Dandenong on board in 2023

Kane Hurst took his opportunities overhead on the weekend. Pictures: BLACK BOOT PHOTOGRAPHY

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Exciting ball movement propelled Dandenong to its first Coates Talent League win in 2024 on Sunday.

The Stingrays went down narrowly in each of the first two rounds despite playing with flair and a strong spread of contributors putting their names forward.

In a 17.15 115 to 13.4 82 win, Dandenong made the running for the majority of the day but was unable to put the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels away at Mars Stadium until midway through the last term.

The ‘Rays led from the start of the game, kicking the first two off the back of a productive start to Vic Country boys Harvey Langford and Cooper Hynes, and St Kilda father-son prospect Elwood Peckett.

Despite hemming the Rebels in for a large part of the first quarter, it was four goals apiece at the first break as the Rebels were opportunistic in their few forays forward.

The Rays got away from the Rebels on multiple occasions but the home side remained within touching distance despite struggling to generate any momentum amid the visitors’ class and hard work.

Narre North Foxes junior Noah Mraz and Berwick’s Kane Hurst were crucial in repressing GWV’s forward 50 entries when they won it out of the middle.

That pair stood tallest when GWV got out to a game-high 10-point lead and briefly got a run-on, with Mraz’s aerial presence and Hurst combining his toughness and intercepting in his finest game at the level.

When the Stingrays ran the ball out of defensive 50, they had the legs to look searing and worked hard for each other.

Uncontested marks were a feature when the Stingrays were at their best, with Pat Bloink one who linked up well with a forwards group led by 19-year-old Endeavour Hills junior Jacob Grant, who slotted three goals.

The lead stretched to 25 points late in the third quarter to finally apply the scoreboard pressure which threatened all day, before the Rebels slotted two in the two minutes either side of the last break to get back into the contest.

But Grant kicked two of his three goals in the last quarter to help the ‘Rays pull away for good, while Harry Doughton also popped up for a sizzler from 50.

Hynes spent time late as the deepest forward and got on top of his opponent, generating three scoring shots to show a different element to his game, complementing his 32 touches with seven tackles.

Others to perform included Tom Sullivan, who was potent off half-forward and laid six tackles and athletic ruck Jordan Doherty who cleanly gathered 21 disposals.

Meanwhile, Gippsland was outgunned 12.9 81 to 8.9 57 by a Bendigo outfit which was more consistent across the course of the game.

After conceding the last three goals of the first quarter to go into the first break trailing by 14 points, Gippsland looked ominous from the start of the second.

Max Donohue, who was one of Gippsland’s best across the day, was the beneficiary of a centre clearance goal to kick-start the Power’s second quarter.

Asher Eastham was the go-to man and got his hands to everything in the air, kicking 2.2 in a dominant 10-minute patch, including a snap around the body which showed his ground-level acumen.

AFL Academy small forward Ricky Mentha finished the second quarter with a goal to even the ledger for Gippsland – an important goal after Rhett McLennan’s side had let momentum slip late in the quarter.

Playing his last game for Gippsland before school footy takes precedence, Warragul’s Ollie Wilson kicked a crucial second quarter goal thanks to a clean front-and-centre after Donohue got it in deep to even numbers.

That would ultimately be the Power’s only goal of the third quarter, falling behind by 27 points at the last break before two goals apiece in the last quarter.

Xavier Lindsay’s kicking efficiency and run was crucial before he was restricted by injury late in the third quarter, while Julian Callahan’s dare from the back half was also crucial.

In his second game at the level, Brodie Snooks was an important piece in a backline at times under duress.

Following a third-placed league finish in last season’s Outer East Football Netball Under 19s best-and-fairest, the halfback has acquitted himself well at the level, playing above his size on the weekend and taking the game on with 18 disposals and five marks.

Tooradin’s Jesse Craven also had moments, finishing with 18 disposals and five tackles.

The Power next play on Saturday 20 April, while the Stingrays boys are not in action again until Sunday 5 May, but several players will play in the Vic Country trial match this weekend.