The Under 18 championships descend on Melbourne today with a big double header at Etihad Stadium.
Game one kicks off between Vic Country and South Australia at 12.35pm. Vic Country have had a disappointing carnival so far without a win, whilst South Australia have had their only loss against Vic Metro last Sunday. Western Australia have the bye and will finish their carnival against Vic Metro on Wednesday.
South Australia will come to Melbourne breathing fire, knowing that a win will keep them in with a mathematical chance of winning the Under 18 championships.
The home team have been disappointing and won’t give take the game lightly, in front of what looms to be a big crowd with free entry and school holidays.
Midfielders Hugh McCluggage and Will Brodie have stood out for Vic Country so far in the championship. The pair have averaged 24 disposals between them and were both important figures in Country’s loss to Metro in the opening round.
Another player to watch out for is Dandenong Stingray Myles Poholke. A member of the AFL Academy has been promising in the championships playing off half forward, kicking four goals for the carnival.
Up forward Country have struggled to hit the scoreboard and have called up Murray Bushranger Esava Ratugolea, the 194cm key position forward booted eight goals against Bendigo Pioneers on Sunday.
Bottom-ager Oscar Clavarino has been good for Country and will likely have the match up on South Australian forward Darcy Fogarty. Fogarty has showed plenty of promise in the first three rounds with seven goals to his name.
For South Australia, rebounding defender/wingman Alex Villis has been impresive making good decisions and kicking well on both feet. Villis has averaged 16 disposals and is slowly beginning to work his way up the draft boards.
SA skipper Jack Graham has used his size well in the centre and will go head-to-head with Brodie. Brodie has a superior height advantage but Graham has a bigger body and this will be the contest of the round. Graham has had big numbers in the championships, including a 34 disposal effort against the Allies and will need to be watched closely by Country.
South Australia go into the match as favourites, needing to boost their percentage in the hope of a Vic Metro loss. Vic Country themselves won’t want to go into the final clash without a win and if their star studded midfield can fire they have the capabilities of an upset.
Matt Balmer’s tip: South Australia by 22 points.
In the second game, all eyes will be on Vic Metro to see if they can move to top spot on the Under 18 ladder. The Allies have been disappointing so far this season, as they struggle to ‘gel’ together.
Vic Metro co-captain Andrew McGrath has starred and is the early favourite for the Larke Medal as it stands today. Oakleigh Charger Patrick Kerr came in for his first game against SA, kicking 4.4- including four goals in 10 minutes to give Vic Metro momentum in a tight finish against South Australia.
Jack Scrimshaw continues to use his effective left foot well and has shown some good signs off half back- which has been a pivotal position for Vic Metro to propel the ball forward out of their defensive 50.
On the inside, Dylan Clarke has shone as one of Metro’s best with 31 contest possessions for the carnival.
186cm half forward Tim Taranto has also been impressive and will be looking to hit the scoreboard at Etihad Stadium if Vic Metro are to continue their strong run of form.
Disappointing is the one word that best describes the Allies. On paper you could make a case that they are the best team, but they’ve been underwhelming in the two games previously.
After a dominant Division Two carnival, Gold Coast Suns academy member Jack Bowes has been quiet and will be looking to stamp his authority and finish with two solid games for the Allies.
The Allies have rotated all their squad through the championships and will hopefully find the right combination in Victoria.
Vic Metro’s Patrick Kerr was strong last week and one of the NSW/ACT defenders Harrison Macreadie or Ryan Garthwaite will likely have the crucial match up.
Against Western Australia last Saturday, Harry Perryman was strong with 12 disposals off half back and will be one of the few names to watch.
Matt Balmer’s tip: Vic Metro by 33 points
AFL Draft Central will be live from Etihad Stadium bringing you all the access in Round four of the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships.