Posted in Front Page News

By Ben Pollard

The Sandringham Dragons received a super-sized serving of TAC Cup finals heartbreak on Saturday.

If there’s a positive to take from a shattering four-point preliminary final loss to the Gippsland Power, the defeat should steel the group for their future footy careers.

The game was a showcase of everything great about underage football. There was never more than a couple of goals in it as both teams traded blows over four quarters.

The Dragons slipped nine points behind midway through the last term, only to regain the lead minutes later. It changed hands twice more before Gippsland stole the decisive break 26 minutes in.

It was a hard way to miss a grand final berth, and that’s not to mention Sandringham’s qualifying final loss to the North Ballarat Rebels… The Dragons went down by two points after surrendering a 23-point lead at the final change.

The club’s football and operations manager Luke O’Brien said the group took Saturday’s loss pretty hard, but was proud of what they achieved this year.

“(It’s) just their attitude and endeavour. Everything we’ve asked and every challenge we’ve set for them, they’ve lived up to it,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien admitted an opportunity was missed, but preferred to see Sandringham’s season in a positive light.

2012 produced a strong semi final victory over the Geelong Falcons and six Dragons representatives in the Vic Metro team at the AFL Under-18 Championships.

The team also showed great heart to finish fourth with a 10-7 record after a mid-season form slump saw them drop from 8-4 to 8-7.

“During that middle part of the year, the Vic Metro kids weren’t playing so it gave an opportunity for the other kids to stand up and get the experience,” O’Brien said.

“Just the way the leadership group stood up when our personnel was down a little bit was fantastic.”

Some of those Dragon leaders now turn their gaze to November’s NAB AFL Draft.

O’Brien said several former SMJFL juniors had genuine chances of being picked up, including:

–    Tom Temay (former Prahran junior): “Very good in the Metro carnival. He’s just an elite endurance athlete. Good skills on either side.”
–    Tom Langdon (Prahran): “Started the year slowly but really picked up in the second half. He’s a medium-sized forward/half-back/midfielder. Beautiful kick and good above his head.”
–    Kenny Ong (Ormond): “A small inside midfielder with great hands and great lateral movement.”
–    Tom Tyquin (St Bedes/Mentone): “A medium-sized half-back/wingman. Got a real appetite for the contest and a lovely right-foot kick.”
–    Michael Barnes (St Peters): “A hard inside midfielder/small forward. Excellent below his knees.”
–    Chris Mangoni (Dingley): “Our captain. Hard-at-it. People say he’s a fraction small but he’s very good above his head and very disciplined.”

You can rest assured if any of the 2012 Dragons are drafted to the big league, they’ll have already learnt one valuable football lesson: Success doesn’t come easily.