South Australia 11.13 (79) defeated Vic Country 6.9 (45)
South Australia started its campaign with a win at home against Vic Country, defeating them by 34 points in the biggest win of the carnival. While Vic Country were missing a few stars, South Australia went to town with Luke Dunstan (30 disposals) and Matt Scharenberg (27 disposals) among the best. Fellow first round prospect Trent Dumont also impressed while Mitch Harvey was the best of the three pronged attack, booting four goals in the win. Another impressive player was defender James Battersby who really stood up when they needed him. Likely first pick James Aish was well held by Dandenong’s Billy Hartung.
South Australia 8.10 (58) defeated Vic Metro 8.7 (55)
South Australia’s talls wreaked havoc on a Boyd-less Vic Metro as Darcy Hourigan and Luke Reynolds applied scoreboard pressure with five goals between them. Matt Scharenberg‘s scintillating carnival continued with 21 quality disposals and providing plenty of run off half back. Luke Dunstan had 22 disposals and was a key cog in the middle while James Aish found a bit more of the footy with 16 disposals in a solid display. Over-ager Todd McKay was also impressive in his bid to have recruiters notice him after missing out on being selected last year. Cameron Giles held his opponent to just one goal down back.
South Australia 11.9 (75) defeated Western Australia 10.5 (65)
Goals: Hourigan (3), Battersby (2), Reynolds, Karpany, McKay, Knight, Dumont, Harvey
Best: Dunstan, Scharenberg, Pitt, Hourigan, Battersby, Combe, Durdin, McKay, Spina
South Australia finished off a flawless Under 18s Championships with a narrow ten point win over Western Australia at Etihad Stadium. Matt Scharenberg and James Aish were again prominent while Dwayne Wilson was ultra-impressive running off a wing. While the Sandgropers got the jump on them, South Australia pulled back and came home strong thanks to some firepower up forward from Darcy Hourigan and Luke Reynolds, the latter of whom kicked an impressive goal on the run from outside 50. James Battersby was again good, drifting forward to kick an important goal late in the contest.
James Aish is a complete midfielder and it is no surprise why he has been touted as the number one pick. He’s very slick, reads the play well and moves around the ground gracefully. While he’s doesn’t have a huge frame, Aish makes the most of his size to whip around less-agile players and deliver perfectly inside 50. Aish didn’t find as much of the ball as some of his teammates at the Under 18s carnival but he did finish with the highest kicking efficiency of any player, emphasising his skill. After missing most of the season with a shoulder injury following surgery, Aish will be hoping he can put in some strong performances for Norwood and really cement his place as the number one 18 year old.
Trent Dumont was one player who was impressive throughout the carnival and was continually around the packs searching for the footy. Despite considered the ‘fourth amigo’ behind teammates Aish, Dunstan and Scharenberg, Dumont had a really impressive performance against Vic Metro. He has some real hurt factor on the outside, but can also go in and win his own ball which would have impressed recruiters. It’s not hard to see why Dumont will be considered a first round talent with the midfielder being able to go inside more than some of his teammates but also back it up with some scoreboard pressure.
Luke Dunstan is a player who can really hurt you if you give him any space. Always around the packs, Dunstan has the ability to receive a handball to open up the game and either deliver inside 50 or impact the scoreboard himself. Dunstan has good hands and vision to find his teammates while also having good athleticism to run hard at contests and provide second and third efforts. Dunstan is another top five prospect who could be a valuable acquisition for a side craving a hard running midfielder who can kick goals with ease. His ability to win plenty of football also helps his case.
Matt Scharenberg is your typical utility. He can play across half back or half forward or drift into the middle. Like Brendon Goddard, Scharenberg is a perfect player to plug a hole where ever you need him. Scharenberg is a strong overhead mark and at 190cm, can match it with many key defenders while also having the athleticism to run with the midfielders. Regularly in the bests and collecting disposals at will, Scharenberg reads the play as well as anyone and creates scoring chains through his fantastic vision and decision making while under pressure. After his impressive Under 18s Championships, Scharenberg is another player pushing Aish and Tom Boyd for the number one position.
Dwayne Wilson is your slick outside ball user who can run and carry to deliver lace-out inside 50. Regularly playing on a wing, Wilson receives the handball from the outside of a pack and uses his pace and agility to dance around opponents and have the vision to find a forward leading to him. While Wilson isn’t a dual midfielder and is purely an outside runner, he does provide plenty of X-factor with the knowledge he can go forward and kick goals himself. He doesn’t have the huge wraps that some of his other teammates might have, but Wilson has a fantastic footy brain and a good skill set to match. It’s hard to see him dropping outside the top 30 this year.
The Under 18s Championships has seen the 190cm Hourigan jump up to the number two key forward spot behind Tom Boyd. Kicking the most goals during the carnival, Hourigan continually made multiple leads and could seemingly kick goals from anywhere. Making his SANFL debut at 15 years of age, Hourigan was always considered a special prospect and despite his height, Hourigan could make it as a key forward in the AFL. He has solid speed, but more importantly a strong pair of dukes which are used to clunk huge marks inside the forward fifty. Really courageous and is similar to a smaller Jonathan Brown.
Luke Reynolds has so much X-Factor about him as a key forward. At times he can be the best player out there, but at others he can mess up the unthinkable. When Reynolds was on fire against Western Australia, the crowd saw the best of what Reynolds can offer. This includes wheeling around and scoring from outside 50 under pressure and snapping from the boundary line. Unfortunately against Vic Metro, Reynolds managed to shank a few kicks out on the full which could relate to confidence issues. One thing’s for sure, when Reynolds is on, he knows how to play and would be a fantastic prodigy for any AFL club.
The nephew of former Adelaide and now Collingwood recruiter Matt Rendell, Mitch Harvey is the most built of the three key forwards and is your traditional full forward. Playing out of the goal square on most occasions, Harvey is a strong mark and good kick for goal. Unlike many 195cm beasts, Harvey is quite agile and good below his knees, being able to wheel around and kick goals. His four majors against Vic Country impressed many while he backed it up with strong performances against Vic Metro and Western Australia.
Alex Spina is probably one bloke who’s Under 18s Championship performance left a lot of people guessing as to where he will fit in draft contention. He has a good knack around the goals and knows where to run, but he couldn’t find a lot of it and have as much scoreboard impact as the three talls in the South Australian forward line. Spina is more of your small forward who can run off the half forward flank but with consistency his biggest issue, Spina could be a good late prospect. He is a good crumber and solid mark but unfortunately for him, the talls weren’t dropping many which meant Spina couldn’t do his best work. Got some good characteristics to work with though.
Nick Favretto is one you couldn’t see at the Under 18s Championships, but he is a skilful midfielder who finds plenty of the ball. Having starred at Under 18s level in the SANFL, Favretto is also able to play with the men and isn’t afraid to run and carry. Favretto is one that could drift due to his injury, but has a lot of talent which could be unleashed should he develop the right way in an AFL system. While he’s seemingly not mentioned in the same breath as the other midfielders in this side, Favretto has plenty of potential and could surprise many at AFL level over the next few years.