The Sandringham Dragons have held off a fast-finishing Calder Cannons outfit to win their second consecutive game of the 2023 season.
The Cannons brought the fight all day long, but the Dragons held on to run out six-point victors at Highgate Recreation Reserve.
“I thought it was a really challenging game right until the end. Calder just kept on coming at us all the way through. To get down to about 30 seconds to go with a centre bounce and just the one goal margin, made for a pretty exciting finish for everyone,” said head coach Rob Harding.
Harding was pleased with his sides work around the contest and willingness to put in the effort defensively.
“Our contest work and pressure was really good. We ended the day with over 100 disposals more than Calder, not by design, but our guys were really strong in the contest and held up well with the Calder pressure,” he said.
The Dragons booted three goals to zero in the first term and held a 15-point lead at the main break, before stepping on the gas in the third term.
“Through the third quarter we started to gain the ascendency even more and probably had to take a few more of our chances that quarter.
Sandringham led by 25 points at the final change, before Calder showed immense grit to get themselves back into the contest.
“There were some fantastic learnings for our group, especially in the last quarter. Those learnings for us are around attention to detail in playing your role and not trying to do too much as individuals. To work together as a team to hold momentum and get the game back on our terms.”
Captain Will Brown (21 disposals) and AFL Academy member Ryley Sanders (34 disposals, eight tackles) ran rampant through the midfield, accumulating 17 clearances between them.
“They both did a fantastic job as inside mids, the conditions were pretty wet, the ball was on the ground a fair bit and there were lots of stoppages. Those two used their big bodies to give us first use, they were key in driving the ball forward for us.”
The Dragons now turn their focus to the Good Friday clash against arch-rivals the Oakleigh Chargers, in what will also be former Sandringham assistant Paul Griffiths’ first game in charge at Oakleigh.
“Our whole program is looking forward to Friday. I couldn’t be more pleased for Paul Griffiths getting the opportunity to coach Oakleigh. He thoroughly deserves it, and he will do a great job with that program. It’s his first full game in charge this week and there’s a great irony in the fact he’s coming up against us. We’ll have a good laugh about that before and after the game.
The Dragons will take on the Chargers at RSEA Park at 5.30pm on Good Friday.
Harding was happy with the progress of the forwards from round one.
“Collectively our forward line functioned much better this week than it did in round one. It’s still a learning process, they haven’t played a lot of footy together as a group and they’re still working out where everyone runs and the leading patterns they want.”
The forward pairing of Charlie Harrop and Miles Enders have now kicked eleven goals in two matches to kickstart the 2023 season.
“Harrop did a great job in holding his width. He played as an open-side forward, all four of his goals he kicked within 15 metres, but three he got resetting back towards goal. He held his lanes really well, played the role really well and got the rewards.
Miles Enders booted three majors, including two in the final term when the heat was on.
“Enders has found ways to hit the scoreboard in every game we have played so far. He had a couple of great set shots and kicked goals at crucial times for us. He keeps going from strength-to-strength for someone who’s only in his first full year in our program.”
The Prahran product has a knack for kicking goals when his side needs it most and Harding believes that Enders’ technique is what holds him in good stead when the pressure is on.
“He has a really strong fundamental technique when kicking for goal. He handles those pressure moments really well; his football has improved so much throughout pre-season, and I’m really pleased that it’s coming out in the games for him now.”
BACK EXPERIMENT COMING TO FRUITION
When a number of key defensive stocks went down in pre-season, the coaching staff had to get a little bit creative.
“It’s no secret that every AFL club is looking for the new 200cm key defenders that can play on the big forwards in the competition.”
Enter Ollie Murphy.
Alongside Lachie Voss (who missed the clash with a foot injury), Harding threw the pair into the deep end and the early signs have been extremely positive.
“Murphy’s defensive work has improved every week, he had the match-up for a little while on Jordan Croft, who’s an exciting key forward prospect in the Vic Metro program. They had a great duel all throughout the game, I thought Ollie did a really good job and took a few intercept marks and impact the game really positively.”