Scouting Notes: 2022 AFL U18s – Vic Metro vs. South Australia
VIC METRO made relatively light work of South Australia on Sunday, downing the Croweaters by 73 points on a greasy GMHBA Stadium deck. The result means the Victorian side remains undefeated and even without a couple of top five talents, brought some terrific prospects to the fore. We noted some of the top performers from either side.
All notes are the opinion of the individual author.
#1 Nick Watson (Eastern Ranges)
It’s astonishing that Watson still has 18 months until he’s eligible to be drafted, given how well renowned he has become in a short amount of time. It was another decent day in front of goal for the bottom-aged small, finishing the day with three goals, with each one showing a different aspect of his forward craft. His first came from an intercept mark on the top of the forward 50, where he only needed one step to slot it through. His second came from a nice bit of hard running, where he started the play on the wing and ran to hit a front and centre in the forward pocket, but ended up just taking the mark himself and snapped from the set shot. His third came as he received a downfield free kick, and then got a 50m penalty to easily convert from the square. Whilst the goals are what will get the most attention, Watson played a very well rounded game overall, with some creative touches and ball use leading to scoring opportunities for his teammates, and some tackles of his allowing the same.
#2 Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers)
Not getting the midfield minutes that he has in previous fixtures, you’d be forgiven for thinking Drury was in there all game given his impact on the contest. Drury made the most of his opportunities in the forward half, slotting two goals himself and setting up a couple more with his tenacity at the ball and knack for moving it into dangerous spots. The most impressive of Drury’s goals came from a two-on-one marking contest deep inside 50, where he beat two taller opponents to spoil the marking attempt, and read the ball well to collect it mid air and put it through from 15 out.
#7 Olli Hotton (Sandringham Dragons)
The ‘breakout’ star from the game, Hotton truly put his name up in lights with an impressive display across all four quarters. Hotton played the first half mainly in the midfield and on the wings, with his hard running and one touch pick ups at speed seeing him play a key part in transition for his side. His cleanliness at ground level can not be overstated, in greasy conditions where others were more often opting to kick off the ground, Hotton’s confidence to bend down and get the fingernails dirty stood out. He was moved into a more permanent forward role in the second half to great effect, ending the day 3.2, but with a handful of assists to go along with it. At just 181cm, you’d forgive him for not being an aerial threat, however the cleanliness he displayed at ground level, mixed with his outstanding leap, made him one of the most dangerous marking targets on field, best highlighted by one particular mark, where he rose above a pack of players to hold it overhead.
#10 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)
It’s been said many times over the year, but given Ashcroft’s consistency over the season you feel like you can almost copy and paste his write ups. Once again Ashcroft stepped up against a strong opposition, finishing the day with 38 disposals and 10 clearances, in what was a clear best on ground performance. Perhaps taking some inspiration from Manchester United’s visit to Melbourne, Ashcroft was one of many players happy to gain meters by kicking the ball off the ground when under pressure, unlike others though he did this to great effect, even hitting a couple of teammates on the chest with his efforts. He was, as always, a danger around stoppages, just able to get to the right spots regardless of how opponents played on him, leaving them in his dust as he won the ball and moved it on quickly to teammates in space. The highlight of the day for Ashcroft came in the final quarter as he kicked an impressive goal from about 50 out, from a similar spot to the one he kicked at the same ground in Under 17’s, to nicely wrap up a complete performance.
#13 Nathan Philactides (Oakleigh Chargers)
The bottom-aged defender had another impressive outing at Champs level, holding his own against older opponents, and ending up as one of Metro’s key play makers from the defensive half. Philactides has always backed his speed against opponents, and the drive generated from that saw Metro go almost coast to coast on multiple occasions after intercepting an SA ball. Whilst he seemed far more inclined to handball rather than kick, Philactides found options out in space more often than not that allowed the drive to continue after he had gotten rid of the ball.
#14 Darcy Edmends (Northern Knights)
Edmends has had an interrupted season due to injury, but put in his best performance of the year in the right game with his 21-disposal effort. Making the wing his own, Edmends looked unmatched on the outside as he held his space well, and positioned superbly behind the ball. Leading Metro for marks on the day with seven, Edmends was a constant headache for SA when looking to move from defensive 50, as he put himself into spots that allowed him to just pluck off rushed kicks and send it right back inside 50. Edmends had a few passages of play that showed off his composure under pressure, willing to slow down and assess his options before disposing of the ball, leading to a few damaging inside 45 kicks.
#27 Nate Caddy (Northern Knights)
Another bottom-ager that ended the day with three goals, Caddy proved himself to be a consistent marking threat inside 50, with the SA defenders struggling to stop his run and jump at the ball. The consistent leads from Caddy were impressive all game, with him not getting rewarded for the efforts early on, it was the second half where Caddy started to clunk them more consistently. It wasn’t just on the lead that Caddy was dangerous, his contested grabs were arguably more deadly, able to hold his position regardless of contact.
#28 Josh Weddle (Oakleigh Chargers)
Weddle was once again a safety net for Metro in the defensive 50, particularly early on in the game when it was frequently bouncing between the two 50s, Weddle showed tenacity at the footy and composure when he had ball in hand. From the second quarter onwards, Weddle was tasked with shutting down Mattaes Phillipou, one of the best forwards in the draft class, and did very well without seeing a significant drop off from his own output, still ending the day with 14 disposals.
#30 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh Charger)
The fourth of the Metro players to end the day with three goals, Jefferson was quieter than his previous outing against WA, and understandably so given the conditions. Despite the greasy ball, Jefferson still managed to pop up for some impressive marks early on, as he often looked to drift off his opponent in transition and jump in front of the pack. Jefferson also had a few moments which showed his defensive work rate, none as impressive as a smother that lead to a Metro goal inside 50, as he followed the ball after losing a ruck contest.
#35 Lewis Hayes (Eastern Ranges)
Hayes was particularly impressive in the first half of the game, when the conditions were at their worst yet he still seemed to hold on to marks overhead like it was a dry game. Hayes was aggressive with his positioning behind the ball, pushing up the ground to be another Metro player that swept up rushed kicks out of the forward 50, then utilising his long kick to get a deep entry back.
#6 Jakob Ryan (Glenelg)
On a busy day for SA defenders, Ryan was one that stood out amongst the rest of the pack with his mostly clean use by foot, and willingness to generate drive with some run and carry when the opportunity presented itself. With less time and space than he may be used to in the U18s, Ryan had some poor moments by foot, but always followed up by applying some pressure or trying to apply a hard tackle. Regardless of some low moments disposal wise, Ryan used the ball smartly almost every time, looking for his best positioned teammates or to switch the ball across the defensive 50, it was rare that his intended target wasn’t the best option.
#7 Nick Sadler (Sturt)
One of the few SA players with senior experience, Sadler just didn’t give up trying to create for his side all game, showing real ferociousness around the contest and burst from congestion. Whilst he sometimes struggled with his kicking when under pressure, Sadler balanced his disposal well and looked to hit up targets when in space, and was happy to kick long when surrounded by opponents. The highlight of Sadler’s game came as he burst off his own opponent to intercept a handball in close, got out in space with his pace and delivered a beautiful kick inside 50.
#11 Jake Walker (Glenelg)
Walker has consistently provided for his SA side through the Champs, Walker didn’t quite win as much of the ball as he previously has done, but still stood out as a workhorse through the midfield. It was when Walker was attending centre bounces when SA were at their strongest, with his power being a key asset in his dominance in that area. Walker didn’t just win clearances though, he was the player you could count on laying a tackle on an opponent trying to burst out of the stoppage, or gut running to apply some pressure on them. Walker wasn’t overly ‘flashy’ with his kicks, but plagued the conditions well with short sharp passes to safe options, but ones that always got his side into a better position.
#13 Max Michalanney (Norwood)
Despite not having a heap of the ball, Michalanney managed to make his presence felt with every touch he accumulated, as he generally used it well and chose the right option heading forward. Michalanney often pushed off his opponent to provide an outnumber in contest for his side, able to take a few intercept marks at crucial times because of it. Michalanney worked hard both ways as well, getting a few touches in the forward half as he fought hard to keep getting it back in there.
#21 Mattaes Phillipou (WWT Eagles)
Arguably the best on ground at quarter time, a niggle forced Phillipou into a forward role for the final three quarters, making it hard for him to impact for 75 per cent of the game. Despite this, Phillipou managed to display the same things he has done all year; an ability to accumulate, outstanding overhead marking in any conditions and damaging ball use. When in the midfield he was placing his disposals in front of teammates to allow them to keep moving forward, delivering some good inside 50’s that unfortunately weren’t held by teammates. Understandably quieter up forward, Phillipou still managed to hit the scoreboard after he took a mark just outside 50 in transition and burst inside 50 to slot the goal.
#28 Adam D’Aloia (WWT Eagles)
A consistent workhorse through the midfield every game, it’s unsurprising to see that the conditions of the day saw D’Aloia as one of the more influential players on ground. D’Aloia’s creativity by hand, even when under direct pressure, was a key part of a few of SA’s attacking plays, able to quickly move the ball to the first option in space, he gave his teammates the best opportunity to continue drives forward from the midfield. D’Aloia kicked the first goal of the game, reading the ball off a pack superbly to crumb it at speed and slot it through.