I’m good to just pick up the ball, get on the burners and take on the grass, taking on the game.”

Q: What are you still looking to improve on?

AM: “Obviously my marking, there’s always room for improvement in every area but probably my marking most. “I’d like to be a lot more strong.”

IL: “I’m looking to build on just overall endurance to keep running as long as possible, as much as I can. “And I guess you can never have clean enough hands.”

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?

AM: “Definitely my parents – my parents work just as hard as me, if not more. “They commit a lot to me playing football, they have to miss out on work all the time and I don’t know how they manage to get time to take me to games and training and everything, so I appreciate their help.”

IL: Definitely Tayla Harris, making an image in the AFLW world for all the young girls. “And in recent events, Tarni Evans, coming from the club that I’m playing for and making it into the big leagues is pretty inspiring.”

Q: What are some of your goals for 2021?

AM: “Just to keep pushing through and trying to get better and better every time because there’s always room for improvement. “And probably just to be a more versatile player.”

IL: “The goal is to just have an injury-free season, get through the season and hopefully get noticed really.”

Q: What has the travel factor been like for you over your journey?

AM: During preseason we did two and a half hours down to Wangaratta just for training, around twice a week. “Then obviously during season we had to travel about five hours up to Melbourne for games and sometimes two and a half for local games at Wangaratta. “Canberra’s around the same.”

Q: How good was it being able to play football during 2020?

AM: “Lucky we live where we do because we travel down to Victoria and since coronavirus happened, luckily enough Canberra kept pushing through with their football so we were lucky enough to put our time into their league and travel down there every week.”

Murray Bushrangers Talent Operations Lead Mick Wilson on…

Morphett: “Ally’s a very talented sportsperson. “She competes really well, is really skilled. “She competes well above her head and has played football for a while now so has the footy nous.”

Lehman: “India Lehman is a smaller player. “She’s a rover/defensive pressure forward. “All these girls are really talented players, we didn’t get to see much of them last year, but we’ve got a really good opportunity to see them this year which is great.”

The final frontier: TAC Cup sides jostle for finals spots

WITH just two rounds remaining, the top two sides are locked in, the third to sixth sides cannot move from those four positions, seventh is almost secured, and eighth is up for grabs. Eleven teams are still in the hunt with a fortnight to go, but that can all change this weekend, with several crucial finals-defining clashes occuring. We take a look at the possibilities and which sides face off in the final two rounds of the TAC Cup season.

1 Geelong Falcons – 13-3 | 162% | 52 points
R17: Eastern Ranges
R18: Dandenong Stingrays

It seems to be said every season, but Geelong has set itself up to be in the best position come finals time. They cannot drop out of the top two with just two games remaining meaning they will face either Northern Knights, or one of the four teams battling for eighth spot. Given the tight proximity between the top six sides, finishing top two is incredibly important under the new finals series where there are no double chances. The next two games will be tough for the Falcons, with the two sides the top two premiership contenders from the start of the year. Given there’s every chance the Stingrays and Ranges face off in the first week of finals, they will be keen to knock off the Falcons and head into the finals series with some serious momentum behind them.

2 Oakleigh Chargers – 13-3 | 160% | 52 points
R17: Bendigo Pioneers
R18: Eastern Ranges

After a year that ended one short of the big dance, the Chargers are back in contention again, and, like the Falcons, have wrapped up a top two spot. The Chargers will face either Northern Knights or one of the four teams battling for eighth spot, which is a better result for them than a potential clash with a full strength Sandringham or Eastern. The Chargers should beat the Pioneers this weekend, but Jarrod Brander and possibly Lochie O’Brien back in Bendigo colours, it could be a closer match than many might anticipate. A final round showdown with the Ranges will be a good tune up for the finals series.

3 Dandenong Stingrays – 11-5 | 121% | 44 points
R17: Sandringham Dragons
R18: Geelong Falcons

This weekend’s clash with Sandringham will determine if the Stingrays finish top four or fifth. They would guarantee a top four spot with a victory over the Dragons, while a loss would mean they could slip as far as fifth this weekend. They cannot drop further than fifth given their superior percentage over Eastern, but with the new finals series, it means the Stingrays will face one of Eastern, Sandringham or Murray in the first round of finals. They played well on the weekend against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels, but with two very tough encounters in the next fortnight, nothing is a given from here on in.

4 Sandringham Dragons – 10-6 | 123% | 40 points
R17: Dandenong Stingrays
R18: Northern Knights

The Dragons are locked in a percentage battle with Murray Bushrangers and would be keen to grab some percentage boosting wins over the next fortnight. Unfortunately for the Dragons, both the Stingrays and Knights could be very stiff opposition, but it’s fair to say the Dragons will need to win at least one of those to guarantee a top four spot. With the new finals series that does not mean a double chance, but at least it potentially means facing a full-strength Murray in the finals – which it would have seen throughout the season – than a full-strength Eastern or potentially Dandenong again should it lose. Murray has the easier run home so the Dragons will need to win both to assure a top four place.

Sandringham Dragons midfielder Charlie Constable is peaking at the right time to push the Dragons towards back-to-back premierships.

5 Murray Bushrangers – 10-6 | 122% | 40 points
R17: Northern Knights
R18: Gippsland Power

The Bushrangers could theoretically drop to sixth with a couple of losses, but in all likelihood they finish fourth or fifth. The Bushrangers have been consistent all season and while Geelong had their measure on the weekend, the Bushrangers will head into their final two games as favourites. They should beat Northern on form, but again that is a line-ball call, while Gippsland have shown heart throughout the season and are no easy-beats either. But win both and they finish higher than their opponents in the first week of finals.

6 Eastern Ranges – 9-7 | 99% | 36 points
R17: Geelong Falcons
R18: Oakleigh Chargers

Eastern Ranges cannot drop out of sixth so the final two games will ultimately test where they are situated heading into the finals series. Playing the top two sides without the fear of falling any lower is a positive thing for the Ranges, knowing if they can match it with the Falcons and Chargers, they can knock off anyone in the finals series and be the ‘dark horse’. Many tipped them for the flag, and now they have a full-strength side together, expect the Ranges to put the foot down and show their premiership wares with the likes of Sam Hayes, Jaidyn Stephenson and Joel Garner all rotating through the midfield which is ominous for any opposition side. The loss of Adam Cerra (out for the season with a shoulder injury) will be a blow, but the Ranges have shown they have plenty of depth in the midfield with the likes of Dylan Moore and Trent Mynott both having represented Vic Metro during the season.

7 Northern Knights – 6-9-1 | 82% 26 points
R17: Murray Bushrangers
R18: Sandringham Dragons

Northern are in a position where they cannot afford to rest on their laurels and fall into finals, both because A) they are not locked in and B) because they cannot drop a few games to finals-bound sides heading into the post-season series. The Knights have performed well throughout the season, but coming up against full strength sides they have drifted slightly, and they will have their work cut out for them in the final fortnight. They face Murray and Sandringham, two sides looking to cement a top four spot, even though top four is not what it used to be. For the Knights to drop out of the eight, Gippsland would need to win at least one game, and/or Calder, Western or GWV Rebels win both games. It’s an unlikely, but still possible scenario, with one win in the final two rounds to sew up a finals spot.

8 Gippsland Power – 6-10 | 87% 24 points
R17: Western Jets
R18: Murray Bushrangers

The Power continue to impress and just grind out wins despite momentum seemingly against them at times. The Pioneers threw everything at them and the Power wilted the storm and ran out victors on the weekend to retain eighth spot. It means they now not only have a four-point advantage over their rivals, but a big percentage difference too. A victory against Western this weekend will all but sew up a spot, with Calder needing to win its final two games and chase down 11 per cent to make finals. A loss to Western however, and the Power would almost certainly need to knock off Murray in the last round to secure eighth. Regardless, if they make finals they will face either Geelong or Oakleigh in the first week.

Gippsland Power’s Callum Porter has been one of the Power’s best players in 2017.

9 Calder Cannons – 5-11 | 76% | 20 points
R17: GWV Rebels
R18: Western Jets

The Cannons are still well and truly in the finals hunt, but need to win their games and hope either Gippsland or Northern drop their matches. The Cannons are just as likely to win their final two games as they are to lose them, with the sides they face backing themselves in to take home the points. If Calder can get the job done and watch the Power or Northern lose both, then the Cannons could jump as high as seventh with a bit of luck. But lose to the Rebels this weekend and their finals campaign is done and dusted with a huge percentage chase required in the final round to catch up.

10 Western Jets – 5-11 | 75% | 20 points
R17: Gippsland Power
R18: Calder Cannons

The Western Jets arguably hold the most power in their hands because they can knock off their two closest rivals for eighth spot. If they can defeat Gippsland this weekend, then all of a sudden they arguably sit in pole position for eighth spot. The Power would go in as underdogs against the Bushrangers, while the Jets would face the Cannons for the final top eight spot. But if the Jets lose to the Power this weekend, then it is game over, no second chances. A victory against the Power this weekend is non-negotiable and with Lachlan Fogarty and Cam Rayner in the side and the team hitting form, they would back themselves to win the final two games.

11 GWV Rebels – 4-11-1 | 80% | 18 points
R17: Calder Cannons
R18: Bendigo Pioneers

Much like the other bottom four sides, the Rebels will head into the final two rounds confident of coming away with two wins. But even then it may not be enough because the permutations required to make finals are hopeful more than realistic based on the face the other sides battling for eighth are facing each other and therefore a side must win (or draw). One aspect on the Rebels’ side is their percentage, which is higher than Calder or Western, but with a draw, they are two points adrift from those two teams. It does help them if they can win both and Northern lose both as chances are the Rebels make up the two per cent difference. But even then, they need Gippsland to either lose both, and the winner of the Western and Calder clash to lose their other game. Basically, the Rebels need Calder to defeat Western, Western to defeat Gippsland and Gippsland to lose to the Bushrangers.

12 Bendigo Pioneers – 3-13 | 71% | 12 points
R17: Oakleigh Chargers
R18: GWV Rebels

It is a genuine shame that Bendigo will miss out on finals for another year given it has had its strongest side in some time with three first round prospects and a number of others likely to get drafted. Unfortunately, school football and state representative duties have hurt the Pioneers and they cannot finish higher than tenth, and even then they would need Western and the Rebels to lose both. I imagine Oakleigh would be wary of the Pioneers this weekend given they are much better than their ladder position suggests, while a final round clash with the Rebels could end the Rebels’ finals hopes.

Weekend That Was – Round 6

A STERLING victory by Bendigo Pioneers over Sandringham Dragons has helped the Pioneers move within percentage of a top eight spot.

Bendigo led throughout the game, but it was a six goals to three third term which saw the Pioneers move 19 points clear, before holding on in a dour final term to win 11.13 (79) to 8.10 (58).

Darby Henderson led all comers with 35 disposals, eight marks, five clearances, six rebounds and three inside 50s, while Angus Schumacher (28 disposals, eight marks, four clearances, four inside 50s and five rebounds) and Matt Harvey (23 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and two goals) were also impressive.

For the Dragons, Hamish Brayshaw had another big day across the ground with 32 disposals, four marks, five tackles, eight clearances, seven inside 50s and four rebounds. Fellow over-ager Ari Sakeson also racked up 30 disposals and 11 marks, while Quintin Montanaro had 25 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and kicked a goal.

TAC Cup scouting notes: Round Six

A strong third term by Oakleigh Chargers put their result beyond doubt against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. The Chargers booted six goals to zero in the premiership quarter to lead by 45 points at the final break, before holding up the Rebels with the breeze in the final term, to win 12.10 (82) to 6.6 (42).

Jack Higgins collected 28 disposals, four marks, four clearances and booted a goal, while Louis Cunningham continued his good form with 24 disposals (16 contested), 10 clearances, 10 tackles, five inside 50s and a goal playing further up the ground than his typical defensive role. Sam Harte had 27 disposals, four clearances and four inside 50s, while Jordan Troiani laid seven tackles to go with his 21 disposals, seven inside 50s and two goals.

For the Rebels, Callan Wellings laid nine tackles from 19 disposals in defeat, while Jordan Johnston (16 disposals, five marks and five clearances) and Matty Lloyd (16 disposals, eight tackles and nine rebounds) were also in the Rebels’ best.

Murray Bushrangers held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit during the Bushrangers’ 19-point win over the cellar dwellers. Leading by five goals at half-time, the Bushrangers had their work cut out for them in the third term as the Cannons booted six goals to two, clawing their way back to within 10 points. The Bushrangers steadied in the final term, booting 3.4 to 2.1 to win 10.17 (77) to 9.4 (58).

Harry Jones was busy once again with 26 disposals, four clearances, eight inside 50s and seven tackles, while Nick Richards (25 disposals, four marks and five tackles) and Ben Paton (19 disposals, four marks and five rebounds) were also important for the winners.

Mitch Podhajski (24 disposals, nine marks and seven rebounds) and Ben Caluzzi (22 disposals, six marks and seven rebounds) were prominent behind the ball, while Aidan Tilley took 12 marks (three contested) from 18 disposals playing in the defensive half. Top prospect Noah Balta had 13 disposals, 19 hitouts, three clearances and six inside 50s.

Eastern Ranges held on against a fast finishing Gippsland Power to record their second win over the season. Leading by 17 points at half-time, the Ranges had to battle tooth and nail in the second half as Gippsland booted six goals to four to come within two points at the final siren.

Sam Hayes’ draft stocks continued to rise with six goals and 18 hitouts for the Ranges with a best on ground performance by the big man. Others to impress were returning midfielders Dylan Moore and Trent Mynott who combined for a whopping 65 disposals, 19 clearances, 20 tackles, 10 inside 50s and two goals, while Thomas North and Jordan Lynch were also promising again.

For Gippsland, Will Stephenson continues to put his hand up into draft calculations with 25 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s, 12 tackles and two goals. Callum Porter was just as impressive with 25 disposals, three marks, seven clearances, eight inside 50s and 13 tackles, while Aiden Quigley had 21 disposals, three marks, three clearances, four tackles and a goal.

In another tight encounter, Northern Knights got up over Dandenong Stingrays by three points after an impressive final term. The Knights trailed by 15 points at the final break, but added 4.6 to Dandenong’s 2.0 to run over the top of the Stingrays 10.9 (69) to 9.12 (66).

Mitch Andrews had 33 disposals, 12 marks, seven rebounds and five tackles, while Jamison Shea (25 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s, four goals and 10 tackles) and Jack Petruccelle (20 disposals, four marks, six tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) were the Knights’ best. Nicholas Coffield booted the winning goal of the day, one of two from the Knights’ skipper, who also racked up 22 disposals and six marks.

PLAYER FOCUS: Nicholas Coffield

For Dandenong, Hunter Clark had a day out with 34 disposals (20 contested), four marks, 11 clearances, seven tackles, 10 inside 50s, five rebounds and a goal – but his efficiency by foot was poor. Over-ager Tom Murphy racked up 29 disposals, six clearances and seven inside 50s, while Tom De Koning booted three goals from 17 disposals.

In the other remaining game, top-of-the-table Geelong Falcons got the job done against Western Jets in a four-goal victory. They did not have it all their own way and only led by six points by the final break before kicking away with the only three goals of the last quarter to win 15.9 (99) to 11.9 (75).

Sam Walsh had 34 disposals (18 contested), eight clearances, eight inside 50s and six tackles, while James Worpel had his best game of the year with 32 disposals, five marks, 11 clearances, eight inside 50s, nine tackles and two goals. Bayley Cockerill also had 11 clearances and seven inside 50s from 30 disposals, while Gryan Miers booted four goals from 17 disposals.

For the Jets, Nicholas Stuhldreier continues to stand up with another 34 disposals (17 contested), six marks, seven clearances, seven tackles and four inside 50s. Jaden Rice had 27 disposals, eight clearances and 12 tackles, while Matthew Volkanovski had a dominant 40 hitouts from 11 disposals in the middle.

Final hurdle for finals-bound clubs

DS - Sam Fowler
Dandenong Stingrays small Sam Fowler against NSW/ACT in the 2016 TAC Cup.

FIVE of the six TAC Cup games remaining in the home and away season will have bearing on the finals order.

As it stands the four country teams will earn the double chance and the four metropolitan teams will face off in the elimination rounds.

But, that can change with a couple of results, as could the actual fixtures.

The top five teams are locked into those top five positions, while the sixth to eighth teams will definitely play an elimination final in the first week.

The first game on Saturday takes place at RAMS Arena with the finals-bound Cannons looking to capitalise against the Western Jets.

The Cannons’ percentage is well below that of the Ranges or Chargers, so victory is needed to have any chance of leapfrogging those teams into sixth.

However should one or both of those teams cause upsets, then the Cannons would remain in eighth and a match-up against the Rebels or Dragons would loom.

For the Cannons, they rely on their group as a collective with less top-end talent than other sides, they have a hard working midfield that digs deep defensively and tries to undo the opposition with their ball movement.

With Hayden Blythe, Jackson McDonald and Zach Guthrie among the names to watch, the Cannons might not be a premiership contender, but they have the capability to cause an upset on their day.

For Western Jets, they have had a shaky end to the season, but almost all was forgotten with a sterling win over the Bendigo Pioneers last weekend.

The Jets are missing their star Daniel Venables, while Brodie Romensky and Oscar Junker are a couple of players that would be on recruiters lists.


The Saturday game likely to shape the eight the most will be the North Ballarat Rebels versus Eastern Ranges.

If the Rebels win, then the top four is sealed regardless of Sundays results, however if the Ranges get up, then the door is left ajar for the Sandringham Dragons who are hot favourites to knock off the Bendigo Pioneers.

North Ballarat has a host of talented players, led by Hugh McCluggage, Cedric Cox, Jarrod Berry and Willem Drew in the midfield.

North Ballarat Rebels midfielder Hugh McCluggage in action against Calder Cannons in the 2016 TAC Cup.
North Ballarat Rebels midfielder Hugh McCluggage in action against Calder Cannons in the 2016 TAC Cup.

Throw in capable key position players and crafty smaller players, the Rebels should go in favourites, especially at home.

But at full strength, Eastern will certainly consider themselves a chance given their long list of All-Australians, including Dylan Clarke, Jack Maibaum, Callum Brown and Sam Hayes who are likely to have a say on how far the Ranges go in September.

Another benefit for the Ranges if they win is they will not have to face the Dragons or in fact Rebels in the elimination final, rather taking on either the Calder Cannons or Oakleigh Charges.

The game that impacts both the top four and bottom four of the eight is Oakleigh Chargers versus Murray Bushrangers.

Murray has enough percentage on Sandringham to ensure a top four place regardless of the result, however could slip to fourth if North Ballarat defeats Eastern.

For the Bushrangers, there is no shortage of stars with Todd Marshall, Will Brodie, Zachary Sproule and Ryan Garthwaite among a host of draftable players, and the league’s most northern side has achieved a double chance without the injured Jy Simpkin.

Murray Bushrangers tall Todd Marshall in action for Allies in the Under 18 Championships.
Murray Bushrangers tall Todd Marshall in action for Allies in the Under 18 Championships.

Oakleigh is gunning for its third consecutive flag and fourth in five years when it enters the finals series this year.

It won the 2015 premiership from sixth and is still in with a chance to finish there again.

Should they win, the Chargers will not finish lower than seventh and could well steal sixth if the Ranges lose.

The Chargers have a lot of tall prospects worth keeping an eye on including Patrick KerrJordan Ridley and Nick Larkey, while Sam McLarty is still out injured. Other players such as Taylin Duman and Lachlan Walker have also attracted interest from recruiters.

While eyes will be on most of the games this round, the one game that is unlikely to have any bearing other than pride is the Northern Knights hosting the Gippsland Power.

Both teams have improved as the season has progressed, but neither side will challenge for finals.

The winner is likely to avoid the wooden spoon, while the loser could collect it depending on other results.

Northern have a number of players that have caught the eye this season including Matthew Signorello, Luke Bunker, Lachlan Murphy and Patrick Lipinski.

For the Power, Ben Ainsworth is the leading hope and likely first round prospect, while Sean Masterson is another that earned a state combine invitation.

The first game on the card for Sunday will be the Sandringham Dragons taking on the Bendigo Pioneers.

Both sides had poor losses last week and the Pioneers will be keen to turn it around in their final home and away game.

The Dragons have more on the line however and will need victory for a top four spot.

Sandringham has the advantage of knowing its equation heading into the match with the Rebels and Ranges facing off the day before.

The only other way the Dragons could secure a top four spot is with a 14 per cent differential with the Bushrangers, meaning that not only would Sandringham need a thumping win, but Murray would need to be belted by the Chargers for the Bushrangers to drop out of the four.

Sandringham is the slickest of all teams with Andrew McGrath, Tim Taranto and Oliver Florent among the smoothest movers in the draft crop, while Jack Scrimshaw has attracted a lot of interest from recruiters after missing most of the year through injury.

For the Pioneers, Joe Atley will be the key player to watch, while Kobe Mutch yet again misses as does Kayle Kirby who is playing Richmond VFL.

Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.
Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Joe Atley in action for Vic Country in the 2016 Under 18 Championships.

It is hard to see the Pioneers really challenging the Dragons given the Dragons’ top-end talent, but they have the power to cause an upset if they are on their game.

The final match of the round is more about determining top spot with Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays facing off at Simonds Stadium.

Both will finish first and second, it will be a simple equation with the winner claiming the minor premiership.

One side will take on Murray, while the other will meet either the North Ballarat or Sandringham.

The Falcons belted Calder last week and hit the form they are capable of ahead of finals.

Missing Alex Witherden, at least for now, the Falcons have relied on the likes of Jack Henry, Jack Blood, Max Augerinos and Paddy Dowling among others to keep their season running smoothly.

For Dandenong Stingrays, it has a wide variety of draftable players, with Josh Battle, Reece Piper, Sam Fowler and Myles Poholke just to name a few.

If the Stingrays get on top and all their players fire, they are right up there in contention for the flag.

With a round to play, there is still plenty on the line for the TAC Cup clubs.

For the finalists, there will be a week off before finals with the four bottom teams playing at Ikon Park on August 27.

Weekend That Was – Round 15



THE 2016 TAC Cup finalists were officially decided in a round that could prove to shape the eight.

In arguably the two most important games for determining the eight sides competing in finals, Oakleigh Chargers won and Bendigo Pioneers lost, meaning anything short of a disaster/miracle would turn the teams’ retrospective seasons around.

Oakleigh had the first crack at locking away a top eight spot and it certainly did not come easy.

Despite playing the lowly Northern Knights, the Chargers were pushed the whole way and trailed by seven points at the final break.

Luckily, with the carrot of finals dangling in front of them, the Chargers steadied and booted five goals to three to run out 16.8 (104) to 15.8 (98) winners.

Bottom-ager Jack Higgins again starred with 34 disposals, seven marks, three tackles and three goals, while for the Knights, Luke Bunker was crucial in the midfield battle with 34 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and three goals.

Meanwhile the Bendigo Pioneers were unable to overcome a powerful North Ballarat Rebels side.

The Rebels had a few players missing who competed for St Patrick’s in the Herald Sun Shield grand final at the MCG on Saturday, but it mattered little as they fought over a dogged Bendigo Pioneers with a superb third quarter burst.

After trailing by six points at quarter time and seven points at half-time, the Rebels flicked a switch, slamming on 10 goals to two in a dominant quarter to lead by 45 points at the final break.

They continued their good form with three last quarter goals, to make it a 58-point win, and a 65-point turnaround since half-time.

There are very few superlatives left to describe potential number one draft pick Hugh McCluggage, who brought his own ball with him, amassing 37 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two goals in a dominant performance.

Over-ager James Gow finished with 27 disposals and seven marks, while for the Pioneers, bottom-ager Darby Henderson topped the disposal count with 30 disposals, three marks, two tackles and a goal.

At the other end of the ladder, Geelong Falcons managed to hold on to top spot – or so it thought – with a narrow seven-point victory over Eastern Ranges.

Trailing by 10 points at half-time, the Falcons nutted out a four goals to two third term, which proved to be the difference as they managed to get up 13.14 (92) to 13.7 (85).

Zachary Zdybel impressed from the ruck with 21 disposals, eight marks and a goal to go with his 19 hitouts, while for the Ranges, top 10 bottom-age prospect Jaidyn Stephenson booted five goals in an impressive performance up forward.

While victory seemed the logical way for Geelong to maintain the top spot, percentage came into play and Dandenong Stingrays stole pole position with a huge 62-point win over the Western Jets.

Not many people gave the Jets a chance after a few down weeks, and Dandenong made sure it did not either with a seven goals to one opening term to race away to a 39-point quarter time advantage.

Western fought its way back to within 26 points at half-time, before the Stingrays reloaded and booted eight goals to three in the second half and run out 62-point victors.

Myles Poholke led all comers with 29 disposals, five marks and a goal, while small forward Sam Fowler had his best game for the season with 28 disposals, six tackles and two goals.

For the Jets, Brodie Romensky racked it up with 38 touches, three marks, seven tackles and five hitouts in a strong all-round game.

In the battle for third spot, Murray Bushrangers got the better of Sandringham Dragons with a 17-point win.

The Dragons blew Murray away in the first term, holding them scoreless as they booted 5.4.

Murray clawed its way back into the contest with a three goals to one second term, but Sandringham managed to hold a 19-point advantage at the final break.

It was not long before Murray cut the deficit, slamming home seven goals to one, running over the top of the Dragons and securing the 11.10 (76) to 8.11 (59) win.

Zach Sproule finished with 25 disposals, while James Cousins and Todd Marshall both booted three goals for the Bushrangers.

For the Dragons, Hamish Brayshaw had a rounded performance with 24 disposals, 10 marks, 10 tackles and a goal, while Corey Lyons collected 32 disposals.

Sixth spot suddenly looks in danger after Calder Cannons dropped their match to Gippsland Power by 23 points.

After trailing by 15 points at quarter time, the Cannons booted five goals to one to head into the main break 13 points in front and many thought that would roll on in the second half.

Instead, Gippsland came out firing, booting 8.9 to 1.0 in a complete domination that resulted in a 38-point last break lead.

While Calder fought back with a four goals to two final quarter, it was a case of too little, too late for the Cannons with the Power recording an impressive 14.16 (100) to 11.11 (77) victory.

Josh Patullo had a day out for the Power with 29 disposals, five marks, 27 hitouts, 12 clearances, two tackles and a goal in a best on ground performance.

For the Cannons, Mitch Lewis finished with 33 disposals, 13 marks, 12 hitouts and four goals in an equally impressive

Pioneers rely on Knights in last gasp finals hope

Round 3 of the TAC Cup begins Friday night under lights at Bayswater.

THE top eight of the TAC Cup is not yet sealed, but the lid is quickly closing.

After Bendigo Pioneers’ upset of Oakleigh Chargers last weekend, the Pioneers and to a lesser extent the Western Jets, still have a chance of making the eight.

But for the Pioneers, their finals hopes lie with the Northern Knights in the hope that the twelfth placed Knights can upset the Chargers this weekend.

If, and it’s a big if, that the Knights can get the job done and Bendigo can upset the North Ballarat Rebels, then all of a sudden, the door is ajar for the competition’s underdog.

Next round, the Pioneers take on the Jets with a real chance to win, while the Chargers meet a full-strength Sandringham Dragons and Murray Bushrangers in the last two rounds.

In other words, if the Pioneers can win the next two matches and Oakleigh lose, the door is ajar.

But they will need a repeat performance like they did against the Chargers to get the job done.

In other matches, Dandenong Stingrays will be highly fancied to potentially steal top spot with victory over the Western Jets.

The Stingrays are seven per cent behind Geelong Falcons, but if last week’s form is anything to go by, the Stingrays will be highly fancied.

For the Jets, much like the Pioneers, they will need to win against the Stingrays and then defeat Bendigo to steal eighth spot.

They could also win their last two matches, but would need to rely on other results up until that point.

In the match of the round, fourth placed Sandringham Dragons takes on Murray Bushrangers.

With the top four seemingly locked away a couple of weeks ago, it is now very much up for grabs.

Both sides will also be hoping the Pioneers can cause an upset against the Rebels, who are coming hard and fast at the top four.

Just six points adrift of both the Bushrangers and Dragons, a win against Bendigo would see them get within two points of one of the sides.

Or maybe even four points of both of the sides should they draw, and while most might think that is a slim possibility, many will remember the tough fought draw between the teams in Wangaratta earlier in the year.

The winner gets a top four spot, the loser will have to win the remaining games to guarantee itself a place in the top four.

Meanwhile we have talked about the consequences for Oakleigh if they lose to the Knights, but for Northern, they have an opportunity to jump to tenth with a win against the Chargers.

If they can do that, then they will be pleased with their second half form and will only finish a couple of wins outside the eight.

In one match that probably has less bearing than the others is the Calder Cannons vs. Gippsland Power clash.

Calder’s loss to North Ballarat has ruled it out of a top five spot, meaning it will likely face Eastern Ranges in the elimination final.

Whether the Cannons are the sixth of seventh placed team is yet to be seen, but unless Oakleigh causes a few upsets or Calder completely falls off the bandwagon, that is the one final which is locked in.

The final match of the round will create some intrigue around the make-up of the top four.

Geelong takes on Eastern Ranges in what is quite simply a must win game.

The Falcons might not be likely to drop out of the top four, but drop this match and North Ballarat might give them a run for their money.

Geelong are a consistent top four side, but have not had as much success in finals as other teams with travelling catching up with them and the metropolitan teams going back to full strength.

The Falcons have good depth, but will want to put themselves in the best possible position heading into finals.

For Eastern, a victory will just assure them of that top seven spot, and the Ranges can book a date with Calder in the elimination final.

With three rounds remaining, the weekend preview will provide a predicted ladder and first week of finals based on what I expect to happen in the remaining rounds.

Peter Williams’ Predicted ladder:

1 – Murray Bushrangers (54)

2 – Dandenong Stingrays (52)

3 – Sandringham Dragons (50)

4 – Geelong Falcons (48)

5 – North Ballarat Rebels (48)

6 – Calder Cannons (36)

7 – Eastern Ranges (32)

8 – Oakleigh Chargers (24)

9 – Bendigo Pioneers (20)

10 – Northern Knights (16)

11 – Western Jets (16)

12 – Gippsland Power (12)

Week 1 predicted finals:

QF1: Murray Bushrangers vs. Geelong Falcons

QF2: Dandenong Stingrays vs. Sandringham Dragons

EF1: North Ballarat Rebels vs. Oakleigh Chargers

EF2: Calder Cannons vs. Eastern Ranges

Last chance for finals hopefuls

Ikon Park hosted the Vic Country trial games on Sunday.

FOR some teams, Round 14 of the TAC Cup will be a final chance to stake their claim for finals.

Others will look to the weekend as a way of cementing a double chance, or taking away a top eight spot from an opposition team.

A number of clashes are expected to highlight the round on both Saturday and Sunday which should provide entertaining matches.

Kicking off the round is arguably the match of the round when Sandringham Dragons host Dandenong Stingrays at Trevor Barker Oval.

The Dragons are marginally ahead of the Stingrays by two points, so this game could alter the top four places.

With a win, Sandringham will at worst, move four points clear of third, while if the Stingrays get the points, they will leapfrog the Dragons and put pressure on the top-of-the-table Falcons.

Across at Preston, Northern Knights take on the Eastern Ranges, in a match that will have greater ramifications for the latter if the result causes an upset.

The Ranges seem home and hosed inside the top eight, but a loss could see them drop to the edge of the eight and potentially only percentage ahead of Western Jets – the side they dismantled last week.

For the Knights, finals has been a fair way out of the picture, and barring an unbeaten run to the finish, will be eyeing off impressing recruiters and trying to wreck the Ranges’ finals chances.

Up north, Murray Bushrangers host Western Jets in Wangaratta.

In what could be the strongest Bushrangers side to date, the Jets would be forgiven for being a little daunted on the bus trip north.

Coming off a hiding against Eastern Ranges, they will look to bounce back against the Bushrangers, however Murray will be keen to secure a top four spot with a win.

If the Bushrangers win, it is going to be tough for anyone to push inside the top eight, with an eight-point gap potentially opening up between eighth and ninth.

The one match not too many people will cast an eye over is the Gippsland Power and Geelong Falcons match.

But don’t be fooled, while it may appear as a one-sided contest between first and last, there will still be plenty of talent on show.

Both sides have talented bottom-age players who could stake a claim early for next year’s draft, while there is not only pride on the line for the Power.

If Gippsland shock the Falcons, it will give the Power confidence heading into the final rounds and could get off the bottom with a win against the Knights in the final round.

For Geelong, they simply cannot lose. If they do, then they will forfeit top spot, but win and they could maintain a gap on the rest of the competition and officially claim a double chance.

In the last game on Saturday, Oakleigh Chargers will effectively play off for a top eight spot with the Bendigo Pioneers.

Win, and the top eight seems done and dusted with an eight-point gap.

Lose, and suddenly it could be wide open with the Pioneers and Jets both chasing that eighth spot.

It will mean more for the Pioneers to win after two disappointing losses against sides it would have hoped to have beaten, and if they lose here, it will be curtains on their season.

Win, and their finals hopes still have a heartbeat, albeit a faint one.

In the final match of the round and the exclusive Sunday game, North Ballarat Rebels will take on Calder Cannons in a battle of fifth versus sixth at Eureka Stadium.

If the Rebels win, the top five are settled, however lose and the Cannons draw level and all of a sudden the sides could battle for the two spots.

It is unlikely Calder will challenge for a top four spot being 10 points behind, however if the Rebels win, they could draw within as little as four points.

Keep an eye out on AFL Draft Central for the recap of all the games.

Weekend That Was – Round 13

Josh Battle in action for Dandenong Stingrays. (Photo by Jack Thomas/AFL Media/Getty Images)
Josh Battle in action for Dandenong Stingrays. (Photo by Jack Thomas/AFL Media/Getty Images)

NAILBITERS, comebacks and finals-shaping results all featured in round 13 of the TAC Cup.

In the first game of the round, Calder Cannons got up to all but lock in a finals place with a narrow five-point win.

The Cannons had to survive a scare from the Northern Knights however, leading by 25 points at half-time, Calder had to withstand a strong comeback from Northern to hold them off by less than a goal.

Northern has not had too much to smile about this season, but Matthew Signorello continued his good form with 27 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and a goal, while Carlton eligible father/son Jake Bradley finished with 21 disposals and seven marks.

Calder was missing leading goal kicker Karl Brown who took to the VFL, but managed to get the job done with seven individual goal scorers from the 10 goals.

Ben Ronke stepped up with 23 disposals, three marks, 10 tackles and a goal in the win.

In the second game at RAMS Arena, North Ballarat Rebels claimed a vital scalp over Murray Bushrangers to remain in touch with the top four.

The Rebels led by just three points at half-time, but ran out 17-point winners on the back of another vintage Hugh McCluggage performance.

The potential number one pick racked up 36 disposals, eight marks, six tackles and booted three goals in a best on ground performance.

Over-ager James Gow had another impressive game, collecting 31 disposals and eight marks.

For the Bushrangers, James Cousins was again the highest disposal winner with 24, while Lachlan Tiziani added another three goals to his season total. Likely top 10 selections Todd Marshall (concussion) and Will Brodie (shoulder) suffered injuries in the contest.

Heading into the match at Trevor Barker Oval, many believed Sandringham Dragons would do a number on cellar dwellers Gippsland Power.

However the Power proved more than a worthy competitor, matching the Dragons for a half, leading by two points at the main break.

Any questions regarding a boilover were soon answered with Sandringham taking control in the second half to run away with the match 13.12 (90) to 9.10 (64).

Dragons captain Hamish Brayshaw was significant in the result, booting four third quarter goals to ensure the Dragons would take the four points. Jack Scrimshaw was back to his best off half-back with 27 disposals, nine marks and four tackles, while Oliver Florent had 12 marks to go with his 21 disposals.

For Gippsland, James Harrison topped the disposal count with 22 disposals, while forward Ben Ainsworth primarily played off half-back for most of the game, amassing 18 disposals and taking four marks.

The game of the round – and possibly the season – belonged to Oakleigh and Dandenong.

Leading by a massive 40 points at the final change, Oakleigh looked home and hosed to cause an upset.

But then Dandenong ripped up the script.

The Stingrays charged home, to almost triple their score in the final quarter while restricting the Chargers to just two points in a stunning seven goals to zero term.

In a remarkable twist, Dandenong got home 11.5 (71) to 10.10 (70).

Pocket rocket Sam Fowler booted four goals (including three in the last quarter) for the Stingrays and was a key instigator in the comeback, while over-ager Thomas Glen amassed 24 disposals, three marks and three tackles.

For Oakleigh, Jack Higgins was again on song, collecting 29 disposals, four marks, three tackles and kicking two goals.

On Sunday, a ground change saw Western Jets and Eastern Ranges take to RAMS Arena in an eighth verse ninth battle.

It was anything but a battle for the Ranges however, as they easily disposed of the Jets by 90 points in a one-sided contest.

The Ranges kept the Jets scoreless in two quarters after remarkably trailing by a point at quarter time.

A nine-goal last quarter capped off a unbelievable performance for the Ranges who sent a message to the competition that they would be no pushovers in the finals.

Jordan Gallucci starred in his best game of the season with 21 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and five goals, while Josh Begley booted four goals from 20 disposals.

Rugged inside midfielder Dylan Clarke brought his own ball to the game with 36 disposals and seven tackles.

Brodie Romensky and Cameron Rayner were the only jets to collect more than 20 disposals, with Romensky finishing with 36 disposals, seven tackles and a goal. Daniel Venables was down on his usual output with seven disposals, looking to be suffering the flu.

A fierce Bendigo Pioneers were unable to shake a determined Geelong Falcons in a low scoring contest at Queen Elizabeth Oval.

The Pioneers smashed all sorts of tackles records with a whopping 162 tackles, led by Isaac Miller and Josh Formosa with 18.

They were far from alone however, with Wade Donnan, Darby Henderson and Tom Campbell all collecting more than 10 tackles and equal or more tackles than disposals.

However the Pioneers’ defensive pressure was not enough to get the four points, with the Falcons claiming victory 6.12 (48) to 5.6 (36).

For Geelong, Mitch Diamond was impressive with 25 disposals, four marks and four tackles, while Jack Blood topped his team’s tackle count with 13.

FT GEEL 6.12.48 v BP 5.6.36 #selfless #accountable #resilient

A post shared by Geelong Falcons (@geelongfalcons) on


After 13 rounds, Geelong remains a win ahead on top of Sandringham and Dandenong, followed by Murray just two points behind them.

North Ballarat are six points adrift in fifth, with Calder Cannons close behind them in sixth.

Eastern Ranges, Oakleigh Chargers and Western Jets continue to battle for the final two spots, while Bendigo and Northern remain on three wins and Gippsland last of the TAC Cup teams on two wins

Defining weekend for TAC Cup


CALDER Cannons are arguably one win away from locking themselves into finals, if they have not already.
The Cannons face the Northern Knights, which they will head into the game strong favourites to continue their mid-season revival.

If Calder wins, it will make it seven wins, with the potential to draw level with the North Ballarat Rebels and should Oakleigh lose, eight points clear of seventh.

Down the road at Trevor Barker Oval, second placed Sandringham Dragons takes on cellar dwellers Gippsland Power. Not many would expect this to be a close game, and rightly so. With a number of Dragons returning to the line-up after Vic Metro duties, Sandringham would be expected to put the foot down and stamp their premiership credentials. Jack Scrimshaw will also make his debut for the Dragons after being the first Victorian player to play in the Under 18 Championships without representing his TAC Cup team.

For Gippsland it is a chance to show they are no pushovers and a win would see them leap above Queensland and move into 12th spot, equal with Northern and Bendigo Pioneers. Ben Ainsworth will be looking for a big game and with Andrew McGrath missing for Sandringham, may have the chance to boot a bag of goals.

Over at Warrawee Park, Oakleigh Chargers takes on Dandenong Stingrays in what could be a fascinating contest. Both clubs will wear their historical VFA guerneys and no doubting it will be one of the matches of the round. TAC Cup Radio will also be broadcasting the match live from 12.45pm.

Dandenong will go in as favourites, and rightly so with a number of Vic Country players returning.

The Chargers best is up there with the top sides, but they have not been consistent enough this season, and a fourth flag in five years seems a stretch.

The match of the round is likely to take place at RAMS Arena from 1.30pm. North Ballarat Rebels will meet the Murray Bushrangers as both sides prepare to be close to full-strength. It means a midfield battle led by Hugh McCluggage and Will Brodie respectively, with both sides keen to get a win.

Murray Bushrangers are up there in the premiership race, while the Rebels have shown glimpses but have struggled to put a four quarter performance together. The Bushrangers will go in favourites and have the opportunity to grab top with a win, depending on other results, while could slip to fourth with a loss.

The Rebels could bridge the gap to the top four by four points with a victory and gain some breathing space between the lower finals contenders.

Western Jets take on Eastern Ranges in a true “eight-point” game. Eastern sits eighth and Western ninth, in what could break open the finals race. The winning side will go a game clear inside the top eight and put pressure on the teams above it. Both sides are capable and expect it to be a close contest at RAMS Arena on Sunday.

The final game of the round is Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons. The Pioneers seemingly have missed opportunities to seize a top eight spot, going down to Calder and Northern in the past fortnight. Now Bendigo faces a tougher run home than other finals contenders and it will not be much tougher than top-of-the-table Falcons.

While many expect a full-strength Murray or Sandringham to be the top contenders this year, Geelong has good depth and it has been on show this year. It is hard to see the Pioneers winning, but in front of a home crowd and the return of their state representatives, anything is possible.

The AFL Draft Central team will be at every game this weekend, make sure you are following @AFLDraftCentral on Twitter to keep up to date with scores and who is performing well over the weekend.

Weekend That Was – Round 12


BIG wins, devastating losses and a couple of upsets, Round 12 of the TAC Cup had it all.

In the opening match of the round, Dandenong Stingrays reminded the competition of its premiership credentials with a thumping 73-point win over Eastern Ranges.

After a close first term, the Stingrays restricted the Ranges to two goals for the rest of the game, while booting 14 goals themselves to cruise to a 15.11 (101) to 3.10 (28) victory.

Over-ager Thomas Glen had a day out with 29 disposals, five marks and three tackles, while Josh Begley was the highest disposal getter for the Ranges with 17 – the only Eastern player over 15 for the match.

It mattered little that Murray Bushrangers were still missing a number of key stars as the home side overcame a second quarter Northern fight back to hold off the Knights by 43 points.

Murray led by four points at half-time, but took control in the second half, particularly in the last quarter, when it finished the game full of running to win 20.9 (129) to 12.14 (86).

James Cousins had another day out, amassing 25 disposals, five marks, seven tackles and three goals, while Lachlan Tiziani continued his strong goal kicking form with six majors from 12 disposals and seven marks.

For the Knights, Matthew Signorello was the highest disposal winner with 33, while ruckman Charles Roberts had a superb game, amazing 21 disposals, nine marks, 18 hitouts, three tackles and a goal.

Down at Morwell Recreation Reserve, the Power were unable to shut down the Chargers as Oakleigh stormed to a 33-point win over the cellar dwellers.

Oakleigh led from start to finish and proved too strong with a number of starts returning to win 15.8 (98) to 9.11 (65).

Four players amassed more than 30 disposals, with first round prospect next year Jack Higgins having a day out, finishing with 33 disposals, six marks, three tackles and three goals.

For Gippsland, Will Leslie stood tall with 23 disposals, six marks and seven tackles.

Down at Werribee, Sandringham Dragons gritted out a tough six-point win over top-of-the-table Geelong Falcons.

The Dragons, while under strength, showed their depth by toppling the Falcons despite being goalless in the first term and trailing by 15 points at half-time.

In the end, accuracy proved key as the Dragons saluted 11.6 (72) to 9.12 (66).

No-one particularly stood out for Sandringham in a good team effort; however Ari Sakeson collected the most disposals with 22.

For the Falcons, Jack Blood finished with 25 disposals, four marks and three tackles, while Zachary Zdybel booted a goal while pinch-hitting in the ruck for 14 disposals and six marks.

Calder Cannons all but locked in their finals place and eliminated Bendigo in what many could consider an eight-point game.

The Cannons led by six goals at the final break and while the Pioneers held Calder goalless in the final term, they could only boot three majors themselves to go down by 19 points.

Zach Guthrie was superb for the Cannons with 25 disposals and 12 marks, while Ben Ronke was equally as impressive, amassing 27 disposals and nine marks.

For the Pioneers, it was Paddy Dow who stood above all others with 33 disposals, six marks, three tackles and a goal, while Jamieson Sheahan had 32 disposals, 28 of which were kicks.

In the final match of the round, North Ballarat Rebels held on against Western Jets to record a 10-point win.

After fading away in the second half last week and going down to the Sandringham Dragons, the Rebels got back on the winners list with a 14.12 (96) to 12.14 (86) victory.

James Gow was best on ground with 33 disposals, nine marks and five tackles, while Callan Wellings continued his strong form with 24 disposals, seven marks and seven tackles.

For Western, Daniel Foley had 27 disposals, four marks and three tackles to remain in draft contention.