SAAS Division 1 Player Focus – William McCabe (Sacred Heart College)
SACRED Heart College took out the SAAS Division 1 college football flag on Saturday evening, downing Prince Alfred College by 26 points at Thebarton Oval. A key part of the Hearts’ victory was their key forward combination of Ashton Moir and William McCabe, two exciting 2005-born AFL Draft prospects.
The latter, McCabe, is a talent of intrigue for Hawthorn fans as a club-tied candidate, with his father Luke having played 138 games in brown and gold. Able to play as a key position outlet at either end of the ground, McCabe was named an Under 16 All-Australian at centre half-back, but plied his trade up forward on the weekend.
We put his performance under the Player Focus microscope.
SEASON SO FAR:
SANFL U18 Averages: 8 games | 12.9 disposals (7.9 kicks, 5.0 handballs) | 3.9 marks | 2.6 tackles | 2.5 inside 50s | 1.1 goals (9 total)
McCabe has enjoyed a largely successful bottom-age campaign, displaying a high level of upside across multiple competitions. Though he earned MVP and All Australian status in the Under 16 National Championships as a centre half-back, he averages over a goal per his eight SANFL Under 18 games, and also turned out in attack for Sacred Heart College. McCabe has booted three goals in a trio of SANFL outings, including his last two, holding his own against peers above his current age group.
2022 SAAS Division 1 Grand Final
Prince Alfred College 9.13 (67) def. Sacred Heart College 14.9 (93)
Amid a physically taxing and scrappy start, McCabe looked like being an ominous aerial force from the get-go. He hit up on the lead as Hearts entered forward 50 for the first time, gaining great separation on the lead. His 40-metre set shot fell short, but was marked by Moir for his side’s opening score.
Shortly after, he clunked an excellent intercept mark going back with the flight at half-forward, and continued his aerial dominance by drawing a free kick deep inside 50 – which Sacred Heart took advantage from for its first goal of the day.
McCabe managed another shot on goal – a snap from the pocket – after recovering a dropped handball receive, but would have to wait to register his opening score. With a massive body of work and plenty of packs crashed, the 16-year-old was on song as his Hearts grabbed the quarter time ascendancy.
The early stages of term two saw McCabe arrive a touch late to contests he was impacting in the opening quarter, but he soon got into the swing of things and managed to hit the scoreboard in a successful 25 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, his best moments again came when attacking the ball in the air. He adjusted nicely on the job to begin to take marks on his chest, after proving unable to hold the ball out in front or overhead on a few attempts.
McCabe’s ability to get serious separation on the lead was impressive too, and it helped him nab his first goal of the day from a 35-metre set shot. Though he missed another kick over the mark shortly after, he remained a constant threat.
With plenty of good work to surge up the field and play to his very obvious strengths, McCabe stamped himself on the contest as Sacred Heart took a 29-point lead into the main break. With a bit more strength, he could have clunked even more marks across an already prolific half.
The third quarter saw Prince Alfred College work back into the contest, piling on pressure with much of the territorial advantage. As a result, McCabe was forced to search all the way up at half-back to provide a target on the way out of defence.
Seemingly refreshed off the break, he clunked a couple more contested marks up the ground, and one effort to bring the ball to ground in Hearts’ attacking goalsquare helped produce a crumbing goal for his smalls.
McCabe got on the board once more too, peeling off into the pocket and marking uncontested, before slotting home a set shot from 20 metres. It proved a timely steadier for Sacred Heart, as the Reds continued to press their case.
Having gotten his hands on a wealth of high balls and kicks on the lead, Prince Alfred College began to provide greater aerial support against McCabe in term four. It became harder for him to contest against multiple opponents one-out inside 50, though McCabe continued to fly.
Sacred Heart consolidated the win with a flurry of late goals, and McCabe’s job was largely done at that point. He showed some nice mobility with ball in hand but did most of his damage earlier, allowing him to enjoy the closing stages with his side.
As an incredibly athletic and versatile tall, McCabe has serious potential to make a splash next year. With time to add muscle to his frame, holding marks will become even easier, and doing so at both ends of the ground makes him a likely top-end talent at this early stage.