IN what has become an annual tradition, Australia’s top Under 18s combined to form a side to face a Victorian Football League (VFL) team in a one-off practice match. After defeating North Melbourne last year, the AFL Academy made it two wins on the trot with a victory over last year’s grand finalists, Casey Demons in a come-from-behind win. Scott Dougan (jumper numbers #1-#9), Peter Williams (#10-#19) and Ed Pascoe (#20-#30) took notes on the players who took part in the game. All notes are the opinion of the individual writer.
Under 18 Australian Team:
#1 Kysaiah Pickett
Pickett showed flashes of brilliance throughout the game. He has plenty of speed and was dangerous inside the forward 50. In the first term, his cleanliness at ground level was a standout, with the exciting forward collecting a loose ground ball on the wing and then bursting away to have a shot on goal from 50 metres out – that just missed. Pickett kicked his first and only goal late in the fourth term which was a terrific dribble goal.
#2 Malcolm Rosas Jnr
Rosas played up forward and was pretty quiet. He had a really good five-minute patch in the third term when he set up teammate Jack Mahony with an easy set-shot on goal after a left foot snap on goal that just fell short. Rosas was able to hit the scoreboard twice in the fourth term, with two classy goals. He was dangerous and unstoppable when “on”.
#3 Matt Rowell
As usual, Rowell was the standout midfielder on the day. He booted his team’s first goal after he was able to use his speed to burn off his opponent through the middle of the ground. Rowell won plenty of the ball on the inside and outside of the contest, which tells us that he can be used in either position when required. His work around stoppages, along with his repeated efforts and high-work rate, were some of his stand-out attributes on the day. Rowell had 22 disposals, four tackles and two goals in a best on ground performance.
#4 Trent Bianco
Bianco was lively early, gathering seven first-quarter disposals. His ball use on both feet was exceptional, and he provided his team with some much-needed run and carry off half-back. He knows where and how to find the pill at all times. Bianco had 15 disposals (10 kicks). A good game from the Oakleigh Charger.
#5 Caleb Serong
Serong played mostly across half-forward and through the midfield. He showed glimpses of his aerial prowess, speed, and cleanliness at ground level throughout the first half. His ball use was below average, which is very uncommon for Serong, who is usually brilliant by foot.
#6 Jackson Mead
Mead was one of his team’s best midfielders for the game. He was clean by foot and hand, rarely turned the ball over. He was able to showcase his strength in the contest with a big stiff-arm to his opponent in the second term before using his acceleration to break away. One of his best passages was when he delivered a bullet pass to a leading Emerson Jeka in the forward 50, resulting in a shot on goal for his team. Mead had nine disposals and two tackles.
#7 Mitch O’Neill
O’Neill was hard at the contest and tackled aggressively. He did not have massive numbers on the stat sheet, but his work rate and repeat efforts definitely caught the eye. O’Neill was not afraid of his bigger-bodied opponents, with the talented midfielder putting his head over the ball at all times. He had a very good second half, finishing with 11 disposals. A positive performance.
#9 / #23 Will Martyn
Martyn coped a big knock late in the first term and had to get his head strapped. He returned to the field wearing #23 shortly after. He had a very quiet first half but came to life in the third term, where he found plenty of the pill and booted one of his team’s five third-quarter majors. Martyn had 11 disposals and took four marks.
#10 Dylan Stephens
Had a few good moments throughout the game, showing off his defensive pressure early with some great tackles through the midfield. Spent time down back and was able to set up a scoring chain with a lovely kick to Tom Green at half-forward who got it in deep. He missed a handball in the middle in the second half but showed his work rate with a great follow-up tackle, albeit with a high call. He gave off quick hands inside 50 to Tom Green whose snap went wide. Stephens finished with 12 disposals, one mark and two tackles.
#11 Jack Mahony
Not a huge ball winner playing predominantly forward with stints in the midfield in the second half, but had some great individual moments. He kicked a couple of set shot goals marking on the lead and then back with the flight on those occasions. He also showed good strength throughout able to give the ball off while being tackled, and bounced off an opponent in the middle to kick deep and set up a scoring opportunity. Mahony had the six tackles and three marks.
#12 Connor Budarick
Budarick was a late call-up to the match, and had a number of great defensive plays predominantly playing in the back half. He won his fair share of the footy and used it well, just showing good composure with ball-in-hand. He did get pushed off by a stronger opponent one-on-one in the final term but the opponent’s shot hit the post. Budarick had the one-two handball off half-back and kicked long to half-forward late for a nice little play at the end. Budarick finished with nine disposals, three marks and two clearances.
#13 Sam Flanders
A quieter game for Flanders after half-time, but managed a smart goal by picking it off the ground and put it straight through the middle off a step. He had a chance earlier but his snap bounced to the left for a behind. Took a few good marks around the ground and kicked inside 50, but looked more dangerous when forward. Flanders finished with just the six disposals and three marks.
#14 Dylan Williams
Spent time in defence in the first half and moved into attack later in the game. Williams had a couple of huge highlights including a big grab over the pack inside 50, and then had a lovely kick in the third term to Kysaiah Pickett at half-forward. He used his skills to good effect and while was often manhandled in attack, continually tried to create a contest, and applied a good block for Pickett to dribble a goal late in the game. Williams had 12 touches, five marks, three inside 50s and four rebounds for the game, indicating how much time he spent covering the ground.
#15 Jeremy Sharp
Very slick with his ball use, he showed nice movement with his hands in midfield, and while he made some errors early, he got accustomed to the speed and pressure of the game and started to become comfortable in his role. In the third term he had a quick handball under pressure to a teammate running past. He capped off a great term with a goal from a tight angle in the dying seconds to cut the deficit to just one-point at three quarter time. Good defensive pressure throughout the match. Not a huge ball winner, but used it well in the second half. Sharp had the 10 disposals, two clearances and two inside 50s for the match.
#16 Hayden Young
Along with Matthew Rowell and Noah Anderson, Young was one of the Australians’ best with terrific composure, intercept marking and ball use off half-back. Regardless of the pressure he was under, Young continued to go for his marks rather than spoiling, and showed great vision to set up teammates running by. He laid a number of big tackles to stop attacking plays, winning free kicks and getting the ball out to the wing. Took an important intercept mark near three quarter time and then a moment later had the composure to compete at ground level after dropping a potential intercept mark, and gave the hands to Jeremy Sharp who kicked the great goal on the edge of three quarter time. He held his own against Jeff Garlett in a marking contest pushing him under the ball fairly and forcing a rushed behind. He was clean overhead and used the ball very well. Young finished with 16 disposals, six marks and four rebounds,
#17 Lachlan Ash
Had a good start before being quieter later in the game. Got a bit excited with one of the first plays of the day from the back pocket running more than 20m before being pulled up having not bounced the pill and handing Casey its first goal of the game from the set shot. His next run was more measure, taking a bounce and kicking long. He laid a good tackle at half-forward and kicked inside 50 but the pressure saw it turned over. After that he was back to his composed self, competing well in marking contests, with an example on the wing seeing Ash being able to impact a contest from the front without giving away a free kick. Ash laid a great tackle in defence to stop a player from goaling late in the second term and read the ball well in flight behind a pack to mark and kick it forward. He showed good composure at times in defence as you would expect, but had to overcome the few errors early in the game you could put down to the increased speed and intensity of the contest. Ash had the seven touches, two marks and two tackles.
#19 Tom Green
Kept involved throughout the four quarters and while he did not win as much of the ball as he can do against his peers, Green still set up a number of important plays. He slid in and mark at half-back in the first term and hit up a target on the wing. He took a good mark in the second term, sold the dummy at speed and kicked perfectly to Nick Bryan inside 50 who capitalised with a goal from the set shot. He had a rushed snap in the second term himself but it went out on the full and missed another chance off a step in the final term. He set up a second goal with terrific hands to Noah Anderson who goaled from 50m out in the last quarter to put the Australian side up. Overall had a really solid game, and while he missed a couple of chances, was crucial in setting up goals for teammates. Green had 11 disposals and three marks in the game.
20 Noah Anderson
Anderson was quiet early but really came into his own in the last quarter kicking 2 impressive goals and using his gut running to have an impact. Anderson showed his athleticism in the 2nd quarter with an impressive leap although not taking the mark from a pack situation on the wing. His first goal was impressive on the run from 50 metres and his second came from some great gut running from a stoppage in the middle where he wouldn’t win the ball but would work hard inside 50 to take the mark and kick the set shot goal from 45. Anderson finished the game with 17 disposals, three clearances, five inside 50s and two goals.
21 Brodie Kemp
Kemp was a hard worker through the midfield for the academy side, he played the role as the tall big bodied midfielder and played it well with clean hands at the stoppages and staying string in the contest. Kemp’s best bit of play came in the last quarter where he burst out of a stoppage with his run and kicked a bullet pass inside 50 which was dropped by his teammate. Kemp finished the game with 12 disposals and four clearances.
22 Josh Worrell
Worell was a solid player down back, he started the game well with a nice mark deep in defence and he provided good run and clean play with his rebound for the rest of the game. Worrell finished with eight disposals and two marks.
25 Will Gould
Gould was named captain for the day and he was a real competitor early on taking a nice intercept mark and made a crunching tackle using his big frame to his advantage. Gould didn’t get a lot of the ball but played a good defensive role finishing the game with five disposals and three tackles, as well as five rebounds.
26 Liam Delahunty
Delahunty provided a good strong target for the academy side, he did not clunk many marks, but he did bring the ball to ground and competed when the ball was there to be won. Delahunty kicked his only goal from a free kick and set shot from 40 metres in the last quarter. Delahunty finished the game with four disposals, four tackles and one goal.
27 Fischer McAsey
McAsey was very solid down back competing well against the big senior key position bodies for Casey. McAsey showed great courage twice within a minute going back with the flight in the third quarter and despite not getting a lot of the ball played his role perfectly. McAsey finished the game with three disposals but plenty of spoils.
28 Emerson Jeka
Provided a good lead up target, didn’t get much of the ball in the first quarter but got more of it in the second. Took a diving mark inside 50 but shot on goal went out on the full. Jeka suffered a bad knee injury in the 3rd quarter and took no further part in the match, Jeka finished the game with three disposals and two marks.
29 Luke Jackson
Competed well in the ruck and worked hard around the ground showing his athleticism, copped a knee to the head in the second quarter and was rewarded with a free kick. Jackson competed well in the ruck finishing the game with 15 hitouts and five disposals.
30 Nick Bryan
Rucked well and showed his nice leap, had the ball under pressure and kept composed to get a long handball out in the second quarter and he also took a mark 15 metres out on a slight angle and converted a set shot goal. Bryan looked composed with ball in hand in general play and finished the game with 13 hitouts, five disposals and one goal.