TAC Cup Finals Forecast

Geelong Falcons

Regular season— The Falcons lost just one game to the Eastern Ranges, their opponents in the first round of the finals, by a solitary point. They have been the most consistent team in the TAC Cup this year with some big wins against Dandenong (34 points), Gippsland (40 and 23 points) and North Ballarat (29 points). They will be the hot favourites to win this year’s flag.

Key Players
Ben Cunnington -
The small midfielder/ forward is likely to be a first round draft choice and is pivotal to the success of the Falcons. His ability to win the contested ball and feed it out to his prime movers is a key attribute, as well as his versatility to push forward and kick important goals for his team.
Gary Rohan
- Has been the surprise packet for the Falcons this year, which saw him earn a position with Vic Country. His blistering speed and his jumping ability at the offensive end, coupled with his frontal pressure at the defensive end makes Rohan a dangerous weapon for Falcons coach Garry Hocking.
Josh Grabowski -
The small midfielder has been crucial for Geelong all year. Like Cunnington, Grabowski has the ability to push forward and kick goals as a small forward. But his real strength is kicking goals from the midfield, as he is often on the end of a chain of handballs, and his finishing ability on the run is exemplary.

Why they will win it
— The Falcons lost just one game in the regular season and will be looking to continue that great form in the finals. They move the ball efficiently around the ground and make good decisions with the ball. The team’s capacity to create space through the middle of the ground stems from the smart coaching of Garry Hocking and they look hungry to capture this year’s flag. The Falcons look set to have in excess of five draftees, but have maintained their focus on winning this year.

Gippsland Power

Regular Season- Finished the home and away season with 11 wins and 7 losses. They dropped four out of their first five but got their season back on track with some impressive wins. Their strong finish to the season has seen them storm back into flag contention as they have begun to click as a team. Their  fortunes will depend upon twin-towers up forward, John Butcher and Jed Lamb, as well as the ruckwork of Nathan Vardy and the clearance work of Edward Carr and Russell Lehman. The almost certain loss of key playmaker Koby Stevens to Osteitis Pubis will hurt, but the Power should be thereabouts in September.

Key Players
John Butcher
- The key forward is expected to go inside the top 10 in this year’s AFL Draft, and will be keen to impress in the finals series. Despite a relatively quiet National Carnival, Butcher has shaken off injuries to his hand and shoulder and will be a key force for the Power. He is dangerous in the air and has good speed and endurance for a player of his size. He will be crucial to his team’s fortunes in September.
Jed Lamb
- The bottom aged player finished second on the goal-kicking table behind the Ranges’ Luke McDonald. He is the perfect foil for Butcher up forward, but has the ability to be the main lynchpin as well.
Nathan Vardy
- The Power ruckman could be a first round draft choice this year. Vardy is versatile and agile in the ruck and will look to exploit his opponents in this area. Also has the ability to push forward and kick goals, and the Power will look to him to feed the likes of Lehman and Carr to generate forward thrusts.

Why they will win it— The Power’s firepower up forward remains a dangerous weapon and much of this reliance will centre on Butcher and Lamb. The loss of Stevens will hurt because of his leadership and clearance work, but will give others the chance to prove themselves in September.

Dandenong Stingrays

Regular Season— After reaching last year’s Grand Final, but losing heavily to Murray, this season has been about redemption. They only just beat Oakleigh last week and have lost to lowly Bendigo and bottom eight counterparts Northern, but they have beaten Eastern once, Gippsland once and smashed North Ballarat by 61 points.

Key Players
Tom Scully
- Scully has been the talk of the town as the clear favourite to become this year’s number one draft pick. It has been reported that Melbourne has already committed to him, but Scully has continued to go quietly about his business and has tried to avoid the massive hype on him. His clearance work, ability to kick on both feet and his endurance have all the hallmarks of a star AFL player. He could have a massive say in this year’s finals series.
Mathew Shaw
- Has been a consistent performer for the Stingrays all season. Shaw earned a spot for Vic Country and impressed at that level. He has signed with the Gold Coast as a 17 year old and will be keen to prove his selection is warranted. His athleticism and good decision making are key strengths and will look to put his stamp on the finals series.
Levi Casboult -
Finished inside the top five on the goal kicking table this year. The overage player has been extremely consistent for Dandy this year, and will need to continue this good form in the finals. The left footer is a beautiful kick at goal and a strong mark. His work ethic, however, has been very impressive throughout the year.

Why they will win it— Midfield strength in Scully, Shaw and Ryan Bastinac provides a great platform to generate forward attacks. Casboult is a key target up forward. But their main strength is an ability to work together as a team and to share the load. If they do this they could be dangerous in the finals.

Eastern Ranges

Regular Season— Finished the season with 11 wins and 7 losses, but behind the Stingrays on percentage. The Ranges have looked brilliant at times, highlighted by their one-point win over flag favourite Geelong. However, they have struggled as well which was compounded by a five game losing streak. They have hit form at the right time by winning three out of their last four.

Key Players
Ayden Kennedy
- His athleticism has been a trademark of his game. Earned a spot for Vic Metro and played some good footy at that level. He is a damaging field kick and has the ability to be versatile and be used as a forward or through the midfield.
Jordan Gysberts -
Wins plenty of contested and uncontested ball for his team. His cleanness when gathering the footy and an ability to use the footy efficiently is a major strength. He could go in the first round of this year’s draft after a standout performance at the AIS/AFL Academy in South Africa. He will be pivotal to his team winning the football in the midfield.
Luke McDonald -
The overage player has been a standout for the Ranges this year. He was a tearaway winner of the league’s goal kicking. He is a good size for a key forward and has the ability to kick big bags of goals including a five-goal haul against Western last week.

Why they will win it— The Ranges have been the only team to have beaten Geelong this year. They will rely on a rotation of midfielders such as Kennedy, Gysberts, David Mirra and Matthew Scott to win the ball and send it forward. Luke McDonald remains a dangerous prospect for opposition teams and Andrew Moore, brother of Richmond’s Calvin, can also spend time up there. They may be peaking at the right time of the year.

Gold Coast FC

Regular Season— The competition’s newcomers have been very good in their first year, but blew their chance with a loss to Geelong last week and failed to secure the double chance. They have been excellent at home, but abysmal away from Carrara. They have a lot of talent but an inability to win away from home might cost them as all finals will be held at VISY Park.

Key Players
Charlie Dixon
- The 202 centimetre key forward has already signed with GC17 for the upcoming season in the VFL. His mobility and strong marking are key assets, along with his work rate for such a big man. He will be a key player for his team in September.
Matthew Fowler -
The small forward has been a major weapon for the Gold Coast this year. He finished inside the top 10 in goal kickers, and is in the same mould as West Coast Eagles star Mark LeCras. His strength in a one-on-one situation and his role as a lead up target make him a dangerous player for opposition sides.
Zac Smith -
The 204 centimetre beanpole is another to have signed with GC 17. His all round mobility for a ruckman and an ability to get clearances make him such an important player. Smith towers above most players in the competition and is a big time player.

Why they will win it—The Gold Coast have enormous talent from around Queensland. They have gelled together under coach Guy McKenna and will be a force to be reckoned with in September. McKenna brings a wealth of knowledge and plays a guiding role as he develops some of these players into league footballers. With all finals being scheduled for VISY Park, GC will have to exorcise their demons and find a way to win away from home.

Calder Cannons

Regular Season— After winning the first four games of the season, Calder then lost the next five including thumping losses to Bendigo, Murray and Northern in the middle of the season. They only just lost to Geelong by three points, but were smashed by Eastern by 88 points in Round 16. But a win against first round finals opponents North Ballarat last week will give them confidence as well as regaining players from school duties.

Key Players
Jake Carlisle
- The Cannons will be sweating on the fitness of the key position player after missing last week’s clash with the Rebels with injury. He has come from nowhere to emerge as a possible first round pick in this year’s draft. He has the ability to play both at Centre Half Forward and Centre Half Back and dominate at either end of the ground. His work ethic has been outstanding and he is a great kick.
Mitchell Wallis
- The bottom age player, and son of Footscray great Steve, has had a very consistent year for the Cannons. Despite playing only a few games because of school commitments, Wallis has been a ball magnet this year often racking up possessions in excess of 30 plus. His clearance work and good decision making are key attributes, and he seems to position himself exceptionally well.
Jake Melksham -
Has great athleticism and poise as a forward/wingman. Melksham played in the side’s last premiership in 2007 as a bottom aged player and will be keen to win it again this year. Has an x-factor about him and can take a big ‘specky’ and kick a bag of goals. His balance and cleanness with the footy make him a standout player for the Cannons.

Why they will win it- The Cannons have a potent forward line including Carlisle, Serhat Temel, Luke Mitchell and Jacob Thompson. Their midfield is very strong with the likes of Melksham, Steve McCallum, Wallis, Tom Liberatore and Taylor Hine winning plenty of the ball. They pushed Geelong to three points earlier in the season. A lot will depend on the availability of Carlisle, Robbie Hicks and Gold Coast recruit Joshua Toy, but appear likely to be without U18 All-Australian Centre Half Back Daniel Talia through injury. The Cannons have all the assets to go the whole way in September, and could create carnage to the top sides by winning the premiership from sixth spot.

North Ballarat Rebels

Regular Season— Their season has been both hot and cold with six consecutive wins , followed by some thumping losses. They lost to the Cannons twice, who they will face in the first week of the finals, and were crushed by Dandenong and Geelong. Their finals success may depend on whether they bring their good or their bad football to VISY Park.

Key Players
Oliver Tate -
The midfielder’s disposal is important to his team as he acts as the quarterback in setting up forward attacks. He has the ability to win a high number of possessions and is a good decision maker with ball in hand.
Kurt Aylett -
The bottom age midfielder’s running ability is second to none as he provides options by sprinting through the corridor. He is a good decision maker and skilful with ball in hand. But his strength is his poise as well as finding space through his hard running.
Andrew Hooper -
The rebounding defender is an extremely important player. His on-field leadership is a major strength, as well as racking up possessions at will. The Rebels will try to release him as a loose man and will be looking to play a general’s role by directing traffic. He was the joint Larke Medallist after a standout performance for Vic Country, and he is crucial to his team’s success.

Why they will win it— The Rebels have shown an ability to string games together. Much will depend on whether they are consistent throughout games, as their fadeouts have been detrimental to their losses. The Rebels will need players like Tate, Aylett, Josh Free, Larke Medallist Andrew Hooper and Vic Country representative David Astbury to fire. The travel factor may prove a difference.

Northern Knights

Regular Season— It was a season of highs and lows for the Knights, with five of their victories by over 51 points, but seven of their losses by over 27 points. The Denis Pagan led team have been Jekyll and Hyde all year, and will need to be consistent in September if they have a chance.

Key Players—
Dylan Grimes -
The brother of Melbourne young gun Jack has been resolute in defence all year. His poise with ball in hand and closing speed as a defender are key strengths. He will need to restrict opposition key forwards, in the finals, to allow his team to continue throughout September.
Kane Lambert -
The small midfielder has been very consistent all year. His ability to win the contested ball and clearances are crucial to his team’s success. Is a prime-mover in the Knights’ on-ball brigade and has the ability to rack up possessions at will.
Anton Woods -
Plays similarly to Port Adelaide player David Rodan as he uses his agility and evasiveness to avoid on-coming opponents. He has had a very consistent year and his role as an outside midfielder is key to his team’s success.

Why they will win it- Their toughness at the contest with midfielders like Woods, Lambert, Tindarra Hood and Taylor Veal may prove to be a major strength. They are a fairly small team so they will rely on an ability to move the ball effectively and with precision. Their success will be determined by their consistency, throughout the game, as they have shown a habit of fading badly in games. But the guidance of master coach Denis Pagan may be pivotal for the Knights.


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