Classic Contests: Devils defeat Rebels in Ballarat raid

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 6 clashes in the NAB League this year between the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Tasmania Devils. In this edition, we wind back the clock only one year to 2019, when the two sides met for the first time since the Devils’ full-time return to the competition. While only two future draftees were on show, there could be plenty more to follow from the bottom-aged crop which took the field.

GWV REBELS 1.4 | 2.8 | 3.13 | 5.14 (44)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 5.5 | 7.13 | 10.16 (76)

NAB League Round 9 | Saturday June 1, 2019
MARS Stadium, 11:00am

Draftees in action:

Tasmania – Mitch O’Neill (West Coast), Matt McGuinness (North Melbourne)
GWV – Nil

Neither GWV or Tasmania had lit up the NAB League come Round 9 last year’s competition, sharing a combined five wins with some unlucky losses thrown in the mix. The Rebels came in on a three-game losing streak at 2-5, and would have their squad depleted by the losses of Vic Country representatives Jay Rantall, Mitch Martin, and Isaac Wareham – although the latter did not run out against Vic Metro on that day. On the other hand, Tasmania had the luxury of being able to select a near-full strength side, boasting the likes of future draftees Mitch O’Neill and Matt McGuinness, as well as four of their five bottom-aged AFL Academy members. Despite their rich vein of talent, the Devils also held a negative record come Round 9 at 3-4, but had their last three games decided by less than a goal. This one was a touch less tense, with the Devils running out 32-point victors.

A tight first term saw just three goals scored between the two sides, with two slammed home by bottom-aged Tasmanian key forward Jackson Callow. The Allies squad member converted his second in the 20th minute of the quarter, giving his side a lead it would not go on to relinquish for the remainder of the game. Another three unanswered goals in the second term, including another to Callow saw the Devils open up a 23-point buffer mid-way through the stanza, with Flynn Atchinson‘s two majors the Rebels’ only form of resistance until the main break. Although the home side managed to create an equal amount of scoring shots (10), it trailed by nearly three goals at half time on the back of a wasteful 2.8.

Having strung together two 1.4 quarters together, the Rebels could only manage to better their effort by a single point in the third term, while Tasmania began to break the shackles with 2.8 of their own as the game got a touch messy despite the clear conditions. The Devils’ wastefulness after Izaac Grant‘s early goal had neutrals feeling they would be made to pay, but the next major on the board went their way via Oliver Burrows-Cheng, with Will Peppin following suit to ensure the Devils would maintain a four-goal lead heading into the final turn. Given the Rebels had only managed three goals to that point, a complete turnaround seemed unlikely. It proved that way despite another early goal through Jamie Quick, as surer kicking was not enough for the Rebels to overcome Tasmania’s three-goal term.

Callow stole the show up forward for Tasmania with 4.2 from 14 disposals and eight marks as one of the few players to score more goals than behinds. Fellow bottom-ager Jye Menzie was the only other Devils’ multiple goalkicker with two, while future draftees McGuinness (25 disposals) and O’Neill (20) also impressed. Oliver Davis was the key Tasmanian figure around the ball with his equal team-high 25 touches, with the likes of Burrows-Cheng (19 disposals, one goal) and Peppin (18 disposals, one goal) having a say going forward from midfield.

For GWV, Riley Polkinghorne put in a massive shift in the absence of some big guns, racking up a monster 39 disposals, seven marks, and six inside 50s to beat all-comers comfortably in the ball winning stakes. Current Bendigo prospect Jack Tillig was the next best with 25 touches, followed by over-ager Matty Lloyd – brother of Sydney’s Jake – who also booted three behinds. Atchinson finished as his side’s lone multiple goalkicker on the back of two first half majors, a good effort in a low-scoring result.

Both sides would finish the year languishing in the bottom half of the table, with GWV’s 6-9 effort putting them half a game outside of the top eight. Meanwhile, Tasmania finished half a game clear of last spot at 4-11, with both teams going down in Wildcard Round. Rantall became the only GWV graduate to be drafted, while McGuinness and O’Neill found homes at North Melbourne and West Coast respectively as rookies.

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