Stingrays pull off stirring comeback

Pat Bloink and the Stingrays nabbed a draw on Sunday. 408850 Picture: ROB LAWSON/AFL PHOTOS

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Dandenong’s boys have played out a thrilling draw at Shepley Oval on Sunday against Brisbane Lions Academy.

Trailing by 31 points at the three-minute-mark of the last quarter, the Rays came storming home, kicking the only five goals of the term.

Bottom-aged forward Noah Hibbins-Hargreaves has made a habit of standing up in big moments this season and did so again on Saturday, calmly slotting a set shot from 40 to kickstart the comeback.

Another bottom-ager, key forward Tairon Ah-Mu, kicked three of Dandenong’s next four to help engineer the comeback.

His first came via a big one-handed contested mark, which got them back within 18, before a Max Lee centre clearance and Cooper Hynes captain’s goal quickly trim the margin to 12.

His next goal came via a Harry Doughton kick to the teeth of goal which Ah-Mu soccered through, and minutes later he was released by Harvey Langford to run into an open goal.

A member of 2023’s Vic Country under-16s program, Ah-Mu has 10.1 for the season, hitting the scoreboard in every game he’s played, in between school football commitments for Haileybury College.

The Stingrays led by a point at the 19-minute-mark, but Brisbane quickly levelled the scores before a frantic final five minutes ensued.

There were several important late efforts as Brisbane pressed: Tahj De La Rue winning a one-on-one running towards the Liokns’ goal; a Kane Hurst spoil and big tackle; intercept marks to Raiden Bergman and Lachie Roe.

Hynes was the clear standout player on the day as his sensational form to start the season continued.

The Stingrays skipper showed his strength and class in gathering 27 disposals and kicking four goals, just a fortnight after combining 23 and five against Gold Coast.

Harvey Langford put forward a balanced midfield performance, Ben Hopkins provided drive and for the second consecutive week, Kane Hurst and Charlie Orchard were key pillars down back.

It was a tougher day for Dandenong’s girls which were consigned to a 1.5 11 to 5.4 34 loss to the same opponent, while Gippy went down 3.7 25 to 1.5 11 in torrential rain against Geelong Falcons.

Under-16s player Grace Dillow took another step in her development at the level, Zali Gallagher provided her trademark speed, Luka Butters was staunch in the backline and Jas Sowden continued her solid start to the season.