Tag: Oakleigh Chargers

NAB League Girls Preliminary Finals preview – Grand Final spots up for grabs at Shepley

FINALS fever hits the NAB League Girls competition, with a revamped finals series set to get underway at Shepley Oval on Saturday. A spot in the grand final is on the line in both games as first does battle with fourth, and second plays third. In the weekend’s other game, Oakleigh hosts Tasmania at Windy Hill in a one-off exhibition.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS (1st, 8-0-1) vs. EASTERN RANGES (4th, 6-3)
Saturday May 18, 12:30pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Round 9:
Northern Knights 7.8 (50) defeated Greater Western Victoria Rebels 0.5 (5)
Eastern Ranges 3.1 (19) defeated by Sandringham Dragons 3.5 (23)

Last Meeting:
Round 5 – Northern Knights 7.8 (50) defeated Eastern Ranges 4.2 (26) @ La Trobe University Oval

MATCH PREVIEW

The undefeated Knights came into the year as strong premiership fancies, and firmed as favourites with their 36-point Round 8 win over reigning premiers, Geelong – avenging their 2018 grand final defeat and snapping the Falcons’ two-year winning run in one fell swoop. The only hiccup in Northern’s season thus far was a Round 2 draw with Oakleigh, with the best attack in the league and a raft of stars helping them ease to eight wins – including ones over two fellow finals sides. They are only one step away from a second-consecutive grand final berth, but an exciting Eastern team stands in the way. The Ranges are one of the best marking sides in the competition, and can compete with most teams on their day, but suffered a couple of disappointing losses to lower-ranked sides and had a close encounter with Tasmania in Round 7. Their narrow margins of victory and defeat – including three wins by under a goal – make for heart-stopping games, but their more convincing wins like their 51-point one over Gippsland show why they are always a chance. Eastern’s prime movers in the middle include potential 2020 Collingwood father-daughter selection Tarni Brown, as well as gun bottom-ager Tess Flintoff, and Olivia Meagher, but their most potent threats will come through the tall duo of Laura McClelland and Serena Gibbs forward of centre. Northern key back Sarah Sansonetti has been in terrific in recent weeks, and could well find herself playing on both of those Ranges talls throughout the game. While her role will prove vital, if the likes of Gabby Newton, Britney Gutknecht, and Ellie McKenzie are thrown into the middle at the same time as we have seen recently, it may be tough for the Ranges to venture forward in the first place. The versatility of those three will make a huge difference, and one would think the range of Knights weapons could well prove too much as it did in the side’s previous meeting. With Northern getting one back on Geelong two weeks ago to come in as the top seed, and Eastern suffering a defeat in their final regular season outing, this will be a tough mountain to climb for the Ranges.

KEY PLAYERS

Northern:

Gabby Newton

The Northern skipper has been sensational throughout the year, averaging almost 20 disposals over her eight NAB League games. Much has already been made of her basketball background, with the gun midfielder showing off her hops in the ruck at times and her equally impressive composure in traffic to no end. While her starting position will most likely be at the centre bounces, Newton’s role as a general behind the ball will be key in this clash – with a potent Eastern tall duo likely to line up down forward. Her intercept marking and overall overhead prowess is profound, so look for that to be a feature in this game along with her consistent ball-winning ability – with over 20 disposals in five games this year. Versatile and damaging, Newton is key.

Eastern:

Serena Gibbs

Gibbs is one of three Eastern talls who pose an enormous risk to the Northern defence, often trading time between centre half-forward and the ruck. If she is matched up on Northern’s Sarah Sansonetti, the clash becomes one of the more important ones for the game with the likes of Laura McClelland and Tahlia Merrett also able to be freed up should they play forward at the same time. Gibbs has found the goals in seven of her nine NAB League appearances, led by a dominant 3.4 from 18 disposals against Gippsland in Round 8. While her Round 9 return saw her collect under 10 disposals for just the third time, Gibbs has been a consistently dangerous threat and will be a key focal point this time around.

GEELONG FALCONS (2nd, 8-1) vs. CALDER CANNONS (3rd, 6-3)
Saturday May 18, 2:15pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Round 9:
Geelong Falcons 8.7 (55) defeated Murray Bushrangers 1.1 (7)
Calder Cannons 5.7 (37) defeated Gippsland Power 1.0 (6)

Last Meeting:
Round 7 – Geelong Falcons 3.2 (20) defeated Calder Cannons 1.0 (6) @ RAMS Arena

MATCH PREVIEW

The Geelong Falcons bounced back well from their Round 8 loss to Northern – their first since May 2017 – to secure second place with a welcome return to form, toppling Murray by 48 points after conceding the first goal. Their depth across all lines is scary good, but their premiership defence has largely been built on a typically sturdy back six and dominant midfield, with their forward structure taking greater shape across the year. Abbey Chapman has led the league’s stingiest defence all year, with the Falcons’ highest score conceded (43) coming against Northern, while the likes of skipper Lucy McEvoy, Paige Sheppard, and Luka Lesosky-Hay have been instrumental in the engine room. Pair the inside grunt of those three with the outside class of Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney on either wing, and you have a midfield that is hard to beat to say the least. Mia Skinner has been the spearhead forward of centre, booting a league-high 18 goals – including two bags of four – having only been held goalless on two occasions, in Rounds 7 and 8. The Cannons have some firepower of their own, which more often than not comes from star duo, Georgia Patrikios and Georgie Prespakis. Both have the ability to not only find a wealth of the ball through the middle, but to also find the goals – exemplified by Prespakis’ bag of seven in Round 2 from full forward. Prespakis, the sister of Carlton star Maddie, has averaged 23.3 disposals over her eight games with two returns of over 30 touches, while Patrikios averages just over 22 in her seven outings, and the pair should provide a dynamism that Geelong will have to pay great attention to. Include talls at either end, such as the likes of Alana Barba up forward and Krstel Petrevski, along with Makeisha Muller at ground level, and there are some interesting moving parts to the Calder line-up. Having already gotten the better of Calder as recently as in Round 7, Geelong will be confident of repeating the feat and storming into another grand final. If Calder can again keep the Falcons to under four goals though, then anything can happen. Expect fireworks either way.

KEY PLAYERS

Geelong:

Lucy McEvoy

Able to be utilised on each line, the Falcons skipper is arguably her side’s most important player. An ultra-consistent force, McEvoy has only dropped below 20 disposals once in her eight games – incidentally in the Falcons’ only loss – to average 22.2 disposals per outing. Her presence at the centre bounces in undeniable, using her size to prize the ball out and her composure to flick out effective handballs to receivers. In general play, McEvoy utilises a booming kick to rebound and enter either arc, while positioning herself a kick behind the play to act as an impenetrable wall at both ends. Her overhead marking is a feature, but expect to see her mostly in the thick of the midfield action given Calder’s strength in that area.

Calder:

Georgia Patrikios

Patrikios is all but equal to McEvoy in her disposal output, but provides a different kind of threat from midfield. Having shown how damaging she can be on the outside during her bottom-age year, Patrikios has developed into a balanced midfielder very quickly, but is still often seen bursting away from congestion and delivering forward with aplomb. The Cannons star’s best game came in Round 7 against the Falcons, collecting 31 disposals and finding the goals, so she will hope to produce more of the same here. With the strength of Geelong’s midfield obvious, Patrikios’ point of difference in her pace will be key amidst that battle.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Sunday May 19, 11:00am
Windy Hill

Oakleigh hosts Tasmania on neutral ground for a one-off friendly game, completing a hat-trick of Devils NAB League appearances. With Oakleigh narrowly missing finals, this game poises the travelling side against the best of the rest as finals gets underway, and will be a third opportunity for them to pick up a win in the competition. Tasmania entered in Round 7 with two games over three days, going down to Western by 37 points under Friday night lights, and giving Eastern a mighty scare just two days later. Oakleigh will be keen to finish off the season with another win to make it six all up, but the Devils showed their fighting spirit already and should provide a good test for the Chargers. The game will also be a curtain raiser for the NAB League boys clash between Gippsland and Greater Western Victoria at 1:00.

Draft Central Player of the Week: NAB League Boys – Round 7

BENDIGO Pioneers’ bottom-ager Sam Conforti has become the first Country player to win the nomination for Draft Central Player of the Week for the NAB League Boys in Round 7. Conforti won the Facebook poll against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Jay Rantall to also become the first bottom-age player to be nominated this season. It broke the dominance of Oakleigh Chargers and Eastern Ranges who held five of the first six nominations.

Despite the Pioneers losing via a kick after the siren, Conforti continued his great form with 30 disposals, kicking a 66.7 efficiency and with a 34.5 per cent contested rate, while taking eight marks, two clearances, four inside 50s, six rebounds and helping himself to two goals in a low-scoring contest. Conforti led Vic Country in the National Under 16 Championships and was named Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), a great indicator of high potential. With no school football commitments, Conforti will lead the Pioneers midfield this season, and is a crucial player in the line-up.

DRAFT CENTRAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

ROUND 1: Noah Anderson (Oakleigh Chargers)
ROUND 2: Mitch Mellis (Eastern Ranges)
ROUND 3: Matt Rowell (Oakleigh Chargers)
ROUND 4: Tom Green (GWS GIANTS Academy)
ROUND 5: Zakery Pretty Eastern Ranges)
ROUND 6: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh Chargers)
ROUND 7: SAM CONFORTI (BENDIGO PIONEERS)

Draft Central Player of the Week: NAB League Boys – Round 5

AFTER an impressive win over Gold Coast SUNS Academy, Eastern Ranges’ inside midfielder Zakery Pretty has earned the Draft Central Player of the Week title for Round 5. The Ranges midfielder has enjoyed a solid season this year, and he was the standout ball winner in the Ranges’ 59-point win over the SUNS at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on Saturday. He joins teammate Mitch Mellis as Eastern representatives, making it four of the five players from metropolitan sides this year. Noah Anderson and Matt Rowell are the other two Victorians (both from Oakleigh Chargers), while Tom Green earned the nod last week from the GWS GIANTS Academy.

Pretty won the Facebook vote against Calder Cannons’ Brodie Newman, after collecting 37 disposals at 55 per cent contested and with 70 per cent efficiency. He also took one mark, had eight clearances, seven inside 50s and booted a goal in the victory. In his four games this season, Pretty has not registered below 19 disposals, averaging 26.3 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.5 tackles, 6.5 clearances and 4.8 inside 50s for the Ranges. He was also named in the extended Vic Metro squad, averaging the equal most disposals of a Metro player in the first game, totalling 19, as well as two mars, six clearances, three inside 50s and a goal.

DRAFT CENTRAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

ROUND 1: Noah Anderson (Oakleigh Chargers)
ROUND 2: Mitch Mellis (Eastern Ranges)
ROUND 3: Matt Rowell (Oakleigh Chargers)
ROUND 4: Tom Green (GWS GIANTS Academy)
ROUND 5: ZAKERY PRETTY (EASTERN RANGES)

Team Selection: NAB League Girls – Round 2

TEAMS have brought in a number of talented players for Round 2 of the NAB League Girls competition as sides strive to either back up strong performances from Round 1, or hope to bounce back from losses in the opening round. Georgia Patrikios (Calder Cannons) has been named on the bench having missed the first round, while Millie Brown (Murray Bushrangers) and Molly McDonald (Dandenong Stingrays) are also back into their respective sides, certain to boost the team’s chances of victory.

After two triple headers in Round 1, the six games are spread across six different venues, from Bendigo to Ballarat, Geelong to Yarrawonga, Moorabbin to Bundoora in a chance for spectators across the state to take in some terrific football action. Below are how the 12 teams have been named for the weekend’s action.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. EASTERN RANGES

Round 2 – 16/03/2019
12:45pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve – Bendigo

BENDIGO PIONEERS

B: 25. K. Hazlett, 36. K. Douglass, 24. S. Oliver
HB: 28. E. Gretgrix, 40. T. Slender, 46. K. Mitchell
C: 3. E. Snell, 33. B. Heiden, 1. M. Tupper
HF: 14. A. Strahan, 30. H. Stewart, 20. D. Villiva
F: 50. M. Barton, 44. J. Jolliffe, 9. T. Miaoudis
R: 37. G. Sladden, 19. J. Finning, 4. B. Hards
Int: 34. E. Cooper, 48. D. Kelly-Guthrie, 26. C. Mitchell, 41. E. Peacock

EASTERN RANGES

B: 17. M. Kendall, 51. S. Zappia, 54. E. Odria
HB: 11. M. Edwards, 49. C. Wilsmore, 1. C. Smith
C: 29. M. Di Cosmo, 39. L. McClelland, 20. J. Richardson
HF: 26. T. Brown, 41. T. Merrett, 48. I. Khoury
F: 31. S. Collard, 46. S. Gibbs, 12. M. Taverna
R: 25. J. Grace, 33. T. Flintoff, 21. O. Meagher
Int: 44. S. Bowden, 23. M. Church, 35. L. Hilton, 16. E. Horne

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 2 – 16/03/2019
12:45pm
Mars Stadium – Ballarat

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS

B: 2. Z. Denahy, 16. L. Sykes, 11. L. Donegan
HB: 5. N. Butler, 27. G. Pidgeon, 12. V. Jewell
C: 13. B. Thompson, 24. S. Molan, 3. A. Trigg
HF: 29. P. Metcalfe, 34. K. Harris, 28. I. Robson
F: 6. M. Ciavarella, 23. I. Rustman, 9. R. Saulitis
R: 35. M. Caris, 10. E. Wood, 15. C. Leonard
Int: 1. L. Condon, 20. E. Friend, 21. A. Stevens, 4. K. Tomkins

CALDER CANNONS

B: 24. K. Delia, 6. K. Reid, 36. Z. Penno
HB: 32. T. Fry, 35. I. Young, 41. G. Prespakis
C: 8. Z. Friswell, 31. K. Petrevski, 3. E. Yassir
HF: 46. G. Elarmaly, 18. T. Gillard, 34. Z. Hardiman
F: 22. M. Muller, 44. I. McNeill-Wren, 2. F. Theodore
R: 49. T. Crook, 11. A. Barba, 38. L. Cocomello
Int: 1. H. Cooke, 43. C. Leahy, 25. A. Magri, 21. G. Patrikios

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Round 2 – 17/03/2019
12:45pm
La Trobe University – Bundoora

NORTHERN KNIGHTS

B: 32. A. Snow, 2. S. Fell, 34. M. Uwland
HB: 10. P. Chisholm, 18. S. Sansonetti, 17. C. Fitzgerald
C: 6. A. Bannan, 21. E. McKenzie, 9. M. Chaplin
HF: 7. A. Bennett, 23. G. Newton, 29. T. Pulcino
F: 20. C. Linssen, 3. N. Morris-Dalton, 25. T. Mills
R: 1. J. Nelson, 14. J. Fitzgerald, 22. B. Gutknecht
Int: 11. M. Appleby, 16. Z. Flanigan, 30. M. Plunkett, 36. T. Smart
Emg: 8. G. Ceravolo, 24. J. Nursey, 26. M. Papachristos, 35. J. Simpson

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

B: 2. M. Hill, 26. A. Micallef, 29. C. Rowbottom
HB: 33. E. Chamberlain, 12. A. Peck, 18. C. O’Malley
C: 34. G. Larkey, 17. N. Xenos, 22. J. Lin
HF: 1. G. Lagioia, 10. T. Cowan, 5. A. van Oosterwijck
F: 11. M. Bertuna, 15. C. Russell, 4. E. Harley
R: 3. K. Kearns, 8. A. Porter, 32. E. James
Int: 14. G. Byrne, 9. E. Jackson, 38. D. Lloyd, 31. S. Morley, 13. T. Morton, 21. S. Reid

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER

Round 2 – 17/03/2019
12:45pm
Deakin University – Geelong

GEELONG FALCONS

B: 7. M. Holdsworth, 21. A. Chapman, 44. J. Robinson
HB: 16. E. Mahoney, 32. K. Haustorfer , 11. D. Smith
C: 12. L. Gardiner, 23. L. Lesosky-Hay, 28. A. Sanderson
HF: 24. M. Skinner, 8. P. Sheppard, 1. E. Vella
F: 34. S. Milsome, 39. R. Tierney, 25. L. Ryan
R: 20. S. Hovey, 38. L. McEvoy, 18. D. Moloney
Int: 14. Z. Garth, 37. A. Lee, 46. A. McKee, 4. P. Schaap
Emg: 36. M. Featherston , 6. T. Hassett, 45. T. Lewis

GIPPSLAND POWER

B: 19. H. Booth, 47. E. Williams, 7. L. Raymond
HB: 26. G. McRae, 45. M. Van Berkel, 9. M. Shaw
C: 13. H. Andrews, 8. C. Abrahams , 30. A. Rippon
HF: 2. S. Beaton, 27. N. Webber, 40. C. Robinson
F: 3. M. Gilmour, 50. G. Matser, 11. S. Walker
R: 49. G. Radford, 12. M. Fitzsimon, 17. S. Trewin
Int: 15. C. Bailey, 20. J. Chila, 16. A. Hardwick, 21. C. Prestidge
Emg: 1. S. Brisbane, 24. N. Williams

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 2 – 17/03/2019
12:45pm
J.C. Lowe Oval – Yarrawonga

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

B: 24. H. Doohan, 44. M. Quade, 6. C. Hargreaves
HB: 14. C. Boschetti, 43. A. Williams, 10. S. Locke
C: 7. K. Adams, 19. M. Brown, 8. A. Favell
HF: 31. M. Trethowan, 45. O. Barber, 37. T. Verhoeven
F: 18. Z. Spencer, 34. E. McPherson, 40. K. Whitehead
R: 39. A. Morphett, 22. A. Richardson, 11. T. Brett
Int: 2. O. Antonello, 33. E. Mifka, 21. C. Styan , 27. J. Ward
Emg: 16. M. Jones, 20. S. Lang, 41. L. Sharp

WESTERN JETS

B: 19. A. Anthony, 11. K. O’Keefe, 20. T. Kolevski
HB: 1. M. Huta, 23. I. Pritchard, 15. N. Wright
C: 13. I. Grant, 9. R. Tripodi, 16. H. Herring
HF: 6. E. Kiely, 25. C. Saxon-Jones, 8. O. Millar
F: 5. I. Cavka, 26. C. Weston-Sirett, 14. L. Wright
R: 22. C. Singleton, 12. E. Quinn, 17. E. Georgostathis
Int: 10. T. Evans, 30. T. Kotoski, 24. J. Mwaka, 21. E. Robinson

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 2 – 17/03/2019
1:00pm
RSEA Park – Moorabbin

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

B: 57. C. Bowen, 24. N. Borg, 44. D. Walker
HB: 38. G. Strangio, 25. S. Hartwig, 7. R. Woods
C: 42. M. Purcell, 17. B. Arnold, 26. C. Saultry
HF: 33. I. Eddey, 2. S. Rothfield, 40. A. Moloney
F: 65. E. Angelopoulos, 1. M. Denahy Maloney, 29. I. Stutt
R: 13. T. Grasso, 22. E. McNamara, 28. A. Burke
Int: 15. C. Cody, 30. W. Laing, 21. E. Turner , 58. T. Tysoe
Emg: 47. K. Lynch, 3. C. Murphy, 50. P. Staltari

DANDENONG STINGRAYS

B: 14. L. Grocock, 51. Z. Hill, 17. M. Layfield
HB: 32. J. Radford, 50. A. Nagtzaam, 31. B. Vernon
C: 21. G. Hodder, 28. T. Smith, 10. A. Jordan
HF: 48. A. Carroll, 24. A. Liddle, 20. P. Wilson-Macdonald
F: 2. S. Stratton, 49. K. McKenzie, 55. H. Thomas
R: 58. G. Howes, 12. M. McDonald, 26. I. Shannon
Int: 40. R. Clancy – Dillon, 23. D. Fennell, 4. J. Guy-Toogood, 53. O. Mauerhofer, 34. A. Richards

Taking opportunities pays off for Katie Lynch

IN the midst of Year 12, Katie Lynch had a lot on her plate.

She featured in the TAC Cup Girls competition, represented Vic Metro, played for Collingwood in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition and balanced school sport commitments as well. Although it was a difficult situation to be in for Lynch, she says she had no choice but to take those opportunities that came her way.

“Obviously I was a bit under the pump earlier in the year, well at least I put myself under the pump,” Lynch said. “I had the opportunities come my way and I just had to take them and I thought I did that pretty well so it’s got me here. “I’m proud of myself.”

Now, she finds herself on Collingwood’s AFL Women’s list, with the club selecting her with pick 10 in the draft. Lynch says although it was unexpected, she was relieved to hear her name being called out on draft day.

“It was obviously really exciting, probably something I didn’t expect either,” she said. “But I heard my name get read out and yeah it was just a real relieving feeling I guess but I’m excited to get started.”

Lynch has already experienced playing for the Magpies, having played with them in the VFLW, meaning she will be able to continue playing with some familiar faces. This also signals a new opportunity for Lynch to mingle with the new draftees, who she regards quite highly.

“There’s some really exciting players that we’ve drafted as well,” Lynch said. “We’ve got Jordy Allen so I’m just excited, everyone’s great, I know a lot of the faces there which will really help.”

The 18 year-old admits the VFL experience, along with the TAC Cup Girls and AFL Women’s Under 18 competitions, have helped her adapt to different game styles. This is something that she hopes will hold her in good stead for her upcoming stint in the AFL Women’s.

“TAC Cup, Metro, VFL, they all bring a different kind of game,” Lynch said. “They’re each unique in their own way so it was kind of interesting trying to adapt to each game style. “But at the end of the day, you’re just playing footy so it was good.”

Despite the simplicity of playing the game, Lynch admits she is is still coming to terms with being an AFL Women’s footballer, not accustomed to the prestigious title.

“It’s pretty surreal, hard to believe, really,” she said. “But I guess I’ll start believing it once everything really kicks off into pre-season but at the moment, it’s really surreal.”

Growing up as a Richmond supporter, Lynch has quickly adapted to the black and white, donning the stripes for both the Oakleigh Chargers and Collingwood Magpies this year. Now she will have the opportunity to continue to dominate in those colours at the highest level.

Clarke comes full circle with grand final feat

AS the first former player to coach the club, Oakleigh Chargers coach Leigh Clarke can go one better on Saturday and become the first former player to coach his side to a TAC Cup premiership.

Clarke has endured a longer journey than most to come full circle at the helm of the Chargers, with a Peninsula league playing career, experience as both a strength and conditioning and line coach at the club, and as forward line coach with Richmond’s reserves.

Taking over from dual premiership coach Mick Stinear was never going to be an easy feat, but the talent of the Oakleigh squad speaks for itself, and Clarke revealed his troops all but coach themselves in driving a culture of success.

“Our boys have a really strong connection amongst each other so you can see in the previous couple of weeks they’ve shown that they’re really keen just to turn up,” Clarke said. “We don’t ask them to be perfect, but we certainly ask them to turn up and fix each other’s mistakes which are going to come often in a game of footy. “So yeah they really drive the culture and that connection that we keep getting back to… and they’re a very easy group to coach.”

Oakleigh has been in irresistible form over the last three weeks, with an average winning margin of 101 points seeing them poised better than almost any side in recent memory coming into an Under 18 decider. Clarke is well aware of their recent credentials, but considering the opposition, is keeping a lid on it.

“We’re feeling quietly confident, I think on the back of our wins we just keep playing our way whether it’s five points or 95 points,” he said. “We’ve been really proud of the boys, they’ve been able to continue to play for four quarters of footy throughout the last two weeks and they haven’t dropped off, which is what we’ve challenged them on is to be able to play four times 25 minutes and we’ll need to do that again this week.”

Dandenong have been the benchmark team all year though, and despite being the only side to overcome the ‘Rays this season, Clarke is still wary and respectful of his side’s opposition having also suffered a loss at their hands.

“I’m sure (Craig Black) isn’t planning to lose and we’re not planning to lose either,” he said. “They’ve had a great year consistently and to finish on top is a real credit to ‘Blacky’ and the program they run out there. “Ours has probably ebbed and flowed a little bit, charting through the year but coming into form in the last month… I’m sure both regions just hope it’s injury-free, that everything goes to course and it’s a good sign of 23 talented kids verses 23 talented kids.”

The strength of the Stingrays has undoubtedly been their aerial dominance, with an array of highly talented ruck and forwards, as well as big bodied medium players who can intercept well off half back. Despite being focussed on his own side’s progression and top four aspirations, Clarke inevitably had an eye on Dandenong’s heroics and key threats.

“You’re well aware throughout the year of each other’s wins, losses and who’s playing well, so in terms of what we focus on, we’re more focussed on what we’re doing but yeah you’re right there are some key players that we’ll have to match for height or find a better way of doing it,” Clarke said. “They’ll present with that height… we believe we’ve got the match-ups to go with them, which ultimately just gives you a chance to see the best talent and the best defenders play on the best forwards.”

But with all of the opposition’s talent comes Oakleigh’s undeniable ability, too, with a number of players showing notable improvement throughout the year around the outstanding seasons from each of their recognised stars. Clarke noted the how Collingwood father-son Will Kelly has come on leaps and bounds, while the likes of Collingwood Next Generation Academy prospects Bailey Wraith and Isaac Quaynor have continued to learn, grow, and drive standards.

All of the above have been led by over-ager Noah Answerth, who holds a special connection to TAC Cup grand finals. Having had his top age year marred by a freak back injury, the rebounding half-back has returned to the level hoped of him and has the opportunity to follow in his brother Kade’s footsteps in lifting the trophy aloft.

He is keen to match it against the best and gain reward for effort. “They’re a pretty good team all-round, they wouldn’t be in the Grand Final if they weren’t,” Answerth said. “So, we haven’t really looked at match-ups yet but we have one on ones all around the ground, we’ll find out at the end of the day.”

While favouritism has changed hands throughout the week and depending on who you ask, it is certain that this is as enthralling a grand final match up as we’ve seen in recent memory.

On Saturday, the season’s best will be crowned, with Clarke hoping his Chargers can continue to storm home and continue Dandenong’s grand final wobbles.

TAC Cup Grand Finals run in the Answerth family

THREE years ago, Kade Answerth’s 30 disposals, 10 clearances and six marks helped Oakleigh Chargers to a two-goal TAC Cup Grand Final victory, their second in as many years. On Saturday, younger brother Noah will lead his Chargers out in hope of following in the footsteps of the now Sandringham co-captain and lifting the same trophy his brother once did.

Answerth’s path to the big dance hasn’t been easy, with the 19-year old’s 2017 top-age year ruined by a freak back injury. Not to be deterred, the rebounding half-back was invited back for another crack at the TAC Cup level having grasped the success of his brother’s over-age season in 2015.

Speaking at the TAC Cup Grand Final press conference, Answerth said despite the similarities between his and Kade’s paths, he is not feeling any pressure to match his brother’s feats.

“(Kade) probably played in two in a row, so he’s probably got one-up on me,” he said. “You go into his room and he’s got a bit of memorabilia in there, it probably gets me a bit more excited than I would be if he hadn’t done that.”

Having bounced back to play 13 TAC Cup games this year, Answerth expressed his satisfaction in being able to reach such a big stage with his mates in tow.

“It’s pretty surreal to be sitting here now, thinking I’m about to play in that Grand Final, I didn’t probably think last year that it would happen so I’m pretty excited,” Answerth said.

Oakleigh coach Leigh Clarke spoke of his pride in being a part of Answerth’s journey to get to this point, having visited him in hospital the day after his defining injury last year.

“It’s a wonderful story that Noah’s been able to get himself back,” Clarke said. “12 months ago after my second game and I’m visiting a player laying on his back in hospital on Monday morning. “To be here today with him, I’m proud of him and I know his family’s very proud of him as well.”

Oakleigh’s opponents, Dandenong have been the benchmark team all year, but the Chargers’ irresistible form of late sets the contest up as potentially being one of the best match-ups in recent TAC Cup history. Answerth says the Chargers are well aware of the Stingrays’ talent across the board, with the usual emphasis on individual match-ups taking a back seat.

“They’re a pretty good team all-round, they wouldn’t be in the Grand Final if they weren’t. “So we haven’t really looked at match-ups yet but we have one on ones all around the ground, we’ll find out at the end of the day.”

His opposing co-captain Campbell Hustwaite took a similarly respectful stance, highlighting the importance of a team effort in order to nullify Oakleigh’s spread of quality.

“I don’t see one match-up specific for me but I know that they’ve got five quality midfielders and talent all around the ground so we’ll be looking to challenge ourselves for the whole day,” Hustwaite said. “We learned in round five you can’t lapse for a few minutes because they will make you pay, so on the weekend it’s just all about nullifying their talent and backing ourselves in against their mids.”

That round five game loss stands as the only blight on Dandenong’s season, with the ‘Rays bouncing back in Round Nine to even the ledger between the two sides. Despite Dandenong’s clear and admirable consistency, the question of who comes in as favourite remains up for debate with Oakleigh riding the wave of a 101-point average winning margin over the last three weeks.

Coach Clarke is not buying in to the debate, saying his side is purely focussed on delivering a win and showcasing the talent of 46 young stars, but admits they may just be peaking at the right time.

“I’m sure (Craig Black) isn’t planning to lose and we’re not planning to lose either,” Clarke said. “They’ve had a great year consistently and to finish on top is a real credit to ‘Blacky’ and the program they run out there. “Ours has probably ebbed and flowed a little bit, charting through the year but coming into form in the last month… I’m sure both regions just hope it’s injury-free, that everything goes to course and it’s a good sign of 23 talented kids verses 23 talented kids.”

As one of those talented kids, Answerth held a steely, reserved sense of calm in saying this week is like any other on the calendar, despite conceding it’s special enough to warrant a few days off work.

“We train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and keep it the same as any other week through the year. “I’m pretty lucky to have a good boss so I can come here today, I’ll probably work tomorrow and the next day and take Friday off again so I’m pretty lucky with the boss I have at work and I’m pretty thankful that he can let me have a few days off just for this week.”

Having already experienced the thrill of the big day through junior footy and his brother’s exploits, Answerth is hoping to add another premiership medal to his collection.

“I just played in (a premiership) a few years ago when I was 16 for Caulfield Grammarians in the 19’s, probably just two at Caulfield Bears,” he said. “That’s about it but I’ve been lucky enough to go to a few TAC Cup grand finals and experience it with my family and Oakleigh Chargers as well so it’s a great week… we can really enjoy it and finish off the year well.”

And with big occasions come big performances, with Answerth highlighting a few teammates that like himself, have come on great journeys to reach the holy grail.

“Clarkey’s already spoken about a few but for me it’s probably Lachie Harry,” Answerth said. “Last time we played the Stingrays he kicked a goal to win us the game I was really proud of him and his performance throughout the year. “The reason we’re sitting in a grand final is because of the efforts like him and other players… also James Jordan, coming from Caulfield Grammar school footy to come play with us play in a grand final, it’s been great to see his form leading into this week.”

Oakleigh will be looking to claim their fifth TAC Cup title when they battle Dandenong at Ikon Park on Saturday.

For the Answerths, a third premiership medal and second best-afield award could also be coming home.

Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Preliminary finals

WE are down to the final four TAC Cup sides for season 2018, with Dandenong Stingrays taking on Sandringham Dragons, and Gippsland Power facing Oakleigh Chargers to determine the two, 2018 Grand Finalists.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Preliminary Finals  – Saturday, September 15, 11.30am
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Last week:

In the first of two preliminary finals, we take a look at the minor premiers, Dandenong Stingrays, taking on the fourth placed Sandringham Dragons. Last weekend, the Stingrays were on another level compared to the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, thumping them by 110 points, while the Dragons proved too good for the Murray Bushrangers in a 43-point win.

Last time:

Sandringham Dragons 6.10 (46) defeated by Dandenong Stingrays 14.9 (93)

In the final round of the TAC Cup season, Dandenong Stingrays ensured the Dragons had a nervous wait across the weekend, with a top four spot on the line. Sandringham luckily witnessed Northern Knights upsetting Murray Bushrangers to earn a weekend off. On the day, Sam Sturt and Finlay Bayne both booted three goals, while Matthew Cottrell claimed best on ground for the Stingrays. For the Dragons, Angus Hanrahan was the only multiple goal kicker with two majors, while James Rendell and Liam Stocker were impressive – Stocker picking up the three votes in the match despite the 47-point loss.

 

THE KEY – INSIDE MIDFIELD

The big key in the game is which side can win the ball at the coal face and get the ball down to their key forwards and crumbers. Both sides have good firepower inside 50, and the clearances will be an area to watch with the teams having strong contested ball winners. Looking at the starting midfields, there is not much to split them with clearances and contested possessions practically even. Dandenong’s starting three midfielders lay more tackles, with Toby Bedford also spending time up forward and adding pressure up there.

Sandringham:

Liam Stocker 12.5 contested possessions, 5.6 clearances, 4.5 tackles
Harry Reynolds 10.0 contested possessions, 3.3 clearances, 2.3 tackles
Kai Owens 8.7 contested possessions, 3.8 clearances, 6.2 tackles

= 31.2 contested possessions, 12.7 clearances, 13 tackles

vs.

Dandenong:

Sam Fletcher 13.4 contested possessions, 5.2 clearances, 7.7 tackles
Campbell Hustwaite 11.0 contested possessions, 5.0 clearances, 6.1 tackles
Toby Bedford 8.0 contested possessions, 2.3 clearances, 5.7 tackles

= 32.4 contested possessions, 12.5 clearances, 19.5 tackles

 

WHY THE TEAMS WILL WIN?

Dandenong: The best team all year, depth that is envious of any other side and equal to that of fellow challenger, Oakleigh. They seem to have winners across all thirds of the ground and just made the Rebels look silly last week. A last round win against the Dragons will have the Stingrays’ confidence high to repeat the effort again. The Stingrays love a scrap and will be keen to beat the Dragons at the contest and use their bigger bodies to extract the ball and pump it long.

Sandringham: Any side with Ben King inside 50 is a threat, and the Stingrays will not only look to nullify him, but just cut off the delivery to him, full stop. But if the Dragons midfielders can get on top on the inside, then the Stingrays defence could be under siege. They also possess the ball really well and will look to play the ball on their terms with slick, short ball use.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Preliminary Finals  – Saturday, September 15, 2pm
Ikon Park, Carlton North

Last week:

Gippsland Power managed to get over the highly dangerous Geelong Falcons with a 35-point victory at Ikon Park. They took four quarters to do it – leading by just eight points at the final break before a five-goal final term saw the second placed Power storm away with the game. The Chargers had a much easier game against Western Jets, shaking off an early challenge by the Jets to post a massive 120-point victory to earn a place in the preliminary final.

Last time:

Oakleigh Chargers 8.7 (55) defeated by Gippsland Power 9.6 (60)

Not much can be read into it given Oakleigh was missing the majority of its best 22, but Gippsland got the job done in a thriller at Warrawee Park with a Noah Gown goal in the dying seconds sealing a great comeback win. Noah Answerth bombed through a goal on the siren, but not release the ball until a second too late. The result left Oakleigh’s top four hopes in the lurch, but an impressive win over Sandringham Dragons and a 15-goal rout of the GWV Rebels put any threat of missing the week off to bed pretty soon. Daniel Scala booted four goals for the Chargers, while Trent Bianco and Sam Harte were named Oakleigh’s best in the loss. For Gippsland, Gown, Harrison Pepper and Sam Flanders all booted two goals, while Gown and Boadie Motton were named in the Power’s best.

 

THE KEY – FIREPOWER FORWARDS

Both Gippsland and Oakleigh head into the clash as sides that have dynamic forward lines. Gippsland has more structure to it, with two traditional talls in Gown and Josh Smith, while Oakleigh relies on a number of medium-talls and smalls rather than a key position monster. Last week, Dylan Williams booted six goals, while Atu Bosenavulagi, Jake Gasper, Charlie Whitehead and Jay Robertson all contributed multiple goals, while Gippsland had 10 individual goal kickers, with their club leading scorer Gown, contributing just the one.

As you will see from the below total, the top six goal kickers playing in the match provide plenty of options for midfielders to kick to, with some of the forwards spending time through the middle. Oakleigh’s six will largely form the six-man forward line against the Power, while Gippsland’s will see a number of their players begin in the midfield and rest forward.

Gippsland firepower:

Noah Gown – 30.18
Josh Smith – 20.7
Sam Flanders – 19.18
Austin Hodge – 14.13
Irving Mosquito – 14.4
Xavier Duursma – 13.5

Top 6: 110.65 (725)

Oakleigh firepower:

Jake Gasper – 38.15
Matthew Day – 20.10
Dylan Williams – 18.12
Jay Robertson – 15.8
Charlie Whitehead – 14.10
Atu Bosenavulagi – 13.9

Top 6: 118.64 (772)

 

WHY THE TEAMS WILL WIN?

Gippsland: The Power play an exciting brand of football that blends both speed and pressure which is really eye-catching, and will look to match Oakleigh at its own game of doing the same. The Power must simply bring the heat to the contest, because letting Oakleigh have too much time and space results in undesirable results for the team doing so.

Oakleigh: You cannot read into the season of the Chargers despite still finishing third. They are right up there with Dandenong in terms of premiership favourites and have stamped their authority with 90 and 120-point wins in their past two outings. They have ridiculous amounts of midfield depth and big bodies to control the inside while using their runners on the outside.

Passionate McLaren leads by example in football journey

PERSEVERANCE and grasping opportunities have helped Oakleigh Chargers captain, Hannah McLaren reach the highest level of her junior football career. From somewhat sulking on the sidelines at Auskick, to leading the TAC Cup Girls side out each week, McLaren is a player who has grown throughout her football journey.

“I started playing Auskick,” she said. “I used to stand on the sidelines and watch my brother and I was so jealous. “Mum used to give me a sausage just to make me be quiet. “But I said to her ‘I want to be out there’ so I started playing Auskick with him and then all through juniors we played together and then finally it got to the stage I couldn’t play anymore and I was devastated. “Then finally my club got a girls team together so I was lucky enough to be able to play with Surrey Park for a couple of years.”

McLaren recalls the moment she joined the Chargers.

“I actually got a call from Luke (O’Shannessy, Oakleigh Chargers Girls coach) and he said ‘we’d like to have you on our list’ and I said ‘that sounds like a great opportunity to grow as a person, grow as a footballer’ and that’s how it all started really,” she said. “I’ve loved it (captaining). “It was a good opportunity to grow as a leader, as a person, I found it coming into this year I was a bit nervous, but yeah really settled down and was able to lead the girls out for the nine games.”

Her performances throughout the TAC Cup Girls season warranted selection in the Vic Metro squad, earning her place in the final 24-player side which travelled to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, something she was looking forward to in the lead-up to the championships.

“It does mean a lot (Vic Metro selection),” she said. “I’m very excited. “The group of girls we’ve got this year is absolutely fantastic. I think we will do really well this year. Hopefully we will just keep ticking by the training sessions and see how it all goes.”

McLaren credits her parents for giving her the opportunities to play at the level she does.

“Really I wouldn’t be able to play footy without my parents, you know Mum drives me absolutely everywhere just to play the game I love,” McLaren said. “Dad (Scott McLaren, AFL umpire) watching him growing up, I always loved watching him on the MCG umpiring. “It is a bit different playing, but I always had that goal to be at that elite level.”

While when she was younger the pathway was not what it is today, McLaren always aspired to play at the highest level.

“(I’ve) always had footy there,” McLaren said. “I’ve played it constantly through my junior years so it’s only now that the opportunity can arise. “For girls now my age and younger, have all got that to aspire to in the future.”

McLaren has also noticed the clear rise in quality in the TAC Cup Girls competition as players improve and clubs build depth in the ranks.

“Yeah absolutely, the standard the TAC lifted a lot this year,” McLaren said. “I think from where it was last year, it’s higher intensity, it’s a lot faster and the talent is growing just incredibly.”

Right now McLaren is focusing on her studies as she comes to the end of her 13-year school journey.

“I am studying Year 12 at the moment, so it’s a good balance between the two,” McLaren said. “I am looking to study at university next year, hopefully paramedicine or nursing, so that’s a little goal of mine, but it’s obviously a little difficult to balance the two, but I do think having footy there does keep me on top of my school work.”

A member of Collingwood’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side, McLaren has already tasted senior action early in the year and is looking forward to more.

“It was really good, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was good intensity and the group at Collingwood they really get around the new girls so it was really good.”

Lynch overcomes it all to achieve her Nationals goal

OAKLEIGH Chargers midfielder, Katie Lynch has been riddled with injuries since 2015, but has battled through to take her place in Vic Metro’s Under 18 Championships side.

She only managed four games during the TAC Cup Girls season, but still earned a plane ticket to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Lynch says she is grateful for the opportunity and hopes she can make the most of it.

“It (getting selected) was probably one of my goals coming into this season so being here is good,” she said.

She has made the most of her opportunity so far, as she was one of the best players against Vic Country in Metro’s first hit-out in the Championships. But to get to this point has been extremely difficult for Lynch, as an ankle injury in 2015 halted her promising sporting career. This carried through to 2016 but it got worse last year, where she endured one of the most challenging periods of her life.

“I had a bit of a rough patch last year with injury and didn’t get the chance to take the field with Oakleigh,” Lynch said. “It was a pretty confusing period. “I had different medicos telling me different things and it was just a bit hard. “But in the end, I played the club season last year so I felt better having played the club season and coming into this year. “It gave me a good warm-up.”

But this year was no easier, as Lynch battled school sport commitments and football commitments, as well as niggling injuries.

“I had a few problems (this year),” she said. “I had injuries bobbing up, just little niggles and then I also had the hard situation with school sport that takes priority sometimes so I missed the last four games. “I’m playing firsts netball with school so that was probably an issue there but hopefully I did enough to get myself out there.”

Not only has Lynch been a long-term footballer but she has also played netball for a while, admitting that she has loved to try her hand at different sports over the journey.

“I’ve played a fair few things,” the 18 year-old said. “Basketball was big and then I gave that up when I was about 11 or so and started up netball. “I’m still playing netball at the moment for school as well so those three (including footy) are the main sports.”

Like many other TAC Cup Girls players, there is the hurdle of Year 12 studies among this hectic year of football. But Lynch says she is balancing it as best she can, as she tries to push herself further with sport.

“I’m doing Year 12 at school at Carey (Grammar),” Lynch said. “It’s going well, it’s a tough year but just (I’m) trying to manage it.”

Her earliest memories of footy come from playing Auskick, and she has her dad and her brother to thank for instigating Lynch’s love for the sport.

Fast forward to 2018, and the Chargers midfielder is still passionate about taking opportunities like these. Her philosophy surrounding opportunities is simple yet effective, as she gets ready to pack her bags and jet off for a chance to lift the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships trophy.

“I’m all about opportunities,” Lynch said. “When the opportunity comes, you’ve obviously got to take it.”