TAC Cup finals preview: Geelong Falcons vs. Gippsland Power

IT is that time of year again where the best sides take to the field and determine which TAC Cup clubs are contenders and which are pretenders. In the past years, the junior competition has seen the finals series take on the identical look to that of the AFL, but in 2017, the finals will be three weeks of pure knockout. The last two games to kick off the round are second taking on seventh and fourth taking on fifth. So without further adue, we take a look at the third match of the finals series.

Geelong Falcons vs. Gippsland Power

Geelong: 2nd, 15-3, 1570 points for, 953 points against, 165%
Gippsland: 7th, 8-10, 1273 points for, 1408 points against, 90%

Geelong Falcons head into today’s elimination final clash as strong favourites and with good reason, having won their past six games in the TAC Cup. The Falcons knocked off both Eastern Ranges and Dandenong Stingrays in the final two rounds but fell short of retaining top spot to the Oakleigh Chargers. Prior to the six-game winning streak, the Falcons had a down month over the National Under 18s Championships period, with a 10-goal win over Bendigo Pioneers the only celebration with losses to Oakleigh, Sandringham and indeed Gippsland in a four-week period.

Gippsland head into today’s clash with some handy form of its own, having won four of the past five games including impressive wins over Dandenong Stingrays and Murray Bushrangers. The one down game in the past month was a big 64-point defeat to the Falcons which will no doubt be playing on their mind having played so well against the top side at Colac earlier in the season.

In the Falcons’ big win, Sam Walsh had 37 disposals (19 contested), 10 clearances, eight tackles, five inside 50s and three rebounds, while Gryan Miers booted six goals from 25 disposals and nine marks as a dominant small forward. Harry Benson (24 disposals, eight marks and 10 tackles), David Handley (22 disposals, five marks and two goals) and Adam Garner (19 disposals, 11 marks and three goals) were the other impressive players. For the Power, Nick Hogan had 24 disposals, seven clearances, four inside 50s and four rebounds, while Boadie Motton laid 11 tackles to go with his 20 disposals in an otherwise disappointing day for the home side.

Earlier in the season Gippsland defeated the then-unbeaten Geelong side at Colac despite the best efforts of Adam Garner (14 disposals, nine marks and six goals). That day was the making of Callum Porter who tore Geelong to shreds in the best individual performance at TAC Cup level I have witnessed. Porter had 36 disposals (23 contested), 10 marks, eight clearances, 12 tackles, five inside 50s, two rebounds and four goals to individually haul the Power over the line on a day where they could not seem to kick straight. Will Stephenson was his partner in crime with 25 disposals, nine clearances and nine inside 50s. For the Falcons, Sam Walsh had another big day out with 30 disposals, 10 marks, four clearances, four inside 50s, six rebounds and six tackles, while Bayley Cockerill (31 disposals) and Harry Benson (27 disposals) were also busy.

Key players today:

Harry Benson (Geelong Falcons) 21.2 disposals, 4.2 marks, 7.3 tackles, 0.4 goals per game

The somewhat quiet achiever in the Falcons’ midfield got the crack at Callum Porter in Colac and despite finding plenty of the ball, Porter got off the chain. Benson levelled the scores back in Morwell and has been one of the most consistent players this season. If he can step up and help the likes of Cassidy Parish, James Worpel and Sam Walsh dominate the midfield, the Falcons will be well on their way to winning.

Callum Porter (Gippsland Power) 21.7 disposals, 3.9 marks, 7.7 tackles, 0.6 goals per game

Porter’s stats are almost identical to that of Benson’s but his second half of the season has been out of this world compared to his first half. He is strong in the air and capable of tearing a game open. Gippsland might not have the big names that other clubs have, but the likes of Porter, Will Stephenson and Matthew McGannon can hold their own in the midfield.

The Final Word:

Many people would be of the opinion this game is an easy win to the Falcons, but I am not of that opinion. While I do believe the Falcons will win, and they deserve to considering their season, it will be anything but a cakewalk for the second placed side. The Power will need to make the most of their opportunities and find a way to quell Adam Garner who booted nine goals across the two games against them. It would not be out of the realms of possibility for the Power to get up, but they will need to play at their best. You know you will always get a competitive effort from the Gippsland boys.

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