Tag: Zach Sproule

Classic Contests: Stingrays hold on in talent-filled clash with Bushrangers

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 8 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Dandenong Stingrays and Murray Bushrangers. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2016 when the two teams were locked in an epic tussle at Shepley Oval in mid-August.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 4.1 | 4.2 | 7.7 | 10.8 (68)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.1 | 5.8 | 6.11 | 9.13 (67)

TAC Cup, Round 16 | Saturday, August 13, 2016
Shepley Oval, 2pm

Future draftees:

Dandenong: Hunter Clark (St Kilda), Tom Murphy (North Melbourne), Josh Battle (St Kilda), Lachlan Young (Western Bulldogs), Mitch Riordan (Gold Coast), Myles Poholke (Adelaide),
Murray: Todd Marshall (Port Adelaide), Will Brodie (Gold Coast), Ben Paton (St Kilda), Doulton Langlands (St Kilda), Charlie Spargo (Melbourne), Zach Sproule (GWS), Esava Ratugolea (Geelong), Harry Morrison (Hawthorn)

In a good year for both sides, Dandenong Stingrays and Murray Bushrangers were set for a Round 16 clash as both teams would be close to full-strength. While the Stingrays were still missing a couple such as top prospect, Luke Davies-Uniacke, the teams would eventually field 14 future AFL draftees – four of which would head to St Kilda – in a top-end talent-filled match.

Coming into the game, Dandenong was leading all-comers with a three per cent gap on second placed Geelong, though the Bushrangers were just two points behind and just marginally a per cent behind the Stingrays. It shaped up to be an absolute epic, and unlike many, the pre-game predictions of the match being a beauty, lived up to expectations.

Dandenong took control early, booting four goals to two in order to take a 12-point lead into quarter time. Starting the game as favourites, particularly on their home deck, the Stingrays looked to take full advantage early in the game. Not to go away quietly, the Bushrangers produced one of the better quarters for the year that the Stingrays had faced, booting three goals to zero – holding their opponents to just one behind – to lead by 12 points at half-time.

Continuing the see-sawing contest, it was Dandenong that regained control in the third term, booting three goals to one, and could have led by even more than their three quarter time advantage of two points. In the premiership quarter, the Stingrays piled on 3.5 to 1.3 and grabbed the lead but were not entirely comfortable. In a thrilling final term, both teams booted three goals, and while the Bushrangers clawed back a point from the deficit, could not hit the front and fell short, 10.8 (68) to 9.13 (67).

Hunter Clark had a day out with a best on performance for the Stingrays thanks to two goals from 13 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while Sam Fowler racked up 26 disposals, two marks and three tackles to be named among the best. Fellow forward, Dan Allsop – who finished second in the Morrish Medal count, booted 2.3 from 19 disposals, three marks and six tackles, while future Roo, Tom Murphy, and Bailey Morrish were also among the best with Nathan Scagliarini (15 disposals, three marks, three tackles and a goal). Of the future draftees to play in the game, Myles Poholke had an impactful performance with 20 disposals and three tackles, while Mitch Riordan (seven disposals, three tackles) and Lachlan Young (14 disposals) also played.

For the Bushrangers, Will Brodie was a star, winning 26 disposals, two marks, eight tackles and booting a goal to be the best player on the ground. Fellow highly-rated prospect and bottom-age talent at that stage, Charlie Spargo had a strong performance of 20 disposals, four marks, four tackles and two goals, while future Port Adelaide tall, Todd Marshall had nine disposals for three marks, three tackles and 3.2. All top six players on the ground for the Bushrangers eventually found their way to AFL homes, with the others being St Kilda duo, Doulton Langlands (20 disposals, two marks, two tackles and one goal) and Ben Paton (21 disposals, five marks – three contested – and three tackles) and Richmond’s Ryan Garthwaite (15 disposals, seven marks and three tackles). Other draftees who played were Harry Morrison (14 disposals, three marks and five tackles), Zach Sproule (12 disposals, four marks and four tackles) and Esava Ratugolea (five touches, two marks, four tackles and 21 hitouts).

Murray would have the last laugh at the end of the season, upsetting the minor premiers in the qualifying final by 26 points as they went on to reach the 2016 TAC Cup Grand Final before going down to Sandringham Dragons. Two weeks earlier, Dandenong would exit in straight sets, booting just four goals in a 61-point loss to the Dragons in the semi-finals.

2019 AFL Draft club review: GWS GIANTS

GIVEN the draft circumstances, Greater Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS were able to make the most out of a hand they knew would be compromised with an elite talent coming into the club. Able to trade up to Pick 4 in order to avoid using their first pick on Northern Academy member Tom Green, the GIANTS instead nabbed the talented inside midfielder at Pick 10, and while they head into 2020 with a deficit, traded back into the 2019 National AFL Draft to snaffle up a couple of late selections. Like most sides that make a Grand Final, the GIANTS did not need to add too much, instead able to go best available, whilst adding some mature-age needs.


National Draft:
4. Lachlan Ash (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country) | 187cm | 83kg | Medium Defender
10. Tom Green (GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies) | 190cm | 89kg | Inside Midfielder
51. Jake Riccardi (Werribee) | 194cm | 96kg | Key Forward
65. Thomas Hutchesson (Adelaide SANFL) | 177cm | 75kg | Outside Midfielder

Rookie Draft:
15. Jake Stein (GWS Giants)
28. Tom Sheridan (GWS Giants)
36. Zachary Sproule (GWS Giants)

The GIANTS had already committed to redrafting their three players in Jake Stein, Tom Sheridan and Zach Sproule in the Rookie Draft, so the third day of action was nothing too exciting. Most of the GIANTS’ work was done on night one, with night two also featuring a couple of surprises. Knowing Green was all but safe from their first selection, the GIANTS would have been that bit more relieved when the Demons opted for Luke Jackson and not place a bid on the inside midfielder. It allowed the GIANTS to instead select Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country co-captain Lachlan Ash. He is a readymade talent with an elite right boot and great vision that can set up the play from half-back. By selecting Ash, GWS is able to hand Zac Williams more midfield minutes and continue the form he showed during the 2019 AFL Finals Series. Ash will rarely make too many mistakes by foot and takes the game on from half-back, able to slot straight into the GIANTS line-up.

When the bid for Green came in at Pick 10, the GIANTS did not need much time to think about it. In what could be akin to daylight robbery, the GIANTS picked up a genuine top five talent with a mid-first round selection. Like Ash, Green could slot in straight away if required, and even more so given he stands at 190cm and 89kg with deceptive athleticism. He is a hard man to bring down and bullocks his way around stoppages, allowing other midfielders to use their outside strengths. He has shown some signs he could also play as a leading forward if he was to rest there, and that would be another string to his bow and the team’s versatility.

With the final two picks in the AFL National Draft, the GIANTS scooped up a couple of mature agers, including Werribee’s key position forward Jake Riccardi after trading up to take him off Collingwood’s hands. While the Magpies were rumoured to be interested heading into the draft, the GIANTS were willing to pay up and took a punt on the forward to find a role in a strong front six that saw Jon Patton leave over the off-season. Along with Riccardi, the GIANTS liked what they saw with small but tough Adelaide midfielder, Thomas Hutchesson. The 177cm prospect is an outside player with neat skills, good decision making and most impressively, an eye for defensive pressure.

What the GIANTS achieved over the draft period was bringing in four talents of whom could all play in Round 1 if given the opportunity. Whilst there is no doubt that would be a tough feat given the strength of the side, it allows GWS to have extra depth at its disposal heading into a season where it has to be considered one of the premiership contenders.

NSW/ACT weekly wrap: All Nations and Kickstart sides enjoy Diversity Championships

OVER the past few days, the biggest story in NSW/ACT was the National Diversity Championships, where the All Nations and Kickstart sides competed against every other Australian state and territory in a three-day series. Both sides picked up a win and gained invaluable experience in the process.

National Diversity Championships:

The New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) All Nations and Kickstart sides finished the three-day tournament with a win each in what was a great experience for the footballers. The NSW/ACT All Nations side had to wait until the final day to get a victory, but it was worth it, claiming a one-point thriller over the Northern Territory thanks to a goal from Thomas Sase. In earlier games, the NSW/ACT side were competitive across the games with Victoria the only side to win by more than four goals. For the Kickstart team, a first-up victory against Queensland and a competitive effort against Victoria where they went down by just five points, ensured they started the tournament on the right foot. While they were well beaten by the other states in the final two days, they never gave in.

For more information on the National Diversity Championships, including reports and results, head to the AFL NSW/ACT website, or to go to individual days, see:

Sunday, April 15
Monday, April 16
Tuesday, April 17

All Nations results:

NSW/ACT 1.0 (6) lost to Tasmania 4.5 (29)
NSW/ACT 3.2 (20) lost to South Australia 3.4 (22)
NSW/ACT 2.4 (16) lost to Queensland 3.5 (23)
NSW/ACT 2.0 (12) lost to Victoria 9.5 (59)
NSW/ACT 6.4 (40) defeated Northern Territory 6.3 (39)
NSW/ACT 1.3 (9) lost to Western Australia 5.6 (36)

Kickstart results:

NSW/ACT  5.0 (30) defeated Queensland 4.3 (27)
NSW/ACT 4.1 (25) lost to Victoria 4.7 (31)
NSW/ACT 3.1 (19) lost to South Australia 10.7 (67)
NSW/ACT 1.0 (6) lost to Tasmania 11.3 (69)
NSW/ACT 1.1 (7) lost to Western Australia 14.9 (93)
NSW/ACT 2.1 (13) lost to Northern Territory 9.3 (57)

NEAFL results

April 7

Canberra Demons 13.5 (83) defeated by Sydney University 11.25 (91)

Sydney University got the job done against Canberra Demons despite a late scare in the final term. The visitors got away to a flyer to lead by 18 points at the first break, before Canberra piled on six goals to one in the second term, with Sydney University misfiring with the single goal coming from seven scoring shots. Trailing by eight points at the half, Sydney University booted 5.8 to 2.0 to take an 18-point lead once again with a quarter to play. Hitting back hard in the final term the Demons almost got back in front, but ultimately fell short as the visitors won 11.25 (91) to 13.5 (83) at Allinsure Park. Sydney arguably should have won by more given they had double the scoring shots of their opponents (36-18).

Mitch Maguire was nominated for the NEAFL Rising Star award after a terrific performance in the loss, booting three goals and was a clear standout. Others that impressed for Canberra were Nathan Richards and Lucas Meline, both of whom booted a goal each. For the winners, Sam Fong was named Sydney’s best, while Austin Lucy and Darcy Baron-Hay were also impressive. Jacob Derickx was the focal point up forward, finishing the game with four goals. Canberra had a bye this weekend after playing their round two match on Good Friday.

April 14

Sydney University 16.13 (109) defeated Redland 10.13 (73)

Sydney University remained undefeated in the NEAFL after an impressive 36-point victory over Redland at Henson Park on the weekend. In what was a fairly even contest in the first half, the home side broke away in the second half, booting eight goals to four, including five goals to two in the final quarter to secure the 16.13 (109) to 10.13 (73) win. Former Collingwood AFL player Tom Young continued his good form with four majors and named among the best, as was Austin Lucy who backed up his round one form. Others who were named in the best include Adam Gulden and Sam Fong, who is another player who has been sensational in the early parts of the season. Damien Bonney booted four goals to be another key player up forward.

Brisbane Lions 19.10 (124) defeated Sydney Swans 10.14 (74)

Sydney Swans reserves fell away in the second half against Brisbane Lions, going down by 50 points. Brisbane piled on 12 goals to three after half-time and went from a six-point deficit to a big win with 13 individual goalkickers. Darcy Cameron and Ben Ronke booted two goals each for the Swans, while Robbie Fox, Harry Marsh and Tom McCartin were named among Sydney’s best in the defeat.

Gold Coast Suns 14.9 (93) defeated GIANTS 11.6 (72)

Gold Coast Suns proved too good for the UWS GIANTS despite a spirited effort throughout the match. The first quarter of four goals to one in favour of the Suns proved to be the difference in the 27-point loss. Isaac Cumming starred for the Giants with 30 disposals and six marks, while Matthew Flynn had a whopping 51 hitouts and two goals from 13 disposals, and Zach Sproule finished with 22 disposals, six marks and seven tackles.

Matt Balmer’s 2016 Final AFL Draft Power Rankings Part 1

EVERY month since May, Matt Balmer has ranked his players from the 2016 AFL Draft pool. With less than three weeks until the November 25 National AFL Draft, he counts down the players ranked 50-1 over the next two weeks. Today will be 50-26, before next Monday’s final rankings from 25-1.

Well what a year it has been. Looking back at May’s rankings, it’s amazing how things can change after Sam Petrevski-Seton was #1 all those months ago. We have had injuries such as Jy Simpkin and Alex Witherden breaking their legs in separate school game incidents, while names have jumped up with strong performances throughout the season and in finals.

Having seen just under 100 games throughout the season, it is always hard to come to a final order and I have ranked the players how I would if I was an AFL club going into the draft come November, ticking names off the list as they are called out.

#50 Zac Fisher
Inside Midfielder (Perth/Western Australia)
15/06/1998 | 175.2cm | 70.3kg

Bite sized inside midfielder who jumped onto the radar with a big performance against the Allies in the first television game of the National Under 18s Championships on Fox Footy. Fisher’s awareness is one of his strengths and it is highlighted in the final quarter of the Western Australia game against the Allies, where he pulls the kick from the half forward flank into the centre 45 metres out from goal. His run and carry work through the midfield is good and he using his quick hands to clear the ball from the stoppages which is a strength. Kicking efficiency needs work and it was below 50 per cent in the WAFL this season. He played senior football all season for Perth and is not worried by bigger bodied opponents. Probably starts up forward in an AFL environment, before playing through the midfield if he can add to his frame.

#49 Josh Begley
General Forward/Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
03/07/1998 | 185.5cm | 96.1kg

Josh Begley is one of the bolters of the draft who begun the year playing at Upper Ferntree Gully, before Eastern Ranges added him to their squad where he bagged six goals on debut against Tasmania. Coming off no preseason, Begley bagged 27 goals this season playing up forward. He did move into the midfield, where he used his strong frame to good success. His work in close at the stoppages is very good and is willing to tackle hard to win the ball back. Will need a few preseasons under his belt to work on his body shape, but fits in as a likely Christian Petracca type of player. Skinfolds have reduced dramatically in the last few months and looms as a likely second rounder.

#48 Harry Morrison
Outside Midfielder (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
12/11/1998 | 181.5cm | 77.6kg

It’s been a tough two-year block for Harry Morrison. Morrison suffered an ACL injury in 2014 that resulted in him missing the Under 16s carnival, before an injury to his back saw him miss the Under 18 carnival this season. His form throughout the season at the Murray Bushrangers has been solid, without starring in any particular games. He looks best suited to playing across half back or on a wing – thanks to his outstanding kick and his decision making. Morrison is composed with the ball in hand across half back, reading the play well before disposing of it well off his right boot. Morrison is not the quickest player out on the ground and it may be an area of focus if he can get a run at it without injuries.

#47 Corey Lyons
Inside Midfielder (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
31/05/1998 | 180.5cm | 77.1kg

The brother of current Gold Coast Sun Jarryd could not have done much more to be drafted in 2016. He continued to give it his all, right up until the final game of the TAC Cup season after a steller finals series. Lyons is an inside midfielder who is not blessed with speed, but tackles hard and wins the clearances. A knock on him has been his kicking efficiency which has been 57 per cent in the TAC Cup. Chances were limited in the National Under 18 Championships in a strong Vic Metro side, but his best position will be on the inside at AFL level despite his small size. Has the running ability to play outside and across half forward.

#46 Brennan Cox
Key Position Defender/Forward (Woodville-West Torrens/South Australia)
13/08/1998 | 192.6cm | 91.6kg

All Australian Brennan Cox has had a strong season playing virtually in every position. Cox held down the fort for South Australia at full back in the National Under 18 Championships and often floated between forward and back, with some stints in the ruck for Woodville-West Torrens in the SANFL. He played both Reserves and Under 18s football in South Australia, where he showed off his good leap and marking up forward and his intercept marking and one-on-one work in defence. Despite his early season testing results, he at times can appear slow moving around the ground. Is one of the handful of best defenders in the draft pool.

#45 Callum Brown
Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/04/1998 | 177.0cm | 72.2kg

Callum Brown is the son of Collingwood great Gavin and begun the Under 18 championships with a big performance. His work in close is very good and he picks the ball up as well as anyone from ground level. After playing mostly as a small forward for the Ranges in 2015, Brown spent most of the season on the inside. Whilst his aggression and work rate is very good, he can let down with his kicking. He is a player that tends to kick short and does not have much hurt factor when he disposes of the ball. His kicking efficiency can also be affected at times when he goes to kick the ball on either side of his body. Expect a bid in the 30 plus region for Brown.

#44 Declan Watson
Key Position Defender (Aspley/Queensland)
17/09/1998 | 191.4cm | 82.8kg

Declan Watson is a strong one-on-one defender who does not lose too often to his opponent. Watson intercepts well in the back half and kicked the ball out of for Queensland in the Under 18 championships. Whilst he isn’t a big ball winner, his work stopping his opponent is very good. Watson will need some time to develop with a light frame, but all signs point to him being the first Brisbane Lions academy member being bidded on come November 25.

#43 Ryan Garthwaite
?Key Position Defender (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
30/06/1998 | 192.0cm | 83.2kg

Ryan Garthwaite finished the year outstandingly well as the Murray Bushrangers’ best defender in their TAC Cup Grand Final loss to Sandringham Dragons. Garthwaite collected 24 disposals, nine marks and six rebound 50s in one of his best games of the season. Garthwaite is a strong lock down defender that is also mobile enough to play up the ground across half back. His intercept mark work is some of the best in the Under 18 system (averaged 6.5 marks in the TAC Cup) but injuries meant an underdone Under 18 carnival. His kicking action can appear strange with both hands dropping the ball onto his foot, but the ball does get to where it needs to go, more often than not.

#42 Jack Graham
?Inside Midfielder (North Adelaide/South Australia)
25/02/1998 | 180.3cm | 81.1kg

South Australian inside midfielder Jack Graham won All-Australian honours and was the Larke Medalist for the best player in Division One in the National Under 18 Championships. Has had a few injuries that has meant he missed a few games across the season, including a quad injury which kept him out of finals for North Adelaide. Graham is a contested ball winning hard nut and is strongly built from the waist down. My only concern is, will his body shape be able to adapt for AFL level where he likely trims off a little to work on endurance? His ball winning ability on the inside is very good and should appeal to clubs with a late second round pick.

#41 Louis Cunningham
Outside Midfielder (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
24/02/1998 | 181.8cm | 76.6kg

Little known Oakleigh Charger Louis Cunningham impressed in 2016. Showing his dash across half back, Cunningham stood out not only for his bright orange boots, but his pinpoint left foot pass that could break the game open rebounding out of defence. His attacking flair impressed me on multiple occasions when he would have the ball sprinting out of the back half and kicking it long forward. Deserves a chance on an AFL list.

#40 Willem Drew
Inside Midfielder (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
01/10/1998 | 188.0cm | 79.3kg

Willem Drew is one of the best pure inside midfielders in the TAC Cup. Averaging 7.4 tackles and 6.9 clearances per game, Drew was a crucial cog in the North Ballarat Rebels midfield alongside Hugh McCluggage. Whilst his ball winning is great, he has not had inside form at National Under 18 Championships level or in the NAB U18 All-Stars game, making it hard to judge where he sits in the draft overall. Drew does have some areas of improvement, where he can just hack the ball out of a stoppage at times – this resulted in a kicking efficiency of 55.7 per cent in the TAC Cup. He is slow to accelerate and isn’t blessed with pace, meaning the clear a stoppage he often needs to handball to ball out to a teammate.

#39 Myles Poholke
?Inside Midfielder/General Forward (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
10/07/1998 | 183.7cm | 81.9kg

Strong midfielder Myles Poholke has the ability to push forward and hit the scoreboard. Poholke had 18 disposals and two goals for Vic Country in their narrow loss to Vic Metro in the National Under 18s Championships. Whilst he is not a huge disposal winner, he played in a team that had one of the lowest disposal averages as a team week in week out. Poholke’s bursts can see him collect six disposals in as many minutes, before fading as he did at times throughout the year. His consistency does need work but his running ability and endurance has improved from what they were earlier in the season. His strength at the contest is very good and that can help him win one-on-one contests.

#38 Kobe Mutch
Balanced Midfielder (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)
18/03/1998 | 186.1cm | 83.6kg

One of the best ball winners in the 2016 draft pool is Kobe Mutch, but just where does he play his best football? He has multiple traits that make him so attractive, but without being elite in one category. His work rate around the ground is very good and he spreads very well from the stoppages and looks to get involved. Mutch is a good clearance player when he plays through the centre of the ground and is able to link the ball up with teammates on the outside. An average kick can see Mutch lean back at times and float the ball when going forward, allowing for it to be intercepted by opposition. He is willing to kick the ball on either side of his body and is a smooth mover.

#37 Jack Maibaum
?Key Position Defender (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
27/03/1998 | 191.9cm | 91.0kg

Key defender Jack Maibaum won All-Australian honours after a great National Under 18 Championships playing as Vic Metro’s number one tall. Maibaum has floated between forward and back at both Melbourne Gramamr (school) and Eastern Ranges (TAC Cup). Up forward he is mobile enough to lead further up the ground, whilst in defence he has played mainly a role shutting down the opposition best forward. Not a big disposal winner, but his efforts in one-on-one situations are very good and he gives his all week in week out. At 192cm, is he big enough to play as the number one key back?

#36 Josh Daicos
Outside Midfielder/Small Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
26/11/1998 | 177.8cm | 72.2kg

Josh Daicos is the highest ranked Father/Son prospect in my rankings. The son of Peter has had a good year in the TAC Cup providing X-Factor when playing up forward. At times he has pushed through the midfield and played across half back, but looks most at home. Against the Northern Knights, Daicos played in defence for the first half before moving forward- providing deadly booting a couple of goals to get the Chargers over the line. Some of his moments up forward are eye catching and looks agile on the field, wearing bright boots as he has for most of the season. His footy brain is very good but he can fade in and fade out of matches very quickly. Expect a bid in the 30-45 range.

#35 Luke Ryan
General Defender (Coburg/VFL)
07/02/1996 | 185.7cm | 82.9kg

Luke Ryan is the best state league prospect across Australia and seems likely to be a first round pick. Upon watching him, he looks to be ‘skinny’, but up close and testing wise he sits at a touch under 83kg. The general defender rebounds the ball and isn’t afraid to intercept mark. He is very good athletically, but from the games I have seen him play- he does collect a lot of the ball uncontested due to dropping off his man. A shoulder injury saw his season end early but was still able to win the Fothergill-Round medal as the best Under 23 player in the VFL.

#34 Sam Walker
?Medium Defender (Glenelg/South Australia)
16/03/1998 | 185.1cm | 79.2kg

I’m a big fan of rebounding defender Sam Walker. The South Australian has an exquisite left boot and hits targets at will when steaming from defence. Walker’s National Under 18 Championships saw him average 14 disposals and was named in the All Australian side. His disposal efficiency was elite from the carnival and continued his form back in the SANFL. Walker has pushed further up the ground at times, but looks most suited in defence with his great rebounding ability. Had the match up on Will Hayward in the SANFL U18 Grand Final in the wet and performed well.

#33 Isaac Cumming
Outside Midfielder (North Adelaide/NSW-ACT)
11/08/1998 | 184.2cm | 73.8kg

Someone mentioned to me back in June to keep an eye out on Isaac Cumming – and sure enough he was right. Cumming finished the year outstandingly well after a quiet performance in the under 18s carnival for both the Allies and NSW-ACT. Cumming provided a spark coming from defence in the NAB AFL U18 All Stars game on Grand Final Eve and was able to break the lines. Not a big disposal winner but uses the ball well and can be damaging across half back or on a wing.

#32 Jonty Scharenberg
Inside Midfielder (Glenelg/South Australia)
28/08/1998 | 183.2cm | 80.6kg

Jonty Scharenberg is the brother of Collingwood’s Matt, but is a completely different player. The Glenelg midfielder is an inside midfielder who is a good decision maker will ball in hand. His handballing to opponents out of a stoppage is outstanding and one of his best traits. Scharenberg collected 34 disposals in his only SANFL U18 apperance for the season in the Grand Final and was Glenelg’s best on the day. His clearance work in the Under 18 championships was very good, but kicking is a major knock on him with a kicking efficiency of 49 per cent in the carnival. Scharenberg doesn’t have a burst of speed either to get away from opponenents, often relying on his football IQ to dispose of the footy.

#31 Zach Sproule
?Key Position Forward/Defender (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
15/05/1998 | 195.6cm | 88.5kg

GWS Academy member Zach Sproule has played multiple roles in 2016. He played up forward alongside Todd Marshall, kicking seven goals in the Under 18 championships for NSW-ACT. Sproule played a similar role for the Allies but played the second half of the season in defence for the Bushrangers, playing on opponents such as Josh Battle throughout the year. A strong mark, Sproule has the running capabilities to play furthur up the ground as a roaming half forward thanks to outstanding endurance. Is still lightly framed but his set shot kicking routine is very good. His mobility should appeal to clubs looks for a tall at either end with plenty of development left in them.

#30 Dylan Clarke
?Inside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
06/09/1998 | 185.7cm | 83.4kg

Dylan Clarke is the younger brother of North Melbourne 2015 draftee Ryan. Clarke has had a stellar season for both Eastern Ranges and Vic Metro. The competitive midfielder is a hard nut at the ball and averaged just under eight tackles and seven clearances per TAC Cup game for the Ranges. Has a good endurance base which means he can play on the outside if required, but his strong build will allow him to transition into senior football rather quickly through the midfield. Clarke’s knocks have been hit kicking technique and it was under 50% in both the TAC Cup and the Under 18 championships for Vic Metro. Likely second round pick.

#29 Jordan Gallucci
Outside Midfielder (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
04/05/1998 | 180.0cm | 77.5kg

The athletic Jordan Gallucci has fluctuated around in my ratings all season. He showed plenty of promise in 2015 with many expecting him to have one of the better kicks in the draft pool. Unfortunately Gallucci could not find his feet as to where he best played his football, mixing between half back, midfield and periods up forward. For me I think he is best suited on the outside, rebounding across half back or on the wing. His kicking has struggled at times this year, at the 61 per cent (when combing TAC Cup & Under 18 championships). His athletic traits in speed and agility are outstanding, where he can burn opponents off running forward. Can win his own football in the midfield and his clearance work when on the inside has been strong.

#28 Patrick Kerr
Key Position Forward (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
31/07/1998 | 193.4cm | 93.2kg

The grandson of Carlton’s Laurie Kerr is one of the best key forwards in the 2016 draft. Kerr was at his best booting four final quarter goals to get Vic Metro over the line against South Australia in the Under 18 championships. Kerr has terrific hands overhead and marks well on the lead. When Kerr is on, he’s hard to stop and can really take the game away from opposing sides. Kerr is a strong leader and works hard on field & is a great character, speaking well to all those who have a chat with him. His speed over the first 5-10m is good which allows him to get distance between him and opposition. Kerr has worked hard on his agility, but it still was one of the worst at the National Combine. May appeal to the Blues at Pick 25 due to the family history.

#27 Jarrod Berry
Medium utility (North Ballarat Rebels/Vic Country)
05/02/1998 | 191.0cm | 81.8kg

A large majority have Berry in their top 10-15 names, but not for me. Berry has left me wanting more all season with each game I have seen him play. Multiple injuries did not give Berry an ability to be consistent across the season and play constant football. Berry has the best leadership abilities out of any player in this draft, his vocal work out on the ground is clear and it will hold him in good stead in the AFL. But where does he play his best football? He has the size to play inside midfielder, showed his good capabilities overhead up forward at stages late in the season as well as rebounding the ball out of defence. His kicking does need some work and for me I would be playing him in the attacking half of the ground. The utility will have plenty of suiters and should be a first round selection.

#26 Shai Bolton
Outside Midfielder (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
08/12/1998 | 174.7cm | 68.8kg

Excitement machine Shai Bolton has one of the best highlight packages in 2016. His fast side step is Cyril Rioli-like and he moves as well as anyone when getting around opponents. His speed is outstanding and is a hard match up when playing up forward. Bolton’s first half in the NAB AFL U18 All-Stars shows he has the capabilities to play up on a wing and his eye-catching moments make you take notice. What does need to be improved on is his kicking, which thanks to a high ball drop and style it can result in some bad kicks. Will need to work on his endurance in an AFL environment where he could well become a very damaging playing on the outside.

So that’s my players ranked 50-26, if you want to know more: Send me a Tweet @MattBalmer7 before my final 25-1 is released next Monday night.

Daring Dragons claim their third TAC Cup Premiership


Murray Bushrangers:     1.4   4.6   7.10   9.14 68
Sandringham Dragons   2.2   6.6   9.8    12.13 85

Murray Goals: Richards 2; Marshall 2; McMullan 2; Tiziani; Pinnuck; Sproule;
Sandringham Goals: H.Brayshaw 2; Krakauer 2; Maloney 2; Florent; Lyons; McLean; Lok; Scrimshaw; Trew

Murray Best: Garthwaite, Brodie, Spargo, Cousins, Carroll, Richards
Sandringham Best: McGrath, Scrimshaw, Taranto, Burt, Lyons, Florent

The Sandringham Dragons have claimed their third TAC Cup premiership, with a tense 17-point win over Murray Bushrangers at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Sandringham led at all main-breaks, but the game continued to sea-saw right throughout the day.

The game stepped up a notch when the Bushrangers hit the front in the final quarter and they held the lead with 12 minutes remaining.

Jack Scrimshaw picked the ball up and goaled from a scrap giving the Dragons the lead.

Tom Maloney continued his strong form from the finals, nailing the winning goal for the Dragons, before Josh Trew put the extra icing on the cake with two minutes to go.

Vic Metro Under 18 MVP Andrew McGrath was enormous in the second half and was a vital cog in the Dragons’ win.

McGrath wasn’t allowed space in the first half, kept to just ten disposals before a match-winning move saw McGrath moved to half back, which allowed him to run and create for the Dragons.

McGrath finished the contest with 38 disposals (21 contested) and eight clearances, as the worthy winner of the TAC Medal for Best on Ground.

“It was a good win. I think I’m making a habit of starting slow,  every final I’ve started a bit poorly but worked my way into the game,” McGrath said post-game.

“It’s all about the team today. Yeah it’s an honour to receive the medal, but everything we did today was for the team, we come in here as a team, we’re going to leave as a team and celebrate as a team,”

“The next month is pretty interesting…Everything starts to heat up, the All Stars game next week, the combine after that, exams… It’s a busy time and you’ve just got to take it week by week and just know your priorities.”

Midfielders Tim Taranto (31 disposals, seven marks and 11 tackles), Oliver Florent (24 disposals) and Corey Lyons (24 disposals) played an important role as the Dragons won 90 more disposals than their opponents.

The Bushrangers won the midfield battle early in the contest and had countless inside 50s, but it was Scrimshaw’s strong work across half back that stopped them in their tracks.

Scrimshaw used his pinpoint left foot on multiple occasions and it was his work repelling the Bushies attacks that kept the Dragons on top.

After half time, Scrimshaw was surprisingly moved forward, a role which he has done in the past, booting the goal to put Dragons in front deep in the final quarter.

Will Brodie came off sore early after colliding with an umpire, resulting in him leaving the ground with a blood nose.

Brodie’s work at the stoppages was good throughout the day finishing with 22 disposals (12 contested), six tackles and seven clearances.

Brodie’s work on the inside was assisted by 179cm bottom-aged midfielder Charlie Spargo who had 24 disposals (11 contested) in one of his best games of the season.

Spargo’s father Paul played 81 games for North Melbourne, narrowly missing the 100 game mark to have Charlie eligible to join the Roos as a Father Son prospect. However, Spargo is part of the GWS academy and will be eligible for them in 2017.

Up forward Todd Marshall was kept off the pace, with Dragons tall Ari Sakeson doing a stellar job keeping him to three disposals and two goals.

Zach Sproule was another who couldn’t get into the game down back and moved forward booting 1.2, but was another quiet Bushranger.

Ryan Garthwaite was the Bushies best with 24 disposals, nine marks, six tackles and six rebound 50s.

A strong one-on-one defender, Garthwaite was able to win plenty of the ball and take it forward. Despite an akward kicking style with a double handed ball drop, he hit the target on 14 out of 17 occasions.

The Dragons now keep their undefeated streak at TAC Cup Grand Finals alive, with three premierships from three occasions.

The players’ attention now turns to Friday afternoon at Punt Road, where the best Under 18 prospects will have the chance to push their name up clubs’ draft boards.


Matt Balmer

Scouting notes: TAC Cup Preliminary Finals

Max Lynch

The Sandringham Dragons will meet the Murray Bushrangers in the TAC Cup Grand Final next Sunday from 11.05am at Etihad Stadium.

Sandringham Dragons 10.10 (70) defeated Geelong Falcons 7.6 (48) by 22-points.

Matt Balmer’s scouting notes:

Geelong Falcons:

#6 Sam Simpson– Geelong could have a gem here. Simpson hasn’t had a lot talked about him, but he’s a very smart footballer. He has the chance to go Father/Son to Geelong if they nominate and match the bid for him. He’s very lively around the contest, running around in his long socks. Had 14 disposals but might begin to get some more talk at club land.

#10 Mitch Diamond– Played mostly behind the ball, kicking the ball out from full back. He had 25 disposals and eight tackles as one of the best for the Falcons.

#28 Paddy Dowling– 21 disposals and two goals for the left footer. Dowling can play in multiple positions, but looked at his best playing as a high half forward. He did attend a few centre bounces, but I like him better on the outside.

#42 Cassidy Parish– With his brother watching on, I’m sure most of the AFL club recruiters had an eye on the bottom ager. With slick back hair and bright red boots there were plenty of passages where he streamed through the middle of the ground. Parish had 22 disposals and eight clearances, often electing to take the ball out of a stoppages looking for a loose player by hand.

#50 Sean Darcy– Was on fire in the first half, but slowed down a bit once Sandy worked themselves back into the day. He dominated in the ruck with 35 hitouts, but struggled when Sandy attempted to go third man up around the ground against him. Will attend the National Combine and clubs will be looking eagerly at his testing results.

Sandringham Dragons:

#4 Will Setterfield– Suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2nd quarter and that was his day done. Believe he went off the hospital and the Dragons weren’t too confident he’ll play again this season.

#5 Andrew McGrath– A huge last quarter of 14 disposals was one of the reasons Sandy are into the Grand Final. He finished with 32 disposals, eight tackles and nine clearances in another dominant display. Hit most of his targets, but played more on the outside than on the inside compared with last weekend. Could he challenge for the No.1 pick? Might be sweating on a report for a sling tackle in the 3rd term.

#7 Corey Lyons– Another solid finals performance collecting 21 disposals. His kicking was again under 50%, but his I was impressive at 3QT with his vocal work willing his teammates over the line.

#8 Tim Taranto– Another huge game for Taranto and he’s well and truly pushing himself into the top handful or so of picks. He has the ability to go and play tall inside 50 and is a tough match up either forward or on the ball. 23 disposals (17 contested) and four goals.

#10 Jack Scrimshaw– Started like a house on fire, but slowed down after quarter time. His left foot was superb playing in the back half. Might need to move further up the ground next week if Setterfield misses the contest.

#13 Oliver Florent– Easily Florent’s best game for a while. Had plenty of spark and was involved right throughout the day. He also laid seven tackles, however he does have the ability to flash in and out of the game with two touches in two passages, before not being seen for 20 minutes.

Murray Bushrangers 15.12 (102) defeated Oakleigh Chargers 8.10 (58) by 44-points. 

Peter Williams’ scouting notes:

Murray Bushrangers:

#7 Will Brodie – Was uncharacteristically quiet today, and while he does not rack up the numbers other potential top five picks do, the uncompromising inside midfielder is usually more consistent. Worked into the game more in the second half, starting with the first goal of the third term from a stoppage. Hard to keep the bull down and will be crucial in winning the hard ball next week.

#13 Lachlan Tiziani – Having a sensational season, in particularly the second half, kicking another swag of goals today. Kicked three goals in three minutes in the second term to help the Bushrangers get some breathing space and run away with the game. Finished with six goals and just looked so good in the air. Huge vertical leap and great goal sense, an over-ager who is likely to make it onto an AFL club’s list.

#20 Zach Sproule – Played an important role as a rebounding defender who is far more mobile than his 196cm would suggest. He can take the ball in flight and not lose stride, running away from the 50 and sending the ball forward. Might be an underrated tall in the draft who will likely cost GWS a pretty penny if he performs well next week. One to watch in the grand final.

#22 Harry Morrison – Reliable defender who plays like a quarterback, peeling off his opponent, positioning himself well and intercepting the ball on the last line of defence. A good kick, Morrison provides run and a link-up player who while a little small, plays taller than his standing at 182cm. Was particularly impressive when he moved up to the wing and sat a kick behind play, rebounding the ball back inside 50 or forward of centre.

#25 Ryan Garthwaite – Another rebounding defender who reads the ball really well. Can sometimes trail his opponent on the lead and is not as strong as other key defenders, but often will outsmart his opponent, reading the ball drop perfectly. Most awkward kicking style you will ever see, but is more effective than others and can clear the danger zone with ease.

#40 Todd Marshall – Really impressive game from the big man. Playing as a lead-up key forward, Marshall finished the game with seven marks and one goal. Not only did he make numerous leads and look strong overhead, but he was quick to dispose of it and keep the game moving for the Bushrangers. Laid a great tackle on Lachlan Walker in the fourth quarter who was streaming down the wing. The first round pick is no longer GWS-bound, and is on the open market with no doubt plenty of suitors likely to be impressed from his strong game today.

Oakleigh Chargers:

#6 Campbell Lane – Found plenty of the football once again and tried hard across the four quarters. Worked well on the inside, but kicking can let him down. Finished with 24 disposals, six marks and five tackles getting it done at both ends. Did not stand out particularly, but can hold his head high in a disappointing team performance.

#8 Toby Wooller – Bottom-age prospect who is continuing to show plenty. A really good mark of the football, he let himself down with his set shots. Continues to develop strongly and gets plenty of space with his leads and expect him to come back stronger next year. One to watch in 2017.

#21 Lachlan Walker – Typical workman like performance by Walker. Is not the cleanest or classiest player out there, but just wills himself to contests and does everything right. Not elite in any one category, but a really consistent player who covers ground well and was consistent by foot today.

#24 Dion Johnstone – An enigma up forward, Johnstone is an interesting prospect. From North Warrnambool boarding at Scotch, he is dangerous inside 50 and finished the game with a couple of goals including a fantastic effort from a tight angle. Johnstone is a one-touch player and while he needs to work on his consistency, will be one with plenty of scope for future development.

#28 Josh Daicos – A quiet performance from Daicos with nine disposals. Picked up a little in the last with a nice goal assist, but missed to the right with a set shot he would normally nail. Plenty of class though and rarely wastes a disposal.

TAC Cup Preliminary Finals preview

Will Brodie will be a key player if Murray are to progress to the Grand Final.
Will Brodie will be a key player if Murray are to progress to the Grand Final.

WITH just four teams and three matches left in the 2016 TAC Cup season, this weekend’s action is expected to be red hot football.

In what has become an annual trend, both the metropolitan teams – Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers – sent their respective country top four opponents packing in straight sets last weekend.

It set up another duo of country versus metro battles with Geelong Falcons facing the Dragons, while Murray Bushrangers meet Oakleigh Chargers.

At the start of the season, I tipped Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons to face off in the grand final, and both teams are just one win away from making that happen.

Standing in their way are two sides that are more than capable of providing an upset, with both Geelong and Oakleigh well and truly in the contest.

Geelong Falcons vs. Sandringham Dragons

The first preliminary final will be between the Falcons and the Dragons with the latter expected to go in strong favourites.

Geelong rarely gets to face Sandringham at full strength due to the amount of players missing due to school football, while the Falcons enjoy the luxury of most of their school footballers (but not all) playing during the week and not clashing with TAC Cup matches.

I think many people, myself included, underrated the Falcons already and believed they could well have been heading for a straight sets exit.

To their credit, the Falcons put in a strong performance to intimidate the North Ballarat Rebels in the first final and run out winners by 37 points.

On that day, Brett Blair booted five goals, while Max Augerinos starred for his role on Rebels playmaker Hugh McCluggage, collecting 22 disposals, 18 of which were effective, while containing McCluggage to 20.

Meanwhile Sandringham Dragons defeated Eastern Ranges in a thrilling comeback, booting the last three goals of the game to run over the top of them.

Last weekend, Sandringham did it much easier over Dandenong Stingrays in the semi-final, restricting the Stingrays to four goals in a 61-point victory.

Their performance has them heading into the clash as favourites, but the Falcons are fresh off a break and are a solid cohesive unit that have shown they can upset the apple cart.

Key players:

Andrew McGrath (Sandringham Dragons)

A dashing half-back and balanced midfielder, McGrath wins his own ball as well as provides his team with outside run and carry.

McGrath is a contender for pick one among a number of other players at this year’s National AFL Draft and does not do a lot wrong.

Shown he can play against players much taller than his 179cm frame, McGrath is able to impact anywhere he is placed from back, midfield to forward.

James Worpel (Geelong Falcons)

Worpel is more than 12 months away from being drafted, but is a strong prospect already.

A tireless worker underneath the packs, around the stoppages and in front of goal, Worpel impacts the game through the middle and up forward.

He still has a season to show his worth, but expect Worpel to be among the top handful of names read out at the 2018 AFL National Draft.

How will the game be played?

I expect Sandringham to look to capitalise on the contest through the midfield with so many stars rotating through there.

If Geelong can try and shut the Dragons midfield down, it is halfway to victory, with Sandringham’s quick fire handballs into space likely to cause headaches for any opposition.

The Dragons are not afraid to back themselves and constantly over possess the ball in a game style that is quite simply ‘keeping’s off’.

Their true logic is, if the opponent does not have the ball, they cannot score.

Sandringham very rarely looked rushed in its forward movement and is more than happy to switch play when required or chew up the clock in tight situations.

Geelong might not have the skills the Dragons do, but they could match them for pace, and on the inside.

Geelong will need to give its forwards silver service delivery to ensure the likes of Brett Blair can help the Falcons kick a winning score.

Who will win?

It is hard to go past Sandringham who were mighty impressive in their last couple of matches, but anything can happen in finals.

Tip: Sandringham by 25 points.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers

The winner of preliminary final one will face the victor of Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers on Saturday afternoon.

Much like Sandringham, Oakleigh go most of the season without their top line players who are missing through school football commitments.

Murray Bushrangers often miss a few players too when NSW/ACT Rams begin their championships with the likes of Todd Marshall, Zach Sproule and Max Lynch playing in the division two and division one championships meaning Murray are left short – literally.

Murray was strong in its qualifying final victory over Dandenong Stingrays after a poor start to the game.

After kicking one behind in the first term, the Bushrangers booted 15 goals to nine in the last three quarters to run out 26-point winners.

Oakleigh Chargers have felt the two polar opposites of match intensity in the last two weeks, rolling the Calder Cannons by 106 points before holding on by a goal against the North Ballarat Rebels last week.

Many expected the Chargers to knock off the wounded Rebels pretty comprehensively, but instead it was more of a dog fight, which is likely to steel themselves for some red hot pressure against Murray this weekend.

Either side has a legitimate chance of victory here and it will be whether the week off has done wonders for Murray, or if they will be slow to start against a battle-hardened Oakleigh.

Key players:

Will Brodie (Murray Bushrangers)

Another contender for the number one pick, Will Brodie is a contested ball winner who just hunts the footy around the stoppages.

A barometer for his team, Brodie is the safe pick in this year’s draft, readymade and built for AFL.

Expect Brodie to have another solid performance, where while he often does not rack up the numbers others do, has plenty of influence in the match.

Taylin Duman (Oakleigh Chargers)

While Oakleigh might have a few players read out before Duman, he is one of the most underrated players in this draft crop for me. With Jordan Ridley missing with a shoulder injury, Duman is a crucial figure in the back half for the Chargers.

A lovely kick of the football, the rebounding half-back can move into the midfield and have an impact.

While others can often rush under pressure, Duman keeps a level head and delivers the ball well in tight situations.

How will the game be played?

I predict the game could be a higher scoring affair than the other preliminary final, with both teams able to score plenty quickly.

Both have shown the capability to come back from deficits, but also battle tough and get the job done.

I feel Oakleigh will start strongly but Murray will finish better because the Bushrangers are a better second half side, while Oakleigh does most of its damage in the first half when the heat is on.

If Murray can withstand the heat and win the ball at the coalface, I expect them to get up.

But if Oakleigh can over possess the ball similar to Sandringham enough to get it forward to their key targets, then they would be my tip.

Between the sides there are plenty of potential top 30 players and recruiters will enjoy trying to sort them on their draft boards.

Of the two games many predict this will be the closer final, and I am no different, with either side staking a claim for victory.

Who will win?

While Oakleigh’s recent premiership history is well spoken about, I will tip Murray in this one. I think they have prepared well and will be right to go.

If Murray slow the pace and stop Oakleigh getting too much run, I think the Bushrangers will get home in a close one.

Tip: Murray by 7 points.

Finals preview: Sunday’s games

DS - Josh Battle

Sandringham Dragons vs. Eastern Ranges

Of all the matches this weekend, the clash I am most looking forward to is the Sandringham/Eastern match. The reason for this is because I believe both sides have what it takes to win the flag, but only one of them will survive the first week of finals.

Sandringham is one of the more complete sides in the competition, with a midfield to die for and enough about them at both ends to kick a winning score while reducing the opposition’s ability to score at the same time. For me, Sandringham’s midfield is star studded with the likes of Will Setterfield, Tim Taranto, Ollie Florent, Jack Scrimshaw and Andrew McGrath all floating through there.

All those players are potentially top 30 picks, which is absurd to think that one club could have that many early selections. But what do they have around the ground?

McGrath often drops back and Taranto goes forward, but other than the two stars they do have a few that can more than stand up when called upon to do so. Ari Sakeson at centre half back is one to watch, while the twin towers of Hayden McLean and Isaac Morrisby at the other end will be keen to assert themselves on the contest. Throw in Ashley Krakauer and the constantly improving Hamish Brayshaw and the Dragons are more than capable forward of centre.

The only problem is, they face one of the few teams that could beat them at full strength.

Eastern Ranges were my tip for the flag at the start of the year, but due to missing players and their other football commitments, rarely field a full strength team, thus finishing eighth. Their midfield is more blue collar than Sandringham’s with Dylan Clarke, Callum Brown and Josh Begley winning plenty of clearances and contested ball. Jordan Gallucci is the outside run the Ranges need to win the match, while Adam Cerra has plenty of run and talent.

Their forward line is as strong as any with bottom-agers Sam Hayes, Joel Garner and Jaidyn Stephenson all impressive players. In defence, Jack Maibaum is likely to limit the influence of the Dragons’ key defenders and he is someone who has come on in leaps and bounds the last 12 months.


What is the key to winning the match?

With the both sets of forwards lines likely to get on top of their opposition defences, I feel the midfield will be where the game is won. It might seem obvious, but the team that can get it to its forwards quicker will provide them with more chances to kick bags. Sandringham is probably able to run it out of defence a little easier so Eastern has its work cut out to get it right.

Who could be the difference for each side?

It is hard to look past Andrew McGrath for the Dragons. Clearly a top five pick, he has pace to burn, good skills and breaks lines. If he was six centimetres taller he would be guaranteed top two pick. If he gets off the chain, it is hard to see Sandringham losing.

For Eastern, Jordan Gallucci is the man to watch. In his bottom-age year he was a beautiful kick, but this year he has not hurt opposition sides by foot like he used to, so hopefully finals will bring the best out of him.

What does Sandringham need to do to win?

Sandringham will need to just win the football at the stoppages. They are ahead of Eastern for pace and outside skill, but need to win the majority of clearances, because if Eastern get it forward too often, the Dragons could be in trouble.

What does Eastern need to do to win?

Eastern must get first use of the pill in the middle. They might not have the outside skill Sandringham have, but they have the inside muscle to dominate the contested ball. They simply must do it and get the ball forward as fast as they can to win it.

Who will win?

Sandringham will go in favourites and I think they will get the job done in a very close match. We know Eastern can really dominate on their day and I feel this could end up a shoot-out with their respective forward lines.

Tip: Sandringham by 8

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Murray Bushrangers

It is always exciting when two premiership contenders clash and that is exactly what will happen on Sunday afternoon when the Stingrays face the Murray Bushrangers at Ikon Park. The Stingrays have finished on top of the TAC Cup ladder and will rightfully head in as favourites, but the Bushrangers have enough firepower, particular at either end to get the job done.

Dandenong’s defence is what sets it apart from other sides. The Stingrays have the likes of Reece Piper, Bailey Morrish, Oscar Clavarino and Hunter Clark, all of whom are expected to be drafted in the next 18 months. Throw in Mason DeWit and Luke Dalmau who are also possible chances and the defence is a rock solid back six.

Through the midfield Myles Poholke and Sam Fowler and talented players who can drift forward and kick goals, with Fowler more of a forward/mid, with Poholke the opposite. Over-ager Tom Jok will be keen to show how he’s improved over the season, while Lachlan Gill-Renouf also finds plenty of the football through the middle. Up forward, Josh Battle is the most watched player, as a strong contested grab and reliable set shot, the smart key forward will be a barometer for the Stingrays inside 50. Tom De Koning is a bottom-ager, but already he has shown he is more than capable of kicking a bag on his day, while Dan Allsop and Aaron Darling cannot be allowed too much space.

The battle in the ruck will be interesting when Dylan Atkins takes on the athletic Esava Ratugolea. Ratugolea will look to give the Bushrangers midfielders first hands, with Will Brodie sure to be there at the coal face. The ever reliable top five pick will put in a strong performance, in a midfield with big ball winners who can drift forward and impact the scoreboard such as James Cousins, Louis Pinnuck and Isaac Wallace.

Murray also has a formidable forward line with top 10 pick Todd Marshall standing at centre half forward, while Max Lynch will rotate between full forward and the ruck. Trent McMullan could become an option if the Stingrays get on top of the key tall timber, while Lachlan Tiziani and Charlie Spargo will make the most of their opportunities.

Up the other end, Zach Sproule will have a tough job containing Battle, while Harry Morrison and Ryan Garthwaite will be the guys that players look to get the ball into the hands of coming off half-back. Overall, the Bushrangers have a consistent line-up across the park.


What is the key to winning the match?

Winning the one-on-one battles will be the difference in this game. There are so many good one-on-one matchups, beginning with Atkins and Ratugolea in the ruck, Poholke and Brodie in the middle, Marshall/Lynch and Clavarino/Dalmau, Battle and Sproule and Piper and Tiziani. The side that wins the most one-on-ones in these key duels will win. They are all talented players who can make the difference for their respective sides and that is what will be telling in this match.

Who could be the difference for each side?

Josh Battle is a barometer up forward for the Stingrays, and if he can get off the chain against Sproule, then he could cause Murray some real headaches in the match.

For Murray, Will Brodie is the star of the show and he will need to assert his authority on the contest and beat Poholke at the coal face to ensure his team gets plenty of supply up forward.

What does Dandenong need to do to win?

Dandenong needs to play smart football, because both teams’ defences are sound, but the Murray forward line is very dangerous. The Stingrays need to play an entertaining, fast brand of football to keep the Bushrangers on edge, but be prepared for the counter attack that Murray could produce, with several long kicks in the back half who can really roost the ball over a zone defence.

What does Murray need to do to win?

Murray must make the most of their inside 50s. Dandenong’s defence is the best of the finals teams and the reason why they have finished on top of the ladder. Murray cannot afford to just bomb the ball in, because of how well the Stingrays’ back six operates. The Bushrangers will need to lower their eyes and hit up targets with precision.

Who will win?

I have no idea. That was brutally refreshing wasn’t it? But in all seriousness, you look at this clash and think on one hand, Murray have some of the best tall timber in the league and a strong inside midfield, but you look at Dandenong and think they have the best defence and are capable of stopping the Bushrangers’ forwards. Based on recent form, I will go for Dandenong in an absolute thriller.

Tip: Dandenong by 1.

Weekend That Was – Round 16

GF - James Worpel
Geelong Falcons bottom ager James Worpel

NAILBITERS, fast starts and big individual performances featured in round 16 of the TAC Cup.

In the first game of the round, Oakleigh Chargers pulled off a stunning upset over Sandringham Dragons.

The Chargers booted the first eight goals, eventually running out winners by 55-points.

The loss sees the Dragons slip outside the top four, with the Dragons needing results to go their way to gain a double chance.

Chargers 19-year-old Lachlan Walker helped himself to 29 disposals and 10 inside-50s, while bottom-ager Jack Higgins (25 disposals) chipped the ball around and found targets at close range. Small forward Dion Johnstone also booted five goals.

For the Dragons, Andrew McGrath collected 27 disposals, finishing with a strong last quarter while Tim Taranto had 25 disposals and 10 tackles willing his side to turn around the dismal performance after quarter time.

Hybrid defender Jack Scrimshaw found the ball 25 times, but had a handful of clangers by foot in what was a disappointing day for the Dragons.

Up at Eureka Stadium, the North Ballarat Rebels recovered from a slow start to defeat the Northern Knights.

The Rebels led by four-points going into the final term, but kicked away with nine goals to two, running out winners by 50-points.

Hugh McCluggage did his No.1 draft pick chances no harm, with 25 disposals and four goals. Cedric Cox spent more time through the midfield, resulting in his highest disposal number for the season with 24 disposals and six inside-50s.

Jarrod Berry is starting to return to the form that everyone had hoped earlier in the season, with 18 disposals and three goals (including two in the final term), whilst Rebels small Jermaine Jones kicked a bag of five goals.

Matthew Signorello (30 disposals) was one of the few strong performers for the Knights, while midfielders Luke Bunker and Lachlan Murphy both found the football with 25 disposals each.

Out at Morwell, Ben Ainsworth nearly pulled Gippsland Power over the line against Eastern Ranges.

Although the Ranges took home the chocolates by 16-points, the Power came home with a bang outscoring the Ranges but it wasn’t enough.

Ainsworth was best afield for Power, with 34 disposals and three goals in his best performances for the season. Defender Sean Masterson put together one of his better games for the season, with 16 disposals and seven marks.

Collingwood Father/Son hopeful Callum Brown had 32 disposals in the midfield for Eastern, with fellow Vic Metro teammates Dylan Clarke (30 disposals, eight marks and nine tackles) and Jordan Gallucci (21 disposals and seven tackles) also playing their part in the victory.

At RAMS Arena, Geelong Falcons retained top spot with an easy 90-point victory against Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup Radio match of the week.

Bottom-aged midfielders James Worpel (27 disposals and two goals) and Cassidy Parish (26 disposals and nine clearances) were the stars for the Falcons, while Jackson McLachlan booted four first half goals.

Only Ben Ronke (22 disposals and three goals) could break the 20 disposal barrier for the Cannons in what was a disappointing day for them. Noah Balta continued his good form from the Vic Metro trial a week ago, with four goals from four kicks.

The final match on Saturday saw a large contingent of recruiters flock to Shepley Oval to see a thriller, which saw Dandenong Stingrays defeat Murray Bushrangers by a solitary point.

The scores seesawed all the way through the final term, but it was Hunter Clark‘s goal that saw them take the lead with a minute remaining.

Stingrays small Dan Allsop was lively around goal, booting two goals while fellow small Sam Fowler had 26 disposals in one of his better games of the season playing across half forward.

Bushranger tall utility Zach Sproule held Josh Battle to a single goal, but Battle appeared to be plagued from a calf injury which he sustained in the opening quarter.

Will Brodie was Murray’s best with 26 disposals and eight tackles, winning a multitude of clearances throughout the day.

Bottom-ager Charlie Spargo collected 20 disposals and kicked two goals in an impressive display for the GWS academy member. Todd Marshall also booted three goals, all of which came from under 20 metres out.

The final match saw Western Jets lead from start to finish defeating Bendigo Pioneers by 32-points.

Isaac Miller was the Pioneers best with 29 disposals, nine marks and six tackles while Kayle Kirby kicked four goals for the home side.

Jets Bottom-ager Lachlan Fogarty collected 29 disposals, but it was Cameron Rayner who stole the show with a seven goal haul.

Rayner dominated inside 50 and looked set to hit double figures with seven goals at three-quarter time, but he could only muster a solitary point in the final term.

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