An emphatic 72-point victory for the Dragons has sent them flying up the NAB League ladder, earning their third win in a row.
It was a quick start for the Dragons, booting their first goal within the first 60 seconds, courtesy of some great midfield pressure from Luca Macnab (20 disposals, 11 kicks), which gave Hope an opportunity to find a lurking Charlie Clarke open for his first of seven goals.
The centre stoppages were owned by the Dragons early on with some brilliant roaming from Will Ashcroft (34 disposals, 25 handballs) and Cam Mackenzie (25 disposals, 16 handballs)
After ten minutes the Dragons had established a 22-0 start, with all three goals off the boot of Charlie Clarke, making his presence felt early.
It didn’t take long for fellow forward Harry Sheezel (six goals, 28 disposals) to imprint his physical dominance on the game, taking his first of four contested marks on forward 50 to kick his first of the game.
Ruckman Max Ramsden (25 hitouts, 23 disposals) set up the Dragons' sixth major of the first quarter, tapping down to Ashcroft, who snapped under pressure to find Brown on the forward 50 who slotted his first.
The dominant first quarter gave the Dragons a healthy 38-point lead.
Tasmania set out to shift momentum early in the second quarter, however, some wayward shots from the team in green left opportunities begging.
The Dragons capitalised on Tassie’s inability to penetrate forward 50, with some individual brilliance from Mackenzie Allen (16 disposals, five marks) and Will Ashcroft, enabling another key forward in Hugo Hall-Kahan to kick his first of four goals.
Sheezel was on fire late in the second quarter, placing himself in terrific positions to make the most of Ashcroft’s superb roaming, kicking his fourth of the game on the run from 30 metres out.
A Hall-Kahan on-the-siren goal gave the Dragons a 53-point halftime lead.
Tasmania fired back in the third quarter with five goals of their own, capitalising from their forward 50 entries, however, they were unable to stop the Dragons from scoring.
The two goals for the Dragons were in the space of two minutes through the middle of the third quarter, one goal coming from Will Brown and some more Charlie Clarke magic on the boundary line, caressing the ball from 50 after selling some candy.
Whilst the game seemed done and dusted from a spectator's perspective, the job wasn’t done yet for the Dragons, with the intensity lifting in the final quarter to bring home a tremendous victory.
Clarke was becoming impossible to deal with for the Devils, with his craftiness finding himself two in three minutes with some behind-the-ball smarts.
Hope found himself his only major of the day halfway through the fourth quarter, weaving through traffic inside forward 50 to snap the Dragons into a game-high 57-point lead.
Will Ashcroft provided another highlight-reel moment, breaking out of five Tassie players in the middle of the ground, gaining 50 metres, and composing himself from 30 metres out, kicking a fantastic goal to top off a marvelous performance for the Dragons.
The Dragons ran out 72 point winners, 21.14.140 – 10.8.68.
If there was an uncontroversial version of Toby Green, Charlie Clarke is definitely your man.
Clarke has become Sandringham’s number one small forward, finding versatile ways to sneak behind, around, up, or down his opponent to hit the scoreboard and make a consistent impact.
Clarke kicked seven goals, a season-high for him and placing him third in the Dragons goal kicking tally.
Clarke possesses an element of cheekiness, and with a thriving passion for goals, he will give himself opportunities as simple as a tap-in or as complex as a candy-selling check side.
Clarke kicked his best goal midway through the third quarter, finding himself in an isolated one-on-one position on the boundary of 50m metres.
Clarke weaved his magic around his opponent, composed himself, and lined up a beauty on a tight angle from 40 metres out, in close contention for goal of the day, tied with Will Ashcroft.
Whilst Clarke was kicking the goals Assistant Coach Scott Nish commented on the willingness of the whole forward line to give consistent effort.
“From a forward perspective, they all worked really hard for each other. They’re starting to understand how important structure and movement is”
“It’s giving them really good isolation and really good looks at it.”
Harry Sheezel is not only a good kick but a spectacular contested mark.
Whilst the stats only account for general marks, it is fair to assume, that of his five, three or four were terrifically contested.
Sheezel kicked four first-half goals, all off hard work and physical presence that were unbeatable defensively.
Sheezel is a key figure in the Dragons' forward line, with his domination in the air placing less pressure on the small forwards to provide high numbers at the drop of the ball.
Sheezel reflected on his performance, commending the team chemistry as a contributor to his high-level performance.
“We’re starting to gel together really well, we’re all getting up the ground, running back, working for each other”
The tally goes up to 13 goals for Harry this year and the mindset is simple for Sheezel, it’s all about “ working hard and selflessly”
The heartbeat of the midfield circulates around Will Ashcroft, his composure, tenacity, and creativeness are all key factors to the Dragons' effectiveness in transitioning inside forward 50.
Ashcroft had another big game, tallying 34 disposals and 25 handballs, a testament to his unselfish attitude to give and go from the centre stoppages.
His ability to outwork his opponent shines across four quarters, on most occasions he was able to get front and centre of contested battles and burst his way through to create offensive flow.
When Ashcroft kicks a goal, it’s always done in the most spectacular fashion. Breaking through five players and running 50 metres to slot one on the run from 35 metres out is certainly one done in style.
Teammate Harry Sheezel spoke on the midfield’s dominant ability of late, pinpointing effective chains and intensity.
“We’re getting speed in the midfield, getting forward of the ball, and creating handball chains”
“It’s coming in quick and really dangerous, we’re not a big forward line so when it gets in fast, we’re able to go to work”
The Dragons will have a one-month break with the upcoming national development games and will return on the 22nd of May against the Eastern Ranges.