We talk to Dandenong Stingrays Talent Manager Mark Wheeler about the team’s upcoming TAC Cup season.
2017 FINISH: 4th (13-7)
2017 BEST AND FAIREST: 1. Hunter Clark / 2. Mason de Wit / 3. Mitch Cotter
2017 DRAFTEES: Luke Davies-Uniacke (pick no.4 to North Melbourne), Hunter Clark (no.7 to St Kilda), Aiden Bonar (no.11 to GWS), Tom De Koning (no.30 to Carlton), Oscar Clavarino (no.35 to St Kilda), Thomas Murphy (rookie pick no.4 to North Melbourne)
OTHER FORMER PLAYERS CURRENTLY ON AFL LISTS:
- Selected in 2005: Nathan Jones (Melbourne)
- 2008: Shane Savage (Hawthorn/St Kilda)
- 2009: Tom Scully (Melbourne/GWS), Ryan Bastinac (North Melbourne/Brisbane), Dylan Roberton (Fremantle/St Kilda), Matt Shaw (Gold Coast/Carlton), Levi Casboult* (Carlton)
- 2010: Tom Lynch (Gold Coast), Luke Parker (Sydney), Dylan Shiel (GWS), Adam Treloar (GWS/Collingwood)
- 2011: Matthew Buntine (GWS), Nick Haynes (GWS), Darren Minchington* (St Kilda)
- 2012: Lachlan Whitfield (GWS), Taylor Garner (North Melbourne), Nathan Wright (St Kilda), Lewis Pearce (St Kilda)
- 2013: Zak Jones (Sydney), Billy Hartung (Hawthorn/North Melbourne), James Harmes* (Melbourne)
- 2014: Jack Lonie (St Kilda), Bailey Dale (Western Bulldogs)
- 2015: Jacob Weitering (Carlton), Kieran Collins (Western Bulldogs), Brandon White (St Kilda), Bailey Rice (St Kilda), Kurt Mutimer (West Coast)
- 2016: Josh Battle (St Kilda), Myles Poholke (Adelaide)
2018 AFL ACADEMY: Riley Bowman, Sam Fletcher, Bailey Williams (Level 2) / Hayden Young (Level 1)
2018 COACH: Craig Black (fifth season)
2018 SEASON START: vs Geelong Falcons (Sunday March 25) / vs Gippsland Power (Friday March 30) / vs GWV Rebels (Saturday April 7)
* CLICK HERE to see the full 2018 TAC Cup fixture.
TOP 2018 DRAFT PROSPECTS
Bailey Williams (Crib Point junior, 17 games in 2017): “Bailey is probably the most athletic big man in the competition. He’s grown a bit in stature over the off-season and you’d expect him to take his game to the next level this year. He’s an elite athlete with an amazing jump and you’ll see him more as a forward than a ruckman this season.”
Riley Bowman (Crib Point junior, 10 games in 2017): “Riley is probably our best tap ruckman. He’s dropped about 11 kilos over the last two pre-seasons and has turned himself into an elite runner for a big bloke. He understands the game really well and is elite below his knees, so he could even play as a ruck rover.”
Sam Fletcher (Balnarring junior, four games in 2017): “Sam went down with a kidney injury in the middle of last year and has come back from that. He’s a genuine midfielder but he can sit behind the ball and play as a half back. He’s elite off the field and has lots of tricks on it – he’s brave, makes good decisions and is a leader within our group.”
Aaron Darling (Balnarring junior, no games in 2017): “Aaron is back as a 19-year-old player and has ticked every box after going down with an ACL last year. That was tough for him, but he became an assistant midfield coach for us and was really positive in the way he went about his rehab. He’s a beast with the best ‘don’t argue’ in the competition and a brilliant kick.”
Will Hamill (top-age Balnarring junior, 20 games in 2017): “Will came into our program as a bit of an unknown factor last year but played every game as a defender on opposition smalls and talls. We’ve rolled him through the midfield in trial games and he seems more suited there. He’s impressed us on the track and he’s a great leader off it.”
“Sam Fletcher (see above) will likely end up in our leadership group, while Campbell Hustwaite (top-age Rosebud junior, 13 games in 2017) is highly rated amongst the playing group and Mitch Riordan (top-age Beaconsfield junior, 10 games in 2017) stands out for the coaching staff because he’s ‘Mr Professional’ in everything he does.”
POTENTIAL SURPRISE PACKETS
Matthew and Stephen Cumming (top-age Rosebud juniors): “Matthew and Stephen are 201cm identical twins from a basketball background who switched to football in the middle of last year. Their development and understanding of the game has been really good, they’re elite runners and their hands are some of the best around.”
FAMOUS FOOTBALL RELATIONS
Aaron Darling (see above): Cousin of Jack Darling (151 AFL games for West Coast from 2011-present).
Alex Young (top-age Beaconsfield junior, three games in 2017): Son of Matthew Young (118 AFL games for Hawthorn and St Kilda from 1994-2001).
Jack Harmes (top-age Devon Meadows junior): Brother of James Harmes (44 AFL games for Melbourne from 2014-present).
Dylan Mutimer (bottom-age Narre Warren junior): Brother of Kurt Mutimer (four AFL games for West Coast from 2016-present).
WHAT TO EXPECT
“We’re the land of the giants; we’ll have about eight blokes around 198cm and they can all run. The coaches don’t mind it, because I told them they’ll probably have four blokes in the forward line, two in the middle and three in the back line at 190cm-plus. We also think we have an elite midfield group.”
COACHING PANEL ADDITIONS
“We had Rob Railton last year but he’s come into a more official role this year as our back line coach as well as doing some welfare work. We also have (ex-Carlton and Essendon AFL player) Glenn Manton doing some wellbeing work with the boys and girls.”