Caught the Eye: 2020 SANFL Under 18s – Round 2

UNDER 18s action continued in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) with Round 2 being played over the weekend, and a bunch of talented juniors stepping up to make an impact. In this edition of Caught the Eye, we highlight the key performers from each Under 18s side who stood out in the opening round of action. For extended profiles on each player, click on their names highlighted in red, and for our full scouting notes, click here.

>> 2020 SA U18 Squad Prediction

West Adelaide vs. Central District

Lachlan De Cesare
West Adelaide | Midfielder
29/05/2002 | 175cm | 76kg

Stats: 26 disposals, 4 marks, 8 tackles, 8 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said: “De Cesare has kicked off his 2020 campaign well, and was arguably Westies’ best afield in a losing effort. The diminutive midfielder is an absolute workhorse through the engine room, digging in for repeat efforts at ground level, tackling hard, and spreading well to provide an outlet option for his teammates.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: Part of West Adelaide’s small midfield fleet, De Cesare looks to be in terrific nick with his endurance setting him apart across the first two rounds. It will be difficult for him to continue as an inside type given his size, but De Cesare spreads from the contest well and applies enough pressure around the ball to suggest he can thrive up forward, too. He remains outside of the current academy bubble and it will be tough to crack the midfield ranks, but form counts for a lot.

Lewis Cowham
Central District | Inside Midfielder
5/09/2002 | 177cm | 70kg

Stats: 20 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 inside 50s

Our scouts said: “Cowham has been a regular for Centrals through midfield, providing value going both ways at the stoppages. The small ball winner is athletically gifted, and showed a couple of nice flashes of his agility and explosive speed despite the contested nature of the game.” – Michael Alvaro

Verdict: Another inside leaning midfielder who is on the small side, but Cowham has all the traits to apply his form in different roles. He excels in midfield with his presence around the ball, awareness, and explosive attributes, but has also shown his ability to find the goals as a small forward during his school football commitments with Prince Alfred College. If he can begin to burst from the contest a touch more, he’ll be on the right track as he does the defensive stuff well.

South Adelaide vs. Glenelg

Matthew Roberts
South Adelaide | Midfielder
31/07/2003 | 183cm | 76cm

Stats: 32 disposals, 14 marks, 9 tackles, 7 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal

Our scouts said: “Roberts was South’s best player on Saturday, finding plenty of the ball and using it well with his reliable left-foot kick. He worked off his opponent to collect many uncontested marks, continually helping his side transition the ball from defence to attack.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: The bottom-age prospect is part of a brilliant Panthers midfield rotation, and it was his turn to rack up the monster numbers on the weekend. With leading top-ager Nicholas Kraemer absent, Roberts took it upon himself to provide the grunt through midfield, while also spreading well to find the ball in all areas of the ground. He can provide an outlet at either end, too, making for a top prospect in the 2021 talent pool.

Riley Holder
Glenelg | Key Forward/Ruck
18/12/2002 | 190cm | 84kg

Stats: 22 disposals, 8 marks (4 contested), 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: “Holder was best on ground and clearly the difference between the two sides. He was a major presence at centre half-forward for Glenelg, clunking four strong contested marks. The highlight was a brilliant mark (and goal) in the third term when his side desperately needed it.” – Tom Cheesman

Verdict: This game was the ideal showcase of what Holder provides at the junior level, able to clunk big contested marks and dominate from centre half-forward despite standing at 190cm. His big frame and strong hands on the lead make him difficult to stop aerially, while sound conversion in front of goal ensures he can take full toll with his touches. Holder will be a tricky prospect to place given his in-between size, but that third tall role seems most suitable at senior level.

Norwood vs. North Adelaide

Finn Heard
Norwood | Key Forward

12/02/2002 | 191cm | 87kg

Stats: 9 disposals (8 kicks), 7 marks, 4 tackles, 7 hitouts, 3 inside 50s, 4 goals

Our scouts said: “Four goals to key the forward proved to be the difference in this clash at Coopers Stadium. Heard got goal-side of the contest and strolled straight into the goal-square to nail the game’s first major, however his work in the air ensured he was the most impactful tall on the ground.” – Tom Wyman

Verdict: One who is in a similar mould to Glenelg’s Holder, Heard plays like a bustling key position forward but is not quite of the traditional frame. He is well-built and possesses great strength, able to out-body his opponents to get front position. Heard may only have notched nine disposals, but six scoring shots and seven marks highlight the impact he can have with them.

Jamison Murphy
North Adelaide | Inside Midfielder
9/12/2002 | 180cm | 85kg

Stats: 21 disposals, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 3 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “(Murphy) appeared physically stronger than the other midfielders out there and used his strong frame to bullock his way through several contests, including the opening stoppage where he dished out a handball despite being tackled. However, it was his sublime foot skills which would have really caught the eye of recruiters.” – Tom Wyman

Verdict: Murphy’s stocks continue to rise amid his outstanding start to the season, and the bullish inside midfielder is beginning to show a terrific balance of skills. While he is obviously a terrific extractor from the stoppages at 85kg, the talented dual-sport athlete also works hard to help his teammates at either end of the ground, and released pressure on the weekend with sound disposal.

Sturt vs. WWT Eagles

Morgan Ferres
Sturt | Key Forward
13/03/2003 | 188cm | 80kg 

Stats: 17 disposals, 9 marks (4 contested), 2 inside 50s, 6 goals

Our scouts said: “Ferres was the dominant forward on the ground, proving a handful in the air and on the lead with his impressive leap, judgement, and contested marking coming to the fold… He was a handful all game but mostly in the third quarter where he marked everything in sight… One of the better aspects of his game was not just his ability close to goal, but also his ability to get up the ground and take strong marks up on the wing.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: Ferres looms as a 2021 draft prospect with extremely high upside. While the bottom-ager fulfils a key position type of role at just 188cm on account of his aerial dominance, he is a remarkable athlete with speed, agility, and endurance to boot. His ability to impact the play both close to goal and high up the ground makes him a dominant force, and one who could really make a splash over the next two years. For comparison, think Carlton’s Charlie Curnow.

Taj Schofield
WWT | Midfielder
2/07/2002 | 178cm | 72kg

Stats: 20 disposals (17 kicks), 1 mark, 7 tackles, 6 clearances, 8 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

Our scouts said: “The talented Port Adelaide father-son prospect again showed his class and skill which really stands out amongst his peers. Schofield, who looks best on the outside with his elite kicking and composure, was able to have an impact on the inside wining some classy clearances and also laying some strong tackles at the coal face.” – Ed Pascoe

Verdict: A much improved performance from Schofield compared to last week, and one which justifies the work he has been putting into his inside midfield craft. The agile mover was still just as effective on the outer, but showcased the tools he has been adding to his game with much more sound clearance work against quality opposition. There is still room for improvemet.

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