SANFL U18s Player Focus: Billy Dowling (North Adelaide)
NORTH Adelaide midfielder Billy Dowling produced a monster performance on Saturday, as the Roosters went one step further to securing this year’s SANFL Under 18 minor premiership. The top-age state representative has been in sparkling touch this year, averaging over 31 disposals, seven marks, and four clearances per game in North Adelaide colours.
Such production not only saw Dowling become a reliable performer for South Australia in the Under 18 National Championships, but has also seen him rise into AFL Draft contention. With a clear knack for finding the football and the ability to roll forward, it is easy to see why. We put Dowling’s Round 16 outing under the Player Focus microscope.
2022 SANFL Under 18s – Round 16
North Adelaide 12.17 (89) def. Glenelg 8.6 (54)
Stats: 44 disposals (35 kicks, 9 handballs), 17 marks, 7 clearances, 7 inside 50s, 6 tackles, 4 goals, 3 behinds
The ball lived inside North Adelaide’s defensive half in the first term and Dowling accumulated plenty of possessions in his back 50 as a result. He repeatedly lead back to the ball, calling for that short 15-metre pass, and looked to maintain possession for his side by executing short, safe kicks. His first attempt to generate some offensive drive from the back half saw him caught holding the ball, with no options presenting further afield.
A casual kick from Dowling deep inside his defensive half was turned over and resulted in a teammate being pinned holding the ball. Glenelg converted the resulting free kick for a major, right on the quarter time siren.
Dowling’s second quarter was filled with a few highlights that showed off some of his athletic attributes. It started with a strong contested pack mark from a long kick down the line. Dowling quickly pushed back off the mark and found Isaac Keeler on the wing.
Shortly after, he showed a turn of speed to receive a handball running inside 50 and displayed great composure to finish truly from 40 metres out. He managed a second about 10 minutes later. North transitioned the ball nicely and Dowling worked quickly to get out the back and secure a mark inside forward 50, before going back and converting the set shot.
Minutes later, he again found himself some space inside 50. Keeler took an intercept mark as Glenelg attempted to exit defensive 50. Dowling quickly presented an option and Keeler found him on the lead. Unfortunately he was unable to convert the set shot.
Dowling started to impose himself physically inside the contest, laying a handful of strong defensive tackles throughout the second term.
Dowling started in the midfield but pushed back behind the ball to support his teammates as the game was again played inside their opponents’ forward half. He won some of his own footy, but continued to accumulate inside defensive 50, executing short kicks to ensure his side maintained possession. Dowling barely made a mistake, helping to push his side into a strong position coming home with the wind in the final term.
Dowling’s pressure around the contest was rewarded early in the final term as he caught his opponent holding the ball and launched his team into attack. Shortly after, he intercepted a handball deep inside 50 and distributed by hand to Keeler, who ran into an open goal.
A snap shot on goal from a stoppage win inside 50 didn’t trouble the scorers, but he didn’t have to wait much longer to find his third of the day, marking again on the lead and converting the set shot. He followed that up with a strong win inside 50 and quickly squared the ball to a teammate in space, who unfortunately was unable to trouble the scorers with the set shot.
Dowling missed a chance to kick his fourth from a set shot shortly after, but found the big sticks again late in the quarter to take his tally to four goals and three behinds for the day.
His sheer weight of possessions and scoreboard impact made Dowling clearly best on ground in a win that should secure the minor premiership for his side.