Sandringham's finals drought continued for another season following a roller-coaster campaign which produced some impressive wins sprinkled between several disappointing losses.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 5-12-1 (87.6%)
Players used: 51
Played every match: 3 – Oscar Adams, Max Heath¬ and Anthony Seaton
AFL players used: 26
Debutants: 14 – Tom Blamires, Anthony Caminiti, Will Dunne, Jack Hayes, Olli Hotton, Harvey Johnston, Isaac Keeler, Tyrell Lafituanai, Sam Latreille, Tarkyn O’Leary, Tomoya Owens, Jordan Segar, James Van Es and Will Vesely
Best and Fairest: 1st: Darby Hipwell, 2nd: Tom Campbell, 3rd: Noah Gown, 4th: Tom Highmore, 5th: Max Heath
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Jack Bytel (12), Tom Campbell (7), Marcus Windhager (6)
Coaches MVP votes: Jack Bytel (34), Tom Campbell (34), Marcus Windhager (20)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Nil
Goalkickers: Noah Gown (21), Max Heath (20), Jack Peris (14)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Jack Bytel (26.3), Ben Paton (25.5), Jack Billings (22.4)
Kicks: Tom Highmore (16.0), Tyson Milne (14.6), Jack Billings (14.1)
Handballs: Jack Bytel (13.2), Ben Paton (11.8), Darby Hipwell (10.2)
Marks: Tom Highmore (6.8), Zaine Cordy (6.0), Tyson Milne (4.8)
Tackles: Jack Bytel (5.1), Ben Paton (4.6), Jack Peris (4.6)
Hitouts: Tom Campbell (28.1), Max Heath (17.3), Isaac Keeler (2.0)
Clearances: Jack Bytel (5.6), Tom Campbell (5.6), Darby Hipwell (4.9)
Inside-50s: Jack Billings (4.9), Jack Bytel (4.6), Leo Connelly (3.8)
Rebound-50s: Tom Highmore (7.4), Tyson Milne (5.4), Zaine Cordy (4.4)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Zebras showed they could compete on their day, notably saving their best until last with an impressive 35-point defeat of Williamstown in Round 22 which cost the Seagulls a spot in the top four. A draw with the Brisbane Lions in Round 14 was another strong performance, while they pushed eventual premier Gold Coast to 17 points and finalist Collingwood to 16 and challenged Box Hill for three quarters before being blown away. Darby Hipwell showed his ability to win the best-and-fairest and will have his eye on that St Kilda rookie list spot announced last week.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The old nursery rhyme goes “when they were good, they were very, very good, but when they were bad they were horrid”. And while there were impressive wins, there were some bad losses, namely the 86-point hiding from Southport in Round 1, the 66-point loss to North Melbourne in Round 7 and the 76-point defeat to grand finalist Werribee in Round 15. They were also the victim when Sydney broke through for its first win in Round 12. Apart from Hipwell, Tyson Milne and Noah Gown, no VFL-listed player made it into their team’s top three in any stat category.
The heavy reliance on AFL-listed players might not be totally unusual, but the best-performed aligned clubs had strong VFL lists – with the exception being the Gold Coast Suns who remained remarkably healthy all year. That is an area the Zebras really need to work on, including with former AFL-listed players, of which leading goalkicker Noah Gown was the only one. St Kilda’s recent announcement of a guaranteed annual rookie list position for a Sandringham player will go a long way to attracting AFL hopefuls, especially given there hasn’t been a single Zebra taken by the Saints in the history of the alignment. Only three clubs have longer finals droughts than Sandringham’s 2016 so hopefully this measure assists in pushing the Zebras up the ladder.