There was no shortage of drama at Collingwood’s Victoria Park on Sunday with the Stingrays pegging back an enormous 50-point half-time deficit to win by 13 points. This was on the back of a spectacular individual performance from top 5 prospect Luke Davies-Uniacke
It was a tale of two halves as the Ranges burst out of the blocks, booting nine-goals-to-two in the first half. Another one-sided result appeared to be on the cards, with many fans having seen the Chargers annihilate the Knights in the previous game. However, Dandenong came out firing in the third quarter and the result suddenly wasn’t so certain When Riley D’Arcy converted his set shot on the three quarter time siren, the margin had been cut to just 23. From there on, the Stingrays had all the play, with Eastern having little answer to the challenge.
Here are the players who stood out on Saturday afternoon:
Luke Davies-Uniacke | Midfielder | 187cm | 85kg | 8/6/99
Some may have seen Davies-Uniacke slipping outside the top 5 based on his recent form, but not anymore. If anything, he is back in the #1 pick conversation after his outstanding game on the weekend. ‘UDL’ was a major presence in tight, shrugging off would-be tacklers and weaving his way out of traffic on a regular basis. Moves so gracefully on the outside, epitomised by his beautiful goal on the run from 40m on a tight angle. You knew as soon as he picked up the footy that it was going straight over the goal-umpires hat. Did hack kicks forward at times but this was after winning crucial clearances for his side. A complete performance from LDU and possibly his best for the season.
Hunter Clark | Midfielder | 186cm | 79kg | 26/3/99
His parents certainly named him fittingly, as he was a hunter of the footy and the man all day. Clark laid a whopping 16 tackles on Saturday– a Herculean effort considering conditions were clear for the entirety of proceedings. It was déjà vu seeing the #2 Dandenong guernsey picking himself off the deck every time the umpire called for a ball-up. Wasn’t afraid to use his non-preferred left foot, which he can get plenty of purchase on. A relentless effort for four quarters from him.
Oscar Clavarino | Tall defender | 195cm | 86kg | 22/5/99
It wasn’t as an imposing a performance as last week, but Clavarino was still quite impressive in defence. Took a couple of his trademark intercept marks with his long reach and was able to get a fist to several long kicks inside 50. It was a couple of Clavarino’s kicks that really stood out. In particular, his hit up to Hamill with a great long pass running down the middle. Certainly isn’t the most aesthetic kicking style you’ll see, but it does the job.
Thomas Murphy | Midfielder | 187cm | 80kg | 19/1/98
After spending more time in the coalface last week, Murphy was able to showcase his outside traits with LDU and Clark back in the midfield. Showed a fantastic burst of speed from stoppages and regularly looked to take the game on. This aggressive mindset didn’t always pay off, though, illustrated by one awful turnover out of defence in the second. In saying that, his disposal was sound most of the time.
Riley D’Arcy | Tall/medium forward | 189cm | 90kg | 28/12/99
Came to the party late, but it was at a critical time for the Stingrays. D’Arcy kicked three goals in the space of a quarter when the game was in the balance as Dandenong steamrolled home. One of those was an important set shot goal on the three quarter time siren after taking a strong overhead grab. Booted another from a downfield free kick, which made up for a silly play-on from a mark earlier in the quarter. Displayed his versatility as a tall/medium forward with a very impressive snap on the run towards the end of the last.
Jaidyn Stephenson | Midfielder/forward | 189cm | 76kg 15/1/99
Was best afield in the first half. He was difficult to recognise at first without his usual tied-up blond locks, but you knew it was ‘Stevo’ when he gathered and snapped a ripping goal from 30 on a tight angle early in the first quarter. Stephenson’s burst from stoppages were a feature, hitting contests at pace and leaving the Stingrays’ midfield in his wake. Faded in the third while the Ranges struggled, but lifted in the last quarter, playing almost a lone hand while the Stingrays ran over the top. A performance that should improve his standing in top 10 calculations.
Sam Hayes | Ruckman | 203cm | 93kg | 9/6/99
If clubs weren’t so apprehensive to select ruckman early in the draft, Sam Hayes would be in the top 5 frame, such is his talent. Hayes was simply dominant both in the ruck and around the ground, taking a number of towering pack marks. Drifted into defence and took a couple of courageous clunks back with the flight, reading the play to perfection. His ground level work is superb for his size, gathering cleanly below his knees a number of times. Continues to prove he is more than just a ruckman.
Jackson Ross | Forward/midfielder | 192cm |75kg | 22/6/99
Came into this elimination final in average form but he certainly caught the eye on Saturday. Ross did some brilliant things up forward in the first half. At one point he smothered his opponent, gathered the ball off the deck and kicked a stunning right foot snap from 40m out. Showcased his athleticism and great hands with a fantastic mark overhead in the forward 50 on the lead. Kicked a nice crumbing goal in the third, but faded out as the game wore on. Capable of just about anything – it is just a matter of consistency for the former tennis star.
Joel Garner | Defender | 183cm | 81kg | 21/6/99
Started up forward and took a nice grab shielding off his opponent with ease. He missed the set shot out on the full from 20m on a tough angle – one of the rare times his piercing left boot missed its target all day. From thereon Garner spent his time across half back, where his reading of the play was phenomenal. Took a number of floating intercept marks and snuck forward in the second, slotting a nice goal on the run from 30. You would love to be a forward leading up to him, as he rarely wastes a possession.
Cody Hirst | Small forward | 176cm | 61kg | 19/1/00
Didn’t have a heap of it, but Hirst showed some impressive signs when his time came. Timed his run perfectly to rove a pack early in the first, finishing his work with a nice dribble goal on the left. Showed great evasiveness and agility in 1-on-1 situations, twisting and turning then dashing past his opponents with pace. The nippy small-forward went at 100% from his 11 disposals, and while he is a raw product at 61kg, he has talent.
Other notable performers: Trent Mynott (ER), Riley Stoddart (ER) Jai Nanscawen (DS), Dylan Moore (ER), Jordan Lynch (ER), Will Hamill (DS)