STURT’S talented trio of South Australian Academy Hub members were primed to dig into their top-age year prior to the postponement football across the country; all looking to crack through the SANFL levels and feature prominently for the Croweaters at the Under 18 national carnival. While we may not catch a glimpse of the three on-field for at least another month, allow Draft Central to help you get to know these Double-Blue standouts having spoken to them at the SA pre-season testing day hosted by Rookie Me.
James Borlase is the tall among the group, and has already had much talked about his draft chances given his unique situation. The 191cm prospect grew up supporting Port Adelaide after his father, Darryl played 246 games for the Magpies back in their SANFL days, but is eligible for Adelaide’s next generation academy given his zoning and the unusual fact that he was born in Egypt. On-field, the Prince Albert College student has played in big games across school and SANFL level, cracking the Reserves grade and also turning out in last year’s Under 17 Futures All Stars showcase. A player who can perform at either end of the ground, Borlase is looking to hone in on a key defensive spot this year.
A teammate of Borlase in SA’s 2018 Under 16 title-winning campaign was Mani Liddy, a physical inside midfielder who can explode from the stoppages. The well-built engine room cog has also been a mainstay among the state system, and was a standout in last year’s SA Under 17 Futures match at Adelaide Oval. Liddy’s work rate going both ways and ability to find the ball was proven in his bottom-age year at the Under 18 level for Sturt, and he says he would like to continue in that kind of role having also been utilised as a half-forward at state level.
Finishing off the trio is Tom Powell, who may well become one of the bolters of this year’s draft scene. While he has been known around the state system, injuries have curtailed Powell’s under-age years with a hip operation in November 2019 the latest knock to keep him on the sidelines. But with a solid pre-season under his belt, the slightly-built 180cm midfielder is slowly getting back to his former self, and certainly showed plenty as part of last year’s SA Under 17 Futures game – on the opposite side to Liddy. Another who can find the ball with ease and zip away, Powell is certainly one to watch.
BORLASE, LIDDY, AND POWELL ON…
Borlase – “It’s been pretty good to see everyone out here… I hope to excel more on the yo-yo (test) than I did for the others, I was hoping for a bit better in the agility but the yo-yo’s where I’m looking to excel a bit more.”
Liddy – “Yeah it’s not too bad, testing’s going well… I’m probably most nervous now for the yo-yo but the other ones I haven’t been too bad with.”
Powell – “It’s been good because I’ve been injured for a bit so it’s really good to be back out running and doing high-level fitness stuff that I haven’t been able to do for a while and I guess it’s good to be back training as well with the boys.”
Borlase – “I try to base my game around a bit more strength, but I think that if I can try and incorporate some of these (running) attributes into my game then I can improve.”
Liddy – “I’m a bit of an inside midfielder so I like to rough everything up and these tests don’t really show my main strengths but I can be a bit of a powerful player as well.”
Liddy – “Probably just my kicking consistency, sometimes it can be a bit inconsistent but it’s just something I’ve been working on for a while.”
Powell – “I definitely need to put some more muscle on. Obviously I’m not super strong and big so I need to get my running game on par and my strength needs to follow that so I can play midfield.”
Borlase – “I’d like to lock down a key defender (role) but I look at it like being versatile is a positive, so I can play wherever the coach needs me.”
Liddy – “It would be nice to secure that (inside midfield) role. I’ve played half-forward for school footy, and 16s and 17s state stuff so it is nice to be versatile but it’s good to lock down an inside mid role.”
Borlase – “Reserves was awesome last year to compete with some fully-grown men, hopefully (I can) play some solid footy throughout the Reserves again at the start of the year and progress to a League rank.”
Liddy – “Probably to play all the championships, every game of the championships. “To play senior footy at Sturt for most of the year, it’d be nice to tick that off.”
Powell – “I guess coming back from injury I need to play consistent footy first, then later in the year I’d like to play some senior footy, get used to playing against bigger bodies and then stay in the state system for as long as I can to give myself the best shot at getting drafted.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAYING ALONGSIDE:
Borlase – “I’m most looking forward to running out with Kaine Baldwin, because he’s one of my best mates. “Isaiah Dudley, he’s also one of my best mates. “Riley Thilthorpe, always brings massive enthusiasm to the team… I played lots of footy with them and I’ve known Riley since I was 12.
Liddy – “Tom Powell, nobody’s really played with him – I’m probably the person who’s played with him the most – he’s had a few injuries but he’s good to play with when he’s not injured. And I don’t mind playing with Luke Edwards, we’re close mates so I like playing with him.”
Powell – “Definitely Mani and James, a couple of the Sturt players that I’ve already played with at state levels. “Obviously I’m very excited to play with those guys because I know they’re good footballers.”
SA ACADEMY HUB:
Powell – “It’s a really good experience being able to train at such a high level with obviously 30 of the best footballers in the state. “It was a really good experience to play out on Adelaide Oval (in the SA Under 17 Futures game) and get some screen time I guess with people watching you play… I learned that the intensity everyone trains at state is at such a high level so it sort of makes you train at that level with them which improves your footy.”
ACADEMY vs. FATHER-SON:
Borlase – “I try not to think about that too much because I feel like it puts a bit of pressure on and I’m not looking to dive too deep into that and just focus on the next game, the next training.”
Powell – “I had a hip operation in November so it’s been sort of a few month’s process building my fitness up and getting back. I’m still getting to where I was before but I’m getting there I guess, it’s good.”