The Sandringham Dragons have won their fourth NAB League premiership in club history, defeating the Dandenong Stingrays by 14.10.94 to 7.9.51 in the 2022 NAB League Grand Final.
The premiership win saw the Dragons take out the Murray Bushrangers, Calder Cannons, Gippsland Power, and the Dandenong Stingrays on their road to glory.
The Dragons kicked the first five goals of the game to set up a historic night at IKON Park, never looking back as the lead was built on to hit a game-high 62 points at three-quarter time.
Will Ashcroft added another accolade to his name, winning the Best on Ground medal following a spectacular four-quarter performance.
The premiership victory was coach Wayne Cripps’ first year in charge, making an instant impact in his time at the Dragons.
The Sandringham Dragons will wrap up their 2022 season on the 4th of October when the annual Best and Fairest night will be held.
It was nothing short of your traditional grand final start, a contested and physical battle where both teams fought to assert dominance.
Some terrific forward pressure from Will Ashcroft (39 disposals, 6 inside 50s) allowed Harry Sheezel (4 goals) to find the kick forward to Jimmy Creighton (1 goal) who nailed the set shot for the Dragons first of the game.
The ball was locked in the Dragons forward half for the majority of the first quarter, but scoring shots were hard to come by.
10 minutes later the second goal was on the board courtesy of some smart roving from Cam Mackenzie, (26 disposals, 2 goals) who snapped on the run from 30 metres to kick his first of two goals.
Charlie Clarke (1 goal) had his first moment three minutes later, brilliantly anticipating the drop of the ball and running into an open goal, topped off with a passionate celebration.
The message was clear from Coach Cripps’ going into the match that “nothing changes” whether the first three goals go against or for the Dragons, and that message was certainly evident.
Harry Sheezel replicated Clarke’s actions 60 seconds later, sitting out the back of the pack to dribble through his first, making it four unanswered goals.
Many opposition teams believe it’s a tough move to target Levi Ashcroft, but it’s been proven it’s not, as the Stingrays gave away their fifth consecutive goal, with Sheezel snapping in the pocket for his second.
The Dragons kept the Stingrays scoreless in the first quarter, going into the first break with a commanding 32-0 lead.
The Stingrays kicked the first goal of the second quarter early on, but the Dragons continued the pile-on of dominance in the second quarter, kicking another five goals to Dandenong’s two.
The first of the quarter came off the boot of Levi Ashcroft (15 disposals, 1 goal), who snapped wonderfully on the run to kick his first of the day, assisted by some great inward vision from Sheezel to find Levi.
A couple of behinds were added to the Dragons tally within the first ten minutes, but the dominance was still well in favour of the Dragons.
Toby McMullin (17 disposals, 1 goal) composed himself well on the outside wing to kick forward to a lively pack, which Sheezel was able to find the ball out the back and handball over the top to Jamie Hope (13 disposals, 1 goal) who strolled into an open goal to extend the lead to 40 points.
The combination of Hotton (25 disposals, 1 goal), Ryan (18 disposals, 4 rebound 50s) , Roberts (21 disposals, 3 inside 50s), Hope, and Mackenzie provided a sensational link up passage to find McMullin 40 metres out, who calmly slotted the set shot.
Oli Hotton had arguably the best moment of the Grand Final, with a spectacular goal to finish the second quarter.
Hotton started in the middle of the ground with an intercept, utilising the give and receive with Will Ashcroft and Will Brown, then going on to burst through the stoppage and kick on the run from 30 metres out to put the finishing touches on a spectacular first half.
With a solid first half under their belts, the coaching staff urged the playing group not to take the foot off the pedal.
Cam Mackenzie broke through for the first goal of the second half before the Stingrays responded quickly.
But three goals from Harry Sheezel, Mitch Rowe and Will Brown asserted the Dragons dominance as they took a 62-point lead into the final change.
Rowe’s passion for the jumper has been evident all season and his voice and energy was infectious amongst the group.
Will Brown came on in leaps and bounds throughout the finals series, arguably saving his best until last.
Brown had 19 touches and a game-high seven marks, presenting well and actively getting involved higher up the ground too.
Despite conceding four goals in the final term, the Dragons were able to solidify a tremendous, historic, 43-point win.
The boys will remember the feeling on the final siren for a long time coming, as the Dragons secured their fourth ever premiership and first since 2016.
Post-match there were embraces as the entire club stood in the centre of the ground to belt out the team song.
There were pictures with friends and family as the boys savoured the moment and said thanks to those who had helped them on their footballing journeys so far.
The noise walking back through the race as the team sang the song one final time in the changerooms was deafening.
KEY TALKING POINTS
ANOTHER ASHCROFT ACCOLADE
We’ve almost run out of ways to describe captain Will Ashcroft this season.
He’s taken home a swag of individual awards but his legacy at the Dragons will run far deeper than that.
Often citing that a goal of his throughout the year was to win a premiership at the Dragons, Ashcroft put together another dazzling performance, racking up 39 disposals, five tackles and six inside 50s.
His ability to break tags and overcome pressure from the opposition is something that is rarely seen at under 18s level and just one of the many reasons the Brisbane father-son prospect is set to make an impact at the top level for many years.
His performance was recognised by a panel of experts as he was awarded the best on ground medal for another scintillating performance. - Dylan Bolch
Beaumaris’ Cam Mackenzie has won a premiership in every competition he’s been played in this year.
From the tied APS competition with Brighton Grammar, to this flag with the Dragons and then being a part of Vic Metro’s championship victory in the national under 18s, it seems everything Mackenzie touches turns to gold.
Mackenzie was outstanding in slippery conditions at Ikon Park, amassing 26 touches, six tackles and two goals.
He would have been a worthy winner of the best on ground award too, such was his impact on the contest.
His ability to hit up a target and remain calm under pressure, combined with his desire to take the game on and move the ball fast, make him one of the most dangerous and exciting prospects of the draft pool and one of Sandringham’s best players all season. - Dylan Bolch
ROCK SOLID DEFENCE
Sandringham’s barnstorming run in the finals campaign had a lot to do with the strength of their defence.
Nathan Scollo, Darcy Gilbert, Angus McLennan and Jakob Anderson were intercepting beasts whilst Mitch Ryan, Matt Clarkson and Ben Hempel nullified the dangerous small forwards and provided plenty of drive off half-back.
In the Grand Final, Sandringham’s structure behind the ball was superb and with the midfield applying heaps of pressure, the defenders thrived and were able to play their natural game.
McLennan started to return to his form pre-injury, ruling the airways taking six marks in wet, slippery conditions.
Scollo and Gilbert have shut down some of the competition’s finest key forwards and took another scalp against the Stingrays.
Ryan’s role at stoppages was crucial to the team’s success and the way he executed it was outstanding. - Dylan Bolch
FEELING HOT, HOT, HOTTON
Olli Hotton’s rise up the ranks has been quite the spectacle since he was a late inclusion to the Vic Metro side earlier this season.
Since then his confidence has skyrocketed, elevating his game to the next level, playing in sensational form for the Dragons as an integral part of the midfield group.
The form translated terrifically into the Grand Final, with Hotton accumulating 25 disposals, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s, and a spectacular goal.
His goal in the last 30 seconds of the second quarter was ultimately the dagger in the heart for the Stingrays, who were never likely to cut down a 45-point lead.
Hotton’s performance was one of his best of the year, rivalling his season best performance against Oakleigh in the last round of the regular season.
There’s no limits for Hotton, who will make recruiter’s jobs extremely difficult going into the AFL Draft. - Nathan Sepe
THE SHEEZEL SHOW
The crowd favourite without a doubt, Sheezel just loves putting on a show and that’s exactly what he did in the Grand Final, kicking four of his best.
His footy smarts around the contest were on show, with some smart roving of the pack giving him the opportunity to run into an open goal with ease.
Even when he’s having a rough patch one-on-one, it only takes Sheezel one moment to get in the groove and assert dominance, which he did in the second quarter, outmuscling his opponent in the contest to snap and kick a Sheezel classic.
Sheezel finished the NAB League Season as the top goalkicker, always making an impact in every game and putting his name in the spotlight deservedly.
The top 5 in the draft beckons for Sheezel who has put the work in to make himself one of the most dominant forwards in his age group. - Nathan Sepe
After Coach Cripps sat the squad down in a circle after a crushing 77-point defeat to the Eastern Ranges six weeks before the Grand Final, accountability was demanded from every individual if there was to be any success come crunch time.
That moment set the benchmark for a historic premiership run, with the boys slowly starting to connect after APS Football was finished.
The six goal near comeback against Oakleigh in the last round showed glimpses of what the side could produce, and the wildcard round against Murray sparked a heap of belief.
A comfortable and dominant win against Calder in the quarter-final gave the side every chance against the minor premiers Gippsland, in which the Dragons comfortably dismantled them as well.
Everything clicked at the perfect time, and the Grand Final win was nothing short of dominant, characterised by team football. - Nathan Sepe
It takes more than just the players to win the premiership, it’s the culmination of players, staff, coaches, and family members to lift the side each week.
The coaching staff involving, Wayne Cripps, Cam Feild, Mark Cooke, Lisa Roper, Paul Griffiths, and Scott Nish put on a masterclass display of tactics and set the side up for four quarters of dominance.
Our high-performance standards were driven through the roof by the likes of, Lachie Butler, Philip Brennan, Adriana Tselepis, Paige Lovett and Angelique Brandt.
A club favourite Michael Harper was sensational in keeping the boys mentally focused with his wellbeing expertise.
Our trainers Hans Harms, Lynda Britten, Helena Gill, and Grace Power were the backbone of all pre-match preparations and provided the goods throughout the games.
The club legend themselves, Ian Penn and Jim Lansdown added a fourth premiership to their tallies, witnessing all four since the beginning of the Dragons.
The two most important figures at the Dragons, Mark Wheeler and Jakob Martin kept the club thriving through the whole season, always providing the information everyone needed to hear! - Nathan Sepe
Whilst there were 23 players who pulled on the jumper that night, the entire club contributed to the premiership win.
Sandringham utilised an astonishing 71 players throughout the 2022 NAB League Boys campaign, calling on boys from all around the region.
Many youngsters had their first taste of NAB League footy after dominant performances in the South Metro Junior Football League and other local competitions, whilst a band of over-agers came back to the club where their leadership was pivotal for the Dragons in securing their fourth ever flag.
School football provided a launchpad for others to showcase their talents, with several breaking into the Dragons side as a result of solid performances at that level.
Many of those who were not selected made the trip to Ikon Park to support the team, cheering from the stands and getting amongst the celebrations.
Leadership group member and star defender Jakob Anderson took on a coaching role on the bench after being ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Anderson’s tremendous knowledge of the game was a massive asset for the coaching staff and rest of the team and was a perfect example of everyone doing everything they could do help the team achieve victory. - Dylan Bolch
STINGRAYS 0.0 2.3 3.6 7.9 (51)
DRAGONS 5.2 9.6 13.8 14.10 (94)
BEST: W. Ashcroft, Sheezel, Mackenzie, Brown, McLennan, McMullin