A fresh start awaits Rays

Will Bravo will be looking to have a big year and end up on an AFL list. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Tyler Lewis

NAB LEAGUE

DANDENONG STINGRAYS SEASON PREVIEW

2019:

BEST AND FAIREST: Hayden Young

DRAFTEES: Mitch Riordan (mid-season draft Gold Coast Suns), Hayden Young (Fremantle), Cody Weightman (Western Bulldogs), Sam De Koning (Geelong), Bigoa Nyoun (Richmond), Ned Cahill (Essendon).

NOTABLE FOLLOW-UPS IN 2020 FOR THE UNFORTUNATE FEW:

Tough inside midfielder Luca Goonan has signed with the Casey Demons, and he has impressed Demons coach Sam Radford and will no doubt be under the wing of fellow hard-nosed engine room operator Jimmy Munro. If he is still aspiring to get onto an AFL list, under Sam Radford’s tutelage is the right place to be.

Smooth moving wingman Lachie Williams was one of the many extremely unlucky kids to miss out on the draft. He originally was training with the Frankston Dolphins, but made the move to Punt Road to be around the success at Tigerland. Spots in the best 22 won’t be easy to come by in the yellow and black, but if anyone can find one, it will be Williams.

A perfect example of the development of the Rays was the development and improvement of young midfielder Jack Toner. Toner finished second in the Stingrays best and fairest award last season, behind Hayden Young. The hard-working midfielder played with a dry footy in the senior grand final for Narre Warren last year, and was one player who didn’t lose his feet at every turn. Toner may not be a player to fill the highlight reel, but he is extremely hard working and it has been noticed. This year, he will don a different shade of vertical stripes he wears each year, signing at the Sandringham Zebras.

Blake Kuipers is listed at Frankston and the Dandenong Stingrays. The highly publicised ex-volleyballer has athleticism like no other, was watched very closely by those down at Cardinia Park but was overlooked. When he isn’t wearing the red, white and black of Frankston, he will be patrolling the arcs for the Rays in 2020. One to watch come mid-season draft time if he performs well against matured bodies in the VFL.

REVIEW: Coming off its maiden premiership, 2019 was always going to be a year of expectation for the Rays. While the second half of its season wasn’t its most prolific on the scoreboard, the development of players is a credit to the Dandenong system. This time last year, names such as Hayden Young, Sam De Koning and Mitch Riordan were all for the league to look forward to. But for the coaches down at Shepley Oval to aid Riordan to be unpassable come the mid-year draft is a monumental achievement in itself. The Rays fell out in the final term to an ever-running Calder outfit in a do-or-die final, but it wasn’t a season to be ashamed of.

2020:

COACH: Nick Cox (second season)

VIC COUNTRY HUB PLAYERS: Clayton Gay, Will Bravo

WHAT TO EXPECT: The 2020 Dandenong Stingrays will not die wondering, they never have. While premierships and team success is the ultimate football prize in almost every competitions, the Stingrays are always focused on developing the young talent at hand, not only as footballers but people. Under Nick Cox and Darren Flanagan, the Rays try to get as many players onto an AFL list as possible, and conversely, reiterate it isn’t the be all and end all if they don’t get there. Expect the Rays to trial players in a variety of positions throughout the year to give the individuals on the list the best opportunity to improve as players. The Rays certainly won’t be a boring side to watch in 2020, it may only have two players on the Vic Country list heading into the opening round, but it will be a shock to absolutely no one if more Dandenong players develop as household names throughout the year courtesy of the strong system.

KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR (TOP AGE): Bryce Milford, Bayleigh Welsh.

It is hard to go passed the usual suspects that are in the state hub, but Bryce Milford and Bayleigh Welsh have the potential to burst out of the so called wilderness in 2020. The pair are both hard working and over the off-season have put on some well-needed size. Milford was strong in and under last year as a bottom ager. Welsh is a natural leader, if he isn’t pushed into the Vic Country side, expect him to poll well in the leagues Morrish Medal.

KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR (BOTTOM AGE): Josiah Kyle and Connor MacDonald.

Kyle is an excitement machine to say the least; the St Kilda Next-Gen Academy prospect is going to turn some heads this year, and even more in the year after. What he may lack in muscle, he makes up for in energy. Likes to fly for marks and weave his way through traffic, expect him to humiliate some opponents over the next few seasons.

Making your senior football debut for Doveton against Monbulk would be a scary thought. But not for Connor MacDonald; at just (age) 16, MacDonald not only debuted for Doveton in a hostile clash against Monbulk, but was awarded best afield, winning the David George Medal. It’s not every day you outplay Matthew Boyd. MacDonald has attributes that can’t be taught; he won’t be overawed by the occasion of big games and will be more than a handy player for the Rays in 2020.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS:

“We are pretty please of the standard of the list so far, which will be around 48-50,” he said.

“We believe we have a really honest, hard-working squad who will be able to compete in the NAB League for long periods of time.

“There are no real high end standouts at this stage, but I am sure the boys will be able to turn that through their development throughout the year.

“We internally rate a lot of our players; that will be seen a lot throughout the year.

“Will Bravo and Clayton Gay are in the Hub, their standards at training have been really good throughout the preseason which we have been really pleased with.

“We have a lot of blokes who haven’t been talked about too much; we are quietly confident that we are going to get the boys to the level through developing them as we go along.

“We are really pleased with our bottom end (agers), it is great we have got them up to a level where they are contributing really well where they are pushing their case to play round 1.

“There are six to 10 that could do that, Josiah Kyle is an exciting product.

“We will play a brand that we think will be able to get kids developed and get kids drafted.

“We will see a high energy side that will take the game on as much as possible, show their natural talent, shows their ability to win one-on-ones, and hopefully that will be good enough.”

The Dandenong Stingrays will finalize its list after the final practice match on Sunday against the Sandringham Dragons.

 

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