THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season moved into finals over the weekend, with the latest round of action producing plenty more excellent performances from budding AFL Draft prospects. In the next SANFL Scouting Notes edition, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 17 and 19 representative squad members and other standout performers. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.
WEST ADELAIDE 12.11 (83) def. SOUTH ADELAIDE 11.6 (72)
#9 Kobe Ryan
Ryan started the game by winning the opening clearance. The 17-year-old midfielder wasted no time in getting to work, putting his body on the line, winning some contested ball then using it well by foot. A smooth-mover, Ryan always looked balanced and level-headed despite doing much of his handy work on the inside, where his distribution by hand and often times freakish cleanliness shone through. A smart footballer, Ryan worked tirelessly up and down the ground and won a team-high seven clearances along with 22 disposals and three marks.
#10 Cade Kennedy
West Adelaide regained its skipper for the semi-finals after the Mitcham junior was called up to the state side last weekend. One of the competition’s premier ball winners, Kennedy set the tone with his attack on the ball and work rate away from the stoppages. His kicking was inconsistent, with a couple of clever kicks working nicely as others resulted in a couple of turnovers. However, his hard two-way running was evident as he gathered important possessions down back, in the centre of the ground, and in the forward 50, proving he is far from a pure stoppage midfielder. Kennedy tackled with intent and lead from the front for the Bloods. He finished with 22 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s.
#36 Tyson Coe
Whilst the likes of Kennedy, Ryan and Jesse Thackeray have received plenty of attention for their efforts in the Bloods’ engine room this season, Coe produced a best-on-ground performance to will West over the line. Coe was fearless at the contest, hitting the ball at pace and scrapping hard at ground level. He looked to break open the game at the stoppages by bursting through and using his strength to discard tacklers. He was excellent defensively too, with a bone-crunching bump on schoolmate Angus Bradley sure to be talked about at recess throughout the week. The sloppy conditions at ACH Group Stadium clearly suited his bash-and-crash style, but Coe’s ball use on his left foot was terrific, with his kick to the leading Harry Lemmey particularly noteworthy. The bottom-ager finished the game with 24 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles, four clearances and five rebounds in a confidence building effort.
#45 Oscar Steene
After leading the South Australian ruck division in Perth last weekend, Steene started the semi-final at full forward as Tom Scully handled the ruck duties. He was quiet in the first half, but kicked into gear after the half time break, booting his first goal at the six-minute mark of the third term. Steene spent more time in the ruck after the break, competing well against South Adelaide star Will Verrall. Steene competed well once the ball hit the deck, tackling hard and winning a couple of clearances for his side. With the South Adelaide defence clearly bothered by his extra height, Steene crashed a couple of packs in the final term. He sealed the deal with two final term goals to finish with three majors, along with eight disposals, five tackles, 19 hit-outs and four clearances.
#54 Harry Lemmey
Lemmey returned to the Bloods’ Under 18 setup and performed well. Likened to fellow West Adelaide product and current-Crow Riley Thilthorpe for his height, running capacity and clean skills, Lemmey booted an early goal after being rewarded for a strong tackle with a holding-the-ball free kick. He snapped his second just a couple of minutes later, reaping the benefits of playing in front. Lemmey presented well all game, leading up at the ball-carrier and almost demanding the footy at stages. He booted a terrific goal from 45m to give West the fast start in the third term, and a lead that would ultimately prove insurmountable. The talented 17-year-old finished with nine disposals, five marks and four inside 50s.
Up forward, Luke Young combined well with the aforementioned Lemmey. His strength overhead was impressive, taking a couple of contested marks. He booted two goals from 10 disposals, five marks and five tackles. Dylan McCormick was important early for the Bloods, booting two first term goals as West Adelaide jumped out of the blocks. He was quiet after that, finishing with 10 touches, but still managed to win four clearances and lay four tackles. Dylan White’s defensive pressure was noticeable, particularly early. He gathered 19 disposals and nine marks but finished with 0.2 in front of goal. Jed Obst (19 disposals and six marks) and Jesse Thackeray (22 disposals, six marks, six tackles, four clearances and a goal) worked well in the midfield and up forward, while the ever-reliable Charlie Pridham (20 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds) was solid down back.
#4 Jack Delean
The in-form forward of the competition was held reasonably quiet for much of the game, but still managed to kick 3.2 for South in a testament to the 16-year-old’s prodigious talent. He gave South the ideal start by streaming in to kick the first of the match, but was relatively unsighted for the rest of the first term. West Adelaide clearly did its homework on Delean, and looked to block his run at forward 50 stoppages, where he has proven incredibly dangerous throughout the season to-date. He was flattened by a shirt-front hit by West’s David Midwinter but, to his credit, bounced back up and lated kicked his second after an errant kick landed in his welcoming hands. He flew for the ball in attack and was equally as dangerous at ground level. Along with his three majors, Delean finished with 12 disposals, two marks and a couple of clearances.
#5 Angus Bradley
Bradley was industrious in the Panthers’ engine room. He found plenty of the ball early and used it well by hand and foot, setting up Jack Delean for the game’s opening goal. In sluggish conditions, Bradley applied plenty of defensive pressure and ran hard into defence to provide an option for his under-siege teammates. He always looked to be near the footy and played a very well-rounded game to finish with 17 disposals, five marks, 10 tackles and three clearances.
#10 Isaac Birt
The wingman enjoyed a busy start to the game, with much of the match being played on his outer side wing. He faded out of the quarter, but still looked to use his terrific foot skills and line-breaking capabilities to break open the game on the outside. Although he didn’t hit every target, the Strathalbyn wingers kicking was always well-shaped and placed and looked good off the boot. However he struggled to impact the game on a consistent basis, winning just 11 disposals to go with four marks and three inside 50s.
#11 Jaiden Magor
With key forwards Koby Cockshell and Tom Schirmer struggling to impact the game and Jack Delean flashing in and out, Magor stood tall to provide a genuine goalkicking option in attack. After nearly 10 minutes of tough, contested football in the second term, he slotted his first to break the deadlock and trigger a flurry of goals from South Adelaide. On restricted midfield minutes, Magor made the best of his half-forward role to boot his second in the third quarter before adding another couple in the final term, including one after the siren. Magor kept South Adelaide in it at times, managing 11 disposals and four tackles.
#33 Arlo Draper
Potential top 10 pick, Draper returned to bolster the Panthers’ Under 18s side after spending time across both League and Reserves levels throughout the year. He didn’t disappoint either, providing class on the inside when others fumbled. Stationed in the middle for the majority of the match, his first noteworthy act was a goal-saving smother in the defensive 50, quick gather and side-step, before lowering his eyes and hitting the target with a short kick. He was one-touch at ground level and brilliant in traffic, using poise and acceleration to dance out of trouble. His vision and spatial awareness was excellent and he backed it up with precise skill execution and some handy contested marking too. Some of his movement in congestion screamed first round pick, and his foot skills, decision making and stoppage smarts were similarly impressive. In a well-rounded display, Draper finished with 24 disposals, five marks, six tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s.
#39 Will Verrall
Verrall well and truly announced himself as star of the future with a terrific display in the ruck for South Adelaide. His follow-up work at the stoppages was exciting and much-needed, as the Bloods on-ballers dominated the clearances for much of the game. As he’s shown all season long, Verrall was willing to get down low and compete to win his own ball, showing rare athleticism and good skills in general play. He had a clear advantage in the ruck, winning the majority of hit-outs against West’s duel-pronged ruck attack of Tom Scully and Oscar Steene. He was instrumental in South’s second quarter comeback, following a disappointing start to the game. Verrall concluded the game with 21 disposals, 28 hit-outs, a game-high 11 clearances and a staggering eight inside 50s to finish off a sensational 2021 season from the Christies Beach bottom-ager.
The Panthers simply did not have enough contributors for significant parts of the game, with 11 players registering below 10 touches. Lively forward Blake Rodrigues managed just six touches but slotted three goals in his lively spurts. Zippy midfielder Luke Mitton gathered 18 disposals and eight clearances, while Lachlan Hayes amassed 18 disposals and seven rebounds.
GLENELG 16.10 (106) def. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 8.6 (54)
#2 Harry Tunkin
It was a classic small forward’s game from Prince Alfred College teenager Tunkin, whose football intelligence and natural ability shone through. He operated up forward for most of the game, albeit for a couple of shorter bursts through the midfield, and did exactly what head coach Darren Trevena would have asked for. He brought an intense and relentless tacking pressure and matched the hardness with polish in front of goal. His efficiency in attack to boot four goals, ensured the Bays’ midfield supremacy received just reward. He used his core strength to brush off a number of tacklers and ran into all the right spaces in a well-rounded showing, complimenting his four majors with 16 possessions and six tackles.
#3 Hunter Window
Window was in everything for Glenelg, playing an important role through the midfield. He won most of his possessions on the outside and ran relentlessly to seemingly always be available as an outlet option. A highlight was his dribble effort in the second term which trickled through for a major. Not all of his touches were particularly damaging, but they were important and often proved the starting point of a Glenelg attack. His clean skills by hand were particularly noteworthy, including his quick give to set up a Hugh Stagg goal. Window laid a bone-crunching tackle on Eagles half-back Mishai Wollogorang inside 50, however he wasn’t able to take his free kick after leaving the ground under the blood rule. Clearly a smart runner, Window finished the day with a game-high 29 disposals, four marks, three tackles, three inside 50s and three rebounds.
#5 Hugh Stagg
One of several state Under 19 representatives running around at ACH Group Stadium on Saturday, Stagg had his moments for the hosts. The Immanuel College product displayed the sort of grunt, power and explosiveness which earned him state honours, ripping the ball away from the stoppages on a couple of occasions. However, he did his best work in attack, snapping truly early in the first term before running in to boot his second later in the game. His big body and aggression proved important around the stoppages, with Stagg winning four clearances to go with his 22 disposals, three marks, four tackles and four inside 50s.
#11 Jacob Owens
Owens pieced together a solid showing to help the Bays book a place in the SANFL Under 18 grand final. His flying shot at goal missed but registered the game’s first score, however he would add a couple of goals to his name later on; kicking a settling goal in the third term from a tight angle before capping off the win with a classy right-foot snap with the outside of his boot. The wingman occasionally could have lowered his eyes with ball in hand, but was generally reliable with his disposal and clean with his hands. He accumulated 21 disposals and three marks.
#20 Lewis Rayson
Rayson’s adventurous running and long kicking was a highlight in Glenelg’s 52-point semi-final win over Woodville-West Torrens. He won an early holding-the-ball free kick, however his first couple of kicks missed their intended target and were turned over. Rayson worked his way into the game though and his ball use certainly improved. Rayson’s 50m kick from centre half-back to centre half-forward landed in the lap of Darcy Gluyas and was a textbook example of the high metres-gained style of game he plays. He dodged and weaved his way out of traffic well, sent the ball inside 50 on a game-high eight occasions and took a courageous mark under duress in the final term. The South Australian vice-captain gathered 24 possessions, four marks and three rebounds in the win.
#21 Cooper Beecken
Wiry utility Beecken was a standout for Glenelg. He lined up on the wing for much of the game, but demonstrated terrific work rate and football smarts to drop back into defence when required. Down back he took a couple of important intercept marks by floating in from the side. Importantly, he made the most of his possessions, often finding a target out wide to initiate the counter attacks. Particularly effective in the second half, Beecken nailed a couple of inside 50 kicks which would have caught the attention of the AFL scouts watching on. Beecken, who has had a consistent year in the black and yellow, collected 18 disposals, five marks and four rebounds.
#38 Jakob Ryan
Talented wingman, Ryan was among the Tigers’ best as the minor premiers cruised into the decider. After starting the game up forward, he was soon moved into the wing role he’s played so well in throughout the second half of the season. He got his game going by laying a textbook tackle, before showing good awareness and vision with a couple of possessions. Ryan, who claimed best afield honours in Sacred Heart’s All-Schools Cup triumph last month, connected with Harry Tunkin inside 50 after summing up the situation with composure and poise. The catalyst of many attacks, Ryan was everywhere in the third quarter, dominating his opponent on the outer wing. Although he had a couple of prior blemishes in front of goal, Ryan was rewarded for his efforts with a late major after taking an easy mark in the goalsquare. The SA Under 17 representative finished the day with 24 touches, seven marks (two contested) and six inside 50s.
Half-back Joel Virtanen impressed with his precise kicking in the defensive-half, gathering 21 possessions and five rebounds. Brodie Edwards (17 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) had a hot start to the game, showing some class in traffic and cleanliness with his disposal in a number of roles. Midfielders Darcy Gluyas (15 disposals and four marks), Darcy Porter (18 disposals, six marks and a goal) and Archie Lovelock (20 disposals and four clearances) also featured prominently for the home side.
#4 Jase Burgoyne
Burgoyne lined up at the centre bounces against fellow father-son prospect Brodie Edwards and spent virtually the entire game on-ball, despite showing his class across half-back for the SA Under 19s last weekend. Burgoyne was typically composed and assured with ball in hand. He didn’t win a lot of contested ball against a well versed and deep Glenelg midfield unit, but was clean on the outside when many others wasted the ball in tricky conditions. Burgoyne took a couple of strong contested grabs when drifting back into defence to remind everyone of his high-end talent. The Eagles’ leading possession winner, Burgoyne finished with 28 touches, four marks and six rebounds in a tough loss.
#6 Dustin Launer
Launer had patches of excellent play in an otherwise disappointing day for Woodville-West Torrens. He took a while to work into the game, but broke it open with a couple of trademark run-and-carry efforts through the centre of the ground. Launer, who has risen to become one of the competition’s most prolific ball winners, ran into an open goal to kick-start the Eagles in the second term. He certainly looked to carve up the Bays’ defensive structures with his terrific kicking, but wasn’t quite able to have the influence on the outside of the contest as he has had in recent weeks. However, he was strong in the trenches, winning a game-high seven clearances to go with 20 disposals and seven inside 50s, and finishing as one of the Eagles’ best.
#8 Brock Thomson
Clean-kicking defender, Thomson held up well despite Glenelg dominating possession of the ball from start to finish. Charged with the kick-in duties, his raking foot skills were effective and well complemented by composure and a touch of class. As others around him turned it over, Thomson’s kicking remained steady as he set things up nicely from the Eagles defensive 50. He finished the game with 23 disposals and six rebound 50s.
#18 Lukas Cooke
Key forward, Cooke fought hard and provided a marking option all day for the Eagles. Battling head-to-head with South Australia’s centre-half-back Oscar Adams early, the pair engaged in a competitive battle, with both players having their moments. Cooke presented nicely and was clean above his head. When the Eagles were able to move the ball with speed and precision, the Westminster College product was there to get on the end of it. However, he will rue passing off a gettable set shot instead of walking back and taking the honours himself after a solid lead-up mark. His long range set shot in the final term gave the Eagles a glimmer of hope, but it proved too little, too late. One of the Eagles’ best, the tall forward gathered 11 disposals, six marks (four contested) and booted one major in the loss.
#26 Jordan Lukac
Lukac alternated between full forward and the ruck and looked the most threatening key position player on the field for a large part of the contest. In the ruck, the Eagles skipper used his reach and leap to really propel himself at the contest and often looked to clear the area rather than palm it down with finesse. He finished with the most hit-outs of the four ruckman on the ground, in an effort which will impress recruiters after showcasing his raw athleticism in last weekend’s state match. In attack, he timed his leads well and made the most of his opportunities in front of goal by converting a couple of set shots. Lukac finished the day with 11 disposals, three marks, four tackles and 15 hit-outs.
Eagles midfielder Sam Nicholls fought hard in-and-under, had a couple of nice moments by foot, and laid a tough tackle on Glenelg wingman Jacob Owens to finish with 16 disposals and nine tackles. Henry Hawker was strong down back, gathering 19 possessions, five marks and four rebounds. Henley High School duo Jay Watson (11 disposals and a goal) and Brayden Calvett (14 disposals and a goal) used the ball well and injected some speed across the wing and half-forward. Mattaes Phillipou was quiet but still chipped in with 13 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal.
Featured Image: Glenelg’s Cooper Beecken stretches for a mark | Credit: Glenelg FC