We reveal the team line-ups and preview the action for Saturday’s NAB League Boys Grand Final between the Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers at Ikon Park.
EASTERN RANGES vs OAKLEIGH CHARGERS – Saturday 1.05pm @ Ikon Park
* Watch live on FOX FOOTY, AFL.com.au, Kayo, the AFL Live Official App or the NAB LEAGUE APP.
Gold coin donation entry
Buy the NAB League Boys Grand Final Record for $5 at the game
The Ranges last appeared in a Victorian Under-18 Boys Grand Final in 2015, when they lost to Oakleigh by 12 points. They last claimed the premiership in 2013 – with a 112-point defeat of the Dandenong Stingrays – adding to a first flag in 2002. Eastern also fell in grand finals in 1995, 2000 and 2004, making its record in deciders 2-4 across its 27 previous seasons in the competition.
View this post on Instagram
In the spirit of NAB League Grand Final week, our #ThrowbackThursday looks back at our 2002 & 2013 Premiership sides. Many have gone on to play AFL, VFL and have become great leaders and players in community football leagues across the country. See any familiar faces? Tag them below! #WeAreRanges
The Chargers have also made six previous grand-final appearances – but from three fewer seasons in existence. They’ve won Victorian Under-18 Boys premierships in 2006, 2012, 2014 and 2015 (see above) and finished runners-up in 2011 and 2018, falling on the latter occasion to Dandenong by six points in last year’s thrilling season conclusion at this venue.
Rd 14 @ Box Hill City Oval: Oakleigh Chargers 12.11 (83) d Eastern Ranges 11.9 (75)
Oakleigh recovered from a 29-point deficit during the second quarter, working back into the match and getting the best of a see-sawing second half. Trent Bianco (34 disposals and 10 rebound-50s), Will Phillips (22 and nine clearances) and Jeromy Lucas (27) were prolific for the Chargers, while the Ranges were well served by Zakery Pretty (23 and seven clearances) and Jordan Jaworski (four goals).
Rd 1 @ RSEA Park: Oakleigh Chargers 12.16 (88) d Eastern Ranges 7.5 (47)
Eastern started brightly with four of the game’s first six goals and led by 10 points early in the second quarter, but Oakleigh restricted its opponent to just three majors for the remainder of the match. Noah Anderson starred for the victors with a game-high 28 disposals and four goals, while Matthew Rowell (20 disposals) and Trent Bianco (19) also found plenty of the ball in the win.
Minor premiers the Ranges (14-3 overall record) defeated the Gippsland Power by 30 points in last week’s preliminary final to post a 10th win from their last 11 games. Their only loss in that stretch was to this week’s opponent (see above).
The Chargers (13-4 overall record) notched their seventh straight victory in accounting for the Sandringham Dragons by 75 points in a preliminary final and have defeated their fellow grand finalists in that winning run (see above) en route to a third-placed finish.
Eastern first took the lead in its preliminary-final win against the Power after eight minutes of play and then increased that advantage at every change. Jamieson Rossiter and Jordan Jaworski each kicked two majors, while Wil Parker (team-high 23 disposals and eight rebound-50s) kickstarted the Ranges from the back half and Lachlan Stapleton (22, eight tackles and six inside-50s) stood out in the middle.
Oakleigh trailed the Dragons for less than three minutes of their preliminary final, kicking 15 of the game’s last 17 goals from late in the opening term. Matthew Rowell (game-high 32 disposals and seven clearances) and Will Phillips (27 and eight clearances) shone in the midfield as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (four goals) and Noah Anderson (three goals from 23 disposals) hit the scoreboard for the Chargers.
Is this a battle between top talent and a top team?
It’s too simplistic to look at this contest that way, but it does appear Oakleigh will field more highly-rated prospects for the 2019 NAB AFL Draft than a particularly even Eastern outfit. The Ranges may not boast names as well-known as Chargers like Matthew Rowell, Noah Anderson and Trent Bianco, but the key to their success under head coach Darren Bewick this year has been in 23 players contributing to the cause.
It starts in the middle for Eastern, where 19-year-old ruck Riley Smith and reliable on-ball trio Lachlan Stapleton, Mitch Mellis and Zakery Pretty have delivered consistent output across the season. If they can’t match it with Oakleigh’s star-studded midfield though, the Ranges might be at the mercy of exciting Chargers forwards Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Cooper Sharman, who have both been hitting the scoreboard regularly.
A lot could fall on an Eastern defensive group led by captain James Ross and including unheralded backs Joel Nathan, Todd Garner, Chayce Black and Jack Hourihan. If they can repel the forward thrusts likely to be generated by Oakleigh’s array of ball-winners – which also includes talented bottom-agers Will Phillips and Finlay Macrae – that will go a long way to the Ranges recording a triumph many wouldn’t predict.
Eastern hasn’t won more of the ball than Sandringham or Gippsland in its two finals so far, but the Ranges excel in winning the crucial contests. They finished even in disposals with the Dragons in their qualifying final but recorded 126 contested possessions to 118, allowing them to generate five more inside-50s and four more scoring shots. Zakery Pretty was the game’s leading contested-possession winner that day with 14.
It was a similar story against the Power last week, when Eastern lost the disposal count by 11 but won contested possessions 131-129 – led by Lachlan Stapleton with 12 – and scored five more goals from just one more inside-50. The Chargers, meanwhile, can win plenty of the ball both inside and outside the contest, posting 70 more uncontested possessions than Gippsland and then 66 more than Sandringham in their finals.
The ability of Oakleigh on-ballers like Matthew Rowell, Noah Anderson and Will Phillips – among others – to gain possession in congestion and then spread from the contest to collect the ball again in space is a big weapon for their head coach Leigh Clarke. The Ranges will need to stay competitive with their dangerous opponents at stoppages in order to get the tempo of the match on their terms as much as possible.
Eastern Ranges head coach Darren Bewick:
On making a grand final following an 11th-place finish in 2018: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s probably (been) a couple of years in building. We played a lot of bottom-age boys last year who are now our senior players and they really understand what the competition’s about and the intensity and the level they need to get to… They’re a really good group and really coachable.”
On Eastern’s perceived lack of top-end talent: “Oakleigh are a really good team and that’s probably why they’ve beaten us twice during the year. We’re pretty confident that if we come with the right attitude and good intensity, it’s going to be a ripping game. You’re going to have some really high-quality individuals playing the game, but it’s a team game and we’re pretty good in that component… Our group is talented. We don’t get the recognition we think we deserve, but that’s fine by us.”
Oakleigh Chargers head coach Leigh Clarke:
On the difference between 2019 and the 2018 Grand Final campaign: “(We feel 2019) has been pretty similar to last year. We’ve been able to engage our boys coming back from private-school footy; we feel they’ve been able to pick up our systems and the way we want to play and the expectations around the team that the boys have built all year. Saturday is our final test.”
On what a premiership would mean for the club: “We want the boys to share something special. I’m sure the Eastern boys think they’re a special group, but we back ours. You’d just like them to have that connection we talk about quite often, and they’ll get to share that for the rest of their lives. They’ll never be forgotten at our club if they win a premiership.”
— #NABLeagueBoys / #NABLeagueGirls (@NABLeague) September 17, 2019
Eastern Ranges captain James Ross:
On the team’s approach to the Grand Final: “We’re keeping it (the week) the same; there’s not a lot we can change, really. We’ve done the right things throughout the whole year and it’s just another game, with a lot more on the line.”
On teammates to watch in the decider: “I think we’ve got 23 good players you can look out for, really. You see the ones that always have high disposals, but it’s more the impact that some of our players have. You’ve got the midfielders like Lachie Stapleton, Zak Pretty and Mitch Mellis, you’ve got the backmen in Joel Nathan and Chayce Black, and the forwards with Jamieson Rossiter and Billy McCormack. We have a really good even spread across the ground.”
Oakleigh Chargers co-captain Trent Bianco:
On the legacy of the 2018 Grand Final defeat: “We aren’t lacking any motivation, but it (2018) probably adds a little bit of extra motivation. It just starts that fire inside. Losing by a kick (to the Dandenong Stingrays) still hurts us to this day and we definitely don’t want that to happen again.”
On teammates to watch in the decider: “We’ve obviously got some high-end talent, but we like to think we have pretty consistent players throughout the whole team. We’ve got Matty Rowell and Noah Anderson at the top and they’re pretty handy players, then we have the likes of Nick Bryan and a fair few bottom-agers like Jamarra (Ugle-Hagan), Reef McInnes and Will Phillips who have put in just as much as the top-agers this year.”
There are no confirmed outs for the Ranges as yet, with only top-agers Mitchell Brown, Beau Tennant and Jayden Weichard – who would be playing his first NAB League match since Round 11 – added to an extended bench.
Similarly, the Chargers have no confirmed outs, just adding top-ager Lucas Westwood, bottom-ager Samuel Tucker and under-16 talent Youseph Dib to their extended bench. Oakleigh co-captain Dylan Williams therefore won’t return from a back-related injury absence that stretches back to July.
See the full teams for the NAB League Boys Grand Final below.
EASTERN RANGES v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Grand Final – 21/09/2019
Ikon Park – Carlton
B: 10. C. Black, 39. J. Nathan, 40. J. Hourihan
HB: 4. J. Clarke, 21. J. Ross, 19. W. Parker
C: 20. C. Downie, 7. L. Stapleton, 30. T. Edwards
HF: 11. M. Mellis, 18. B. McCormack, 52. T. Sonsie
F: 9. J. Duffy, 13. J. Rossiter, 27. J. Jaworski
R: 49. R. Smith, 16. T. Garner, 23. Z. Pretty
Int: 6. M. Brown, 14. L. Gawel, 36. B. Hickleton, 26. C. Norris, 59. B. Tennant, 37. J. Weichard, 45. M. Zalac
23P: 44. H. Keeling
In: J. Weichard, M. Brown, B. Tennant
B: 15. K. Schreiber, 36. R. Valentine, 34. V. Zagari
HB: 5. T. Bianco, 52. N. Guiney, 49. H. Mastras
C: 39. R. McInnes, 6. J. Lucas, 9. W. Phillips
HF: 27. J. May, 25. J. Ugle-Hagan, 61. C. Stone
F: 29. F. Macrae, 73. C. Sharman, 77. N. Stathopoulos
R: 4. N. Bryan, 8. N. Anderson, 11. M. Rowell
Int: 58. Y. Dib, 18. F. Elliot, 22. T. Graham, 12. L. Jenkins, 30. S. Tucker, 17. G. Varagiannis, 1. L. Westwood
23P: 2. B. Laurie
In: L. Westwood, S. Tucker, Y. Dib
NAB LEAGUE GF press conference