Editors predict tight year for TAC Cup teams

AFTER a long off-season, the TAC Cup boys are ready to follow their female counterparts in kicking off their 2018 campaigns this weekend. In what is predicted to be a super year for draft talent, there is no shortage of future AFL stars across the 12 TAC Cup clubs and we are excited to bring you plenty of content throughout the year.

Rewind to last year and the Geelong Falcons took out the premiership, defeating Sandringham Dragons in a thrilling grand final for the ages, coming down to a last-second miss by the Dragons to hand the Falcons a drought-breaking win. It was a lot closer by the final siren than many predicted after Geelong hero Gryan Miers booted seven goals as the country side looked set to run away with the contest in the final term. But to the Dragons credit, they fought back and took it up to the Falcons, narrowly missing out on back-to-back flags.

Both sides are expected to be around the mark once again, as both teams have no shortage of AFL AIS Academy stars and some envious depth. Sam Walsh and Ned McHenry lead the Falcons’ midfield brigade, while Oscar Brownless is a developing utility with strong bloodlines. Connor Idun, Blake Schlensog and Charlie Sprague are potential X-factors this season for the reigning premiers. For Sandringham, it is hard to look past the much talked about King twins, with Max and Ben both expected to be top 10 picks – if not both top five. Captain Bailey Smith will not be far behind them after an outstanding bottom-age season, while Joel Crocker is another to keep in mind for this year.

Other country teams expected to be around the mark are Dandenong Stingrays and Murray Bushrangers, with Dandenong having a wealth of AIS AFL Academy talls and smalls, while Murray has an experienced list for the season ahead. Reeling off some names for the Stingrays, Bailey Williams, Riley Bowman, Stephen Cumming and Matthew Cumming are four top-end talent talls who are likely to fill holes across the key position posts, while Sam Fletcher and Mitch Riordan will impact through the midfield along with the dangerous Jai Nanscawen up forward. For Murray, Zane Barzen is the top prospect with all the class in the world, while talls Hudson Garoni, Mark Marriott, Ben Kelly and the pint sized Kyle Clarke are others to watch.

Looking across to the metropolitan regions, Oakleigh Chargers and Calder Cannons are other sides likely to challenge at the business end of the season. Oakleigh are perennial achievers, and it will be no surprise to see them near the top of the ladder again. The Chargers have midfielders Xavier O’Neill and Charlie Whitehead leading the attack, while Isaac Quaynor will be a key in defence. Joseph Ayton-Delaney and Riley Collier-Dawkins are other players to keep an eye on, with a mosquito fleet likely to cause headaches for opposition clubs. For the Cannons, their AFL AIS Academy members in Curtis Taylor, Jack Bytel and Rhylee West are names that jump off the page, while the likes of father-son prospect Mason Fletcher, Jack Evans and Lachlan Sholl are others that could impress throughout the season.

Gippsland Power’s top prospect in 2018 is Xavier Duursma, while the Power also have a couple of electrifying smalls in Irving Mosquito and the returning Tyrone Hayes. For Bendigo Pioneers, Jacob Atley and Jye Caldwell are two midfielders to watch this season, while tall forward Daine Grace could provide some X-factor inside the forward 50. GWV Rebels also have a talented midfield with Thomas Berry, Scott Carlin and Matty Lloyd, all of whom will be well supported by tall target Tylar Watts.

Western Jets have a strong core of midfielders leading the way in 2018, with 2017 best and fairest winner Stefan Radovanovic, Zac Butters, Connor Thar and Xavier O’Halloran among the top prospects, while Buku Khamis and Oskar Manton are likely to sure up the defensive end. Eastern Ranges might not have the huge roll-call of AFL AIS Academy members they had last year, but Ben Cardamone, Kye Quirk and Cody Hirst are just some of the names that might catch draft watchers eyes. Finally, Northern Knights midfielders Braedyn Gillard and Tom McKenzie will compliment each other well, while Joseph Ciranna, Harrison Grace, Kye Yodgee and Patrik Della Rocca are other names that will be closely watched in 2018.

AFL Draft Central Editor predictions:

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Dandenong Stingrays
Runner-Up: Geelong Falcons
Top 4: Dandenong, Geelong, Oakleigh, Murray
Wildcard Weekend: Sandringham, Calder, Western, GWV, Eastern, Gippsland, Northern, Bendigo
Morrish Medallist: Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons)

Matt Balmer
Draft Editor

Premier: Sandringham Dragons
Runner-Up: Oakleigh Chargers
Top 4: Sandringham, Oakleigh, Dandenong, Geelong
Wildcard Weekend: Eastern, Murray, Calder, Western, Northern, Bendigo, GWV, Gippsland
Morrish Medallist: Curtis Taylor (Calder Cannons)

Michael Alvaro
News Editor

Premier: Geelong Falcons
Runner-Up: Dandenong Stingrays
Top 4: Geelong, Sandringham, Dandenong, Oakleigh
Wildcard Weekend: Murray, Calder, Western, Gippsland, Northern, GWV, Eastern, Bendigo
Morrish Medallist: Zane Barzen (Murray Bushrangers)

Peter Bonadio
Features Editor

Premier: Geelong Falcons
Runner-Up: GWV Rebels
Top 4: Geelong, Sandringham, Oakleigh, Dandenong
Wildcard Weekend: Western, Eastern, GWV, Northern, Gippsland, Calder, Murray, Bendigo
Morrish Medallist: Tom Berry (GWV Rebels)

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