It was always going to be a difficult task, and going up against the Northern Knights proved to be a bridge too far for the undermanned Dandenong Stingrays in NAB League action on Saturday.
Missing its Vic Country stars – who were in Tasmania to take on the Allies – Dandenong put up a brave fight at Shepley Oval, but Northern took over in the second half to come away with a resounding win.
The first quarter was when the Knights stamped their authority on the contest and jumped out to a 22-point lead.
But as the side has done so often over the journey, Dandenong fought back. The second quarter showcased the Rays’ depth as they quickly got back into the contest.
The likes of Corey Ellison and Reece Orchard were sublime around the contest, and the pressure around the ball went up a notch in the second term as both teams went in hard.
At the main break, Dandenong trailed by 12 points, 6.8 (44) to 5.2 (32).
With the game in the balance at half-time, the Knights owned the third quarter and managed to put some distance between themselves and the Stingrays.
Keeping Dandenong goalless in the quarter, while slamming on four majors of its own, Northern boasted a 37-point lead at the final break.
The youth of Dandenong’s side was on full display in the fourth quarter as Northern put the contest to bed in dominant fashion. The Knights kicked six goals to one in the final term – and 10 of the 11 goals scored after half-time – to record a comprehensive 67-point win, 16.12 (108) to 6.5 (41).
The loss, Dandenong’s first of the season, was disappointing but there were still plenty of positives as their young guns fought tooth and nail all day without some of their stars, such as Hayden Young and Ned Cahilll.
Ellison, Orchard, Luca Goonan and Will Bravo were massive for the Stingrays, while Ashton Williamson (two goals) in his second NAB League game of the season was Dandenong’s lone multiple goal-scorer.
The loss sees Dandenong’s record stand at 6-1-1 after 10 rounds of the season, and the side still sits in a very strong position among the leaders of the competition.
With a league-wide bye this weekend, the Stingrays will return to action on 22 June against the Murray Bushrangers at Shepley Oval from 1.30pm.
For that game, Dandenong should welcome back most, if not all, of its state representatives as Vic Country has a bye that weekend in the 2019 AFL Under-18 Championships.