van Rooyen match-winner sees WA trump SA on AFL Grand Final day

A JACOB van Rooyen match-winner with the final kick of the day has helped Western Australia win its second successive AFL Under 19 Championships challenge match against South Australia, by five points at Optus Stadium today. The curtain raiser to the AFL Grand Final saw both teams enter understrength due to state league commitments in their respective finals series in the SANFL and WAFL.

Using the ball better in transition, the West Australians had to overcome an injury to deadeye key forward Jye Amiss – whilst South Australia also lost Arlo Draper on the edge of half-time – to get the 8.11 (59) to 8.6 (54) victory. Classy midfielder Matthew Johnson won best on ground for the second successive time, leading his side to victory with 21 disposals, two marks and four tackles through midfield.

The first quarter saw the home team get on the board early through a clever goal from Richard Farmer. The indigenous small forward looked like having a set shot from just inside the forward 50, before sidestepping his opponent and giving himself some space to nail the goal on the run. Fellow small forward Arthur Jones then made it two goals within 10 minutes, with the usually reliable Amiss misfiring with his set shot. South Australia had a couple of chances but could only score two behinds in the first term, as the home team lead by eight points at quarter time. Blayne O’Loughlin was busy for the visitors racking up nine touches, with Will Spain (eight) another key ball winner, whilst Jack Avery lead the West Australians with seven disposals.

The second term was more even with both sides kicking three goals apiece, and the South Australians starting to win more of the forward half possession. Despite disposal letting them down at times, it was big ruck Oscar Steene who sold some candy in the goalsquare with a nice sidestep and snap around his body for the Croweaters’ first goal of the game. Jacob Owens then came to the party with a couple of majors, but the second of which came after goals to Brady Hough, and a clever soccer off the ground in the goalsquare by Jahmal Stretch. South Australia had cut the deficit back through the second term, but a deliberate rushed behind call against the otherwise faultless Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera saw Chase Bourne slot a goal from point-blank range an make it three of the past four majors to the home team to extend the lead out to 15 points by half-time.

Matthew Johnson was named best afield for WA | Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

By the time the teams emerged from half-time, Amiss and Draper were officially ruled out after injuries sustained in that second term. The third quarter started with potential 2022 AFL Draft top five prospect Harry Lemmey getting on the board after a nice lead and grab in the eighth minute. He then set up Central District pocket rocket Isaiah Dudley for his first, and the margin was back to three points midway through the term. Stretch pounced on his second goal after the sun played havoc on Max Michalanney‘s marking attempt, and the home team was back out with a little buffer. South Australia had done enough to curb the deficit to 11 points at the final break despite having six less scoring shots.

The final term belonged to South Australia as for the most part they charged home. Wanganeen-Milera’s ridiculous skill saw him hit up Hugh Jackson five minutes into the term with a kick across his body, showing elite vision and pinpoint execution. The North Adelaide ball-winner made no mistake from 40m out and it was just a kick in it. Just as South Australia had the momentum, Kaden Harbour got one back for the Sandgropers as his kicked a major across his body, and soon Johnson had a chance to extend the lead further, but hit the post from his set shot. From the moment, South Australia put the foot down with the Croweaters’ best play of the day. An end-to-end run finished with the speedy Dudley who slotted it from long-range into an open goalsquare to cut the deficit to seven points.

Soon, Dudley would be on the end of another perfect pass from Lemmey, with the pair combining and Dudley going back and slotting his second consecutive goal, and third of the match. Jackson had another chance on goal but missed, levelling the scores at the 17-minute mark. An unlikely hero almost emerged in Zac Becker when he found himself in space in the forward pocket. Snapping around his body, it looked like he had kicked the match winner, but it missed to the right, nonetheless handing South Australia the lead for the first time with two minutes left of the clock. Needing to move the ball quickly, Western Australia got it inside 50 for one last roll of the dice, and van Rooyen – who had played in defence all day – took it upon himself to be the man of the moment and snapped around his body, instantly knowing he had won the match for his side. The siren sounded shortly after the next centre stoppage, and Western Australia saluted by just five points.

South Australia actually had more of the ball (269-256 disposals), took more marks (75-66) and dominated the hitouts (32-18), but Western Australia was cleaner when it counted, and eventually weight of scoring opportunities got them the win despite the scare. Aside from Johnson, Kade Dittmar was lively with 14 disposals, five marks and four tackles, with Stretch slotting two majors and van Rooyen being critical in key moments. O’Loughlin won a ton of the ball with 22 disposals, five marks and four tackles coming off half-back, with Adam D’Aloia and Cade Kennedy also picking up 20 or more touches. Wanganeen-Milera and Dudley were also among the best, with Mani Liddy amassing the most amount of disposals on the ground, and Lemmey always presenting well in the forward half.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2.4 | 5.5 | 6.9 | 8.11 (59)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 0.2 | 3.2 | 5.4 | 8.6 (54)


WA: J. Stretch 2, A. Jones, R. Farmer, B. Hough, C. Bourne, K. Harbour, J. Van Rooyen.
SA: I. Dudley 3, J. Owens 2, O. Steene, H. Lemmey, H Jackson


WA: M. Johnson, K. Dittmar, J. Van Rooyen, J. Stretch, J. Broadbent
SA: B. O’Loughlin, N. Wanganeen-Milera, I. Dudley, H. Lemmey, M. Liddy

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