IN one of the most entertaining contests of the AFL Under 18 Championships, Western Australia finished on a high note, winning its first game of the 2022 carnival by defeating a determined South Australia by 20 points at Joondalup Stadium today. The Sandgropers did not have it all their own way and looked in trouble when the visitors slotted three of the first four goals of the third term to cut the deficit to within a point, but the Sandgropers booted five of the next six to seal the game. South Australia did have a late flurry in the final few minutes to cut it back to 13 points – including a fourth goal to star bottom-ager Ashton Moir – but a steadier from West Australian captain Steely Green ensured they took home the victory, 15.10 (100) to 12.8 (80).
It was a fast and frenetic start to the match, with both sides up for the fight. It looked to be a good day for South Australia from the first bounce, with Kobe Ryan winning the opening clearance, hitting up Moir, who nailed a bullet pass into the sliding Archie Lovelock. Though they had the early momentum, the home side weathered the storm as the quarter went on, with bottom-ager Koen Sanchez snapping two goals in as many minutes with some clever forward craft. Western Australia was providing to be its own worst enemy, with a critical turnover in the middle mopped up by Kobe Ryan who ran to 55m out and slammed home the goal.
Reuben Ginbey continued his form through the midfield from last game, combining well with Green to start getting more ball in the hands of the Sandgropers, and it enabled a nice mark to Darcy Jones inside 50. The small forward missed, as did Sanchez with his third attempt, but soon Tyrell Dewar showed his pace and smarts by staying down from a pack, cleanly picking it up with one hand and running in to snap the goal. South Australia returned serve through bigman Isaac Keeler who made no mistake from 55m out, before Jed Hagan snapped the goal of the day with a checkside from the pocket to make it a seven-point margin at quarter time.
In an eerily similar situation to the first term, it was South Australia on the board early in the second term with Moir nailing his first of the game from a 30m set shot straight in front. That gave the Croweaters some hope, but it was soon snuffed out by three consecutive goals up the other end. The first came only a couple of minutes later when a chain of handballs from Green and Ginbey got it to Edward Allan in the goalsquare. At the midway point of the term, Darcy Jones had a clean pickup, bounce and running goal from 40m, before Allan also set up Harry Cole inside 50 to stretch the lead out to 20 points. A late major to Moir from a clever snap in the pocket reduced the half-time deficit, but that was also because of some disappointing chances gone begging from the home team. One of the biggest highlight’s just before the main break was a huge hangar from Elijah Hewett to show his class and aerial ability.
Fans were no closer to knowing the result of the match by three quarter time, as both teams traded blows throughout the next 25 mins. Tom Scully almost had a chance to put his name on the goalkickers list in the opening minute but his snap missed to the right. Mattaes Phillipou produced another eye-catching highlight a few minutes later with a terrific running goal. Cole steadied for the home team after a nice run-down tackle from Green and subsequent chip kick. Western Australia still looked to have the momentum, but could not capitalise wit a number of turnovers inside 50, and the likes of Harry Barnett pulling down a couple of big grabs.
South Australia then put pressure on the West Australian defence, and then a costly 50m penalty to Croweaters skipper Adam D’Aloia cut that momentum. Will Verrall kept his feet when the pack flew not long after to snap a goal off a step and suddenly it was a one-point deficit. A piece of Dewar magic in the goalsquare against two opponents steadied for the home team, as he kept his feet and slammed home one truly to ensure the West Australians went into three quarter time in front. D’Aloia, Billy Dowling and the Ryans were all busy, whilst Sam Gilbey, Jack Cleaver – who had a busy third term – and Hagan were among the biggest accumulators for the leaders.
The first goal of the final term was crucial and this time it went the way of the Sandgropers with Corey Tregenza-Cashell marking inside 50 one-on-one and having the sense to play on and run into an open goal to put the lead out to 13 points. Western Australia blew a chance through Connor McDonald, but then held up when Kobe Ryan had a shot up the other end, to keep pressure high and then Hagan ran in and slotted a goal on the run brilliant forward craft. Then, against the flow, Moir read the ball in flight brilliantly took a good grab then snapped a great goal for his third of the day.
Just when Western Australia needed to stem some repeat forward entries for the Croweaters, Jasper Schaife marked and slotted a great goal from 45m to put it back out to a three-goal margin. Soon it would be Coen Livingstone who slammed shut the door on the result, with a great team passage of play. Hewett shook off a tackler to hit up Ginbey at the top of 50 who put it to the hotspot and a quick handball went to Livingstone who slammed it home to ice the game. A minute later McDonald slotted another and it was party time for the West Australians, out to a massive 31-point lead.
While the game was looking like it was going to end up a blowout, young gun Moir had other ideas with a sizzling pass into Verall who slotted his second with seven minutes left. Just 90 seconds later Kobe Ryan hit up Shaun Bennier in the goalsquare for another, and when Moir somehow was left alone to lead and mark to kick his fourth, the deficit was back to 13 points. It was a case of ‘surely not?’ for the Croweaters to come from nowhere, but a clever kick under pressure from Tregenza-Cashell to hit-up captain Green for a set shot with just three minutes left sealed the result so the Sandgropers came away with a win.
Western Australia had plenty of contributors in the win, with Ginbey and Green controlling the midfield and getting crucial touches in close. Jones provided some outside run and hit the scoreboard, while Dewar’s class in the forward half really stood out. Cleaver ended up finding plenty of the ball in the second half, while Mitchell Edwards was busy early and Gilbey consistent throughout. Moir was a standout on the ground with his outstanding skill, aerial ability and forward craft to slot four goals, while Kobe Ryan, Dowling and D’Aloia were hard working throughout the contest.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 4.2 | 7.6 | 9.7 | 15.10 (100)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 3.1 | 5.3 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
WA: K. Sanchez 2, H. Cole 2, T. Dewar 2, J. Hagan 2, E. Allan, D. Jones, C. Tregenza-Cashell, J. Schaife, C. Livingstone, C. McDonald, S. Green
SA: A. Moir 4, W. Verrall 2, A. Lovelock, K. Ryan, I. Keeler, M. Phillipou, A. D’Aloia, S. Bennier
WA: R. Ginbey, D. Jones, S. Green, T. Dewar, S. Gilbey, J. Cleaver
SA: A. Moir, K. Ryan, A. D’Aloia, B. Dowling, W. Patton, J. Ryan