Week 2 Finals - Stingrays Charge into Grand Final

on 19 September 2018
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DANDENONG Southern Stingrays finished off a stellar year with a dominate second half display to book a berth in the 2018 TAC Cup Grand Final after enjoying a solid 42-point win over Sandringham Dragons at Ikon Park today in swirling conditions. 

As expected the wrestle started in the first term with both sides trading punches on the rope until the third term, where the five goals to one third term gave the Rays the buffer they needed to put the game beyond doubt. 

The first term saw the first goal kicked by Sandringham, which kicked the slow starting Stingrays into gear with a brilliant quick snap from Ned Cahill in the goal square to put Dandenong back in front. Cahill had his hand in the next goal setting up Bailey Williams with a chip over the top and the big forward made no mistake from the set shot. 

Against the flow after the Dragons jumped out of the box in the second quarter, Dandenong got on the board again with Zac Foot winning a couple of touches working hard with Toby Bedford to get on the end of it to kick a goal. Sandringham responded straight away with Mahony kicking his second of the game, then moment s later the Dragons took the lead after a roving goal from Ben King. 

The pressure around the ball for both sides was electric, Ned Cahill laid a strong tackle and earned a free kick for his troubles, kicking the goal, his second of the match seeing the scores locked up. The crowd came to life and to their feet as Toby Bedford had been lurking all year threatening to blow a game apart with his frantic forward pressure, he kicked two goals in 3 minutes with his second a stunner as he snapped an unbelievable goal, giving the Stingrays a small buffer. 

With 90 seconds left in the quarter Sandringham managed to kick one leaving the Stingrays to hold a 6-point lead at half-time, with a fired-up Stingrays coaching panel heading into the rooms asking for answers on how that happened! 

Dandenong had the aid of the breeze in the third, but wide entries inside 50 limited their chances to kick them through the big sticks. The wind playing havoc on the game with a swirly breeze blowing to one side and forcing several long balls out on the full or towards the boundary line. 

After numerous attempts on goals that had resulted in points Bedford received a lightening handball from Bailey Williams, put it on the boot and bent it around the body for his third of the game. 

With Dandenong doing all the attacking Finlay Bayne was the beneficiary with a perfectly timed run and goal to put Dandenong out to their largest lead of the game, at 20 points. Just as it looked like the Stingrays were running away with the contest, Sandringham took the ball the length of the field unimpeded to cut the deficit and give the Dragons some hope. 

Jai Taylor kicked back to back goals, both courtesy of the Dragons defenders rebound errors. Sam Sturt joined in the goal kicking after a strong mark to put the Stingrays 34 points up at the final break. The Dragons would be coming home with the 2-3 goal breeze, so Dandenong couldn’t afford to relax. 

The Stingrays huddle was full of life, with Stingrays Coach Craig Black giving one of his final addresses for year asking players to believe in themselves, they’d earnt the right to be in the Preliminary final and had one more quarter to achieve the right to contest the final TAC Cup game of the year. 

The important first goal of the final term when to the Dragons after a very touchy 50m penalty took them to the goal square. But with all the hope that brought, it took just two minutes for the Stingrays to answer through Bailey Williams who took a great one-on-one mark and kicked the goal from 25m out. 

Sandringham had not given up, pushing hard with a few good inside 50s but Dandenong’s defence was holding up superbly kicking long down the wing and making sure there were repeat stoppages, or space for their smalls to run. If there was any doubt about the winner, then in the tenth minute, Williams swooped on a loose ball and went bang inside the square and the margin was 40 points and the Stingrays were heading to the TAC Cup Grand Final. 

In Party time Sturt judged the ball well in flight marking strongly amongst a crowd of players and he nailed the set shot to celebration. 

Dragons Ben King who’d been kept quiet all day by Matthew Cummings answered with a good mark and set shot goal, after Matt left the ground with a clash of heads moments earlier. But It was all too late by this stage with Dandenong doing enough work to earn the right to play in the TAC Cup Grand Final, where they will meet the Oakleigh Chargers who easily disposed of Gippsland Power by 93 points in the second game. 

Skipper Campbell Hustwaite stood strong throughout the four quarters with a game-high 27 disposals, nine clearances, five inside 50s and four tackles. Fletcher was brave all day battling many opponents, Bedford finally got some reward for effort as a small forward, Bowman and Stephen Cummings worked in tandem to nullify Rendall and the Stingrays stingy defence stood tall once again. 

Dandenong Stingrays Talent Manager once again was full of praise not only to his players, but the loyal staff who’d played a huge role in the dominate year. 

‘’We were challenged from a fired-up Dragons in the first quarter, I think our players may have thought they were going to get a game like we had in round 16…Craig quickly snapped them back into line at the ¼ time huddle saying non-one was ever going to gift a spot into a Grand Final.” 

“It’s been a great year, I am very proud that the players have got the opportunity to play in what many never achieve- an opportunity to play in a Grand Final. 

“This group is very tight and focused- they know what they want to achieve together….Now we have 7 days to prepare for the biggest day for the club against a side that has to come in as favourites…Oakleigh has won the last 3 games by 100 points.” 

“We spoke to the players on Thursday night that possibly that might be the last night they ever get to train at Shepley Oval, or wear the jumper again after Saturday…some have been here for four years training for this day- with many staff having a hand in the development journey. 

 

“I can’t thank our staff enough for what they do for the players and our club, they are amazing, loyal and passionate…Bob Burns has been with us since 1992, with a nearly 10 others completing 20 years plus of services. Hopefully the players can achieve their goal next week, then the staff can get some reward for their amazing efforts too.”