Chargers have “perfect preparation” for grand final

A HARD-fought preliminary final win over Dandenong Stingrays has steeled the Oakleigh Chargers ahead of a massive Coates Talent League Girls Grand Final against Eastern Ranges, according to coach Tyrone Vickery. Oakleigh dropped to second on the ladder with a final round loss to the Ranges, but missing a host of bottom-age stars due to the Under 17 Futures match, the Chargers are back at full strength and have the belief to take home the premiership.

“It was pretty perfect preparation for us we felt,” Vickery said of the win over the Stingrays. “I thought Dandenong were a really strong side. They hadn’t lost since April, since we played them in April which is really hard to do. We went in there knowing we were going to have to play pretty well to beat them.

“They’d had another strong win, they’ve got a lot of good top-end players and we were able to hit the ground running from the start there and really get on the front foot and probably never let Dandy settle into the game they wanted to play.”

The Chargers have a well-balanced list, with a couple of defensive draft prospects in skipper Lara Hausegger, fellow rebounder Lucy Cronin and over-age defender-turned-winger Jemma Rigoni earning AFLW Draft Combine invites. Vickery said he always felt the team was well-balanced with plenty of bottom-age stars filling out the midfield and attacking thirds.

“We’ve got a really even spread of young girls as well,” he said. “I think we certainly didn’t have to force getting games into 17 year-olds, the way our list was made up and where it laid, we always playing minimum 12/13 of those girls who weren’t eligible for the draft.”

One of those bottom-age prospects is defender Sienna Tallariti who was cleared of any damage from a knee to the back in the preliminary final forcing her from the field in the second term.

“She’s okay,” Vickery said. “She got sent off for imaging and got cleared that night so she was obviously a bit sore on the Sunday but we’re looking forward to her being able to impact and being fully fit.”

Vickery said his side performed well off each of the extended breaks, and earmarked a similar training regime next season if the fixtures were similar.

“We had really good wins in both return matches so it was certainly a challenge and you’re not sure how the team’s going to come, you’re not sure how the girls are going to come back,” he said. “Some girls are playing VFL, and some are playing local footy.

“It’s very different for everyone and that was real learning curve for all the coaches and management staff just to see what’s best and i think we got it pretty right. If it was the same structure next year we’d probably try and replicate with how we went about it because we did seem to come back off the breaks and play pretty well.”

The Chargers coach said the quality of the teams meant the Ikon Park ground area – larger than the majority of grounds the players played on – was not a concern anymore, and he looked forward to a fantastic contest.

“It’s a really good deck, it’s a great size for these girls,” Vickery said. “It was probably five or six years ago might have been a bit big for underage girls, but with the standard now the good teams can really handle it I think so we’re really looking forward to it. It’s a really cool occasion for the girls regardless and something that they’ve been aiming for all year. “

As for how Oakleigh intend to overcome the Ranges, Vickery said it was more about focusing on what his side did well, and maximising the strengths of. theteam.

“They’re what any good side is, they defend well, they work well as a unit,” he said of Eastern. “They’re able to move the ball well in transition and get it into one-on-ones up forward. Much like Dandenong, we need to defensively take some speed out of their game on defence but also try and make the ground pretty big and use our running power on offence.

“They’ll be our focuses, but the reality is it doesn’t change too much week-to-week. At this level it’s good football plays against every opponent. We’ll bring our pretty consistent gameplan and focuses.”

The major question mark for the Chargers is the ruck where 173cm bottom-ager Marlo Cockerill had to face up against the athletic duo of Elli Symonds and Zoe Besanko last week, and will have 180cm Jess Vukic and 182cm Mackenzie Bourne to contend with this week.

Despite the size difference, Vickery backed in both Cockerill and his midfield group saying the Chargers always aimed to win the hitouts, but the midfield had defied hitout differentials throughout the season to still win clearances.

“Our ruck Marlo is obviously undersized, she’s very athletic, she competes very hard,” Vickery said. “We went something like minus-30 in the hitouts but plus-eight in the clearances (against the Stingrays). It (hitouts stat) was irrelevant, it didn’t really matter what rucks they had, they didn’t get the purchase off that so all we ask is that our rucks compete to give the midfield a go, and if they can hold a good structure and play in a physical way, we believe we can overcome hitout deficiencies for sure. We’ve been doing it basically every game of the year.”

As for a couple of players to watch out for in the big game for the Chargers, Vickery named defender Cronin and forward Emma McDonald as crucial cogs who could produce big games.

The Oakleigh Chargers take on the Eastern Ranges from 9:45am on Saturday at Ikon Park.

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