IN round two of the NAB AFL U18 Championships, South Australia defeated Western Australia by 11 points at Optus Stadium. The Croweaters’ accuracy in front of goal proved to be the difference in the result, with WA butchering many attacking opportunities.
Below were the best players in the game.
#4 Riley Garcia
The Caversham Junior produced a performance that showed why he is one of the leading prospects from Western Australia in this year’s AFL Draft. Against the Croweaters, Garcia racked up 28 possessions (including a game-high 15 contested possessions), won eight clearances, recorded six inside 50s and kicked a goal in a dazzling performance. The highlight of his game was in the last quarter when he was able to sneak through a goal to reduce the margin to just nine points.
#5 Liam Henry
The Fremantle Next-Generation Academy member was lively in the forward half for the Sandgropers often using his speed, skill and flair to try and create attacking opportunities. He gathered 19 possessions, took eight marks, recorded four inside 50s, and had three score assists. When stationed in the forward line, Henry emulates a similar skill set to that of Fremantle star Michael Walters with his evasiveness and goal sense.
#10 Deven Robertson
The captain tried hard all day to try and inspire his team to another famous victory, but unfortunately to no avail. He finished with a game-high 32 possessions (13 contested), eight tackles, five inside 50s, five marks, four rebounds, and three clearances in another powerful display. His contested possession and clearance work is similar to how Melbourne champion Nathan Jones controls stoppages.
#14 Chad Warner
The East Fremantle product tried hard all day in the midfield for the Sandgropers, often throwing himself into stoppages to win the ball for his team. He accumulated 20 possessions (12 contested), laid six tackles, won five clearances, recorded five inside 50s and had two score assists.
#17 Jeremy Sharp
The 2018 AFL U18s All-Australian was solid on the wing for the Sandgropers with 19 possessions, five marks, three rebound 50s, three clearances and a goal. His link-up play out of defence was outstanding, and his penetrating skills were on display throughout the whole game. The highlight of his game happened in the first quarter, when he was able to dance his way around an opponent before slotting a goal from 50 metres out.
#26 Trey Ruscoe
Stationed at centre half-back, Ruscoe did all he could to try and repel South Australia’s attacking forays. Opposed to Damon Freitag, Ruscoe accumulated 12 possessions (six contested), took four marks and laid four tackles, while holding Freitag goalless and limiting him to five possessions. In the final quarter he was moved into an attacking position, where he consistently provided a contest and brought the ball to ground for the small forwards to crumb.
#27 Jack Buller
In his first game for Western Australia this year, Buller showed why he is such a highly-rated prospect. He gathered 13 possessions (nine contested), won eight hit-outs, took six marks, recorded three rebounds and won two clearances in an strong display. His ability to play either end of the ground, as well as pinch-hitting in the ruck, makes him a tantalising prospect.
#32 Luke Jackson
The former Australian basketballer tried manfully to guide his team to victory, often giving his midfielders first use of the ball due to his elite ruck work. He finished with 14 possessions (12 contested), 35 hit-outs, five clearances, and three tackles in an excellent performance. His follow-up work was a real highlight of his game.
#35 Trent Rivers
The WA leadership group member was solid down back for the Sandgropers with 22 possessions, six marks, and three rebounds. His positioning, accumulation, and reading of the play were outstanding.
#1 Kysaiah Pickett
The nephew of Norm Smith Medallist Byron Pickett, Kysaiah showed flashes of brilliance throughout the game against Western Australia. He finished with just six possessions and a goal, but always looked dangerous when he was in the forward half. His goal in the third quarter was sublime – gathering the ball in a pack, weaving his way through traffic and snapping truly from an impossible angle on the boundary line.
#7 Dylan Stephens
Arguably best afield, Stephens showed why he is considered a potential top 10-15 prospect for this year’s AFL Draft. In a powerful performance, the Norwood product accumulated 23 possessions (nine contested), laid six tackles, recorded five inside 50s and won two clearances, while displaying a ton of class in the slippery conditions.
#9 Cameron Taheny
Another prospect that has the potential to go top 10-15 in this year’s AFL Draft, Taheny showed why he is so highly touted with another excellent performance, this time against Western Australia. Stationed in the forward line, Taheny finished with 10 possessions, two marks, two tackles and two goals to be South Australia’s most damaging option forward of centre. In the slippery conditions, his classy and penetrating kicking skills really stood out.
#15 Harry Schoenberg
Playing in the midfield with occasional stints on the half-forward flank, Schoenberg was outstanding for South Australia with 20 possessions (13 contested), five tackles, four clearances, two marks and two inside 50s. His brutal contested possession work on the inside, allowed him to get the ball to the outside runners.
#18 Jackson Mead
The son of Port Adelaide’s inaugural Best and Fairest winner Darren Mead, Jackson was outstanding in the midfield for the Croweaters with 16 possessions (10 contested), six tackles, three clearances, two marks and a goal. His composure, decision-making and skills were all on display.
#19 Luke Edwards
The son of dual Adelaide premiership star Tyson Edwards, Luke showed why he is so highly touted for next year’s AFL Draft with a sizzling performance. Against the Sandgropers, he gathered 20 possessions, took five marks, laid four tackles and recorded three rebounding 50s, while stationed on the half-back line.
#20 Lachlan McNeil
The Woodville-West Torrens product was excellent in the midfield for South Australia, often throwing himself into congestion to win the ball for his team. He finished the game with 18 possessions (10 contested), 13 tackles, six inside 50s, four clearances, two marks and two rebounding 50s.
#33 Dyson Hilder
Stationed at centre half-back and opposed to Western Australia’s livewire Elijah Taylor, Hilder was instrumental in negating Western Australia’s attacking forays. He finished with 15 possessions (five contested), seven marks, and four rebounding 50s.
#35 Karl Finlay
The North Adelaide product was excellent for the Croweaters, playing as the full back he was influential in halting WA’s scoring opportunities. He gathered 16 possessions (seven contested), took six marks, laid five tackles and recorded three rebounding 50s.