WESTERN Australia has opened its 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships title defence with a commanding 29-point win over South Australia. Playing in front of a home crowd, the Sandgropers took control in the opening three quarters to blow the lead out to 43 points at the final break – though it should have been more with an 8.12 scoreline – before the visitors hit back with three goals to one in the fourth term, cutting the final margin back, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).
Western Australia started strongly, denying South Australia any easy movement down the ground, and then found open space and runners when they had the chance. Within 12 minutes the home side had three goals on the board, and whilst not always perfect going inside 50, luck proved a fortune and the work rate was overwhelming.
After an early behind, Jye Amiss became the first goalkicker in the 2021 AFL Under 19 Championships, winning a free kick straight in front of goal and making no mistake. Less than 90 seconds later small forward Jesse Motlop pounced at ground level to extend the lead. Not a few minutes had passed and Brady Hough was legged as he went to pick up the ball inside 50, winning the free kick and nailing the set shot.
It took a while for South Australia to mount a threat going forward, with the best passage of play coming in the 16th minute mark of the term. It ended with Lucas Cooke who had a tight shot from the boundary line, but sprayed it out on the full. Jack Williams had a chance up the other end after a juggling contested mark inside 50, but also missed. A couple more chances went awry for South Australia with number one pick potential Jason Horne-Francis having some nice passages inside 50 with strong marks after a quiet start, but the likes of Jacob Van Rooyen stopped them in their tracks to help Western Australia to an 18-point lead.
Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and Mani Liddy were among the most lively for the visitors in the opening term, with Matthew Johnson, Angus Sheldrick and James Tunstill all among the better players for the Sandgropers.
The second term was more even with some end-to-end plays occurring early. East Perth’s Ethan Regan found his teammate in Amiss leading out with speed, and whilst the forward would miss this opportunity, he would convert a ripper later in the term. Instead 50m penalties would start to creep in with encroachments as Rhett Bazzo was the beneficiary first, but his set shot went to the left. Though the turnovers from South Australia out of defence were hurting, and eventually the home team drew a free kick inside 50 to Kade Dittmar who kicked their fourth consecutive goal to start the match.
It took another 50m penalty for South Australia to get on the board, this time off the boot of Glenelg’s Hugh Stagg who slotted through the visitor’s first about 10 minutes into the second term. South Australia had a lot more time in its forward half for the second term, but the likes of Bazzo and Van Rooyen were denying them time and time again with intercept marks or rushed behinds, saving certain goals. Matty Roberts was having a huge quarter, and in the end, another 50m penalty after a delayed tackle following a mark saw the South Adelaide teenager moved within range, and kicking a goal from just inside the arc.
The home team was far from done, with Amiss keeping up his undefeated streak of multiple goals in every game he has played this year, producing easily the goal of the day from the boundary home to slot the Sandgropers’ fifth of the contest. Whilst South Australia had a couple of inside 50s late, they could not find a target nor stop the fist of Bazzo on the line, leaving West Australia in front, 5.6 (36) to 2.5 (17) at half-time. Morgan Ferres and Max Litster were others who had impressed through the first half for the visitors, though to no avail with the West Australian midfield on top.
The third term was all Western Australia despite a slow start, and realistically should have capitalised even further than their three goals on the board. Ruck Jack South continued his solid first half with a prominent few touches in the opening few minutes, leading the way for the Sandgropers to get some early inside 50s. The armwrestle ensued with the visitors kicking out of defence again questionable. It was Hough who won a free kick courtesy of a downfield late bump, and he nailed a beautiful set shot from close to the boundary seven minutes in.
A rare forward foray showed off Horne-Francis’ class with a pinpoint bullet past three opponents into the leading Stagg’s arms, but Stagg could not finish it off. It would be the South Australia’s only real shot on goal as the term belonged to the home team. Not making them pay, Western Australia’s Judd McVee, Corey Warner and Williams had gettable chances whilst it would be Regan who from 50m launched and put it home for his side’s second 16 minutes into the quarter. He almost gave off a goal assist a minute later with clean hands to Hough for his third, but the Peel Thunder forward rushed in front of goal.
When Williams nudged his opponent under the ball in the final 30 seconds, the key forward was keen to atone for his straight in front shank minutes earlier. This time he was further out and kicking through the ball, he never looked like missing, sinking the shot after the siren to hand his team a 43-point lead at the final break.
South Australia started South Adelaide midfielders Horne-Francis and Arlo Draper forward, and it was the latter who took a strong mark and slotted a goal 90 seconds in to kick the Croweaters’ first since the second term. Meanwhile in the middle, Liddy was finding plenty of it going in hard. The West Australians maintaining the pressure forward, working hard and had a flying shot from Amiss who missed.
Both teams were playing possession football and the likes of Jase Burgoyne and Lewis Rayson were trying to create some movement going forward, while Horne-Francis attempted mark of the year flying above a couple of opponents but misjudging the flight. Luckily for the visitors the kick out of defence was poor and subsequent tackle on Draper resulted in another set shot for the South midfielder, though this time he missed. Moments later though Horne-Francis was held going for the mark and he slotted a goal in the 14th minute.
Western Australia finally got on the score 16 minutes into the term with a long kick in from Bazzo landing with Hough at ground level who quickly dribbled towards goal but hit the post. At the other end, Draper was again lively in the forward pocket, instead of taking the set shot chipped in to Cooke who tried to snap from the behind post but just missed. Soon the visitors would kick a third consolation goal as Zac Becker ran into an open goal to cut the deficit to four goals.
Liddy almost joined that consolation party with a flying shot from 50m but just missed. Western Australia went end-to-end and while the South Australian defence managed to win it back, a poor kick in the back pocket proved fatal. This time it was Lochlan Paton who intercepted and kicked it straight over the umpire’s head. That would prove to be the final goal of the day, with Western Australia getting up by 29 points, 9.13 (67) to 5.8 (38).
Bazzo was outstanding for Western Australia in defence, teaming up well with Van Rooyen in both intercepting and providing offensive dash, whilst the midfield took control against its higher-fancied opposition, with Johnson, Tunstill and Sheldrick all busy. Up forward, the potency of Williams, Hough and Amiss proved too much for the South Australian defence, with Wanganeen-Milera a rare highlight back there with slick skills amongst some errant disposal. Liddy and Roberts also pushed hard through midfield, whilst Ferres constantly provided an option leading out of the forward 50.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 3.2 | 5.6 | 8.12 | 9.13 (67)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0.2 | 2.5 | 2.5 | 5.8 (38)
WA: J. Amiss 2, B. Hough 2, J Motlop, K. Dittmar, E. Regan, J. Williams, L. Paton.
SA: H. Stagg, M. Roberts, A. Draper, J. Horne-Francis, Z. Becker.
WA: R. Bazzo, J. Van Rooyen, M. Johnson, J. Tunstill, J. Amiss, B. Hough
SA: N. Wanganeen-Milera, M. Liddy, M. Roberts, M. Ferres, M. Litser, J. Burgoyne
Picture credit: SANFL Twitter