SOUTH Australia and Western Australia kicked off the 2021 Under 17 National Championships in style, playing to a three-point thriller at Hisense Stadium on Sunday. It was the Croweaters who came out on top after leading at every break, though they were truly made to earn the victory. WA had snuck ahead for an unlikely late lead via Mitch Williams‘ second final-term goal, but the ascendancy was short-lived as SA tall forward Isaac Keeler snapped home the winning goal with six minutes left to play. Early inaccuracy, and a late miss on the run from Luke Brown ultimately came back to haunt the Sandgropers, as they went down 8.8 (56) to 7.11 (53) in an enthralling carnival opener.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 3.2 | 4.4 | 6.6 | 8.8 (56)
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 0.4 | 2.7 | 4.7 | 7.11 (53)
SA: J. Delean 3, I. Keeler 2, L. Slade, M. Phillipou, H. Barnett
WA: K. Sanchez 2, M. Williams 2, J. Scaife, L. Brown, J. Cleaver
SA: A. D’Aloia, N. Sadler, J. Delean, K. Ryan, J. Magor, W. Patton
WA: D. Curtin, A. Condon, S. Gilbey, J. Cleaver, J. Busslinger, K. Sanchez
By: Michael Alvaro
#1 Max Blacker (North Adelaide)
169cm/61kg | 2/07/2004 | Midfielder
A productive part of South Australia’s midfield rotation, particularly during the first half, Blacker got his hands on the ball plenty of times. He proved busy at the contest, getting to ground balls to win his own possessions, but also providing an option to receive and break to the outer. His disposal by foot was a little rushed under the early pressure, but the diminutive North Adelaide midfielder straightened up and was really lively going forward at times. Blacker finished with 18 touches in a solid outing with plenty to build on.
#8 Jack Delean (South Adelaide)
179cm/65kg | 15/04/2005 | Forward
A prospect likened to Isaac Heeney, Delean is terrific aerially for a player standing at 179cm and has fantastic forward smarts. He was stationed almost exclusively inside attacking 50 and did not need too many opportunities to make an impact, booting a game-high three goals. He started brightly, snaring the opening major with a sharp snap, before adding a second in the first quarter from a holding free kick 20m out. He was a touch quieter during the middle periods of the contest, but would come to life in patches, looking dangerous whenever the ball entered his area. Delean also rose to take a couple of eye-catching pack marks, and booted his third goal at the start of the final term, thanks to some persistent work from Jaiden Magor at half-forward.
#9 Nick Sadler (Sturt)
179cm/66kg | 8/01/2004 | Balanced Midfielder
Lauded for his inside/outside balance in midfield, Sadler operated on both sides of the contest to good effect and was one of SA’s most prolific ball winners with 22 touches. The Sturt product looked really smooth on the ball when released on the outer, able to run it forward and utilise his clean kicking skills. He got particularly busy during the third term, where his stints on the wing allowed him to drop back and help the defence to generate some rebound. In the same term, he would be sighted running back with the fight for a good mark at forward wing, before getting a couple more centre bounce rotations and faring well.
#10 Kobe Ryan (West Adelaide)
182cm/68kg | 17/02/2004 | Defender
Ryan is a versatile prospect whose skills are transferable to many roles, and half-back was his given station on Sunday. His ability to accumulate possessions saw him finish with 17 disposals and seven rebound 50s, with which he was able to showcase his mix of clean and penetrative kicking skills. The West Adelaide prospect was usually assured in his decision making and really warmed to the contest, getting busy after half time and putting in some big efforts over the ball throughout the dying stages.
#16 Jaiden Magor (South Adelaide)
185cm/77kg | 16/02/2004 | Forward
Like Ryan, Magor was squeezed out of the SA midfield and onto his secondary half-forward post, where his physicality and ball use heading towards goal really shone. He registered an early score by hitting the post with a 45m set shot, though a lot of his work was done further afield as the South Adelaide prospect worked hard to link his side into attacking 50. Magor’s midfield nous came to the fore with some tough ball winning work, able to burst through traffic and shrug tackles with real tenacity. Those traits helped directly assist two vital final term goals for SA; with the first a paddling effort at half-forward to win the ball and kick long to Delean, while the second saw him get a handball off to Isaac Keeler amid two tackles, helping put the Croweaters back in front. Overall, he played his role brilliantly and brought great intent.
#18 Will Patton (West Adelaide)
193cm/71kg | 4/01/2005 | Defender
Another of the well-performed 2005-born prospects, Patton proved to be South Australia’s general down back with his intercept and rebounding abilities. He positioned well to cut off a number of West Australian attacks, working back and across to mark overhead and judging the ball well in flight when doing so. The 16-year-old often commanded front position and with such strong marking, proved quite effective in that role. He also showed a good willingness to move the ball on quickly and set SA going on the rebound. Patton finished with a promising 10 disposals and four rebound 50s.
#20 Mattaes Phillipou (Woodville-West Torrens)
188cm/79kg | 27/12/2004 | Forward
One of the many good athletes afield and another with the fabled basketball background, Phillipou showed plenty of promise up forward. He came to life during a second quarter purple patch, presenting well at half-forward and contesting a series of high balls against multiple opponents at a time. While he was not always able to cleanly take a mark, Phillipou leaned on his athleticism to recover best, win the spillage and show good intent to keep the ball moving forward. The Eagles talent also kicked a nice goal in the third term, winning a two-on-two spill deep inside 50 and snapping home over his shoulder.
#21 Adam D’Aloia (Woodville-West Torrens)
184cm/84kg | 9/04/2004 | Midfielder
Arguably the best player afield, certainly in South Australian colours, D’Aloia was exceptional with his work around the contest. He racked up a game-high 30 disposals, including nine clearances and nine inside 50s as he held sway at most stoppages. The Eagles product used his mature frame to bullock his way to the ball and work a clear path out, either dishing cleanly to runners or booting a long kick forward. He was a consistent ball winner throughout the contest and proved difficult to combat with his physicality, which he used in a clutch late moment. D’Aloia sealed the game with a desperate tackle in the last 30 seconds, winning the ball back for SA inside defensive 50 and helping them hold on for victory.
#25 Isaac Keeler (North Adelaide)
197cm/83kg | 23/04/2004 | Key Forward
The Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect is already one of the more highly touted talls in next year’s crop, and showed a little bit of just why that is the case on Sunday. He was employed up forward and got busy close to goal, not only competing aerially but also using his speed to follow up at ground level. Posing a dual threat with such athleticism, Keeler used his superior reach to mark and convert a major from the goalsquare in term two, before again using his pace to gain good separation on the lead when working further afield. He ended up booting the winning goal for SA, receiving off Magor’s hard ball win and snapping home with pure class. All up, Keeler finished with 13 disposals, five marks and two goals to his name.
#30 Brodie Tuck (Central District)
193cm/90kg | 6/12/2004 | Key Defender
Another strong intercept marker in defence, Tuck’s solidity across the backline helped his side get on top early and stay there. He read the play beautifully to get into good spots, before rising to clunk marks overhead with courage and clean hands. The Centrals talent was not always in the thick of things, but popped up with such moments to make his mark and bring a cool head to SA’s defensive work – especially on some of WA’s fast breaks.
By: Ed Pascoe
#2 Jed Hagan (East Fremantle)
174cm/71kg | 15/10/04 | Wing/Forward
Not the most prolific game from the usually prolific, though Hagan he made his touches count and his toughness served him well whenever he went for the ball. A shoulder concern has kept him out of the midfield rotations, which is where he plays his best football, and half-back was WA’s strength in this lineup, seeing Hagan shifted to the wing and half-forward. Although they aren’t preferred positions for Hagan, he at least got to show some versatility and his seven tackles showed his willingness to provide pressure and toughness.
#4 Koen Sanchez (East Fremantle)
179cm/59kg | 19/01/2005 | Wing/Forward
Not eligible until the 2023 draft, the East Fremantle product was a quick and elusive player for WA, spending time on the wing and proving a menace around goals with his speed and creativity. Sanchez showed natural football smarts with some skill and speed to match, which made him a real headache for the opposition. At 179cm and only 59kg, Sanchez has plenty of upside and with 17 disposals and two goals, he was one of his side’s most influential players, looking like one of WA’s most exciting players for the 2023 draft.
#8 Conrad Williams (Claremont)
182cm/62kg | 30/11/2004 | Wing
A quick and smooth moving wingman, Williams showed plenty of exciting traits as a Fremantle NGA prospect a player to watch in the coming years. Williams made the wing position his own, offering plenty of run and carry to show a great mix of speed and agility, as he made getting past opponents look like a cakewalk. He was one of the many Claremont products to play in what continues to be a strong breeding ground for potential draft prospects.
#12 Tyzreise Clark (Subiaco)
183cm/72kg | 29/01/2005 | Forward/Midfielder
An impactful forward who can also go through the midfield, Clark has some swagger about his football – playing with a strong burst and confidence whenever he goes for the ball. A year younger than most of his peers being available for the 2023 draft, the Subiaco prospect has tremendous upside and you can only imagine the improvement left in him on the lead-up to his draft year. Clark didn’t win a stack of the ball but his confidence and balance with ball in hand made him look like a future star.
#14 Sam Gilbey (Claremont)
185cm/67kg | 14/05/2004 | Defender
A quick and elusive mover who was the lightest-bodied defender for WA, Gilbey could barely be touched with his athleticism and was more than comfortable in the air against bigger and stronger opponents. Gilbey looks to have tremendous upside with some great athleticism and a light frame to be built upon. His skills on his favoured left boot and his confidence under pressure really impressed, with the 185cm prospect proving to be one of Claremont’s best talents going into the 2022 draft.
#17 Luke Michael (West Perth)
185cm/83kg | 19/03/2004 | Defender
Part of the strong defensive lineup for WA, Michael was tough and composed down back, able to intercept mark and also provide plenty of run and drive from defence. Michael complimented his teammates well, with the West Perth prospect able to show a good mix of attacking flair with his willingness to take the game on, but also show courage in the air and defend hard when he needed to. It was difficult to stand out with so many WA defenders having great games, but Michael held his own and should build confidence to take on the Victorian sides in July.
#20 Jack Cleaver (East Fremantle)
187cm/83kg | 22/05/2004 | Utility
A tough and skilful player from East Fremantle, Cleaver has a no frills approach to his football. He cracked in hard but also showed plenty of skill and composure – especially by foot – as one of the many talented left-footers for WA. Starting in defence, he showed plenty with those aforementioned traits and with the game on the line in the last quarter, he was moved into the middle while also drifting forward to have an impact by kicking a nice goal. Cleaver would go on to finish with 19 disposals and be amongst the main ball winners for his side.
#28 Jess Busslinger (East Perth)
195cm/83kg | 11/03/2004 | Key Defender
Playing more like a tall back flanker, the rangy 195cm defender read the play well in defence and showed a lot of composure with ball in hand, working hard to spread to attack from defence. Busslinger had an incredible 18 marks, with his best coming late in the game with a telling contested mark to give his side an opportunity at a late goal and the win. The East Perth tall has started the carnival in fine form with a team high 28 disposals.
#30 Daniel Curtin (Claremont)
190cm/86kg | 8/03/2005 | Defender
An intercept marking machine for WA, the Claremont-based prospect read the ball well in the air and was clean and classy with his marking and disposal, certainly looking a prospect for the 2023 draft. The 190cm left-footer was undersized against the tall SA forwardline, but more than held his own with his impressive leap and judgment overhead. An incredible mark in the third quarter just highlighted his talent and was one of 10 marks he had for the day. It will be interesting to see how much growth Curtin has left, to see if he becomes a genuine key defender by the time the 2023 draft comes around.
#40 Alex Condon (Claremont)
201cm/78kg | 25/07/2004 | Ruck
The talented ruckman from Claremont who is also a talented basketballer, Condon showcased his great leap and deft touch in the ruck in a great contest with highly regarded SA ruckman, Will Verrall. Condon’s clear athletic traits were on display, showing that leap not only in ruck contests, but also around the ground as he flew for a nice mark to prove he could be a handy forward prospect as well. Condon has plenty of upside and with those athletic traits and with 12 disposals and 23 hitouts, he has shown to be one of the leading ruck prospects for the 2022 draft.