Sandringham’s eight-point victory over Port Melbourne at North Port Oval in Round 13 was one of the Peter Jackson VFL’s bigger surprise results so far in 2017.
Coming off three straight finals appearances and a 4-1 record to start the season, the Zebras had fallen away under new senior coach Lindsay Gilbee with six losses in their next seven games.
The high-possession style that carried them to an elimination-final victory over the Borough in 2016 has been missing for much of this season. Driven by the ability of now departed St Kilda-listed players Eli Templeton, Brodie Murdoch and Josh Saunders to find the ball in space and deliver it cleanly into the forward line, Sandringham ranked fourth in the VFL for average disposals and uncontested possessions last year as well as second for average marks and scores per inside-50.
In 2017 though, the Zebras rank in the bottom three teams for all those measures, while their disposal efficiency has fallen from 70.0 to 66.6 per cent – the lowest rate in the competition.
Funnily enough, off-season Port Melbourne recruits Templeton and Murdoch have helped the Borough transition from a primarily contested-ball-winning team to one more resembling how Sandringham potently played in 2016. In Saturday’s clash, they also contributed to their team’s +67 advantage in uncontested possessions and +42 advantage in uncontested marks.
But one thing the Zebras have excelled at this season is their work without the ball, ranking second in the VFL for tackles per game.
Sandringham won the tackle count by 15 against Port Melbourne, the pressure applied by Saints-listers Luke Dunstan (nine tackles), Blake Acres, Nick O’Kearney and Maverick Weller (eight each) helping restrict the Borough to 1.6 (12) in the first half – its lowest score at the long break since 2006 and its lowest at home since 1997.
Kade Answerth has laid the second-most total tackles in the competition (6.5 per game) in 2017, while fellow VFL-listers Myke Cook, Dylan Weickhardt and Jack Noone – in his two senior games back from a broken leg suffered in last year’s semi-final loss to Williamstown – all average four tackles.
It’s a fine way to adapt to less time with the ball in their hands.
Round 13 keys to victory:
30: Richmond has made a run to the top four without relying too much on its AFL-listed players. Eight VFL-listers have played eight or more games in 2017, with Tom Silvestro – who has appeared all 13 times – instrumental in the Tigers’ defeat of Werribee with 30 disposals, 15 contested possessions, nine tackles and five inside-50s.
23: Just as the Hawthorn of old still seems to be alive and kicking, so too is the classic style of VFL affiliate Box Hill. The Hawks controlled play by foot in typical fashion in their win against North Ballarat to record 100 more kicks than the Roosters, with Andrew Moore and Dallas Willsmore (23 kicks each) likely wearing out their boots.
40: He may have also featured in this section last week, but the importance of Michael Gibbons to Williamstown’s victory over Collingwood can’t be ignored. The 2016 J.J. Liston Trophy winner recorded a round-high 40 disposals as well as eight marks, four tackles, four clearances, four inside-50s and four goals in a complete performance.
Round 13 stats leaders:
|Andrew Moore||Box Hill Hawks||23|
|Dallas Willsmore||Box Hill Hawks||23|
|Cam O’Shea||Northern Blues||19|
|Brendan Whitecross||Box Hill Hawks||18|
|Tom Wilson||Northern Blues||18|
|Damian Mascitti||Port Melbourne||18|
|Harry Morrison||Box Hill Hawks||17|
|Toby Pinwill||Port Melbourne||19|
|Brendan Whitecross||Box Hill Hawks||15|
|Lachlan George||North Ballarat||15|
|Dallas Willsmore||Box Hill Hawks||16|
|Cam O’Shea||Northern Blues||12|
|Mitch Lewis||Box Hill Hawks||11|
|Glenn Strachan||Northern Blues||10|
|Harry Morrison||Box Hill Hawks||10|
|Jordan Lisle||Port Melbourne||9|
|Lucas Cook||Port Melbourne||9|
|Chris Jones||Box Hill Hawks||9|
|Ty Vickery||Box Hill Hawks||50|
|Chris Carey||Port Melbourne||21|
|Matt Korcheck||Northern Blues||18|
|Nick Hausler||North Ballarat||16|
|2017 LEADING GOALKICKERS|
|Dylan Conway||Port Melbourne||2||28|
|Jordan Lisle||Port Melbourne||1||25|
|Ty Vickery||Box Hill Hawks||2||22|
|Bayley Fritsch||Casey Demons||BYE||21|
|Development League||Last Rnd||Total|
|Nathan Gardiner||Casey Demons||BYE||21|
|Dale Hehir||Box Hill Hawks||2||18|
|Will Murphy||Box Hill Hawks||**||18|
|Samuel De Soysa||Port Melbourne||3||17|
|Cory Machaya||Casey Demons||BYE||12|
* AFL / ** Seniors