The Dandenong Stingrays top the table after NAB League Boys Round 7 with the Eastern Ranges and Gippsland Power hot on their tails, while a goal after the siren secured a memorable victory for the Tasmania Devils on the weekend.
Gippsland (5-1 record, third on ladder) finished second behind the Stingrays at the end of the 2018 home-and-away season and are quietly building another successful campaign after defeating the Calder Cannons (9th, 3-4) by 51 points at Morwell Recreation Reserve – the team’s fourth straight win.
The Power blew open a low-scoring struggle with seven goals to one in the third quarter and went on to record a 12.12 (84) to 4.9 (33) victory. Head coach Rhett McLennan said Gippsland’s 2019 group was proving comparable to last year’s preliminary-final side that produced AFL draftees Xavier Duursma, Irving Mosquito and Noah Gown.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group, and it’s just about how they work cohesively together to show how good they are individually,” McLennan said. “This age group has shown some real potential since probably under-15s.
“I thought Sam Flanders was very good (against the Cannons). His work in the middle (24 disposals and five clearances) was really important in us getting our fair share of clearances, along with Riley Baldi (26 and five clearances). Brock Smith (28 and six rebound-50s) was pivotal to us winning the footy back when it was going inside their forward half, and I thought the pressure of Jake Van Der Pligt (21 and 10 tackles) was very important too.”
McLennan pointed to pressure applied on Calder’s chief ball-winners such as Jacob Martin (33 disposals) and Daniel Mott (25) as a key factor in changing the momentum of the match.
“The Cannons possess the ball a lot, and we knew that if we provided opportunities for turnovers then that would give us a chance to bring it inside 50 fairly often,” McLennan said. “I thought in the second quarter they had the game on their terms and it took a real arm wrestle in the third quarter to get it back on our terms.
“It was a good effort from the boys to wrest the momentum of the game through their physicality and the way they used the footy when they had the opportunity.
“There’s a lot of work we still need to do to make sure we can compete against some of the top teams, but we’d like to think we can give a good account of ourselves against those strong metropolitan teams like Sandringham and Oakleigh.”
* CLICK HERE to see full match results, goalkickers and best players from NAB League Boys Round 7.
Meanwhile, the Ranges (2nd, 5-2) find themselves at the pointy end of the ladder following an 11th-placed season in 2018, with a host of in-form players taking it up to the Sandringham Dragons (4th, 4-2) in an 8.7 (55) to 6.10 (46) triumph at RSEA Park.
In a match containing five lead changes, Eastern overturned a small deficit at the last break with the only two goals of a tense final term through Joshua Tilly and then Connor Downie. Cody Hirst (31 disposals, 10 marks and six rebound-50s) and skipper James Ross (24, nine marks and nine rebound-50s) were among the best players in the win, providing the Ranges with plenty of drive out of Sandringham’s forward line.
— Eastern Ranges (@Eastern_Ranges) May 12, 2019
The Stingrays (1st, 5-0-1), though, maintained their hold on top spot and their unbeaten record to start the season with a comfortable 16.13 (109) to 6.10 (46) defeat of the Western Jets (6th, 3-3) at Downer Oval.
Ned Cahill again demonstrated how dangerous he is forward of the ball for Dandenong with four goals from 19 disposals, while his captain Hayden Young (26 disposals and seven rebound-50s) controlled play from defence and Reece Orchard (13 and nine tackles) was also among the team’s best players for his work without the ball.
The biggest drama of Round 7 unfolded at Queen Elizabeth Oval, when the Tasmania Devils (5th, 3-3) kicked two goals in the last two minutes of the game to snatch an 11.10 (76) to 11.8 (74) victory over the Bendigo Pioneers (10th, 2-4).
The Devils were 15 points in front of Bendigo earlier in the fourth quarter but soon found themselves 10 points behind with time soon to expire. Remarkably though, quick-fire goals resulting from centre clearances to bottom-agers Isaac Chugg and then Jye Menzie after the final siren turned the tables again (see video below). Menzie was among Tasmania’s best players with four majors for the match, while Sam Conforti racked up 30 disposals, took eight marks and booted two goals for the Pioneers.
— #NABLeagueBoys / #NABLeagueGirls (@NABLeague) May 12, 2019
Elsewhere in Round 7, the Northern Knights (7th, 3-4) posted a third straight win in a 14.10 (94) to 9.8 (62) result against the GWV Rebels (11th, 2-4) at Mars Stadium. Northern struggled to break away from the Rebels for most of the match, eventually piling on the last five goals of the game from midway through the final stanza to break GWV’s resistance.
Sunny Brazier (three goals from 19 disposals) and Sam Philp (two from 19 disposals) each hit the scoreboard for the Knights while also finding the ball, with 199cm teammate Nathan Howard (15 disposals and 28 hitouts) a standout in the ruck. Jay Rantall recorded 36 touches and seven clearances, but it wasn’t enough keep the Rebels in the contest.
Finally, the Murray Bushrangers (12th, 2-4) outlasted a game Geelong Falcons (13th, 1-4-1) group to prevail 14.8 (92) to 10.11 (71) at Avalon Airport Oval. The Bushrangers trailed by nine points midway through the third quarter but proceeded to score the next seven goals of the game to secure victory.
Hudson Kaak kicked the last three of those majors as part of his haul of five for the match, as Cameron Wild (27 disposals) and Jye Chalcraft (26 and eight clearances) continued prolific seasons in Murray’s midfield.