ROUND 7 of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) brings along with it another edition of our scouting notes, focusing on the top draft-relevant performers from around the competition this weekend. In this instalment, we again turn our attention to the prospects running around in the Under 18 competition, with a focus on State Academy based talent and others who may push for selection along the line. A bunch of top-end juniors plied their trade in senior grades over the weekend, so they also get a look-in. Some sides remained slightly depleted over the weekend with school football making its return.
Please consider that each set of notes showcases the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.
WWT Eagles vs. West Adelaide
By: Michael Alvaro
Despite spending the majority of his time running through midfield, Poulter accumulated most of his possessions on the outside. It beggars belief that he was able to find so much space around the ground, racking up 27 disposals and eight marks – largely uncontested in open play. He still showed glimpses of his contested work and the ability to flick out long, releasing handballs, while also looking to get on the move at stoppages as the Eagles’ anchor. One of the main restrictions on Poulter’s impact was his tendency to bomb the ball long looking for distance, rather than a specific target. While his penetration is usually effective, it worked against him at times as his kicks played right into West Adelaide’s defensive setup.
#9 Max Litster
Litster was a key cog in the Eagles’ midfield throughout the game, getting his hands dirty with 26 disposals and seven clearances. He dug in hard to win a bunch of ball at the centre bounces early on, which seemed to inject him with a deal of confidence as he continued to pop up with eye-catching efforts. He blazed away with a few kicks in the first half, but began to adjust in the second half with bursts away from congestion before delivering the ball forward. Litster’s strength and subtle turn of speed came to the fore, and he was a solid contributor for his side.
#31 Jase Burgoyne
The 2021 Port Adelaide father-son candidate returned monster numbers as he rotated through the defence and midfield, collecting a game-high 37 disposals, five clearances, nine rebound 50s, and a goal. While his stats were padded slightly by taking on the kick-in duties, Burgoyne had no trouble in finding his own ball in all areas of the ground. He looked dangerous in his forward movement, hitting the ball at speed and getting creative with his disposal on the up-take. His ability to chain possessions and provide a clean touch at the contest was noticeable, as was his knack of knowing exactly where the play was moving. Burgoyne looks a likely type for next year’s draft.
If not for inaccuracy in front of goal, big Henry Smith would have enjoyed a very good outing up forward, but instead booted 1.3 from his nine disposals, while Zac Phillips won 24 hitouts in the ruck. Harrison Dawkins was his usual self through the midfield and forwardline, collecting 23 disposals and booting a goal, while Jay Watson (two goals) and Jacob Godden (one) looked dangerous at ground level. Will Neumann was another to impress in patches, showing good physicality in his 11-disposal performance, which included four clearances and eight tackles.
While the pure numbers of 34 disposals, six clearances, and four inside 50s read incredibly well by anyone’s standards, Chamberlain still endured a tough night against solid opposition. He quite obviously has no trouble finding the ball and was constantly around the action, but it was more a case of struggling to generate any serious drive for the Bloods with his disposal – particularly in the first half. He would often find himself stuck with no support around him, by no fault of his own, or having to bomb long to a contest. He seemed to use his speed more effectively after half time to break away from congestion and deliver forward, though. There is always room for improvement, but Chamberlain is very much still West Adelaide’s primary ball winner.
#7 Cooper Gilbert
Gilbert was a positive mover through the Westies midfield, providing a physical edge at the contest while also remaining accountable. He may not have won mountains of the ball with 15 disposals and three clearances, but made his presence felt with solid defensive pressure and six strong tackles. He was one of the West Adelaide players to have run out the game strongly, and supply much-needed support to the likes of Chamberlain at the fall of the ball.
#12 Zac Venning
The West Adelaide defence was under siege after quarter time, and Venning was part of the commendable resistance. He took on some of the kick-in duties and was quite sound in his disposal by foot, while also chiming in with some much-needed intercept possessions both in the air and at ground level. While his sweeping role across the back half was largely an accumulative one, his 22 disposals and seven rebound 50s were all important to the Bloods’ cause.
Eduard van den Berg continued his solid form down back with another 27 disposals and nine rebound 50s, supported well by Kane Sherlock (18 disposals, seven tackles). Luke Young impressed up the other end with three goals from 17 touches, seemingly enjoying his own handiwork.
North Adelaide vs. Sturt
By: Michael Alvaro
It was a successful return to SANFL Under 18s action for Murphy, who slotted straight back into his role rotating through the midfield from half-back. He is not particularly quick, but just seems a level above in terms of his awareness, able to assess his options and run a full measure before delivering the ball cleanly by foot. Murphy was clean and composed on the last line, adding some sweeping defensive duties to his safe use of the ball going forward. He would later move into the midfield to good effect, even bombing home a 50-metre set shot in the second term. There are hardly any frills in Murphy’s game, but you know what you’re going to get with his hard work, strength, and efficient style.
#21 Tariek Newchurch
Newchurch was North Adelaide’s other AFL Academy hub member to return to SANFL Under 18s duties, and again showed glimpses of his raw talent. The Adelaide Crows NGA hopeful has terrific agility and evasiveness, and constantly utilised that aspect of his game on Saturday. He was often sighted running hard up the ground to find the ball and create a spark for the Roosters with inboard kicks, while also getting busy close to goal. Newchurch’s ability to collect the ball from forward 50 stoppages at speed was outstanding, and almost earned him a goal on multiple occasions. While the pop in his set shots came under question early on, Newchurch eventually found the big sticks with a nice snap in the second term.
#24 Kallis Freer
The Roosters’ most prolific ball winner on the day (28 disposals, five clearances), Freer was terrific after steadily building into the contest. He formed a terrific combination with Matthew Borg at the stoppages, often receiving the first handball out of traffic and bursting forward with speed and strength. That was before he went on to win a mountain of his own ball, providing great drive and accumulating well around the ground. His second term goal on the fly was his highlight of the day, and he even set one up for Zyton Santillo in the third.
Borg was again terrific from midfield with 26 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal. His ability to get first hands on the ball worked to release his outside runners well. The tall and small defensive duo of Lam Simon (21 disposals, 10 marks) and Blayne O’Loughlin (25 disposals, eight rebound 50s) again worked wonders, with Simon intercepting well in the air, while O’Loughlin buzzed away at ground level. Santillo was also an effective link heading forward, with his defensive pressure and handy aerial work helping him to 17 disposals and a goal.
#11 Will Spain
While his touches may not always be as noticeable as those of his midfield peers, Spain is such an important part of the Double Blues’ midfield setup. With Tom Powell spending a touch more time away from the centre bounces and stoppages, the diminutive ball winner was able to dig in and get first hands on the pill in heavy congestion. His feeding handballs made it easier for others to pump the ball forward, and set the tone for Sturt’s midfield edge. He is still a bottom-ager, so has plenty of time to continue to develop, and the work rate seems to be there already.
#17 Mani Liddy
Liddy arguably took over as Sturt’s prime mover through midfield on this occasion, and ended up as his side’s top ball winner with 30 disposals and seven clearances. His strength at the contest was outstanding, and there were countless times where he was able to either shrug off would-be tacklers with strength, or use his core to stand up and flick the ball out. Liddy’s releasing handballs were effective early, and he began to kick more as the game wore on – particularly long. While his tendency to try to fend off tacklers got him in trouble in the third term and may have the same effect at the elite level, Liddy still provides great ball winning quality and smarts through midfield.
#18 Tom Powell
If 27 disposals and 10 clearances makes up your quietest outing in weeks, then you know you’re going alright. Powell may have spent a good amount of time up forward for Sturt across this outing, but made his midfield minutes count when thrown back into the engine room. He worked into the game well after quarter time, again showcasing his composure on the ball with some terrific decision making by hand in traffic. Powell was as clean as ever and worked around the ground well to rack up some uncontested possessions, utilising sharp short-range kicks to help the Double Blues move into attack. He clearly looked more comfortable in midfield, and made a good impact as Sturt ran over the top of North Adelaide in the final term.
William Staples made his mark early with a couple of opportunistic goals, while Blake Higgins was another to start brightly, finding a good amount of space on the wing to finish with 23 disposals and 10 marks. William Taylor saw plenty of the ball down back (17 disposals, nine rebound 50s), while Tom Emmett‘s late goals up the other end proved crucial to the Double Blues’ win.
Glenelg vs. Central District
By: Tom Cheesman (U18s) & Peter Williams (League)
#10 Ty Murphy
Murphy worked hard up and down the outer wing for Glenelg, collecting 16 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s and a goal in the draw. He has outstanding speed and used this asset to break away from opponents and get the ball moving quickly. A highlight was in the third term when he produced a clean pick-up to intercept the ball and goal from about 40 metres out on the run.
#11 Harry McInnes
Tall forward McInnes had a day he will never forget. He produced a brilliant first half, kicking three goals and impacting the contest whenever the ball went forward, whether it be through score involvements or forward pressure. He always led well at the ball carrier and showed great agility for his size when the ball hit the deck. In the second half, he kicked two more goals and had a chance to win the Bays the game with a set shot for goal after the siren (who trailed by one point at the time). Although he missed to the left, there is no way Glenelg would have scraped through with a draw without McInnes’ fantastic performance. He finished with 13 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and 5.4.
#16 Maxwell Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald played at centre-half back and showed that this position suits him to a T. The youngster read the ball brilliantly from one or two kicks behind the play and took multiple intercept marks with strong hands. Fitzgerald’s work rate was exceptional for a big man and his kick was also very reliable, hitting the majority of his targets when moving the ball forward. He finished with 15 disposals, seven marks, five rebound 50s and three tackles.
#20 Bailey Durant
Durant was positioned at half-back alongside Fitzgerald and put together arguably his best performance for the season. He came off the back of the square with pace at numerous centre bounces and impacted the contests. He was composed with ball in hand and was willing to push up the ground to launch the ball into the Bays’ attack. Durant finished with 18 disposals, four marks, four tackles and four inside 50s.
#27 Luke Parks (League)
A player I rated last season playing for Sydney Swans Academy, it was great to see him continuing the form he has already set himself this season. He looks comfortable at senior level, able to control the airways, not panic with ball-in-hand on the last line, and use the ball effectively going long down the line, or in switching the play. He took a whopping 10 marks – four contested – and was a real thorn in the Bulldogs’ side with his ability to get into the right position and outmark his direct opponent. He did not have as many touches as he has had in previous weeks, but he earned them all, finishing with 14 disposals, four tackles, two clearances and two rebounds. As an over-ager he looks to have ticked the box to compete against quality senior players in one of the top state leagues in the country, so certainly deserves a look-in this year.
#30 Luke Edwards (League)
Making his debut in the League side, Edwards did not look out of place having the chance to run out alongside his brother, Jackson. He was busy early with a goal assist midway through the term thanks to a clever kick across his body. It almost looked like it was going to bounce through, but sat up and Matthew Snook had the nice cherry pick on the goal line to make it a certainty. He provided an option at half-back and played the safe option with his ball use, but it was his defensive pressure and willingness to crack in that caught the eye. Having second and third efforts at the contest, and refusing to give in, Edwards finished with a really solid, 10 disposals, three marks and five tackles, whilst also recording a behind.
Riley Davis (20 disposals, two goals) worked tirelessly for the Bays and kicked an important clutch goal from a set shot. Connor Drum (16 disposals, two goals) was accurate in front of goal while Jarman Sigal (17 disposals, 14 hitouts, seven tackles) used his athleticism to impact contests in the ruck and around the ground.
#13 Austin McDonald
McDonald had another strong game for the Bulldogs. In what turned out to be a scrappy affair, the youngster was a quite simply a class above. He worked hard at stoppages, ran back to help his defence whenever required and kicked to his teammates’ advantage when moving the ball forward. McDonald clearly tried to make his team go more central with their ball movement by frequently presenting for the switch in the centre square to open up both sides of the ground. He filled the stats sheet with 24 disposals, eight clearances, seven tackles, six marks, six inside 50s and five rebound 50s.
#15 Lewis Cowham
Cowham returned to the Under 18 side for this clash against Glenelg and was arguably the best performer on the ground. He hunted the ball relentlessly at stoppages, was smart by hand and took multiple intercept marks because of how well he positioned himself around the ground. Cowham demonstrated the ability to use both sides of his body by foot and linked up well with other midfielders in transition. He finished with 24 disposals, seven tackles, six marks and five clearances.
#32 Saxon Evans
Evans was one of Central’s standout performers in this outing. He played in the ruck and up forward, switching with fellow big man Wyatt Ryan. While he was fantastic in the ruck with 32 hitouts, Evans was incredibly potent up forward, kicking four majors for the day. He played in front at most forward 50 contests which allowed him to use his size and mark quick entries out of the middle. Evans also has a nice set shot for goal, highlighted when he slotted a difficult kick from the 50-metre arc on a tight angle in the first term.
#39 Wyatt Ryan
As mentioned above, Ryan shared the ruck duties with Evans and was also very impressive in this contest. He provided a great option for the Bulldogs coming out of defence, taking numerous strong marks on the wings above his head in contested situations. He then gave quick handballs to runners that were coming in waves to break through the Tigers’ defensive setup and launch deep into attack. Ryan finished with 17 disposals, 11 hitouts, eight marks (four contested) and a goal.
#31 Corey Durdin (League)
A really clean prospect whose work at ground level is superb. He does not fumble too many ground balls, and he just knows how to rove a marking contest with ease. He had an early chance in the match by doing just that and kicking towards goal but went across the face and stayed in. Throughout the first half he looked really busy and was winning a fair chunk of the ball in the opening term, even pushing up to half-back at one stage. He hit up Troy Menzel inside 50 midway through the term, and almost had a mark close to goal at the 17-minute stage but it slipped through his hands. He did a lot of running up the ground to win the ball through midfield and even at half-back in the second term. He had a chance on goal again in that quarter, showing clean hands out of the stoppage and receiving the ball back, but rushed a little and his kick went across to the right. He finally got on the end of one in the third term kicking a major on the run from 35m. While his second half was not as huge numbers wise as his first, he continued to look dangerous whenever the ball was in his area. Durdin ended with 11 disposals – 10 kicks – two marks, two tackles, an impressive five inside 50s and a goal.
#32 Jack Toner (League)
The ex-Dandenong Stingrays ball magnet continued his work at Under 18s level last year to have no issues whatsoever getting to the right spots in his third League game for the year. Handed the responsibility of kickouts more often than not, Toner would look to run-and-gun out of defence. At times the pace caught up with him and he would have to rush or was run down, but when he was able to execute cleanly, the Bulldogs looked a lot more damaging. He showed off a raking long boot and even pushed up to half-forward at one stage, showing quick hands and an ability ti move the ball in transition. He started a scoring chain for Central midway through the second term, and beat his season-high from last week with an extra disposal to have 21 touches, three marks, five rebounds, two clearances and two inside 50s in a promising display.
#52 Lachlan Grubb (League)
Didn’t win a heap of it, but was not afraid of the contest and used the ball well when he did get it. In just his second League match, he showed clean hands when he had it, and spread to the flanks and up to the wing when required to be lively. He often looked for the short pass, but he also had the athleticism to worry opponents into rushing at times, and finished with nine disposals, four marks and a tackle in the loss.
Christopher Tidswell (12 kicks) worked hard once again in defence, displaying some nice run and link-up with teammates. Kobe Wilson (18 disposals, five marks) used his pace to impress down the wing and kicked an outstanding running goal (after a fantastic crumb from Lowan Welch) to put his side in front at the 25-minute mark of the final term. Finn Reed (nine disposals, four inside 50s, one goal) was lively up forward.
South Adelaide vs. Norwood
By: Tom Wyman
#4 Max Clifton
Max Clifton fought hard in the midfield all day against a talented Norwood on-ball unit. His long left-boot stood out, launching several bombs down the line and also nailing a goal on the run from beyond the arc early in the second term. Clifton’s disposal by foot would continue to be a feature of his game from that point on, with his ability to execute a difficult kick and find Brayden Cook on his own deep inside-50 another excellent example. He finished the match with 16 disposals, three marks, three tackles, three clearances and five inside-50s.
#10 Brayden Cook
Medium forward Brayden Cook has shown some glimpses of his talent already this season, but his four goal effort against the Redlegs will have really turned some heads. He slotted his first goal from a regulation set-shot after floating across the pack to take a nice mark. Later, Cook swooped at the back of a marking contest and gathered the loose ball cleanly before accelerating away and kicking long for a teammate to run onto and goal from the square. Later in the final term he showed excellent hustle to force a turnover, gather the loose ball and complete a clean pass to Clifton, who then returned the favour by finding him all alone inside-50, where he booted his fourth. Cook’s cleanness by foot, aerial prowess and speed at ground level was exciting to watch and he finished the day with 16 disposals (15 kicks), eight marks (three contested) and four inside-50s.
#23 Phoenix Spicer
Spicer added some real excitement to the game with his speed and ability to break the lines. He embarked on several long runs on both wings and would have accumulated plenty of metres gained. Although his disposal whilst travelling at speed wasn’t always effective, there’s no denying his outside talent and ability to break open a game with his electric leg speed. He concluded the match with 17 disposals, four tackles and a game-high nine inside-50s.
#27 Will Verrall
South’s 16-year-old tall shared the ruck duties with Heath Treloar and also spent some time up forward. Despite his age, Verrall looked at home at under-18s level, with his athleticism a real positive. He moves extremely well for a big man and took a big contested mark early in the game to get the Panthers rolling. Verrall finished with eight disposals, three marks and 18 hitouts and looks to be one to watch evolve at under-18s level across the next couple of years.
#33 Jason Horne (League)
At just 17 years of age, Jason Horne made his league debut on Sunday afternoon at Coopers Stadium. He spent the entire match in the forward line, often opposed to Emmanuel Irra, and didn’t look out of place from the moment he entered the field, winning himself a holding the ball free kick in the opening minutes. He provided some run and carry on a couple of occasions and was strong in the air when he needed to be. Aside from a poor forward-50 entry in the second term, Horne’s foot skills were solid. He spotted a teammate inside-50 who kicked a much needed goal for the Panthers later in the game. He wasn’t provided with lots of opportunities, but certainly showed some encouraging early signs. He finished with nine disposals, three marks, two tackles and three inside-50s.
Ruckman Heath Treloar performed well and provided the South Adelaide midfielders with a plethora of taps to advantage. He played a vital role in South’s second quarter revival and finished the match with eight disposals and seven tackles to go with a game-high 24 hitouts. Jayden Little had a couple of nice moments across half-back and through the midfield. He collected 15 disposals, five marks, three clearances and five rebound-50s. Left-footer Jack Flett was another to impress across half-back. He found plenty of the footy and set-up much of the Panthers rebound from the back-half. Flett finished with a team-high 20 disposals and eight marks (two contested). Although slight in his build, midfielder Luke Mitton had his moments in attack and on the ball, headlined by a breakaway clearance in the first term. He finished with 12 disposals, five tackles and six clearances and was one of the Panthers best. Key defender Harry Spacie was trusted with the kick-ins and was one of South’s better players in a high-scoring opening term. He took a couple of strong contested marks and accumulated 20 disposals and seven rebound-50s.
Bottom-ager Cooper Murley continues to shine at under-18 level after another excellent showing in the red and blue at Flinders University Stadium. The silky smooth midfielder/forward was never flat-footed at stoppages and looked to get on his bike early in the hope of receiving the ball in a dangerous position, which he was successful in doing on multiple occasions. His running patterns and ability to accelerate away from his opponents allowed him to accumulate plenty of the ball. Murley’s ability to remain composed and hit his targets by foot whilst running at high speed is a trait which not many can master, particularly at his age. He kicked a classy goal on the run from a tricky angle late in the first term to extend the Redlegs sizeable lead, but it was his involvement at one particular centre bounce which would have really excited AFL scouts. His direct opponent didn’t go body-on-body at the centre bounce and allowed him some space, which Murley took full advantage of. He accelerated away from the pack, gathered the ball at speed then turned and hit ruckman Nathan Hearing all alone across the other side of the stoppage with his left foot. He is simply too quick and skilful to be allowed any space to operate in. Although the flashy stuff was eye-catching, Murley also tackled hard and took three terrific marks whilst facing the opposite direction by simply reading it better than his Panthers opponent. The exciting talent finished with a game-high 31 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, four clearances and six inside-50s.
Nelligan returned to under-18s level after stints with the league and reserves sides and was typically industrial around the ball. He spent time up forward but was most effective as an inside midfielder. Regularly the last player to stand up after a contest, Nelligan won plenty of contested ball and was the leading clearance player on the ground with eight. He tackled strongly and with intensity and booted two goals from set-shots inside-50. A significant proportion of his kicks were hurried snaps out of congestion but in general play his skills were relatively clean. He finished with 24 disposals, two marks and ten tackles.
#6 Michael Cavallaro
Cavallaro’s skills with ball in hand, football smarts and composure were all prominent in the win over the Panthers. He was instrumental in Norwood’s third goal, kicking long to the goal square where teammate James Warton marked and converted the subsequent set-shot. It was encouraging to see Cavallaro back his foot skills and look to hit several in-board targets. Although he spends most of his time on the wing and across half-back, ‘Cav’ showed he is capable of winning his own ball by cracking in hard when it was his turn to go. Wherever possible, he lowered his eyes and surveyed his options instead of taking the simple option and kicking long down the line. Cavallaro’s vision to spot a teammate in space at the other side of a stoppage helped get the ball moving Norwood’s way and quick handballing was superb once again. He capped off another strong outing with a goal from right on the 50 metre arc in the third term. Cavallaro finished with 19 disposals, five marks and four inside-50s.
#17 Daniel Fairbrother
The intercept-marking machine was at it again across half-back for the ‘legs. Fairbrother’s ability to read the play downfield and position himself to cut off opposition forward entries has been vital to Norwood’s terrific start to the season. He was strong in the air, but at ground level he provided some meaningful rebound from the back-50 and didn’t shy away from any contest. Although many of his kicks were short and relatively low percentage, his foot skills were sound for the majority of the clash and helped construct several attacking passages. Fairbrother finished with 23 disposals, nine marks (three contested) and seven rebound-50s.
#21 Jack Saunders
It was another strong showing from consistent midfielder Jack Saunders. He spent some time on the inside but earned most of his possessions on the outside of the contest and in open space, where he was able to use his excellent acceleration to provide run and carry between the arcs. Although his ability to accumulate the football week-in, week-out is impressive, question marks loom over Saunders’ disposal by foot, which has been up and down so far in 2020. However he was largely sound by foot against the Panthers and delivered a couple of beautiful kicks inside-50 to leading teammates. His goal off only a couple of steps from right-on the 50 metre line in the third term was a real highlight and his ability to impact the scoreboard has proven invaluable for Norwood. The blonde-haired on-baller finished with 24 disposals, eight marks, four tackles and six inside-50s.
Taj Rahul performed well in his half-back role. He used his speed and long foot skills to generate rebound from the Redlegs defensive-50. His attack on the ball was also encouraging to see. He collected 12 disposals, four marks, three tackles and four rebound-50s. Key forward Finn Heard was once again the focal point of the Norwood forward line. He consistently gained separation from his direct opponent on the lead and converted all-bar-one of his chances to finish with three goals. Ruckman Nathan Hearing had a couple of Panthers opponents to contest against at Noarlunga. He won a couple of nice taps to advantage but it was his excellent work at ground level which really stood out, particularly for a player of his size. One of the best big men in the SANFL under-18 competition, Hearing picked up 19 disposals, six clearances and four inside-50s to go with his 16 hitouts.