Classic Contests: Dragons breathe fire after half-time

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in a new series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at one of the would-have-been Round 2 clashes in the NAB League this year between Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2016, and as has been the case the last few years with Sandringham winning each contest between the sides since, the Dragons produced one of the best second half performances in recent times, booting 15 goals to three to win by a whopping 90 points.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 2.0 | 4.6 | 5.10 | 7.11 (53)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 6.5 | 7.6 | 14.9 | 22.11 (143)

Round 1 | Saturday, March 26 2016
Ikon Park, 1.30pm

In what would become an ominous sign of things to come from the Sandringham outfit, the Dragons would shake off a lack of AFL Academy members – only Jack Scrimshaw was in the Level Two Academy – to end 2016 with five players drafted in the top 11 and eight overall with ridiculous top-end talent guiding them through the finals series. But rewind to the start of the season, and the Dragons’ first clash was at Ikon Park against Northern Knights who themselves had just the one AFL Academy member at Level One in Richmond father-son prospect, Patrick Naish.

From the first bounce, it was clear the Dragons were going to be a team to beat, booting 6.5 to 2.0 and holding a 29-point advantage heading into quarter time. It could have been greater with improved accuracy, and no doubt by half-time Dragons fans might have been a little worried. Northern had cut the deficit to a manageable 18 points, but luckily for the Dragons, the Knights had also struggled in the conditions, booting 2.6 to Sandringham’s 1.1. Both side had failed to make the most of their opportunities by the main break, with 11.12 between them, and Sandringham still on top.

It was after the break that spectators got a glimpse of what the Dragons outfit was capable of. Sandringham slammed home a stunning seven goals to one to effectively end the contest in a brutal 25 minutes. The Dragons booted 7.3 to 1.4, with inaccuracy again not helping the Knights at their second home in Ikon Park. With game done and dusted, most sides might have taken the foot off the pedal, but not this Dragons outfit that stepped it up another notch again with eight goals to two in the final term to run away a whopping 22.11 (143) to 7.11 (53) winner. It was a remarkable win for a side with talent to burn and points to prove.

Hayden McLean snagged five goals from 12 disposals and eight marks – four contested – as a massive force up forward. Future pick two, Tim Taranto played his best football in the finals series, but he gave everyone a glimpse of his future potential that day with three goals from 21 touches and six marks. Lachlan Filipovic was named the best by the Dragons for his work through the ruck with 23 hitouts from eight touches, three marks and four tackles. Oliver Florent was another in the best thanks to 17 disposals, one mark and five tackles, while the names of future AFL players included Will Setterfield, Cam Polson, Andrew McGrath and Corey Lyons. McGrath became the number one overall pick, and started his year with 18 touches, three marks, two tackles and a goal, while Setterfield recorded 22 touches, three marks, nine tackles and two goals. Polson (20 disposals, two marks, three tackles and 1.2) and Lyons (20 disposals, five marks and 1.2) also hit the scoreboard in the massive win.

For the Knights, Naish found plenty of it trying to run in transition with 20 touches – 12 handball receives – and three marks, while future top 10 pick, Nick Coffield racked up 16 disposals, seven marks (two contested) and three tackles in his first game as a bottom-age prospect. Lachlan Wilson (15 disposals, five marks, five tackles and two goals) was deemed the clear standout for the Knights, while Northern also had a number of future AFL players running around. Matthew Signorello (18 disposals, six marks – one contested – five tackles and a goal) and Patrick Lipinski (12 disposals, six marks – three contested – two tackles and 1.3) were both named among the best, while Lachlan Murphy had a day out feasting on 26 disposals, 14 handball receives, two marks and three tackles. Luke Bunker was not far behind with 25 touches, 12 marks and five tackles in a hard working effort.

As history would go on to show, the Dragons would win the premiership in magnificent style, defeating Murray Bushrangers in the 2016 TAC Cup Grand Final and dominating the top end of the draft. Northern would finish 12th, just 0.68 per cent behind 11th placed Bendigo Pioneers.

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