Caught the Eye: September 2022 – NAB League Quarter Finals

ENTERING the first NAB League finals series since 2019, there was obvious excitement coming into the weekend. With postseason regular Oakleigh out of the equation, it seems to be the most open finals in a long time.

The first game on Saturday featured the team which defeated Oakleigh to make the finals in Bendigo, who would lose their game against Tasmania. The Devils will now play in their first preliminary in their short time as a NAB League mainstay.

Players to impress included Bendigo midfielder Noah Long, who was a consistent performer and used the ball well by hand in tight spaces. His teammate Harvey Gallagher could have capped off his strong month in style, but kicked 1.5 in a prolific yet frustrating game. For Tasmania, it was rebounding defender Lachlan Cowan who just played his normal game, rebounding with ease and setting up a lot of drive from defence.

In game two at Ikon Park, Gippsland held on against the Northern Knights. The Power were well represented around the ground, with Jacob Konstanty and Zane Duursma a real handful up forward, and Bailey Humphrey offering plenty of drive from the midfield – playing less time forward compared to recent weeks.

Northern had a few players make the Gippsland team nervous, with forward Anthony Caminiti a real threat, and ruck combo Will Green and Flynn Riley competing well against a strong Gippsland tall division. Father-son prospect Cooper Harvey found a bit of the ball but his kicking often let him down at times, while elusive wingman Darcy Edmends had a strong second half, using the ball well and showing his great composure on the outside.

Sunday at Ballarat saw two blowouts, with Dandenong and Sandringham winning comfortably. In the first game, Dandenong was in control for a lot of the game and despite missing midfielder Henry Hustwaite, it was second gamer Luke Bailey who stood up. The 189cm midfielder won a game-high 33 disposals, adding to the strong midfield depth at Dandenong.

Others to impress included forward Harrison Jones, who kicked five goals, and bottom-age half-back Kobe Shipp also did some nice things with ball in hand. Western didn’t have many winners, but the Jets’ backline held up well considering the amount of times the ball entered defensive 50.

Sandringham’s main stars had solid games in a win over Calder, with the likes of Cameron Mackenzie and Will Ashcroft solid in the midfield. It was Will’s younger brother Levi who stole the show though, showing plenty as an impact player to boot three goals from 18 disposals.

Harry Sheezel only managed two goals from five disposals, but one set shot goal on the boundary showed his class. For Calder, Essendon father-son Luca Alessio proved hard to stop with his intercept marking. In the midfield, it was Giants Academy member Harry Rowston who carried a lot of the ball winning load for Calder.

Next week will be the preliminary finals round, with Tasmania taking on Dandenong and Gippsland locking horns with Sandringham at Port Melbourne. The NAB League grand final fast approaches and we haven’t seen a winner since 2019 before the pandemic with neither Oakleigh or Eastern battling it out for a chance this time around.

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