By Ben Pollard
The 2012 Sandringham Dragons team has a hard act to follow.
The 2011 Dragons took out the TAC Cup premiership, with three members of the team taken by AFL clubs in the 2011 national draft – Liam Sumner (pick 10 to GWS), Jackson Paine (pick 50 to Collingwood) and Alex Woodward (pick 53 to Hawthorn).
But after 12 rounds of this season, Sandringham’s football & operations manager Luke O’Brien says the new Dragons are tracking almost as well, currently sitting in third position with a record of 8-4.
“They’re different to last year; they’re probably a smaller side than last year, but the top-end talent’s there and we’ve probably got slightly better bottom-agers than last year,” he says.
“All in all, it’s another good side, but if they’re anything close to last year’s group, we’ll be happy.”
The Dragons have the job in front of them to overhaul the North Ballarat Rebels and Gippsland Power, teams which sit two games clear in first and second.
Sandringham started the season brightly, winning its first four games before falling to the Power in Round 5.
The team won its next two, before a three-game losing streak (including a defeat to the Rebels) that Luke O’Brien partially put down to missing talent.
“The start of the year was very good. When we were full strength, I think we were as good as anyone in the competition,” he says.
“But when the boys go off to (play for) their private schools, our depth gets tested a little bit.”
Those team members with school football commitments are currently with the squad over the school holiday period, but will return to the team permanently just before Round 16 for the crucial run to the finals.
Luke points to the number of “draft-able” players in the team as an indication that this year’s Sandringham squad can go as far as the 2011 version.
“Tom Temay just had an excellent national (Under 18s) carnival, so he’s put his name right up there along with Tom Tyquin, who has been solid all year,” he says.
“Cameron Banfield and James Stewart are probably the other two who have both played for Victoria in the Championships… Then you can throw in Tom Langdon, Kenny Ong and Michael Barnes as well.”
Some of these players are former SMJFL juniors. Read on for Luke O’Brien’s thoughts on how Sandringham’s most prominent former SMJFL juniors have been performing this season:
Chris Mangoni (former Dingley junior): Chris is our captain this year and always leads from the front. He is very courageous for his size and fantastic overhead.
Tom Tyquin (St Bedes): Tom is one of our most draft-able players. Plays wing/half back, kicks the ball extremely well and makes excellent decisions when he has the ball.
Michael Barnes (St Peters): Michael has been fantastic for us this year playing on-ball and up forward. He wins his own ball, tackles hard and kicks goals when forward.
Tom Temay (Prahran): Tom has just finished a very successful National Championships in which he starred for Vic Metro. Always plays on the opposition’s best players and rarely has his colours lowered.
Kenny Ong (Ormond): Kenny is an in-and-under midfielder with excellent skills and fantastic hands. Narrowly missed Vic Metro selection but has been in great form for the Dragons.
Tom Langdon (Prahran): Tom has been playing some very good football across half back this year. He is a lovely kick of the ball and very strong above his head.
Joel McKee (St Peters): Joel has been used in a variety of positions for the Dragons this year and played every one very well. He is a leader both on and off the field.
Charlie Dillon (Mordialloc-Braeside): Charlie has only played a few games due to school commitments but when he has played, he has not looked out of place. He is quick and strong and very hard to play against.
Rob Tunbridge (Dingley): Rob has only played the one game for us in 2012 but is a player who is developing very well. He is a lovely size, with good hands and a lovely right-foot kick.
Sam D’Andrea (St Bedes): Sam is one of the quickest players we have on the Dragons list in 2012, with his forward line tackling pressure a real feature.
Mac O’Donnell (Mordialloc-Braeside): Mac is the best kick we have on our list and is a pleasure to have around the group. He is a hard-at-it midfielder who understands the game very well.
Matt Taylor (St Pauls): Matt is a ruckman/key position player who can play at either end. He is a fantastic mark and covers the ground very well.
Brett Denton (Mordialloc-Braeside): Brett is one of the hardest players we have on our list in 2012. Wins his own ball well and puts heaps of pressure on the opposition.
Mitch Howes (Beaumaris): Mitch is a key position player who has been playing some excellent football in defence this year. He is a great athlete who is very quick on the lead.
Xavier Richards (Prahran): Xavier has played in a variety of positions this year and done so very well. Currently playing in the ruck where his athleticism is in full flight.