By Nick Creely
The Dandenong Southern Stingrays fell narrowly short in a thrilling contest under lights in Seaford on Friday night, going down to Oakleigh Chargers.
It was the first loss of the Stingrays’ season after starting the 2021 NAB Girls campaign with two impressive wins, 4.3 (27) to 4.2 (26).
The night saw significant lead changes throughout, with the Stingrays starting slowly to be trailing by 13 points at quarter time, before dragging back the deficit to just eight points after scoring the only major of the second term.
Off the back of livewire Amber Clarke, the small forward snagged two majors in the opening minutes of the third term to drag her side well and truly back into the contest, but a goal to the Chargers ensured that the Stingrays would still trail by just two points heading into the final change.
In a cracking final term, the Stingrays battled hard, but the Chargers – who are an incredible well-drilled unit – held firm to hold onto a one-point win despite plenty of tense moments.
Clarke – who snared three of the Stingrays’ four goals – was a clear standout for the home side, while Jaide Anthony, Abbey Jordan, Ashleigh Richards and Zoe Hill were all solid.
Stingrays coach Nick Cox said that the Chargers were simply too clean with the ball, and lamented on a slow start to the match.
“We just weren’t clean enough around the footy, and they (Oakleigh) executed the way they wanted to,” he told the Stingrays website.
“We can look back and blame that, whether it would’ve been a different outcome I don’t know.
“Our start was something that needs to be improved on, no doubt.”
But Cox said that despite the first loss, there was plenty of positives to take out of the match.
“Amber (Clarke) was really good, she was sensational in every position she played,” he said.
“Even though she has been contributing already (in previous weeks), I think she went to another level and really stood out with her class and ball-winning ability.
“I thought in the first quarter we rolled the dice a little, our coaching style has been to be proactive, but we went back to being more one-on-one and it evened up the contest.
“Jaide and Zoe gave us a lot of drive down back and I was really pleased with their efforts.
“Jaide after half-time went and played a bit of inside-mid and was good there too, for their progression and development it was a really big tick.”
The Stingrays will travel to Tasmania for a Round 6 clash against the Devils on Saturday afternoon.