Preview | Championships come to town for blockbuster weekend

NATIONAL Championship season is in full swing, with Under 16 and 18 representative action making for a blockbuster weekend of talent pathway action. Headlining proceedings will be the introduction of both Victorian Under 18 sides to the carnival, as they travel to play against last week’s combatants, South Australia and the Allies.

First up, the Allies play host to Vic Metro in Blacktown on Saturday afternoon. Made up of talent from the Northern Territory, NSW-ACT, Tasmania, and Queensland, the Allies had a tough time of it last time out in a 37-point away defeat to the Croweaters. They welcome Metro to the fold, a side which will likely miss some key players as South Australia did.

Top prospects Elijah Tsatas and George Wardlaw face races against time to turn out for the Big V, while Oakleigh Chargers teammate Luke Teal is another battling injury troubles once again. Calder’s Paul Pascu also sat out for most of the Cannons’ loss last week, but firms as a ready inclusion.

Nonetheless, Metro should be stacked in midfield with Sandringham Dragons trio Will Ashcroft, Harry Sheezel, and Cameron Mackenzie leading the line. Under the ruckmanship of club teammate Hudson O’Keeffe, the likes of Alwyn Davey and Blake Drury can also rotate through there, not to mention electric bottom-ager Nick Watson.

Their collective strength means the Allies’ midfield and defenders will have their hands full. Rebounders Jason Gillbee and Lachlan Cowan were among a defensive group which racked up plenty of possessions last week, while ball winners Angus Anderson and Harry Rowston will look to build on their strong showings. Watch for livewire Anthony Munkara to lift his output after a quiet showing.

Sunday’s Under 18 matchup pits South Australia against Vic Country, in a consecutive clash at Thebarton Oval. The Croweaters will be buoyed by the return of vice-captains Kobe Ryan and Nick Sadler, along with primary ruck Harry Barnett and tall defender Will Patton.

Boasting a balanced spine, the hosts will hope Eagles midfield pair Adam D’Aloia and Mattaes Phillipou can take full toll, to give in-form forward Isaac Keeler plenty of service alongside highly touted goalkicker Harry Lemmey.

Country will be strong at the contest with on-ballers Jhye Clark and Mitch Szybkowski usually prolific. There is useful flexibility elsewhere, with the likes of Oliver Hollands and Henry Hustwaite able to plug gaps, while Harley Reid and Zane Duursma‘s recent exploits could see them gain midfield minutes as bottom-agers.

Speaking of bottom-agers, Archer Reid was at his best during the recent trial games and may be a strong choice up forward alongside Aaron Cadman as key position options. Given Country’s tall options, Olivier Northam may also spend some time in attack too.

Despite a number of top prospects missing due to representative football, the NAB League will still go ahead with its usual six-game set of fixtures, making up Round 11. Meanwhile, the SANFL Under 18s will enjoy another week off.

Before SA and Vic Country lock horns, the Croweaters’ Under 16s will face off against Western Australia. Boasting a number of father-son prospects, including vice-captains Ned Atkinson (Brodie) and Lucas Camporeale (Scott), South Australia will be lead by South Adelaide’s Sid Draper.

The action does n’ot stop there, with Tasmania and the Northern Territory making up this week’s Division 2 action. Both sides will travel to Victoria and thrown down at Highgate Recreation Reserve, in a curtain-raiser to the Tasmania Devils’ NAB League bout with Bendigo Pioneers.

Stay tuned to Rookie Me Central for match reports and scouting notes from all of the above games, including the NAB League action, with plenty more exciting National Championships content to come. Also, if you haven’t already, download our free AFLW Draft Guide ahead of the June 29 intake.

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