TAC Cup finals preview: Oakleigh Chargers vs. Sandringham Dragons
AFTER a round of less than underwhelming finals – with the Eastern/Dandenong clash the exception – the top four teams remain in contention for the 2017 TAC Cup premiership. There is one thing for certain – a metropolitan team will face a country team in the grand final for the second consecutive year. In the second match of the day, Oakleigh Chargers take on Sandringham Dragons in the preliminary final at Simonds Stadium with the winner to run out on Etihad in a week’s time.
Oakleigh Chargers vs. Sandringham Dragons
Oakleigh: 1st, 15-3, 1653 points for, 993 points against
Sandringham: 4th,11-7, 1360 points for, 1104 points against
Last week Oakleigh produced a blow-out win over Northern Knights, defeating their opponents 15.14 (104) to 4.10 (34) in a game not likely to be remembered fondly by anyone out at Preston. Chargers’ spiritual leader and 2016 captain Jack Roughsedge was instrumental through the middle with 28 disposals (16 contested), 10 clearances, three inside 50s and a goal. Toby Wooller was unstoppable leading out of the forward 50 with 22 disposals, 10 marks, four inside 50s and 3.3 as well as two score assists. Others that impressed included Luke Stacker (26 disposals, six marks and foru clearances), Matthew King (24 disposals, six rebounds) and Charlie Thompson (22 disposals, five inside 50s, 2.2 and an impressive five score assists.
Sandringham on the other hand did not have the most ideal start, trailing Murray Bushrangers at quarter time and then conceding three of the next four goals before putting the foot down with a performance everyone expected of them. They piled on 16 of the next 21 goals to run away with the game in a huge 19.11 (125) to 11.8 (74) victory. There were plenty of standouts in that match including Will Walker who played a large portion forward, booting four goals to go with his 25 disposals, four marks and five clearances, while Hamish Brayshaw was huge again with 25 disposals, six marks, five clearances, eight inside 50s, six tackles and three goals. Others that impressed included Seb Williams (23 disposals, four inside 50s), Charlie Constable (23 disposals, six clearances and four score assists) and Alfie Jarnestrom (21 disposals, five marks, three clearances and three score assists).
Unfortunately for Oakleigh, there is a huge out in the form of Toby Wooller. His omission will be felt quite considerably as he was one of the best last week and just leads by example with huge marks and telling goals. The inclusion of Jack Higgins after he missed with a shoulder injury will bring a sigh of relief from the coaches, but it is hard to replace Wooller. Given they lined up without a ruckman last week and Hugh Longbottom shouldered the bulk of the load, the 191cm versatile player will line-up at half-forward with giant Ned Reeves returning, along with Ed Michelmore and Bailey Griffiths.
For Sandringham, Joel Crocker is out after an injury late in the game, as is defender Nathan Murphy with the cricketer-turned-footballer named in the side to face the Chargers but was a late withdrawal. Tall forward/ruck Hayden McLean returns to the gold, as does Sam Cameron and Alastair Richards with three to be omitted from their team named on Thursday night.
This game is incredibly hard to tip (like it should be) given Oakleigh has done nothing wrong all year, but Sandringham just know how to peak at the right time. The Chargers are one of only a handful of teams that produce four quarter performances game in, game out, but without Toby Wooller it leaves a massive hole up forward. The Dragons have gone very tall in their line-up, hoping to control the airways over the smaller Chargers, while Oakleigh will hope they use their speed to advantage. In saying that, Sandringham has some serious pace in its line-up and given it is closer to full-strength and coming off a dominant second half, I will pick the Dragons to head into the grand final. However, start like they did against Murray last week and the Dragons could be in serious trouble as the Chargers do not muck around or waste opportunities. It is set to be a cracker.