National U18 Championships preview: Vic Metro

VIC Metro looms as one of the title contenders for the National Under 18 Championships this year, looking to win its third consecutive national title. Along with South Australia, Vic Metro poses quite a bit of depth, particularly through the midfield and in defence. There are a number of top 10 potential draft picks within the team, including Sandringham Dragons pair Ben King and Bailey Smith, as well as Calder Cannons’ Curtis Taylor who is in ripping form in the TAC Cup. Max King could have been another contender but an ACL injury earlier in the year has sidelined him from the carnival.

Ben King looks set to play forward, at least for the most part, while floating back in defence when required. Fellow AFL Academy members Isaac Quaynor and Buku Khamis provide great rebound out of the back half, and as we saw last season, Smith can work from defence as well. Chuck in Stefan Radovanovic who is in good form for the Jets, and potential top 30 pick Joe Ayton-Delaney, and they have one of the most potent rebounding defences in the carnival.

Through the midfield, Taylor will rotate with the likes of Xavier O’Halloran, Riley Collier-Dawkins, James Rowbottom and Jack Bytel, while Rhylee West will likely spend time between midfield and forward. In attack, King will be joined by Carlton father-son Ben Silvagni, Zak Butters and potentially Jack Evans, who has been playing in that role for the last couple of weeks given Metro’s strength in defence.

Overall, Metro would like their chances considering their run in defence and through the midfield, and will provide plenty of eye-catching moments throughout the tournament.

Players to watch:

Ben King
Key Position Utility | 202cm | 85kg | Sandringham Dragons
TAC Cup average: 17 disposals, 6.5 marks, 2.5 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 goals

Almost certainly set to be the first Metro player picked from those at the national carnival with brother Max out with injury. He will play a leading role up forward, but can go back if needed to provide support. Given Metro’s strength at back half, it is expected King will be used as a forward target, and he can roam up the ground, taking the ball at the highest point, and booting long inside 50, or having a ping at goal from long range.

Bailey Smith
Inside Midfielder | 185cm | 82kg | Sandringham Dragons
TAC Cup average: 32.5 disposals, 3.0 marks, 6.5 tackles, 11.5 clearances, 6.0 inside 50s, 1.0 goals

The ball-winning inside midfielder lights up the stats sheet every match, and is a clearance machine. Expect him to the be the key in the middle, leading a host of captains from their respective teams including O’Halloran and Bytel. Unlike some inside midfielders, Smith can play on the outside as well, and has good speed and can float back or forward when required.

Curtis Taylor
General Forward/Inside Midfielder | 186cm | 79kg | Calder Cannons
TAC Cup average: 20.1 disposals, 5.6 marks, 3.7 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 1.3 goals

Taylor has been playing primarily midfield of late after starting forward earlier in the season, but when he drifts forward, he creates space and still gets his opportunities in front of the big sticks. He covers the ground well and would be seen as the danger man to opposition teams, especially if he can work under the feet of King.

Isaac Quaynor
General Defender | 182cm | 82kg | Oakleigh Chargers
TAC Cup average: 17 disposals, 4.0 marks, 4.2 tackles, 1.8 inside 50s, 4.8 rebounds

Collingwood fans will be particularly interested in the Vic Metro vice-captain, with the running defender averaging 4.8 rebounds from 17 disposals. He is a lovely kick of the football and takes the game on. While he is not particularly tall, he has grown a few cm’s over the past 12 months and is strong in the air or at ground level.

Xavier O’Halloran
Inside Midfielder | 187cm | 83kg | Western Jets
TAC Cup average: 19.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 5.9 clearances, 6.6 inside 50s, 0.9 goals

The Jets captain is having one of the most consistent seasons of anyone in the TAC Cup. Resting last week, he was sorely missed in Western’s narrow win over Bendigo, as he has averaged a massive 5.9 clearances and 6.6 inside 50s – often both stats are in the one action as he charges out of the stoppage. He does all the defensive things right, laying plenty of tackles, and he can get forward and kick a goal despite not being a massive ball winner.

Joe Ayton-Delaney
General Defender | 180cm | 68kg | Oakleigh Chargers
TAC Cup average: 19.3 disposals, 2.8 marks, 3.3 tackles, 1.0 clearances, 2.3 rebounds

A classy defender who can play up the ground as well, Ayton-Delaney will work well with Chargers teammate Quaynor out of the back half, averaging 19.3 disposals and 2.3 rebounds per game at TAC Cup level. He is a player who could shoot up the draft order with a good National Championships.

Rhylee West
Inside Midfielder | 180cm | 80kg | Calder Cannons
TAC Cup average: 20.7 disposals, 2.7 marks, 5.3 tackles, 3.0 clearances, 4.7 inside 50s, 1.0 goals

The Western Bulldogs father-son prospect has been excelling as a forward for St Kevin’s in the APS competition, so expect him to spend time in the forward 50 as well as through the midfield. He is a tough, uncompromising inside midfielder, who despite being smaller than the other midfielders in there, can win the hard ball, and is as good in the air as any other player.

Riley Collier-Dawkins
Inside Midfielder | 193cm | 88kg | Oakleigh Chargers
TAC Cup average: 19.7 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4.1 tackles, 3.4 clearances, 2.4 inside 50s

A player who has the potential to go far with the prototype midfielder body size and the trademark burst out of a clearance and long kick from outside 50. He averages almost 20 disposals and three marks at TAC Cup level, and can hit the scoreboard when required, like in Metro’s trial game with the Allies, when he launched two monsters from outside 50.

Tom McKenzie
Balanced Midfielder | 184cm | 76kg | Northern Knights
TAC Cup average: 24.3 disposals, 4.0 marks, 4.7 tackles, 6.7 clearances, 4.0 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds

McKenzie is Northern’s top draft prospect and a big ball winner through that midfield. He averages 6.7 clearances per game and will undoubtedly be of great assistance to Smith on the inside. He also averages 2.7 rebounds and four inside 50s, so he covers the ground well and lays plenty of tackles. A fairly solid all-round prospect.

Stefan Radovanovic
General Defender | 192cm | 85kg | Western Jets
TAC Cup average: 18.8 disposals, 3.1 marks, 2.5 clearances, 3.3 inside 50s, 3.7 rebounds

The running defender continues to provide some great highlight reel moments when taking the game on out of defence. He rotates up to the wing and kicks long inside 50, and is a metres gained player. Radovanovic has a nice balance between rebounds and inside 50s, and at 192cm, is another player with good scope and size to become a full-time midfielder in the future.


Round 1: vs. Western Australia at Optus Stadium, Sunday June 10, 11.40am
Round 2: vs. Allies at Southport, Saturday, June 16, 11am
Round 3: vs. Vic Country at MCG, Sunday, June 24, 12.05pm
Round 4: Bye
Round 5: vs. South Australia at Etihad Stadium, Wednesday, July 4, 4.40pm

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