WITH finals time finally upon us in state leagues around the nation, there are plenty of budding AFL Draft prospects who are stepping up on the big stage. In a look Up the Grades, we highlight some of the National Combine invitees, state squad members, and academy products who plied their trade at senior level this past weekend.
A talented quartet of South Australian Under 19 representatives plied their trade in the SANFL top flight this past weekend, headlined by pick one contender Jason Horne-Francis. After a relatively quiet National Championships dig by his lofty standards, the explosive midfielder-forward sent a reminder of his talents with 24 disposals, five clearances, nine inside 50s and a goal as the Panthers downed West Adelaide. Matthew Roberts also featured as South secured finals, snaring two goals from 13 disposals.
First round bolter Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera also returned to the League grade, though his Glenelg side lost its first game for the season right on the eve of finals. The 18-year-old wingman notched nine disposals and four marks for the Bays. Elsewhere, top-ager Max Litster was productive on debut with 23 touches and seven marks as Woodville-West Torrens trounced Central District. Raw Bulldogs defender and combine invitee Leek Alleer took two marks from eight disposals, while Tasmanian Oliver Davis (16 disposals) turned out for Adelaide’s last game of the season – a loss to Norwood.
There were a few more debuts in the Reserves, including North Adelaide midfield pair Hugh Jackson and Harvey Harrison. Both managed 11 disposals with the latter, an emergency for last week’s championships clash, also kicking a goal. Under 18s skipper and Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) candidate Blayne O’Loughlin also featured for the Roosters, who beat Sturt.
The Double Blues were served well by state vice-captain Mani Liddy (26 disposals, eight clearances) who is in good touch, while Zac Becker also built on his representative form with 22 touches and a whopping 13 rebound 50s in the loss. Up the other end, it was a quieter day for fellow tall Morgan Ferres.
Woodville-West Torrens and Central Districts were the other two sides to field a bunch of Under 19 state squad members, as the Eagles got up by 15 points. Most of them turned out in Bulldogs colours, including debutant Luca Whitelum (21 disposals, nine marks) and Shay Linke (18 disposals, nine marks, eight tackles), who narrowly missed the starting squad.
Adelaide NGA small forward Isaiah Dudley was productive with 15 touches and a goal, while the speedy Lachlan Grubb had it 12 times. For the Eagles, bottom-ager Adam D’Aloia ran out at the level once more and laid six tackles to go with his 14 disposals. Northern Territory native Ronald Fejo was another to watch in the two’s, booting a goal from 24 disposals as West Adelaide downed South.
Over in Western Australia, a trio of state squad guns hit League level after helping the Black Ducks to last week’s Under 19 win. Peel Thunder utility Brady Hough was arguably the pick of the bunch, registering 22 disposals, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal in his sparkling top flight debut.
Backman Jack Avery took five marks for Perth in a loss to West Perth, while Fremantle NGA prospect Jesse Motlop booted 2.2 from his 13 touches as South Fremantle beat West Coast. Classy Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was also set to line up for the Reserves, but did not end up taking the field at any level.
Three seperate age groups were represented among the Tasmania Devils players to turn out in Sunday’s TSL preliminary final, which saw Launceston qualify for this week’s decider with a big win over Clarence. National Combine invitee Baker Smith was among the Roos’ best in the loss along with Darcy Gardner (one goal), as Noah Holmes again got stuck into his ruck duties.
Bottom-agers Tom McCallum and Bryce Alomes also lined up for Clarence, as did the 2002-born Lachlan Borsboom. In the navy blue of Launceston, Zach Morris continues to provide quality with his versatility, while top-agers Jayden Hinds and Bailey Gillow played their parts off the bench with a grand final appearance up for grabs.
The QAFL entered its second week of finals, leaving a couple more left to play, with a scattering of Brisbane and Gold Coast academy products hitting the senior grade. Suns Academy player of the year Bodhi Uwland turned out for Broadbeach, who secured a spot in the grand final by downing Labrador.
The exciting defender-midfielder was joined by Cody Harrington (one goal) and Ryan Pickering in the winning side. For Labrador, top-ager Bailey Reeves and Mackenzie Riddle were among the squad which will get a second chance at grand final qualification next week.
Maroochydore is the team the Tigers await, after the Roos defeated reigning premier Morningside in style on Saturday. Daniel Lanthois booted a goal for the victors, while big-bodied midfielder Toby Triffett was named the Panthers’ best, as fellow top-ager Saxon Crozier managed a goal and Max Nelson again played his part.
Featured Image: Brady Hough (left) earned a WAFL League debut this week | Credit: Shazza J Photography