NAB League Wildcards hunt finals fortune
FIVE games to fill out the top eight. That is the situation which faces NAB League regions ranked fourth through 13th this weekend, as Wildcard Round gets underway. A pair of double-headers at Mars Stadium is split by a standalone bout between Sandringham and Murray in Williamstown, making for a stacked couple of days.
Greater Western Victoria (GWV) kicks off proceedings as the highest-ranked Wildcard, hosting the Northern Knights on Saturday morning. Buoyed by an epic comeback win last time out, the Rebels look poised to welcome back a couple of over-agers in Jamieson Ballantyne and Charlie Molan. Bookending the team are talls James Van Es and Aaron Cadman, while on-baller Hugh Bond completes the spine.
Northern also notched a confidence-boosting win last time out, but ultimately could not scrape off bottom spot. The Knights’ midfield group looks competitive at full strength, with Cooper Harvey, Jonathan Tomasiello, and Patrick Dozzi complimented by returning wingman Darcy Edmends. Nate Caddy could also run through there, with Anthony Caminiti holding up the fort at centre half-forward.
In Saturday’s second game, Jhye Clark looms as a massive inclusion for Geelong as the Falcons take on Western. Crafty forward Euriah Hollard also comes back into the fold, while Vic Country ruck Olivier Northam has again been named in defence against a Jets side which boasts a talented bunch of bottom-agers.
Sandringham and Murray then round out Saturday’s proceedings in windy Williamstown. The Dragons come in as the favoured side, laying claim to an elite midfield which includes the likes of Will Ashcroft, Cameron Mackenzie, and Olli Hotton. The latter can also roll forward, where potential match-winner Harry Sheezel ran amok last week. In terms of additions, Ryley Sanders is as good as they get.
The Dragons’ on-ballers are set to be tested by a hardened bunch of Bushrangers. Along with running machine Oliver Hollands, inside ball winners Noah Bradshaw and Jedd Longmire are welcome inclusions for the big game.
A stacked Oakleigh Chargers lineup forms the main event of Sunday’s double-header, with the reigning premier taking on Bendigo. Jack O’Sullivan adds to a ridiculously deep lineup, while Bode Stevens returns from VFL duties to join the likes of Harley Reid, Malik Gordan, and Noah Long in midfield.
In the day’s earlier game, Calder and Eastern lock horns for the second straight week. It was the Cannons who picked up a runaway 28-point win last week, but the Ranges will be boosted by Lewis Hayes defensive insertion. Look for Harry Rowston to put in a finals-like shift for the Cannons.
While the Under 18s are set to get their finals series underway next week, the SANFL League and Reserves competitions enter the postseason. Having played seven twos games, Max Michalanney has been added to Norwood’s top flight squad to take on Adelaide in their qualifying final.
Down in the Reserves, Harry Lemmey and Kobe Ryan rise from the Under 18s for West Adelaide, as the Bloods tackle North Adelaide in a qualifying clash. Meanwhile, Adam D’Aloia will continue his run in Woodville-West Torrens’ reserves as the Eagles and Glenelg face off in a knockout bout.
Out West, only two regular season rounds remain. West Perth will look to move clear in top spot when it takes on Swan Districts, as the Falcons’ main minor premier competitor Peel Thunder enjoys a bye.
Meanwhile, South Fremantle and East Perth have locked in their top five spots but will face off in a battle for ascendancy ahead of finals. Subiaco is level on points with the pair, with Perth next on the agenda, while Claremont takes on East Fremantle in the Tigers’ final outing for the season.
There have been a number of draft prospects plying their trade up the grades. Swan Districts pair Elijah Hewett and Darcy Jones have contributed to their side’s finals fight, while Jed Hagan and Jack Cleaver have proven handy additions for the third-placed East Fremantle.
Elsewhere, Reuben Ginbey will hope to run out his season strongly with East Perth, who are set to miss out on top five honours. The midfielder-defender will fight to become his state’s top prospect having been named MVP during the Under 18 National Championships.