The Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers will face off in Saturday’s NAB League Boys Grand Final at Ikon Park following strong preliminary-final victories over the Gippsland Power and Sandringham Dragons respectively.
* CLICK HERE to see full match results, goalkickers and best players from the NAB League Boys Preliminary Finals.
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 17.7 (109) d SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 4.10 (34)
Oakleigh (13-4 overall record) reached back-to-back Victorian Under-18 Boys grand finals thanks to a dominant win against the Dragons (11-8) at Ikon Park on Saturday – the seventh straight triumph for head coach Leigh Clarke’s team. The Chargers will now look to put a heartbreaking six-point loss to the Dandenong Stingrays in last season’s decider behind them this Saturday and claim their fifth premiership – and first since defeating Eastern by 12 points in 2015 (also premiers in 2006, 2012 and 2014). Oakleigh trailed Sandringham for less than three minutes of this entire contest (late in the first quarter), kicking 15 of the game’s last 17 goals from the 22-minute mark of the opening term onwards. That run included eight unanswered goals to end the match from midway through the third stanza as the resistance of the Dragons fell away.
A mix of top-agers and bottom-agers led the Chargers to victory, with highly-rated 18-year-old Matthew Rowell (game-high 32 disposals, 19 contested possessions and seven clearances) excelling in Oakleigh’s engine room alongside 2020 NAB AFL Draft prospect Will Phillips (27, eight clearances and eight tackles). Fellow bottom-agers Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four goals from 12 disposals and nine marks) and Finlay Macrae (22 disposals, nine marks and six inside-50s) were also crucial for the Chargers, while top-age leaders Noah Anderson (23 and three goals) and Trent Bianco (27) continued their outstanding seasons. Tom Graham (three goals), Conor Stone (two) and Cooper Sharman (two) were other multiple goalkickers for Oakleigh.
Sandringham was best served by the likes of captain Ryan Byrnes (team-high 23 disposals), Darcy Chirgwin (22 and six marks) and Miles Bergman (14, six inside-50s and one goal). Hugo Ralphsmith (14 and one goal) and Kyle Yorke (two goals) were other Dragons to hit the scoreboard, but their opponent’s control of possession denied them enough chances to truly threaten for a spot in their third Grand Final in four years.
EASTERN RANGES 10.8 (68) d GIPPSLAND POWER 5.8 (38)
Minor premiers the Ranges (14-3 overall record) have a chance to win a third Victorian Under-18 Boys flag (also premiers in 2002 and 2013) following a strong triumph over Gippsland (12-6) in the second leg of Saturday’s Ikon Park double-header. Head coach Darren Bewick’s Eastern group has won 10 of its last 11 games – the only defeat coming at the hands of this Saturday’s opponent Oakleigh – and the Ranges will seek to avenge a 12-point loss to the Chargers in their most recent grand-final appearance in 2015. Eastern first took the lead against the Power with a goal to Jamieson Rossiter after eight minutes of play and increased its lead at every change, a three-goal burst in the space of five minutes midway through the third quarter proving match-defining as the Ranges knocked off one of only two teams to have beaten them in 2019.
Eastern had less of the ball than Gippsland but made better use of it inside 50, with Rossiter and Jordan Jaworski each kicking two majors from limited opportunities. Bottom-ager Wil Parker (team-high 23 disposals and eight rebound-50s) kickstarted the Ranges from the back half, while reliable on-ball trio Lachlan Stapleton (22, eight tackles and six inside-50s), Mitch Mellis (21 and four clearances) and Zakery Pretty (16 and four clearances) continued their strong form further up the field. 2020 NAB AFL Draft prospect Connor Downie (18, six inside-50s and one goal), skipper James Ross (16) and over-ager Joel Nathan (13 and seven marks) were others to fulfil important roles for Eastern.
The Power had Sam Flanders (game-high 27 disposals, 15 contested possessions and eight clearances), Ryan Sparkes (26, 10 marks and five inside-50s) and Caleb Serong (21, five clearances and two goals) produce typically prolific performances, while Harrison Pepper (23, five rebound-50s and one goal) and Tye Hourigan (15 and five rebound-50s) again distinguished themselves in defence. However, it wasn’t enough to see Gippsland reach its first grand final since 2012.
Saturday September 21 @ Ikon Park
Eastern Ranges vs Oakleigh Chargers from 1.05pm (broadcast live on Fox Footy)