A Victorian derby opened the 2019 Under 18 National Championships, with the Country side coming away with an upset 9.10 (64) to 7.9 (51) win over their Metro counterparts. We had five scouts cast eyes over all 46 players who graced the hallowed MCG turf, and here are their opinion-based notes on how each prospect fared.
#1-10 by Craig Byrnes
#12-32 by Peter Williams
#34-40 by Ed Pascoe
#1 Ned Cahill
The nifty and clever Stingray’s small forward was arguably one of the most influential players on the ground, but did so with less fanfare than the likes of Young, Ash and Serong. He showcased the disciplined Vic Country standards early with a big tackle in the centre to earn a free kick and an unselfish goal assist to Smith in the first term to get things started. While he didn’t utilise two good chances to hit targets inside 50 when in space during the second term, he barely made another error for the rest of the day as his elite smarts and decision making took control. It was highlighted by two brilliantly read crumbs that he finished off superbly with dual snaps off his left in the second half. He also got the ball to Flanders inside 50 in the final term to end with a match high four score assists and two goals from his 16 disposals.
#2 Caleb Serong
The Vic Country co-captain set the early intensity level for his teammates with physical, two way football from the midfield in the first term. He made life as difficult as possible for the Vic Metro big names, earning a holding the ball free on Rowell in the opening stages of the match. He refused to give in until the ball was out of his area, highlighted by a multiple tackle effort in the second quarter on the wing that eventually won Country the ball back. He also made them accountable, winning first possession at the stoppages and running to dangerous ball winning positions. Serong’s trademark cleanliness stood out as usual, his hands sharp and precise in tight situations. While he uncharacteristically let some kicks hang longer than hoped, his ball use in general was very good. One of the best performers in the winner’s corner, finishing with 22 disposals, five clearances and seven tackles.
#3 Cody Weightman
The exciting small forward took time to get into the game with a quiet first half, but came to life in the third term to display his quality AFL attributes. His confidence got a boost when flying for a mark at half back and earning a free kick, which triggered a flurry of touches on the lead or in space forward of centre. He worked hard to get in offensive positions, but unfortunately let himself down with ball in hand, operating at only 30% by foot including some turnovers in dangerous rebounding positions. He produced some brilliance in between though, highlighted by an excellent contested mark on the lead in the third term, before turning and hitting Josh Smith inside 50. This guy has serious ability, looking forward to seeing what he can produce throughout the competition.
#4 Sam Flanders
It did not take long to recognise that Leigh Brown’s focus was about pressure and Sam Flanders made that intention clear from the start. The superb chase down of Ryan Sturgess in the first quarter that resulted in a goal made the belief real and potentially cemented the buy in from every player if it wasn’t already. His pressure at the contest was outstanding, finishing with a game high nine tackles, but he also continued his rich reign of ball winning form at Gippsland with 21 disposals. He had his usual stints forward, kicking a vital fourth quarter set shot goal to keep a comfortable margin. Can still tidy his kicking up, but it was an important contribution by the talented forward/mid.
#6 Riley Baldi
Baldi has been in outstanding since returning to the Gippsland fold from injury, collecting large disposal tallies at will with his nous at the stoppages. For Country he was part of later midfield rotations and still won plenty of footy, despite not producing his usually prolific contested and clearance numbers. He found most of his possessions on the outside by receiving on the outskirts of contests and running to space. Despite a poor handball turnover in the first quarter, he typically finished with composure as proven with a classy kick inside 50 to Smith shortly after. It was a solid outing for Baldi, ending with 19 possessions, of which 15 were uncontested.
#7 Mitch Martin
Playing a high percentage of minutes forward, Martin had a modest first half despite producing a nice moment in the second quarter where he weaved through traffic and placed a quick kick inside 50 to advantage. But it was in the third term when he became truly relevant, starting with a slick handball over his head to a teammate. From there, the ball began to follow him and he took advantage with a couple of threatening inside 50s. He almost kicked a ridiculous set shot goal from the corner of the boundary and 50 metre arc, but was touched on the line. He has some tricks and can sell some attractive candy. Martin got out the back for a goal in the final term to complete a creative second half.
#8 Thomson Dow
You could make a very strong case that Thomson Dow was the best player on the ground up to half-time. To that point he had collected 15 disposals, doing heavy work inside at the stoppages and finding space on the outside. He was particularly slick by hand, raising his arms and releasing with impressive vision. We didn’t see nearly as much of him in the third and fourth terms, managed only three disposals after the main break. Despite the quieter second half, what we did see is a player who is currently too far down many draft boards. The brother of Carlton’s Paddy can definitely play.
#10 Harrison Pepper
The Hawthorn NGA prospect took time to get into the contest from the wing, but got busy in the second quarter. He won a couple of excellent one on one ground balls, using his frame to advantage and got the ball forward on each occasion. His kicking and decision making was tentative at times, especially during the third term when he took a mark 30 metres out from goal and floated a short pass to the disadvantage of a teammate 15-20 metres away. He has worked extremely hard on his running capacity over the last 12 months or so and that has resulted in excellent on-field improvement. He will be better for the run at the standard.
#12 Lachlan Ash
One of the better Country players on the day, overcoming an early turnover to hit 13 of his remaining 14 kicks through some terrific vision. Not only was he able to hit targets all over the ground, but he took the game on and would have been one of the highest metres gained players. Ash showed poise and composure coming out of defence and pushing up the ground, particularly stepping up in the last quarter with the game on the line and Metro pushing hard. He was able to set up goal opportunities to Josh Smith and Ned Cahill, and opened up the game with terrific in-board kicks.
#13 Jay Rantall
Was one of the more consistent Country midfielders and worked hard through the inside. He is able to get his hands free from would-be tacklers, and started to get moving more in the middle of the game. He laid some important tackles and was able to get quick-fire handballs out to teammates such as Riley Baldi in the first term with a nice handball, and then snap round his body for a goal assist to Charlie Comben. He then set up a second goal late in the game to Rebels’ teammate Mitch Martin. Had a chance himself in the third quarter after pushing hard to the forward pocket but was thrown off it. An impressive game once again.
#15 Ryan Sparkes
Gave a four quarter effort and was constantly on the move. His kicking in the first term was a little shaky, but once he worked into the game he had a bigger impact on the game. His final quarter saw him remarkably win a one-on-one contest against the much stronger and taller Noah Anderson with good body position, and won his fair share of the ball in the second half when Country needed players to stand up.
#16 Brodie Kemp
Was an intercept machine who took the game on out of defence and often was spotted bursting out from half-back and down the middle. He won a free kick early against Charlie Dean, and saved a number of goals, including one in the first term, rushing it through. His kicking was a worry at times, making a number of errors when he was running off half-back. His strengths were his overhead marking and his one-on-one work, marking against the much taller Nick Bryan through good positioning. A courageous grab against Jack Mahony where both players committed was another highlight in the final term.
#17 Hayden Young
The best on ground running defender was absolutely elite in his ball use with his kicking out of defence, penetrating long kicks and intercept marking a delight. Young was a real headache for the Metro side, getting to the point where he was spinning out of trouble and hitting up targets in the middle of the ground with his non-preferred right foot. He rarely made errors with his disposal and apart from a clumsy high free kick to Dylan Williams, had a near perfect game. Just so dominant and a key to Country’s chances this year.
#18 Brady Rowles
Not a huge disposal winner, with just the nine touches for the game, but has some nice eye-catching moments. He is able to dispose of the ball under pressure, whilst applying defensive pressure himself to opposition players. He has great hands in tight which were on show when he fed the handball out to Jay Rantall to set up a goal from Charlie Comben in the first term.
#19 Fraser Phillips
Not overly impactful offensively, but defensively he was very good. His tackling pressure locked up a number of balls throughout the game, and he was able to get his hands free when tackles late in the game. He missed a shot on goal tight in the pocket on the run in the second term, but his big highlight was a massive hardball get in the final term, using hands to give it to Lachlan Ash in the middle and set up a scoring opportunity.
#20 Elijah Hollands
So exciting and not only does he have the offensive capabilities, but works hard defensively as well, laying a number of huge tackles in the forward half. Hollands has lightning hands in congestion and is able to win the hardball and quickly dish off to a teammate before being dispossessed. He had a huge highlight in the second term with an unbelievable goal out of nothing from a forward stoppage, roving Charlie Comben and booting the goal from just inside 50 close to the boundary line.
#24 Brock Smith
A quiet game from the Gippsland Power game, but won a free kick one-on-one against Dylan Williams in the third term, and was composed with ball in hand, mostly handballing to teammates to run out in space.
#26 Jesse Clark
A statless first term, but Clark really work into the game after quarter time, taking a number of good marks and rebounding out of the defensive half. He showed a good second effort when taking a mark, was smothered and then won it back. He positioned himself well in front of his opponents when one-on-one.
#32 Ben Worme
Just the three touches from Worme in a quiet game. He did rush a behind late in the game when under pressure which was clever.
#34 Bigoa Nyoun
Nyoun played a solid game rotating in the ruck, he did well to get involved around the ground taking multiple marks and often choosing to hand off to a running teammate. There was a good bit of play in the first quarter despite not taking the mark he would recover well to take the ball cleanly and give off a handball, his last half was strongest with a nice pass inside 50 and a nice intercept mark and quick pass inside 50. A very good contributor who competed well in the ruck and did some good things around the ground.
#36 Sam De Koning
De Koning was a strong interceptor in defence taking four nice intercept marks with one coming in the first quarter deep in defence and another really strong mark late in the game, De Koning was very clean throughout the game never fumbling and using the ball well by hand especially in one bit if play in the second quarter where he would pick out a long 15 metre handball under pressure and it was a feat in itself to even find the option from where he was at. De Koning was the standout tall defender for Country with his good marking and ball use.
#39 Josh Smith
Smith was the most dangerous forward early on kicking two first quarter goals; one from an uncontested mark 10 metres out and a holding free kick deep in the pocket where he would slot a nice goal, he could have kicked three goals after a nice lead up mark but would miss the set shot. His third goal would be his best taking the ball in mid air right on the line and kicking a great goal quickly dropping the ball on his boot. He did not hit the scoreboard in the second half but he took a great contested mark against Ryan Sturgess but would miss the set shot, he also rotated in the ruck at times and competed well taking a nice intercept mark in defence.
#40 Charlie Comben
Comben had a hard task rucking against the in form ruck this year in Nick Bryan, but Comben not only competed well all day, but really showed good aggression and enthusiasm throughout the match to win the battle. He had a great bit of play in the first quarter taking a strong mark deep in the forwardline and then quickly playing on and kicking a goal. Comben worked even harder in the second quarter taking a strong intercept mark and quickly playing on with a kick inboard and he did well late in the game with a good strong tackle inside 50 winning a free kick but missing the set shot on the siren. A high energy game from Comben who showed of his athletic attributes and aggression around the ground.
#1-19 by Michael Alvaro
#20-26 by Scott Dougan
#29-40 by Ed Pascoe
#1 Jack Mahony
It was workman-like display from Mahony, who played a key role in the heavy Metro midfield/forward rotation. Starting inside 50, Mahony looked most effective when working up the ground – using his admirable work rate to create distance from his opponent and find the ball in space. He is clean at ground level, and showed as much with a few nice gathers early on and clean clearances later, while his kicking also looked more on point in the first half. The Sandringham gun’s leadership was also on display with audible talk around traffic, and he put his body on the line in a bone-crunching contest going back with the flight in the third term. Supplied Dragons teammate Finn Maginness with a goal in the final quarter to cap off a solid 15-disposal day.
#5 Trent Bianco
While the Oakleigh leader did not always look his usual damaging self, Bianco still had some nice moments. Was very quiet in the opening term and struggled to get any kind of running game going early off half-back, which in all fairness had a lot to do with Country’s manic pressure. Bianco was unlucky not to find more of the ball as he positioned well when breaking from stoppages and ran to the right places to receive on the outside, but was hardly found. Showed off his typical kicking penetration with a nice ball going inside 50 and flicked out some nice deft handballs in the clinches to show his class in the second and third terms. Bianco seemed to be most effective with his overlap runs late on, and put in a good push to get Metro back in the game with efficient use across defensive 50.
#8 Adam Carafa
Carafa managed to get a run in the stacked Metro midfield, but spent most of his time at half forward having already proven his ability to compete at either end. By no means had a massive disposal output (13), but the Northern midfielder showcased his clean set of hands at ground level when called upon and was all class in traffic. Had about four attempts on goal throughout the match – with two snaps and a set shot falling short, while another went out on the full – so could have otherwise had a greater influence. Ended up spending some time off half back in the second half, and looks to be one who will be called upon in multiple roles throughout the carnival.
#11 Matt Rowell
The list of superlatives to describe Rowell is running thin at this point on the back of yet another dominant outing. While his midfield partnership with close mate Noah Anderson could not quite drag Metro over the line, the two were simply outstanding. Rowell’s balanced game was on show as the Chargers gun went about pressuring his opposition without the ball, while also breaking away from traffic with it. Rowell did not find the goals while resting forward, but he still managed to snare a major from the goalsquare in the third term after creating forward movement from an inside 50 stoppage. He also sparked the move for Finn Maginness’ goal with a burst away from congestion on defensive wing – a play which was largely symbolic of his whole performance. A somewhat underrated aspect of Rowell’s game is his strong overhead marking, but he again showed his ability to prize the ball in the air with some courageous attempts. The comparisons to Joel Selwood will likely continue to roll on too, with pictures of Rowell bloodied up on the bench shown on the big screen. A big-time performer – 28 disposals, eight marks, five tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s, and one goal.
#13 Daniel Mott
Mott started brightly and looked like taking the chance he was afforded at the centre bounces to full effect. The classy Calder ball-user showed off a good bit of vision to find Jack Mahony back through the corridor early on, and was in the thick of the action. While Mott’s output slowed as the game progressed, he would catch the eye with glimpses of his usual self – side-stepping well in the second term, booting well inside 50 from a clearance to find Josh Worrell, and flicking out a deft handball to Trent Bianco amid oncoming traffic. Was another to rest forward but looks to be an effective point of difference to Metro’s largely inside midfield.
#15 Louis Butler
Butler made the half-back flank his own, and was the designated Metro kicker out of defence – both with kick-ins and further afield. Usually a penetrating and reliable kick, Butler was uncharacteristically let down by that area of his game on occasion with four noticeable clangers across the day. Much like in the case of Trent Bianco, Butler also struggled at times to generate effective run in the face of Country’s pressure, but you could not fault his effort as he racked up 24 disposals and seven rebound 50s. Showed positive signs early with his composure on the last line of defence, and he took a nice pair of intercept marks. Butler also had a purple patch in the final term as he delivered well through the corridor on two occasions with kicks more typical of his class, and he was one to take the game on when his side needed it. Had a humorous moment in the third term where he looked to have been tripped up by the goal umpire, stiff.
#16 Darcy Cassar
Cassar diverted back to the role which helped him come to the fore in his NAB League debut as a 16-year-old – making a menace of himself at half-forward. The Keilor product made a terrific start, finding Western teammate Josh Honey with a neat kick inside 50 to help Metro put the first goal on the board. Donning the #16 of Jets graduate Cam Rayner, Cassar sharked a smart read off hands and finished well on they dribble in an effort the now-Brisbane gun would be proud of. Cassar also showed a zippy first five steps through traffic, and was clean in gathering tricky balls at ground level. Was eventually moved to the defensive position he has become used to for Western this season, but had an indifferent start when he lost direct opponent Sam Flanders and could only watch as the Country star converted a crucial goal. Was otherwise composed in the back half and looked most effective when given space. Would love to see more of him up forward.
#18 Lachie Potter
It was a pretty typical Lachie Potter game, with the speedy Northern half-back looking to cause headaches with damaging forward run. Is hardly a massive accumulator, with the 15-disposal mark he hit usually a marker for one of his better games. Potter’s impact is not calculated by pure numbers though, and he caught the eye with repeated take-ons and some impressive overhead marks which added to his game. Was matched up as the deepest defender as Country looked to thwart his influence, but Potter still found a way to get on his mazey runs. Is often let down by his end product though – especially at full speed – but tended to handball more and was more effective as a result. Had an unfortunate fumble inside defensive 50 when a bounce didn’t quite come back to him, and is still ironing out those mistakes in his game.
#19 Josh Honey
Honey looked like returning to his best form when he converted the first goal of the game from a set shot, but tended to fade out the game after that point. Still showed some glimpses of his class with a couple of nice one-on-one wins, and an eye-catching spin out of trouble with two Country opponents close-by. Led well up the ground from half-forward and has shown he has plenty of upside.
#20 Connor Downie
Downie played predominately on the wing and did his best to provide some run and carry. He did not win much of the ball but when he did, he was able to put his penetrating left foot to good use. Downie finished with nine disposals and four marks. Still a bottom-ager which is rare for a Metro side, Downie will be better for the experience.
#21 Hugo Ralphsmith
Ralphsmith played through the midfield and caught the eye in the first quarter when he won an important one-on-one contest by bringing the ball to ground and winning possession. He would then drive the ball inside 50 to the advantage of his teammates. His footy smarts were also on display in the second quarter when he decided it would be best to ‘soccer kick’ a ground ball to teammate Jack Mahony, which was effective.
#22 Miles Bergman
Bergman won a few touches early and laid a couple of good tackles. One of his best passages of play came in the second term when he took a really good contested grab against two others that somehow, wasn’t paid by the field umpire. Bergman had a very promising second half, winning a lot of the ball and booting a brilliant snap-goal in the final seconds of the match. He had a very good all-around game and did all the little things extremely well. Bergman had 16 disposals, four marks, and three tackles.
#23 Dylan Williams
Williams was quiet early but slowly worked his way into the game in the second quarter. He had two shots on goal within minutes, but both failed to register a score. Williams went off half-way through the term after coping a big knock and looked very sore. He would return shortly after, but he was still clearly struggling. He would spend a lot of the time on the bench in the second half. Williams has the potential to turn games instantly, and that’s what makes him such a dangerous player, especially in the forward half.
#24 Noah Anderson
The potential number one pick was instantly involved, laying the first tackle of the game and would then win the first clearance. His hands in tight were superb. Anderson won 14 disposals in the first half and was prolific around stoppages. In the second term, he would win a centre clearance with one of his arms being held, showcasing his strength in the contest and fantastic hand-eye coordination. Anderson’s defensive work was also fantastic, laying eight tackles for the match. His work-rate and competitiveness were why he was one of the standout performers for Metro.
#25 Finn Maginness
Maginness was one of his teams’ best midfielders, winning 15 possessions and five clearances on the day. His impact defensively in the first half was eye-catching, and he finished with a game-high nine tackles. He was exceptionally clean at ground level and his foot skills were noticeable. Maginness demonstrated composure with ball in hand and his vision was impressive, with the classy midfielder finding a teammate out of the corner of his eye in the third term. He would hit the scoreboard late in the fourth term when he ran into an open goal after running hard into space.
#26 Ryan Sturgess
Sturgess had his work cut out for him, along with a lot of the Metro’s defenders on the day. His marking ability and strong hands definitely stood out, taking five marks. His ball use by foot was sometimes questionable, but he never stopped trying and battled on throughout the match. Sturgess read the play well and his defensive spoiling was encouraging.
#29 Fischer McAsey
McAsey was a wall in defence all day taking intercept marks at will and showing good composure and skill with the ball coming from defence. He would kick a goal in the third quarter after taking a strong intercept mark on the wing and winning a 50 metre penalty, he showed a good set shot routine showing he could also make a good forward especially with his marking ability. He was near unstoppable in the last quarter taking three strong intercept marks and moving the ball on quickly usually favouring a switch kick. McAsey is making an early case as the best key defender in the 2019 draft.
#30 Harrison Jones
Jones played forward and kicked his only goal in the first quarter from a lead up mark showing a good set shot routine, Jones lead up well as a tall target all day despite being very light he still worked hard to be a target. He did some really nice things in the last quarter showing unselfishness to block for teammate Maginess to run into open goal and continuing to take lead up marks and picking the ball up nice at ground level showing his athleticism.
#31 Josh Worrell
Worrell started well taking a good intercept mark in the first quarter and quickly playing on with a long kick, his hands overhead and ground level were a feature and he had a nice spin out of trouble showing his mobility. He was sore after a collision in the 3rd quarter but would go forward in the last quarter and take a nice strong mark on the lead although missing the long shot at goal, he would later take more nice marks showing his versatility in playing at either end.
#34 Charlie Dean
Dean had a tough day at the office playing well but not getting the reward, Dean looked composed and clean early showing good composure tight on the boundary in the first quarter to release a handball and had a fantastic pick up and then good handball. Dean had two chances to hit the scoreboard in the 3rd quarter taking a strong contested mark against De Koning but would miss the set shot and later on would show good composure under pressure but just miss the goal in general play. Dean was involved in the last quarter laying a good smother and taking a lead up mark and delivering a beautiful low pass inside 50 to teammate Ralphsmith who would kick the final goal of the game.
#37 Andrew Courtney
Courtney was the ruck rotation from the bench and he competed well when he got the chance winning a few nice hitouts. Courtney didn’t get a lot of the ball but worked hard to get forward of centre a few times to get involved and link up with teammates.
#38 Brodie Newman
Newman despite a shaky start really worked into the game to be on of Metro’s better players playing in defence, had a poor contest early not manning the mark well enough for Comben to run into open goal but his work in defence for the next 3 quarters was outstanding intercepting at will at times especially his second quarter where he was heavily involved defending and attacking equally well. Had a good bit of play in the third quarter laying a good spoil on Josh Smith and then would gather the ball and show good composure under pressure, he had another good play in the last quarter going for a dash and showing his good speed for his size.
#40 Nick Bryan
Bryan did not have an absolute standout game but he was still able to show his talent and why he is highly regarded as a ruckman in this years draft. Bryan showed good agility, smarts and ball use with ball in hand which was certainly above average for a ruckman and his best bit of play came in the third quarter laying a good spoil then receiving a handball and handballing well himself and then getting the ball back again to lower his eyes with a lovely kick to Oakleigh teammate Matt Rowell, it was a great chain that showed of his ball use and smarts. His tap work was also good timing his jumps well and often competing well.