THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 6, with the latest weekend of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.
STURT 5.7 (37) def. by GLENELG 16.20 (116)
By: Tom Wyman
#10 Jake Aish
The Sturt midfielders were soundly beaten by the high-flying Tigers, but Aish was clearly Sturt’s best through the engine room. The number one clearance player on the ground, Aish spent the game cracking in hard at ground level, where he won his fair share of contested ball. When the heavens opened and the game turned into a stoppage-fest, Aish adapted well, with his strong inside game suited to the slippery conditions. His clearance ability was particularly important when the game became one of yardage. Although he lacked some polish when in space on the outside, Aish can hold his head high despite the lop-sided result, finishing with 24 disposals, six tackles, eleven clearances, nine inside 50s and five rebound 50s.
#17 Mitch Felton
With the ball seemingly living in the Glenelg forward half of the ground for much of the clash, Felton was never far from the action in defence. Charged with the kick-in duties in the first half, Felton was one of few Double Blues who regularly looked to take the game on, attacking each contest at speed and looking to utilise his clean, long foot skills out of defence. He took a couple of important intercept marks by positioning himself well down back. In the second half, Felton appeared to take on a more close-checking role, spending some time on Glenelg spearhead Corey Brougham. Clearly among Sturt’s best, Felton accumulated a team-high 29 touches (including 26 kicks), five marks, five tackles and 13 rebounds.
#25 Kade Harvey
Playing a similar role to the aforementioned Felton, Sturt’s Harvey was also in-and-around the action from start to finish. Harvey’s aerial ability was a real feature of his game, with the defender’s intercept marking particularly impressive. Although some poor kicking let him down at various stages, Harvey was often under the pump, especially when the rain set in. Sharing the kick-ins with Felton, Harvey generated some meaningful drive from the half-back line and finished with a game-high 14 rebounds from defence.
Midfielder George Pope fought hard in the loss, winning nine clearances for the Double Blues along with 15 disposals. Edward Davies and Blake Fidge both applied plenty of pressure, laying seven and six tackles respectively. In attack, Chad Baulderstone and Nathan Houston were Sturt’s only multiple goalkickers, while Dylan Thredgold was strong in the ruck, winning 25 hitouts.
#5 Hugh Stagg
Stagg produced another impressive performance in the yellow and black. With his explosiveness and ability to break tackles up there with the best in the state, the talented forward/midfielder wasted no time getting involved. Possessing one-touch cleanliness at ground level and the ability to brush off opponents with relative ease, Stagg appeared unstoppable at times. His kicking was inconsistent, with some hitting their desired target and others being chopped off or falling short, however Stagg produced another very strong showing. He concluded the contest with 24 disposals, two marks, nine inside 50s and a goal.
#12 Brodie Edwards
Edwards, the youngest son of Adelaide Crows legend Tyson, was typically classy for the Bays. The bottom-ager lined up in defence but was soon moved into the midfield. In both positions, he displayed calmness under pressure and made the most of his possessions. One of a long list of Tigers with the capacity to play a variety of roles across the field, Edwards finished the game with 19 touches, three marks, six tackles and three inside 50s in a solid showing.
#20 Lewis Rayson
The ever-consistent Rayson once again had a significant say over proceedings at Unley Oval. Spending time through the midfield and down back, Rayson was able to break lines with his dash and cut through the Sturt defence with his precise foot skills. Although his football smarts, skills and speed will stand out to recruiters, Rayson certainly cracks in hard when unleashed in the middle and showed he is a capable contested ball winner. When allowed to drift back a kick behind the play, Rayson took intercept after intercept, positioning himself to perfection and using it well for the most part. Certainly one of the most exciting South Australian draft prospects, Rayson continued his sensational start to the year by gathering 35 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and five clearances in the 79-point triumph.
#31 William Watts
Strongly-built utility, Watts put on a clinic for Glenelg, dominating proceedings in the midfield and up forward. Watts used his strength to damaging effect through the guts, where his contested ball winning and cleanliness by hand proved the catalyst for several Bays forward movements. Given the Tigers’ excellent depth through the midfield, Watts was often rotated through the forwardline and proved hard to contain. His vice-like hands on the lead ensured Watts became a genuine focal point in attack. Watts’ bigger frame was ideally suited to the slippery conditions of the clash, with his contested ball winning capacity and stoppage nous proving important. In a best-on-ground showing, Watts finished with 36 disposals, 10 marks, three tackles, eight clearances and a goal.
Glenelg’s outstanding depth was on full display at Unley Oval, with 14 players accumulating 15 or more disposals. Darcy Gluyas was important in the middle and up forward, looking particularly threatening in attack as the rain fell. His classy snap goal was a highlight, however he probably should have finished with a couple more to his name. He finished with 30 disposals, four marks, three tackles and five inside-50s. Darcy Porter was excellent up forward, booting two goals (and three behinds) to go with 29 touches and four clearances. Hunter Window was busy and his effectiveness by hand stood out. He finished with 30 disposals, four marks, six tackles, six clearances and 12 inside 50s. Harrison Kaesler won 23 touches of his own, while forward Corey Brougham made the most of his limited opportunities, nailing three goals from six disposals.
NORTH ADELAIDE 8.12 (60) drew w/ WWT EAGLES 8.12 (60)
By: Tom Wyman
#4 Isaac Keeler
After an impressive showing in the ruck last weekend against the Tigers, Keeler was moved back into the forwardline for the Roosters’ encounter with Woodville-West Torrens. Although he still did much of the ruckwork in the forward half of the ground, the talented bottom-ager struggled to get his hands on the football early on, with North bigman Adam Heath being the primary target in attack. He showed glimpses of elite athleticism and cleanliness below his knees, however it was a largely frustrating day for the South Augusta product. But, as all good players do, Keeler stood up when it mattered most, flying high for a mark-of-the-year contender with a couple of minutes left on the clock before calmly slotting the subsequent set shot to level the scores. Recruiters will certainly have enjoyed his clutch grab when the game was on the line. Keeler finished the game with 14 disposals, four marks, six hitouts and a goal.
#12 Hugh Jackson
It was quite simply the Hugh Jackson show on Saturday afternoon at Prospect Oval, with the balanced midfielder having it on a string. He spent much of the first term stationed down back, where he was able to set up the play with his deadly left foot. His skillset is well suited to a role as a ‘kicker’ down back, however, with the Roosters needing a lift around the ball, Jackson was soon thrown into the middle and dictated terms from then on. As has been on display all throughout the season, Jackson’s quick-give handballing was elite, as was his vision, ability to win the ball at ground level, and burst of acceleration. Jackson always seems to free his hands, even while being tackled, allowing him to pass it off despite the mounting pressure. His extraction work and stoppage smarts were excellent, but when allowed time and space, Jackson really made the Eagles pay, hitting targets by foot with ease over a variety of distances. Even when he was rested up forward, Jackson still couldn’t get away from the action, getting on the end of a spearing inside-50 ball from Isaac Keeler. His couple of misses in front of goal were just about the only blemish in what was a complete performance from the ball magnet, who finished with 41 disposals, nine marks and eight clearances.
#15 Harvey Harrison
After struggling slightly against the Tigers, Harrison was back to his prolific best in the Roosters’ draw with the Eagles. Once again, his eye-catching run-and-carry really opened up the ground and provided a point-of-difference through the middle. His foot skills on the run were excellent and, albeit for a rare miscued bounce, Harrison rarely wasted a possession. His ability to win the footy at the coalface and apply pressure around the ball is well complimented by his speed and composure. Harrison concluded the game with 24 disposals, five marks, six tackles and three clearances.
Defender Shaun Bennier stood tall for the Roosters, putting a stop to several inside 50s. Tough and courageous in the air, Bennier was strong overhead, hauling in four contested marks, but also provided plenty of rebound. Crafty midfielder Zyton Santillo had some excellent moments, with the speedster providing some energy through the middle. Using the ball well, he finished with 22 touches, five marks, four tackles and four clearances.
Providing serviceable support for Jackson and Harrison through the midfield, Kelsey Rypstra won 23 possessions and booted a goal while James White gathered 18 disposals and sent the ball inside 50 four times. Up forward, Adam Heath booted the first goal of the match and also snagged an important major late in the contest, finishing with three maximums. His presence up forward proved important for the red and whites. Ruckman Oliver Moors competed well against Eagle big-man Zac Phillips, winning 18 hitouts to go with eight touches and four marks.
#4 Jack Murphy
Murphy was one of the Eagles’ best performers at Prospect Oval. A natural ball-winner with a clean kicking action, Murphy used the ball well on the outside and also showed an ability to win his own ball in-and-under. He finished the game with an impressive 30 disposals, three marks and three inside 50s.
#5 Brayden Calvett
Calvett provided the Eagles with some run-and-carry from defence. Pushing into the midfield as the game wore on, Calvett used the ball well by foot and booted a nice goal late in the final term, but will likely rue his three behinds. The hard-working Calvett finished with 26 disposals, two marks, two tackles and four inside 50s.
#24 Zac Phillips
Ruckman, Phillips was the dominant bigman on the park for much of the contest. He regularly provided the Eagles on-ballers with first-use (Eagles won the hit-outs 30-20), but it was his work away from the stoppages which impressed. Phillips clunked several big pack marks, despite flying from three-deep at times. Showing handy athleticism and mobility for a player of his size, Phillips looked to play on wherever possible and generally used the ball well.
With Port Adelaide father/son prospect Jase Burgoyne playing League football for the Magpies, William Neumann and Dustin Launer stood up for Woodville-West Torrens. Neumann, the Eagles leading possession winner, showed excellent work rate up around the ground. He finished with 31 disposals and 11 marks, while Launer gathered 29 possessions, four marks, six clearances and four rebounds. Up forward, Will Pearce booted three majors and also gathered 19 disposals. At the other end of the ground, Jonte Hunter-Price was solid in defence, taking a couple of important overhead grabs.
SOUTH ADELAIDE 8.5 (53) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 8.6 (54)
By: Tom Cheesman
#10 Isaac Birt
Birt was one of South Adelaide’s best players on Saturday with 27 disposals, six inside 50s, four clearances, four marks and a goal. His second half was particularly outstanding, as he provided some important run-and-carry down the wing and used his pace to break the game open. Despite the slippery conditions, Birt always picked up the ball cleanly and found targets by hand and foot with ease. He also used the corridor well and followed up his possessions to ensure that the ball kept moving forward. Midway through the final term, Birt kicked a brilliant goal from 40 metres out off a couple of steps to give his side the lead. Unfortunately for Panthers fans, their side could not hold on and went down by one point.
#33 Arlo Draper
Draper continued his impressive start to 2021 with another good performance for South. He was very active at clearances, as he worked hard to win the contested ball and applied some strong pressure on the opposition. Draper had 24 kicks and just three handballs, showing that he played to the slippery conditions well. Gaining ground (especially from clearances) is an important part of wet weather footy, so Draper got the ball on the boot as often as possible to move it into his side’s forward half. With that said, Draper also showed more composure with ball in hand than most other players on the field. Most players were just bombing the ball down the line, whereas Draper took that extra second to look inside and find a target in the corridor on several occasions. Draper finished with 27 touches, nine clearances, five tackles, three inside 50s and an important goal that levelled the scores going into the final break.
#37 Kyle Marshall
Marshall was impressive for the Panthers on Saturday, providing a strong marking target for them when they exited their defensive 50. He continually led up hard at the footy, made a contest and (at least) brought the ball to ground for his teammates. He tried to be too cute with his possessions at times in the slippery conditions, but his decision making with ball in hand improved as the game wore on. Marshall finished with 12 disposals, four hitouts, three tackles, two marks, two clearances and two inside 50s for the day.
#39 Will Verrall
Verrall was South’s best performer on Saturday. He toiled away in the ruck all day, winning the majority of the hitouts and giving his midfielders first use at the stoppages. Verrall has good chemistry with Draper and Luke Mitton, and these three combined for 24 clearances between them. This was a major reason why their side won the clearance battle 41 to 29. Verrall used his huge frame to position himself well in ruck contests, and he often provided a good marking target for his teammates kicking down the line. A strong intercept mark in the last quarter when scores were tied was another individual highlight. He finished with 21 disposals, 37 hitouts, six marks (two contested), five tackles and five clearances.
Nathan Hicks (15 disposals, six tackles, one goal) was good for the Panthers up forward, as he applied consistent frontal pressure and used the ball well going inside 50. Luke Mitton (23 disposals, 10 clearances, six tackles) was crafty at the stoppages, while Dylan Brown (20 disposals, seven inside 50s, six tackles) initiated some important passages of play in the forward half.
#3 Charlie Pridham
Pridham did some good things in the defensive half for the Bloods. He was a ball magnet, earning 35 disposals to go with seven rebound 50s, five tackles and four marks for the day. His ball use was great most of the time, he never fumbled and he linked up well with teammates when bringing the ball out of defence. Pridham’s ability to choose the right option was important too, as he helped his side control possession with some short passes in defence whenever the Panthers appeared to be gaining the momentum. He also attacked the ball hard throughout the match, particularly loose balls that he sprinted to in defensive 50. One negative was that he gave away some unnecessary free kicks in the defensive half, which he can work on going forward.
#7 Ben Burbridge
Burbridge was West’s most prominent midfielder in this clash. He was tough at the contest, always in and under, found plenty of the ball around the ground and used it well whenever he got it. His quick hands to release his teammates into open space were outstanding, and this is undoubtedly a feature of his game. Burbridge took some important marks too, both when receiving from teammates and when intercepting the opposition’s kicks. His pressure was relentless, highlighted when he applied a great tackle on Draper in second term to cause a turnover. He finished with 25 disposals, six tackles, five marks and four inside 50s.
#10 Cade Kennedy
Kennedy is a bull for the Bloods and he thrived in the slippery conditions on Saturday. He works harder around the ground than most at Under 18s level, and as much was evident in this match through the amount of contests he was able to get to despite spending much of his time in a half-forward role. Kennedy does the little things well, such as blocks and smothers to help his teammates out around the ball. Although he missed a shot on goal that he should have nailed in the opening term, he made up for it in second quarter with a crisp snap to put his side 20 points up. Kennedy finished with 16 disposals, seven tackles and five inside 50s.
#13 Hugh Desira
Desira was fantastic for the Bloods in the first half of this match. He kicked West’s first goal of the game early, using the wet conditions well to skid the ball through with a nice kick around his body. After that, Desira frequently used his electric pace and ability to kick on both feet to break the game open and get the ball moving forward with speed. The wingman always competes in the air despite lacking in size, and he has quick hands that he uses to release teammates into space on the outside of contests. Although he drifted out of the game a bit in the second half, Desira still finished with 17 disposals (15 kicks), five marks, five tackles, five clearances, four inside 50s and a goal.
#53 David Midwinter
Key defender, Midwinter was a brick wall in defence, frequently using his size and strength to spoil his opponents and repel South’s persistent attacks going forward. He has clean hands, is agile for his size and uses the ball quite well by foot. With five minutes remaining and scores level, Midwinter won a huge one-on-one contest deep inside West’s defensive 50 by out-bodying his opponent, taking the ball cleanly off the ground and finding a teammate with a quick handball. Many defenders would panic in this situation, but Midwinter stayed composed under the high ball, did not give away a free kick and was able to release the pressure by winning the contest and without conceding a behind. This was one of many instances where Midwinter’s composure was important for the Bloods.
Jesse Thackeray (20 disposals, six marks, five clearances) worked hard in the midfield, Kade Harkins (16 disposals, six rebound 50s) was reliable down back and Jaeden Watts (two goals, five tackles) was dynamic up forward. Dylan McCormick (nine disposals, three marks) applied some outstanding pressure throughout the day and finished with a whopping 16 tackles.
NORWOOD 7.2 (44) def. by CENTRAL DISTRICT 11.16 (82)
By: Tom Cheesman
#25 Matthew Dnistriansky
While it has been a tough few weeks for Norwood in the Under 18s, Dnistriansky has maintained consistency and been a shining light in defence. His defensive work is reliable, his composure under pressure is outstanding and his kicks rarely miss a target. Some of his kicking in this contest was exceptional, including one bullet pass from full back (in the wet) that found Corey Jones-Bobridge inside the centre square in the third term. As usual, he facilitated many switches of play and created plenty of run and link up out of defence. Dnistriansky had a nice moment in the second quarter when, after biding his time, he ran past a teammate that was lining up for a set shot, received the handball and booted an important goal from outside 50. As poor as the defending was from the Bulldogs in this instance, it was great awareness from Dnistriansky to see the opening and take full advantage with his booming right foot kick. Although Dnistriansky made a couple of uncharacteristic errors by hand, overall it was another strong performance from the defender.
Given Centrals won the inside 50 count 58 to 25, it was a very tough day to be a Redlegs defender. Despite this, Oliver Stenchlik (21 disposals, four rebound 50s, two tackles), Riley Verrall (21 disposals, seven rebound 50s, five tackles) and Taj Rahui (12 disposals, six tackles, two clearances, one goal) fought hard and did well to help keep the margin to under 40 points. Connor Kent (29 disposals, nine tackles, seven marks) worked hard as well.
#3 Isaiah Dudley
Rotating between midfield and forward, Dudley was one of the Bulldogs’ best contributors. The Adelaide Crows NGA prospect was brilliant whenever he went near the ball, providing a major spark and using his skills to open up the play for his side. He is so clean below his knees, very creative and a fantastic decision maker. His high football IQ was on display in several instances, including a moment in the first quarter when he twist and turned around multiple Redlegs players before executing a beautiful long handball inside to find Finn Reed. Dudley used his pace to his advantage in this match by applying constant pressure all over the ground and using his low centre of gravity to gather the ball without fumbling. Although he is probably going to be a small forward in the long-term as he moves up the grades, he was more prolific in the midfield throughout this contest. His tackling pressure in the centre square was relentless, as demonstrated when he caught two Norwood players holding the ball at seperate contests within a one-minute period in the second term. Dudley kicked a well-deserved goal in the closing minutes from a set shot after crumbing a marking contest at pace and earning a free kick for a high tackle. He finished with 27 disposals, nine tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s to go with his goal.
#15 Finn Reed
Read was another fantastic midfielder for the Bulldogs in their first Under 18 victory of the season. He showed good pace, tackled strongly and provided plenty of link up play through the middle of the ground. A powerful intercept mark he took in defensive 50 at the 12-minute mark of the opening term helped set the tone for his side. Although he missed a couple of shots at goal, he launched the ball inside 50 on eight occasions and had multiple other score involvements. He finished with 24 touches, eight tackles, eight inside 50s, five marks and two clearances.
#34 Darcy McDonald
McDonald was a standout for Centrals. Playing predominantly as an inside midfielder, he collected 20 disposals to go with a tremendous 12 tackles, four inside 50s and three clearances. As his statline suggests, his tackling pressure and willingness to hunt down opposition players was outstanding, but this was not the only feature of his game. McDonald is a good size, silky mover and won plenty of contested ball. He had arguably the moment of the match in the third term when, in the wet, he scooped the ball up one-handed, sold some candy to get past an oncoming tackler and then delivered the ball inside 50. There were many times in this match where McDonald won his own ball and used his agility to escape a stoppage with ease before releasing a teammate on the outside. The challenge for McDonald now is to produce this level of play on a consistent basis.
Saxon Evans (37 hitouts, 12 disposals, one goal) and Brodie Tuck (13 hitouts, 15 disposals, two goals) dominated in the ruck and gave their inside midfielders first use. Tomas Hahn (22 disposals, 11 tackles, eight clearances) was another prominent Bulldog midfielder and kicked a glorious goal on the outside of his boot in the third term.
Image Credit: Nick Hook Photography