Opposition Watch: Round 6 vs. Sandringham

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It’s a top four battle at Preston on Saturday when the Northern Blues host Sandringham. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Murdoch)

TEAM NEWS
The Zebras has made a number of changes to the side which defeated Coburg last week. Patrick McCartin and Dan McKenzie come out of the side through AFL selection, while Rowan Marshall will also miss. However, they welcome Josh Bryce and Darren Minchington among nine inclusions to an extended squad of 27.

FORM LINE
Sandringham currently have the same ledger as the Northern Blues, taking a 4-1 record into Round 6. They currently sit at 107%, with their four victories coming by an average of 13 points. They have found an ability to consistently grind out results, a feature of the Zebras over many year.

LAST TIME WE MET
The Zebras have won their last two encounters against the Blues, with the most recent coming at the venue where they’ll meet this Saturday. Sandringham led at every change to come away with a comfortable 40-point win, bringing to an end a run of three consecutive Blues wins.

Northern Blues 9. 8. (62) defeated by Sandringham 13. 24. (102)

@jamescorboy will make his much-deserved VFL debut this Saturday! Go well, Corbs! #WeMarchNorth #PJVFL ????: @timmurdz

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BY THE NUMBERS
While they may not be doing it in the flashiest style, Sandringham continue to get the job done in the VFL, taking four wins from their opening five games. All of their games have been nail-biters, decided by 25 points or less.

However, a key feature of their early-season form has been their prolific key forward duo. Patrick McCartin (18 goals) and Rowan Marshall (12) have combined for just shy of 48% of Sandringham’s goals this season.

Both will be out of action on Saturday, so the task will be put to their inclusions Josh Bruce — a proven AFL goal-kicker — and Darren Minchington to do the damage.

OFF-SEASON ACQUISITIONS
Despite losing three stalwarts over the summer in Trent Dennis-Lane, Kenny Ong and Tom Simpkin, Sandringham have managed to replenish their list through both AFL and VFL level.

They’ll be without captain Tom Curren (who signed from St. Kilda during pre-season), but they’ve also brought in a host of young names from the TAC Cup. Added to that are the AFL draftees, with young Saints forward Josh Battle also in line to play at Preston this weekend as well as VFL premiership player Ben Long.

WHAT TO EXPECT
Sandringham have made at least week two of the finals in the last three seasons: they’re a notoriously difficult side to beat no matter the occasion. The Blues will have to be on their game if their to continue their winning ways at Preston.

Following last week’s game between the two AFL counterparts, this match will also have a plethora of senior-listed talent on offer. Northern could have as many as 21 Carlton players featuring, while Sandringham could have 17 St. Kilda players.

It’s shaping to be a tough, tenacious VFL contest, with a win potentially holding big ramifications for both sides heading into the state league bye. Despite two contrasting styles, the game — particularly if previous Sandringham form is anything to go by — is looking to go right down to the wire at Preston City Oval tomorrow.

IN THE BALANCE
Northern’s ability to shut out Sandringham’s offence will be central to dictating a result on the weekend. The likes of Harrison Macreadie, Cameron O’Shea and Simon White will have their hands full against a potent Zebras attack full of both AFL and VFL talent. If the Blues’ backs can keep with their form of recent weeks, it could go a long way to locking in a fifth straight victory.