THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s returned and rolled on into Round 7, 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.
NORTH ADELAIDE 17.10 (112) def. NORWOOD 6.6 (42)
By: Tom Wyman
#4 Isaac Keeler
Ultra-talented bottom-ager Isaac Keeler added another four goals to his season tally, proving far too good for the Norwood backline. Having spent time at full-forward and as the number one ruckman at stages throughout the season, Keeler began the clash in attack. He pushed up the ground nicely, gaining separation on the lead with ease and providing the Roosters midfielders with a spot-up target. At full-stretch, he proved near-on impossible to defend. Along with Keeler’s supreme athleticism, he is also a beautiful set-shot for goal, with his natural, laid-back style cooling converting more often than not. He was even effective when deployed a kick behind the play for a brief period in the second half. Suspect his speed, ground-level cleanliness and leap will cause plenty of headaches for defenders in years to come. Keeler finished the game with 15 disposals, eight marks (two contested), five hit-outs and four goals.
#12 Hugh Jackson
The form-player of the competition was at it again on Prospect Oval, starting from where he left off last round. Jackson waisted no time in getting started, seemingly involved in everything for the red and whites. At the stoppages, the Rostrevor College prospect often lined up on the defensive-side, and if he didn’t win the clearance himself, his Roosters teammates found him by hand and allowed him to swing onto his trusty left-foot. His foot skills are a huge weapon and his ability to pick-off target-after-target has been a treat to watch throughout the season. An aesthetically pleasing midfielder who moves so well, his quick handballs always seemed to find their targets regardless of the nearby pressure – a testament to his skill and vision. Although he didn’t find as much of the ball in the second half, Jackson had already made his mark on the contest and finished with 27 disposals, eight marks, three clearances, eight inside-50s and a goal.
#15 Harvey Harrison
Harvey Harrison has been forced to play second-fiddle to Hugh Jackson for most of the season to-date, but he finished as the best player on the ground in the Roosters 70-point win over Norwood. One of the SANFL Under-18 competition’s most prolific ball-winners, Harrison had managed just one goal for the year before the clash with the Redlegs. However that soon changed, as he nailed four majors, including a beautiful running goal from just inside-50 to highlight his precise ball-use at top speed. A line-breaking midfielder who runs and runs, Harrison was also prepared to crack in and do the hard stuff, laying nine tackles. His contested ball winning and stoppage nous was excellent, as the teenager finished with 26 disposals and eight clearances.
#22 Blayne O’Loughlin
The Adelaide NGA product lined up down back at the opening bounce but quickly worked his way into the on-ball rotation. After proving himself as one of the best small defenders in the country over the first two months of the season, O’Loughlin showed he can also play a role through the midfield. He fought hard at ground level, winning his fair share of contested ball and using his nimble footwork, composure and poise to work his way through congestion on several occasions. However it was O’Loughlin’s long-range goal in the third term which was the highlight. He finished another solid outing with 22 disposals, three tackles and three rebounds.
Zippy small midfielder Zyton Santillo has been one of North Adelaide’s best performers this season and his round seven effort was no exception. Providing plenty of speed and creativity, Santillo zigged and zagged his way through congestion with ease, and used the ball well inside-50. He gathered 20 disposals, five marks, four tackles, five inside-50s and a goal.
His fellow midfielder James Willis also had an excellent game. He was strong at the coalface, winning six clearances, and tackled hard all day. He finished with 25 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and five inside-50s. Half-forward Sam McTaggart was heavily involved from the get-go and concluding the game with 20 touches, seven marks, six tackles and a goal. Ruckman Oliver Moors was utterly dominant, winning 45 hit-outs. He also found plenty of the ball around the ground, gathering 16 touches, four marks and five clearances.
#11 Connor Kent
Midfielder Connor Kent was Norwood’s best player in what proved to be a difficult day at the office for the visitors. The leading possession-winner on the ground, Kent’s ability to win the contested ball and distribute it cleanly by hand was promising. With the Roosters dominating the hit-outs (54-17), the Norwood midfielders were on the back-foot for most of the day and spent a considerable portion of the day chasing the likes of Jackson, Santillo, Harrison and O’Loughlin. However Kent, arguably Norwood’s most consistent player in 2021, can hold his head up high, finishing the game with 31 disposals, four marks, five tackles and three inside-50s.
#25 Matthew Dnistriansky
Talented backman Matthew Dnistriansky stood tall down in defence, despite the Roosters belting it inside-50 on 54 occasions. The clean-kicking Dnistriansky read the play well and was strong in the air. Although he did try to bite off a bit more than he could chew at-times, particularly when looking to bring the ball back into the corridor, Dnistriansky was largely effective by foot. He provided a game-high 11 rebounds, to go with 29 disposals, eight marks, three tackles and four inside-50s.
Half-back Riley Verrall was serviceable in defence, collecting 22 disposals and using it well by foot for the most part. He also registered five marks, three tackles and six rebounds. Forward Jett Boxer kicked three of Norwood’s six goals. His strength overhead was a highlight, hauling in nine marks for the game, three of which were contested. He also managed 23 disposals, three tackles and a couple of hit-outs. Elsewhere, Peter Minervini managed 16 disposals and seven clearances, while Louis Joseph collected 16 disposals, six tackles and a goal.
GLENELG 23.11 (149) def. SOUTH ADELAIDE 5.6 (36)
By: Tom Wyman
#5 Hugh Stagg
Hugh Stagg has emerged as one of the best players in the under-18 competition this season, and his round seven effort was similarly dominant. Involved in everything from the get-go, Stagg hit every contest with the sort of speed and power of a Patrick Dangerfield-type, looking to use his superior size and strength to burst his way through traffic. Not one to fear using the fend-off, Stagg clearly relished the competitive side of the game. Although not everything he touched turned to gold, with some of his kicks lacking penetration or just missing their desired target, you just felt like something was going to happen whenever he was around the ball. His overhead strength saw him take a couple of nice grabs up forward, as he ended the game with three goals. The goal kicking forward/midfielder, who seems to be going from strength-to-strength with each game, gathered another 31 disposals, nine marks (three contested), three tackles, four clearances and five inside-50s in his sides 113-point demolition.
#17 Corey Brougham
Strong forward Corey Brougham was the beneficiary of the Bays midfield dominance and excellent ball-use inside-50. The clear leading target, Brougham was seemingly always in-front of his man, which allowed him to get first bite at the ball on the lead. His clean hands overhead were once again a big part of his game. Brougham has a simple and effective set-shot routine, but he would have loved to have converted a couple of gettable chances in-front of the big sticks. Nevertheless, the powerful forward finished with 13 disposals, six goals and five marks (three contested) in a dominant display.
#20 Lewis Rayson
Rayson started the game down back, but as we’ve seen all throughout the season, he proved just as effective when thrown into the middle. In either role, his attack on the football and ability to break the lines with both his speed and penetrating foot skills proved damaging. Deceptively strong overhead for a player of his size and stature, Rayson once again played a big part in securing Glenelg their seventh win of the season. Rayson finished the game with 27 touches, five marks, two tackles, four clearances, five inside-50s, four rebounds and a set-shot goal in another well-rounded performance.
Utility Darcy Gluyas showed some real class with ball in-hand. His composure was excellent and his ball-use was effective. He finished with 25 touches, seven marks, three tackles and three clearances. Brodie Edwards was also typically calm and assured with ball in-hand. He slotted a goal after the half-time siren and gathered 20 disposals, four marks, five tackles and five clearances. Down back, Cooper Beecken, Bailey Durant and Harrison Kaesler generated some meaningful rebound, finished with four, five and seven rebounds respectively. Ethan Murdock and Brodie Patter each booted four-straight for the home side, with Daniel Nicotra and Matthew Wolfenden also contributing two apiece.
#4 Jack Delean
Having led the Panthers to a flag in the SANFL Under-16 competition earlier in the year, young forward Jack Delean once-again suited up for South Adelaide’s under-18 side for their clash with the undefeated Glenelg. And he immediately looked the most promising of South’s forwards. Touted as a likely high-pick despite being a couple of years away from draft eligibility, Delean’s aerial ability was immediately obvious, running back with the flight of the ball and hauling in a great grab early in the first term. He kicked his first goal after finding himself in the right place and the right time and also found himself in position-A to soccer home his second. He pushed up the ground well and finished the game with 12 disposals, five marks (four contested) and three goals.
#10 Isaac Birt
Consistent midfielder Isaac Birt was probably South Adelaide’s best player in what was a difficult day for the Panthers. Birt found himself spending more time on the inside this week, with star midfielders Arlo Draper and Matthew Roberts both out of the side. He seemed to relish the added responsibility and really flew the flag even as the Tigers seemed to pile on goal-after-goal in the second half. Birt found plenty of it and used the ball fairly well, especially when he found himself with some time and space. He concluded the game with a team-high 21 disposals, eight marks, three tackles, six clearances and five inside-50s.
#39 Will Verrall
The Panthers may have been soundly beaten on the day, but bottom-aged ruckman did his reputation as one of the state’s most exciting key position prospects no harm. His tap-work and ruck craft at stoppages was impressive, as regularly palmed it down to the Panthers on-ballers with the sort of touch rarely seen in young rucks. He combined particularly well with midfielder Luke Mitton, who seemed to read his tap-work the best of anyone. Verrall followed-up well at ground-level and finished the game with 14 disposals and 33 hit-outs.
Diminutive on-baller Luke Mitton was certainly one of his sides best, gathering 17 touches, five tackles, nine clearances and five inside-50s. Cooper Rogers found himself involved in the contest as a high half-forward, winning 12 touches and five inside-50s, while Lachlan Hayes and Dylan Miller were effective in defence, finished with 11 rebounds between them.
CENTRAL DISTRICT 12.17 (89) def. STURT 6.11 (47)
By: Michael Alvaro
#3 Isaiah Dudley
Always a creative type through midfield, Dudley proved once again on Saturday that he is exactly the player Centrals would want delivering the ball inside attacking 50. While some of his darting kicks fell short, the Adelaide NGA prospect was often able to hit leading targets with great class on the move, finishing his productive forward runs. That same active streak could also be observed at the stoppages, as Dudley looked to take the ball in motion and either burst forward, or draw an opponent before dishing laterally. He would also repeat run in an attacking sense if the opportunity to go inside 50 presented, as the highlight of his day a long goal which came on the end of two running bounces through the corridor. As expected, he was also clean below his knees and clever around goals, with another major coming in term four from a coolly finished snap.
#7 Austin Poulton
Poulton was part of Centrals’ forward-midfield rotation and like Dudley, was able to compliment his ball winning feats with some scoreboard impact. He started the game as well as anyone, getting busy with presentation up at half-forward, before making his mark with two first-term goals. Both were quickfire, opportunistic shots out of congestion which showed he knew exactly where the big sticks were. Poulton also got his hands on the ball through midfield, but looked most impactful when receiving up on the arc where he would twist, turn, and pick the right option looking laterally or towards goal.
#21 Austin McDonald
In his first Under 18s outing for the year, McDonald picked up from where he left off by unsurprisingly leading all comers with 28 disposals. The bottom-ager simply knows how to find the football, earning or receiving it at the contest and also working to be an option around the ground. His use by hand looked typically sound, and his willingness to move the ball on quickly is a trait which suits the Centrals style of play. McDonald often looked to snatch meterage by foot, but has plenty of area for growth with his kicking – even if some of those left-foot floaters found the intended target. As a bottom-ager, he has plenty of time to fill out his promising skillset.
#29 Saxon Evans
Evans has established himself as a dominant kind of ruck at Under 18s level and was again in the thick of things for Centrals on Saturday. He had his moments at the centre bounces and stoppages with some nicely directed hits to his rovers, but was arguably more impactful with his work around the ground. Evans was able to find the ball between the arcs and at either end of the field – including an contested mark in defensive 50 as Sturt took a long-range set shot. In his time up forward during the second half, Evans continued to prove a solid aerial target, capping his day with a free kick conversion in the fourth quarter after assisting a Brodie Tuck major.
#38 Brodie Tuck
Another impressive bottom-ager for Centrals, Tuck has some nice traits for his size. He worked well in tandem with Jayden Matz up forward to provide a reliable marking target, with his strong hands and contested marking ability coming to the fore. The bigman opened his account in the first term with a straightforward mark and goal deep inside 50, before adding a second in the third term after taking a strong pack mark. He could well have ended up with an absolute bag if not for inaccuracy, finishing with four behinds and a couple of attempts which failed to register scores. While his overhead marking was a highlight, Tuck also showed an uncanny knack for finding space in tight areas, able to shrug off opponents or fein a handball to buy a bit more time on the ball. His poise in those situations was good, proving a nice extra string to his bow.
The Bulldogs had a number of strong performers, with the likes of Henry Ratcliff, Tahjin Krieg, and Tomas Hahn proving productive members of the forward-midfield rotation. Jayden Matz booted three goals and presented nicely both inside 50 and up the ground, while Matthew Borlace positioned expertly to intercept in the back half and got his side going with positive movement on the rebound.
#8 Lachie Thomas
The hard-working wingman was sighted running deep into either arc, providing some reinforcement on the last line of defence while also pushing forward aggressively. Not only did he work hard up and back, but Thomas also competed in the air and on the ground, proving nice and strong in the contest. His efforts to drop back and help the defence with intercept marks were notable, as were a couple of running-bounce passages going the other way, with Thomas working well in space to create some drive on the outer.
#12 Jamie Taylor
A relatively permanent part of Sturt’s midfield group, Taylor won the first centre clearance of the match and was often able to get his hands on the ball at stoppages. He had a team-high six clearances which allowed him to put the ball into dangerous areas and give his forwards opportunities to strike with quick delivery into the attacking arc. He booted a goal in the second term and could have had another after the siren, but put the shot wide for no score. In what was a solid performance from the engine room operator, he had little trouble getting his hands on the ball and imposing himself on each contest.
#20 Jaymes Tragakis
Another productive member of the midfield group, Tragakis had a nice purple patch in the second term and provided Sturt with some forward drive out of the middle. He was able to work forward and find the ball in advanced areas, not afraid to get his legs pumping with some run-and-carry before delivering inside 50. At the stoppages, he peeled off well on a couple of occasions to get a handball receive in space, allowing him to stream forward unimpeded. One of his best moments started with a possession at half-back, which he followed up to receive back and continue his run before delivering a goal assist inside 50.
Jake Aish was the Double Blues’ leading ball winner and was a constant in midfield, as Patrick Tidemann lit up the outside on numerous occasions with electric run-and-carry. Kade Harvey proved reliable down back with strong marking, while using his kick-in duties to gain meterage and rebound out of the defensive arc. All 21 of his disposals were kicks, with 12 of them rebound 50s. Archer Bawden was another who had his moments, clunking some nice intercept marks late in the piece.
WWT EAGLES 13.5 (83) def. by WEST ADELAIDE 13.9 (87)
By: Tom Cheesman
#16 Will Pearce
Pearce was the Eagles’ most prominent contributor up forward in this contest. He provided a reliable target for teammates kicking down the line, took some strong marks on the lead and hit the scoreboard with four goals. His third term was a standout, where he nailed two goals on the run (including one from the 50-metre arc) and another from a set shot, helping his side erase the five-goal deficit and hit the front just before the final break. Although Pearce missed two very kickable shots early in the match, the work he did to earn these goal-scoring opportunities were highlights. One was a clever front and square in the first term, and the other was a strong contested grab in the second term after brilliantly working his opponent under the ball. Throughout the match, Pearce brushed off oncoming tacklers with ease, collected ground balls cleanly and pushed back to help his midfielders defend in transition. Pearce’s delivery into the forward 50 was also consistently effective, including when he hit Samuel Harnas lace out on the lead in the second term. Pearce finished with 13 disposals, five marks (two contested), three inside 50s and four majors.
#18 William Neumann
Neumann was another of Woodville-West Torrens’ best players in their four-point defeat. Rotating between midfield and forward, Neumann tirelessly hunted the ball all day, applied strong pressure at stoppages and helped out his teammates when they were under pressure around the ground. Neumann proved that he is a tough player during this contest, as he took multiple very solid hits and kept his feet on each occasion. His ability to take contact from the opposition before cleanly disposing of the ball with quick hands is a major strength, and this opened up the play for the Eagles in several instances. Neumann also used his body well in marking contests, laid some strong tackles and hit the scoreboard with three majors, including a nice set shot in the final term. He finished with 24 disposals, six marks, six clearances, three tackles and three goals.
Dustin Launer (24 disposals, four tackles, four clearances) and Sam Nicholls (16 disposals, three tackles, three clearances) worked hard all day for the hosts. Speedster Jay Watson (two goals, 14 disposals, seven marks, three tackles) had some important moments up forward.
#3 Charlie Pridham
Pridham continued his brilliant season for the Bloods on Saturday at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval. His ball use coming out of defence was outstanding, as he found targets with ease down the wings and through the corridor. The small defender’s ability to find the footy is profound, and his teammates love getting the ball in his hands because of his reliable decision-making and impressive foot skills. Pridham works hard into space to earn uncontested possessions, rarely panics with ball in hand and is not afraid to take heavy contact from the opposition despite his short stature. Pridham finished with 31 disposals (26 kicks), four marks, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s.
#10 Cade Kennedy
Kennedy put in of the best Under 18 performances you will see in 2021 on Saturday, collecting an incredible 48 (yes, 48) disposals (including 34 kicks) to go with 15 marks, nine clearances, seven tackles, seven inside 50s, five rebound 50s and a goal. For AFL Fantasy fans out there, that is 209 points in one match.
Kennedy used the SANFL bye last weekend as an opportunity to make his A-Grade debut for the Mitcham Hawks in the Adelaide Footy League, and it is clear that this experience playing against stronger bodies in the seniors was great for his immediate development. Returning to the Under 18s with aplomb, Kennedy was every bit as dominant as his statline suggests. He was impactful at the clearances, used his pace to breakaway from opponents, initiated plenty of link up through the middle of the ground and worked hard into defence to help his side extract the ball from dangerous areas.
Many of his 48 touches came across the half-back line, where he released teammates into space and started attacking forward thrusts with clean ball use. Kennedy’s kicking, an area that he has needed to work on in the past, was very effective in this contest. He has a reliable left-foot (opposite foot) kick as well, a rare but important attribute for a player to have in today’s game. The number of uncontested marks he took was astounding, and each of these provided his side an opportunity to control the ball and set up across the ground to stretch the defence.
At stoppages, Kennedy showed the ability to keep his feet while being tackled, which allowed him to distribute clean handballs to teammates in space on the outside. If no handball options were on offer, he was more than willing to throw it on the boot and get the ball moving forward. In the third term, Kennedy kicked one of the goals of the day when he intercepted an opposition handball and brilliantly booted a snap off just a few steps to put his side back in front. In typical Kennedy fashion, he immediately got on with the job and won the next centre clearance as well. Kennedy is undoubtedly one of the South Australian prospects to keep an eye on as the 2021 season progresses.
Jesse Thackeray (25 disposals, seven marks, five clearances, one goal) was important in the midfield, while Ben Burbridge (19 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s, one goal) used the ball effectively around the ground. Ruckman Harry Barnett (12 disposals, 19 hitouts, four marks, four inside 50s) showed impressive agility for his size and Luke Young (17 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two goals) had some great moments up forward.
Image Credit: Hannah Howard / SANFL