For the beaten 2016 Grand Final team, the Murray Bushrangers have quietly gone about building a 5-1 record to sit second on the TAC Cup ladder.
Murray produced a competition-high 10 players added to AFL lists last year, including NAB AFL Draft pick no.12 Jy Simpkin who has impressed in five senior games for North Melbourne so far in 2017.
Second-year Bushrangers head coach Leon Higgins admitted earlier this year that it’d be difficult for his 2017 group to match the deeds of last year’s, but that they’ll “be more than competitive throughout the season”.
When asked about potential 2017 draftees, Higgins pointed firstly to Charlie Spargo – but the classy 175cm midfielder/forward hasn’t played a TAC Cup game this year due to commitments with the NAB AFL Academy and GWS Academy (of which he’s no longer a part).
Instead, a collection of unheralded players is emerging to record impressive numbers through the first six rounds.
Over-age defender Ben Paton has been one of Murray’s most consistent players averaging 23 disposals and six marks per game running off half back, and was in his team’s best players for its Round 6 victory over the Calder Cannons with 19 disposals and five rebound-50s.
Jessy Wilson was also crucial against the Cannons with three goals and the 184cm top-ager now leads the Bushrangers goalkicking table with 11, ahead of 196cm Daniel Johnston (10 majors) and livewire indigenous prospect David Smith (nine).
On a wet day at Rams Arena, the grunt of co-captain Harry Jones (averaging 23 disposals and six tackles per game) and over-agers Isaac Wallace (17 and six) and Nick Richards (21 and three) was important, while Doulton Langlands – a bottom-ager in Murray’s Grand Final team – stood out with 21 disposals and six inside-50s.
Add in the ball-winning ability of 170cm Angus Hicks (ave. 24 disposals and six tackles) and marking power of 195cm Jordon Butts (ave. 17 disposals and eight marks) and suddenly the Bushrangers seem to have enviable depth of talent.
They may not be as well known as Simpkin and Will Brodie may have been in 2016, but they’re proving just as effective for their team.
Round 6 keys to victory:
23: The Eastern Ranges had 11 fewer inside-50s and three fewer scoring shots than the Gippsland Power in their two-point victory but clearly made their forward thrusts count. Rowville product Trent Mynott’s damaging boot was a key factor for the Ranges, sending the ball inside 50 six times from his round-high 23 kicks.
19: The Bendigo Pioneers reaped the rewards of going direct in a 21-point win against the Sandringham Dragons. The Pioneers had 31 fewer disposals than the Dragons but recorded 13 more kicks, with Echuca product Darby Henderson and Strathfieldsaye junior Angus Schumacher racking up 19 disposals each by foot.
25: The Oakleigh Chargers relished the tough conditions during their 40-point defeat of the GWV Rebels, winning the clearance count by 25. 19-year-old Marcellin Old Collegians product Louis Cunningham starred in Oakleigh’s engine room, winning a clear game-high 10 clearances.
Round 6 stats leaders:
|Trent Mynott||Eastern Ranges||23|
|Hamish Brayshaw||Sandringham Dragons||23|
|Mitchell Andrews||Northern Knights||22|
|Judah Dundon||Western Jets||21|
|Nicholas Stuhldreier||Western Jets||20|
|Darby Henderson||Bendigo Pioneers||19|
|Angus Schumacher||Bendigo Pioneers||19|
|Mitchell Podhajski||Calder Cannons||19|
|Josh Bateman||Dandenong Stingrays||19|
|Hunter Clark||Dandenong Stingrays||19|
|Tom Murphy||Dandenong Stingrays||19|
|James Worpel||Geelong Falcons||19|
|Ben Caluzzi||Calder Cannons||18|
|Dylan Moore||Eastern Ranges||18|
|Will Stephenson||Gippsland Power||18|
|Jaden Rice||Western Jets||20|
|Samuel Walsh||Geelong Falcons||19|
|Bayley Cockerill||Geelong Falcons||18|
|Dylan Moore||Eastern Ranges||17|
|Darby Henderson||Bendigo Pioneers||16|
|Hunter Clark||Dandenong Stingrays||15|
|Ali Zijai||Dandenong Stingrays||15|
|Nicholas Richards||Murray Bushrangers||15|
|Lachlan Harris||Sandringham Dragons||15|
|Nicholas Stuhldreier||Western Jets||14|
|Ari Sakeson||Sandringham Dragons||14|
|Quintin Montanaro||Sandringham Dragons||14|
|James Worpel||Geelong Falcons||13|
|Sam Harte||Oakleigh Chargers||13|
|Angus Styles||Sandringham Dragons||13|
|Mitchell Andrews||Northern Knights||12|
|Aidan Tilley||Calder Cannons||12|
|Ari Sakeson||Sandringham Dragons||11|
|Quintin Montanaro||Sandringham Dragons||9|
|Mitchell Podhajski||Calder Cannons||9|
|Darby Henderson||Bendigo Pioneers||8|
|Angus Schumacher||Bendigo Pioneers||8|
|Kye Quirk||Eastern Ranges||8|
|Sam Binion||Northern Knights||8|
|Geordie Nagle||Sandringham Dragons||7|
|Thomas North||Eastern Ranges||7|
|Buku Khamis||Western Jets||7|
|Matt Harvey||Bendigo Pioneers||7|
|Angus Paterson||Dandenong Stingrays||7|
|Bailey Henderson||Bendigo Pioneers||7|
|Matthew Volkanovski||Western Jets||40|
|Jasper Rouget||Eastern Ranges||23|
|Joel Grace||Northern Knights||21|
|Lloyd Meek||GWV Rebels||21|
|Julian Patterson||Gippsland Power||21|
|Daniel Hanna||Calder Cannons||20|
|Bailey Williams||Dandenong Stingrays||19|
|Noah Balta||Calder Cannons||19|
|Jobee Warde||Bendigo Pioneers||19|
|Sam Hayes||Eastern Ranges||18|
|Patrick Bohan||Oakleigh Chargers||18|
|Lachlan Harry||Oakleigh Chargers||18|
|Cody Henness||Gippsland Power||17|
|Brock McGregor||Western Jets||16|
|Jacob McNicol||Calder Cannons||16|
|Callum Porter||Gippsland Power||13|
|Dylan Moore||Eastern Ranges||13|
|Joel Burleigh||Eastern Ranges||13|
|Jaden Rice||Western Jets||12|
|Will Stephenson||Gippsland Power||12|
|Nick Lowden||Gippsland Power||11|
|Oliver Wilson||Northern Knights||11|
|Jamison Shea||Northern Knights||10|
|Louis Cunningham||Oakleigh Chargers||10|
|Braedyn Gillard||Northern Knights||10|
|Kim Drew||Gippsland Power||10|
|James Worpel||Geelong Falcons||9|
|Connor Thar||Western Jets||9|
|Lachlan Noble||Geelong Falcons||9|
|Adrian Kalcovski||Eastern Ranges||9|
|2017 LEADING GOALKICKERS||Last Rnd||Total|
|Gryan Miers||Geelong Falcons||4||19|
|David Handley||Geelong Falcons||2||15|
|Toby Wooller||Oakleigh Chargers||2||14|
|Aaron Trusler||Sandringham Dragons||2||14|
|Will Stephenson||Gippsland Power||2||12|
|Riley D’Arcy||Dandenong Stingrays||_||12|
|Jamison Shea||Northern Knights||4||11|
|Jessy Wilson||Murray Bushrangers||3||11|
|Daniel Johnston||Murray Bushrangers||2||10|
|Jordon Reid||Geelong Falcons||1||10|