THE 2021 SANFL Under 18s season came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as Woodville-West Torrens defeated Glenelg to take home its third premiership in four seasons. In the latest 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.
>> Match Report
2021 SANFL UNDER 18 GRAND FINAL
GLENELG 10.9 (69) def. by WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS 13.8 (86)
#2 Harry Tunkin
The diminutive small forward imposed himself on the contest early, laying a couple of very strong tackles in the opening minute of the game. Tunkin’s toughness and fearless attack on the ball would continue to be staples of his grand final performance. He showed good positioning up forward, working into dangerous spaces at the feet of the key forwards. He booted a goal mid-way through the second term, however the Prince Alfred College product would loved to have also converted a couple of his flying snaps on goal. Tunkin spent more time in the middle as the game wore on and showed some ability at the stoppages, providing spark and energy around the contest. In a solid outing, he gathered 19 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances and 1.3 in front of goal.
#5 Hugh Stagg
The skipper set the tone early in the game with a terrific smother. Moments later he cut off an errant Eagles kick before delivering a beautifully weighted ball to key forward Jack Harding. Early in the second term, Stagg marked deep inside forward 50 but his kick from a difficult angle missed. With his side struggling to generate meaningful attack, Stagg took a strong mark and booted a captain’s goal midway through the second quarter which triggered a short-lived switch in momentum for the minor premiers. Stagg’s foot skills let him down at times, but his work around the contest was strong as it has been all season. Stagg finished with 20 disposals, five marks, four clearances and five inside 50s.
#20 Lewis Rayson
Despite his side being beaten on the day, Rayson was arguably the Tigers’ best performer. Dividing his time between half-back and a midfield role, Rayson showed a willingness to play on and take the game on at all costs. He complimented some meaningful dash with mostly clean and measured disposal by foot. He did the tough stuff well too, tackling hard and displaying good vision in-close. His positioning down back and ability to intercept mark proved valuable as well. Rayson capped off a strong season with another admirable showing in the grand final, amassing 27 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and three rebounds.
#32 Oscar Adams
Versatile key position player, Adams was given the job on Woodville-West Torrens forward Lukas Cooke for much of the day, restricting him to just one goal. He took a number of big pack marks to highlight his strong aerial ability and clean hands overhead. Adams was clean by hand and foot but will regret giving up a soft 25-metre penalty for an off-ball incident as the Eagles piled on the goals. He was sent into the ruck in the hopes of providing something extra around the ground in the final stages, but the writing was on the wall by that point. In a season which saw him earn state honours, Adams’ final club match of the season saw the athletic utility gather 16 disposals and six marks (four contested).
#38 Jakob Ryan
Bottom-ager, Ryan produced a fine showing for Glenelg. Operating across half-forward, he was caught for speed a couple of times early in the game but adjusted nicely and displayed nice composure with ball in hand. He did his best work in the air on the outer wing of Adelaide Oval, using his athleticism and height to take mark after mark. Arguably the goal of the game, in a match with several excellent efforts, was slotted by Ryan on the run from outside 50 to show everyone his high-end talent. Ryan’s overhead strength continued to stand out, along with his strong tackling and clean delivery inside 50. Ryan finished with 20 disposals, nine marks (five contested), five tackles and seven inside 50s.
#44 Jarrad Parish
Full-back, Parish was given the daunting task of stopping Eagles captain Jordan Lukac, and kept the talented big-man goalless for three quarters. Although Lukac had a clear height and reach advantage over the Sacred Heart College defender, he wasn’t able to convert his opportunities early in the game. Parish never gave in, taking a number of hits for his side and continuing to fight it out. The Eagles’ midfield dominance would ultimately provide Lukac with a number of shots in the final term, which he duly converted, but Parish should be commended for his efforts. He provided solid rebound, with his ball use particularly impressive. He finished with 15 disposals, five marks (two contested) and six rebounds.
Harrison Kaesler was a standout for the Bays, with his run-and-carry from the defensive 50 a highlight. The Tigers’ leading ball-getter, Kaesler left his best performance of the season for last, finishing with 29 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and seven rebounds. Cooper Beecken spent the game on the wing and finished with 21 disposals and five marks. Fellow outside midfielder Hunter Window worked hard and was also prolific, gathering 25 touches and three marks. Utility Darcy Gluyas ran hard all game to take six marks and gather 20 disposals. Key forward Jack Harding booted the first goal of the game and added two in the final term. Strong overhead and on the lead, he managed 10 disposals and six marks (four contested).
#2 Sam Nicholls
Nicholls has done some of his best work in the midfield this season, but his three first half goals up forward proved invaluable for the Eagles in their 17-point grand final win. His roving in and around the packs and intelligent positioning up forward allowed him to have a number of cracks at the goal in attack. Nicholls’ finishing was sublime and provided the Eagles with the fast start which alluded them in the previous two finals. He provided good pressure around the ball, finishing with 16 disposals, five tackles and three clearances.
#8 Brock Thomson
One of the premier small defenders in the SANFL Under 18 competition, Thomson again played an important role in the big dance. He spent some time on powerful Glenelg skipper Hugh Stagg early on and nullified a couple of one-on-one contests. Charged with the kick-in duties, Thomson’s foot skills stood out over a range of distances. He finished off a terrific season with 18 disposals, two tackles and nine rebounds in the decider.
#18 William Neumann
Neumann was in everything early in the game, with his fierce attack on the ball complimenting his handy run-and-carry through the midfield. A contested ball beast in the opening term, he moved to defence and continued to impact the game with his toughness and bash-and-crash style. He laid consecutive bone-crunching tackles in the second half to bring down two Tigers, who saw Neumann’s intense tackling first-hand. Rock solid down back, Neumann gathered 21 possessions, three marks, three tackles and three rebound 50s.
#21 Adam D’Aloia
If draft watchers hadn’t previously noted Eagles midfielder and SA Under 17 skipper D’Aloia, they certainly will now after the bottom-ager produced a dominant performance on the big stage. Having already spent some time at Reserves level this season, D’Aloia looked a class above the rest from the get-go. The inside midfielder was freakishly clean and quick with his hands in-tight. His ability to free his arms when being tackled and flick out a quick handball spoke of his high football IQ. D’Aloia was far and away the most dominant contested ball winner on the ground, using smarts at stoppages to amass clearance after clearance for the Eagles. In the second term, D’Aloia took a terrific mark on the 50m arc, then received a 25m penalty and slotted the set-shot goal to extend Woodville-West Torrens’ lead prior to half-time. D’Aloia’s stoppage brilliance continued after the main break, reading the tap-work of Zac Phillipsat centre clearances particularly well. A deserved winner of best on ground honours, D’Aloia gathered a game-high 30 disposals, four marks, eight clearances and nine inside 50s.
#26 Jordan Lukac
Lukac entered the grand final in hot form, following a match-winning five-goal effort in last weekend’s preliminary final win over West Adelaide. Although a couple of promising inside 50s just dropped short of Lukac’s leads early on, his attack on the ball and cleanliness at ground level were terrific. He had an early set-shot from long range which unluckily hit the post, then later sent a set shot out on the full. However, he used his body beautifully in the marking contest, edging direct opponent Jarrad Parish under the ball and marking well. Lukac continued to use his height and reach to advantage and looked dangerous whenever the ball was sent in his direction. Despite looking so threatening, he entered the three-quarter time huddle without a goal to his name. That quickly changed, as Lukac converted a couple of set shots to put the exclamation mark on the win. Lukac finished the game with 16 disposals, five marks (four contested), two tackles, seven hit-outs and 2.3.
Consistent midfielder Dustin Launer perhaps didn’t have his usual influence on the game by foot, but worked his way into it nicely to finish with 18 disposals and three marks on the wing. Mattaes Phillipou booted a terrific running goal to open the Eagles’ account. He flew high multiple times in attack and was clean with his hands in the midfield, collecting 17 possessions, three tackles and three inside-50s. 16-year-old Brody Mair played an important role, winning 13 disposals, applying three tackles, sending the ball inside 50 on five occasions and booting a goal.
The Eagles’ forwardline proved too tall for the Bays. Centre half-forward Lukas Cooke lead up well all game and brought the ball to ground well when he didn’t clunk it. Going head-to-head with Oscar Adams, he won 13 disposals, six marks (three contested), four tackles and a goal. Will Pearce was quiet early but turned it on after half-time. His damaging left foot sliced open the Glenelg defence and his presentation and strength in the air was excellent. Charlie Blair was exciting across half-forward, pushing up the ground to provide an option and doubling back to boot two goals.
Image Credit: Glenelg FC