AFL Under 18 National Championships preview: Allies

THERE is a lot to like about the 50-man Allies squad, with plenty of talent from each academy expected to lock horns with the best from around the nation. Potential first round selections are set to fill out the engine room – with a certain inside bull leading the way – as well as plenty of spark on the outside and inside 50. While their key position stocks are less rich, the Allies have a dynamic set of talls which will be utilised in a number of roles.

Key Players:

#3 Connor Budarick
Gold Coast Suns Academy | Midfielder/Small Forward
4/06/01 | 175cm | 72kg

The Suns Academy skipper is also their leading prospect, mixing ball-finding ability around the ground with dangerous forward craft. Averaged 25.2 disposals, 6.2 marks, 8.2 tackles, and 5.8 inside 50s in five consistent NAB League games, but has a handy knack for finding the goals and should spend some time up forward considering the Allies’ midfield strength. Quick and agile, watch for Budarick’s tenacity and skill in traffic.

#9 Mitchell O’Neill
Tasmania Devils | Balanced Midfielder
21/02/01 | 181cm | 70kg

The leading Tassie Devil has had an interrupted season to date on the back of injury, but reminded everyone of his class in the U18 Academy’s showcase game against Casey. Has all the skill to provide damage on the outside, but also cracks in hard to win contested ball despite his 70kg frame. One of the more balanced prospects, look for O’Neill to really run into form during the championships.

#15 Will Martyn
Brisbane Lions Academy | Midfielder
29/03/01 | 183cm | 73kg

Martyn is one who can find the ball at will in all areas of the ground, and had over 30 disposals in four of his five NAB League outings. The Lions Academy skipper has a nice balance of inside and outside capabilities, but look in particular for the way he spreads and takes high numbers of uncontested marks away from the coalface. Can be iffy by foot at times, but usually drives forward well and can also double as an option inside 50.

#21 Luke Parks
Sydney Swans Academy | Defender
18/04/01 | 188cm | 80kg

Parks is a consistent defender who plays above his height, often taking up the centre half-back post for the Swans Academy. He may be given a touch more freedom to play as an intercepting or lock-down defender at the carnival with a few different key position options available to the Allies side. Is a competitor above all else, so look for Parks to bring the heat.

#22 Tom Green
GWS GIANTS Academy | Inside Midfielder
23/01/01 | 188cm | 85kg

The most outstanding top-end talent in the Allies squad, Green is a contested ball machine. The GIANTS Academy prospect averaged a whopping 33 disposals over his four NAB League outings, and led the competition for contested possessions and clearances over that time. While it is not a massive part of his game, Green also found the goals twice and can use his big frame forward of centre, but will be the key cog in Allies’ engine room.

 

X-Factor:

#2 Hewago Paul Oea
Gold Coast Suns Academy | Forward/Outside Midfielder
13/11/01 | 174cm | 65kg

The Allies’ ‘Ace’ in the pack, Oea is an excitement machine at full flight. Earned a NEAFL Rising Star nomination after also showing a bit over five NAB League outings – averaging 17 disposals, six inside 50s and one goal per game. Look for him to escape over the back with pure pace and show his smarts around goal, with the potential to also move through the midfield.

#4 Malcolm Rosas Jnr
Northern Territory Thunder | Forward/Midfielder
27/06/01 | 175cm | 70kg

The sole Northern Territory prospect listed here, Rosas is full of potential. Showed a lot of that in the Under-18 Academy showcase game against Casey, and also contributed a solid 21-disposal, two-goal outing against Northern Knights in one of his two NAB League appearances. Is silky smooth and clean at ground level, while possessing great goal sense. Can drift in and out of games, but will no doubt catch the eye.

#26 Liam Delahunty
GWS GIANTS Academy | Key Position Utility
13/02/01 | 192cm | 90kg

Delahunty is a versatile tall who has really excelled in the forward half this year for the GIANTS. He converted well to find the goals in each of his five NAB League appearances, but a lot of Delahunty’s X-factor comes in his high marking and ability to be used up the ground. Is not quite key position height, but may well lock down the centre half-forward post.

#37 Joshua Gore
Gold Coast Suns Academy | Small Forward
29/05/01 | 177cm | 75kg

Gore was a permanent forward fixture for Gold Coast in the NAB League, and has now transitioned well into NEAFL football – starring with two goals in the final minute of the Suns’ game against Aspley to snatch a win. Does not need many opportunities to make an impact, and is usually clinical on his left peg. Seldom fails to at least score, and should provide some spark deep inside 50 for the Allies.

 

Up and comers:

#1 Errol Gulden
Sydney Swans Academy | Outside Midfielder
18/07/02 | 172cm | 68kg

One of the leading bottom-age players across the country, Gulden is the reigning NSW/ACT U16 MVP. Playing mostly on the wing, Gulden provides real speed and class on the outside, while also having a real knack for finding the goals – as he did in all three of his NAB League appearances. Gulden also averaged 27.3 disposals and eight inside 50s across those games, and should be a damaging player for the Allies.

#5 Braeden Campbell
Sydney Swans Academy | Forward/Outside Midfielder
2/04/02 | 178cm | 71kg

Another Swans Academy member who features heavily on the outside and finds the goals, Campbell also likes to crack in despite his smaller frame. Will provide spark on the opposite wing or forward flank to Gulden, and claimed two bags of over three goals from 15.8 disposals in his four NAB League games.

#7 Oliver Davis
Tasmania Devils | Midfielder
18/07/02 | 180cm | 69kg

Davis is already a massive ball winner at NAB League level, and has been a key part of Tasmania’s midfield thus far. Part of a talented bottom-age Tassie quartet which should get some game time, watch for Davis’ long roosts forward from congestion on the back of real smarts in contested areas.

#28 Jackson Callow
Tasmania Devils | Key Forward
6/11/02 | 192cm | 88kg

The Tasmanian key forward has already shown his ability to rip a game open, with two bags of four and one bag of five goals so far in the NAB League. When he isn’t putting goals on the board, Callow keeps in the game with smart leads up the ground and backs it with his strong hands overhead – making him a dynamic prospect. Will be a key part of the Allies side up forward, with the ability to also go back.

 

AFL U18s Fixtures:
vs. Vic Country @ UTAS Stadium, Sunday June 9, 12:30pm
vs. Western Australia @ Alberton Oval, Saturday June 22, 10:30am
vs. Vic Metro @ GMHBA Stadium, Friday June 28, 10:30am
vs. South Australia @ Marvel Stadium, Wednesday July 3, 4:40pm

 

Summary:

Much of the Allies’ talent lies in the engine room, with the likes of Tom Green, Mitch O’Neill, Will Martyn, and Connor Budarick all set to provide different mixes of midfield skills. The way in which those players, all from varying academies, mix will be an interesting proposition, with no one academy dominating the squad. The bottom-age talent in the squad should also make a real impact, with Swans pair Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell likely to line up on opposite wings, while Oliver Davis will add to the midfield grouping and Jackson Callow looks set to lead the key position prospects. Callow will be aided well by versatile talls like Liam Delahunty, while Luke Parks and Josh Rayner could well play above their size in order to fill a need there. A mosquito fleet of forward runners will also provide great excitement, and the experience many academy prospects have of playing against bigger bodies will put them in good stead to provide a good mix of physicality and class. Expect the Allies to give it a good crack, with enough talent to upset the top sides at their best.

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