Caught the Eye: July 2022 – Adelaide Edition

REPRESENTATIVE season hit Adelaide on the weekend, with three games back-to-back headlined by a main event which saw the two winless Under 18 teams – Western Australia and the Allies – playing on neutral ground. The Allies would make the most of their opportunities, winning their final game of the championships by 12 points despite a good fight back in the second half from Western Australia, who now have to topple an in-form Vic Country side next Sunday to try and stay off the bottom of the ladder.

Starting with the winless Black Ducks, they didn’t have a lot of winners throughout the day with Elijah Hewett and Jackson Broadbent unable to have their usual influence. It was up to the likes of small midfielder Darcy Jones, and East Perth pair Jedd Busslinger and Reuben Ginbey to try and get their team over the line.

Jones continues to impress. Despite his small stature he has been one of Western Australia’s prime performers in recent games, winning plenty of the ball and also hitting the scoreboard. Draft bolter, Ginbey put the team on his back in the second half, blitzing the midfield. The battle between Busslinger and Allies spearhead Jed Walter was fascinating, as both players starred for their sides despite playing on each other, with Walter notching a team-high three goals and Busslinger a team-high 25 disposals.

For the Allies, Lachlan Cowan and Jason Gillbee again impressed, which should come as no surprise with both players part of the AFL Academy. Intercept defender Tom McCallum was equally impactful, as was the exciting Shadeau Brain. Best on ground was Brisbane Lions father-son prospect Jaspa Fletcher, who had played more of a wing role in recent weeks, but was shifted into the centre and made an impact instantly. His run and skill were real highlights, and arguably the key reason for Allies’ dominance and improved ball movement around the ground. Although he didn’t hit the scoreboard as usual, he had a few trademark shots from beyond 50 metres which almost worked.

The other two games for the day brought about the conclusion of the Under 16 championships, with the Division 1 title still up for grabs. It was a dirty day for the Victorian teams, with Metro kicking themselves out of the game against an efficient Western Australia, led by midfielders Deian Roberts, Chayse Martinson and Otis Harvey, who took it up to the deep opposition midfield. Key forward Xavier Walsh was once again a real aerial threat for Western Australia, with the 2023 prospect a handful in the air and at ground level. Speaking of ground level, Anthony Hansen was once again electric in that department, with his clean hands and speed making him untouchable.

For Metro, it was again left to midfielders Jagga Smith and Josh Smillie to kickstart the attack from the middle, with Levi Ashcroft also in tow. It was certainly apparent around the ground that Metro lacked true flankers, with a lot of midfielders having to play makeshift roles purely due to the midfield depth they had. Isaac Kako was once again a dangerous small forward for Metro, and fellow Calder Cannon Harry O’Farrell left many excited for his development in coming years as the tall utility made the centre half-forward post his own.

In game two, it was a cakewalk for the impressive South Australian outfit who would take out the championship title, with plenty of factors contributing. Talented key defender Will McCabe looks a player for next year, with the Hawkes father-son prospect a wiry and athletic defender who was rarely beaten, and offered plenty of drive and run from half-back to win MVP honours for SA. Another father-son prospect also shone in Tyler Welsh, with Adelaide Crows fans no doubt excited to see the powerful tall forward in action over the coming years.

Country haven’t had many winners week to week, losing all their games, but their co-captain Finn O’Sullivan was a shining light. He won the Kevin Sheehan Medal as the best player of the carnival. The classy and composed midfielder played above his years, and the Oakleigh Charger looks set to be a very high pick in 2024. Others to impress on the day included half-back Brady Hall and Rebels pair Sam Lalor and Archie Caldow.

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