WA Under 18s Player Focus: Sam Gilbey (Claremont)
ONE of Western Australia’s most promising prospects coming into the year, Sam Gilbey is beginning to hit his stride has a top-ager. He was part of Claremont’s Colts side which made it all the way to last year’s grand final, splitting his time there as a defender while rotating into midfield for Hale School in the PSA competition.
After a couple of preseason games with the Reserves, Gilbey again started out in the Colts come season proper in 2022, but was unable to turn out for the AFL Academy upon an untimely glandular fever diagnosis. Now, he is beginning to recapture some of his promising bottom-age form on the eve of state representative duties.
In his latest outing, the 18-year-old defender got going in WA’s final trial game, a 33-point win over Subiaco’s reserves. Showcasing his smooth style and sweet left-foot kicking across half-back, it was an effort fitting for our Player Focus microscope this week.
2022 WA U18s Trials
WA U18s 10.11 (71) def. Subiaco Reserves 5.8 (38)
Stationed in the free-roaming defensive post he made his own all day, Gilbey started out steadily. The game was played at an odd pace and skills were a touch scrappy, with the West Australian Under 18s building a two-goal cushion to quarter time.
In terms of individual contributions, Gilbey’s best moment was his desperate loose ball get at half-back, where he showed great intent to bolt over to the ball, before sliding in and quickly scooping it up to a teammate in one motion. He simply wanted it more.
Though, as a slightly-built prospect, Gilbey is and was more prolific away from the contest. He got involved in transitional play by finding space when WA regained possession, accumulating possessions in the back half and using the ball typically well. In those instances, his decision making and clean skills came to the fore with slick kicks.
With the contest far from flowing, Gilbey found it difficult to make his usual contribution across the first 10 minutes of term two, but soon found his feet. Still playing relatively freely across the backline, he timed his runs well to receive handballs and get the Black Ducks going with some sort of fluency.
Gilbey’s reaction time once WA got on the ball was quick, as he spread hard to make space and demand the ball from teammates. Though his kicks continued to be relatively short and safe, he did not waste his possessions and looked stylish with each carry.
His light frame saw him stripped of one ground ball, and he may have had the wrong stops on after a couple of slips, but Gilbey was effective when jetting off with the ball and driving his legs into space. It was a positive half of play overall, with the Claremont product able to showcase his best traits.
Gilbey’s produced his best moment of the match in term three, as Western Australia began to pull away from the Lions. In his final act, the 18-year-old rose beautifully to take an intercept mark on the back of his opponent, displaying some of his raw athleticism. With no time to waste, he landed like a cat and switched the ball efficiently by foot.
Earlier, he was happy to sit at the base of contests and allow WA’s talls to contest in the air, getting most of his possessions in space. He continued to jet past his teammates and ask for the hand-off, providing productive momentum as WA began to shift forward. They say attack is the best form of defence, and that was Gilbey’s role at half-back – gain territory, maintain possession.
The fourth was arguably Gilbey’s quietest, as he and the Black Ducks played out the result with relative comfort. While not the hardest defensive runner, laid a hard tackle on the wing and took off every time there was a chance to provide support for teammates with the ball. Gilbey’s final touch came in the last 30 seconds, as he marked uncontested inside defensive 50 and flicked a short kick sideways.
In terms of his overall performance, Gilbey will likely take a bit of confidence from his outing, looking quite comfortable among the best of his peers. He was polished in possession and did not waste a touch, while also proving a leader down back with his directional skills.
His role will be quite clear in the West Australian setup, to provide that dash off half-back and utilise his wicked kicking ability. On the flipside, enhancing his defensive acts and further showcasing his reading of the play with intercepts will prove a couple of steps forward – but he can clearly play to his strengths.