Preview | 2022 AFL U18 National Championships – Vic Country vs. Vic Metro
ONE more match to decide who takes out the 2022 Under 18 National Championships. Vic Country and Vic Metro lock horns to finally draw an end to this year’s national carnival, and the AFL could not have written the script any better.
In a marquee, standalone fixture on Thursday afternoon, the undefeated (3-0) sides meet at Marvel Stadium in a clash which features prospects tipped to make up over half of the top 10 at this year’s AFL Draft.
From the big inclusions, key omissions, Larke Medal favourites, and journey so far, we take you through everything you need to know before the Big V takes centre stage.
NEED TO KNOW:
When: Thursday September 22, 12:35pm
Where: Marvel Stadium
How to watch: Fox Footy & AFL website
JOURNEY SO FAR:
Country (3-0, 26 ave. margin)
South Australia 8.12 (60) def. by Vic Country 9.8 (62)
Allies 5.12 (42) def. by Vic Country 10.15 (75)
Vic Country 12.11 (83) def Western Australia 6.4 (40)
Metro (3-0, 39 ave. margin)
Allies 14.6 (90) def by Victoria Metro 16.10 (106)
Victoria Metro 16.5 (101) def Western Australia 10.14 (74)
Victoria Metro 16.15 (111) def South Australia 5.8 (38)
Country – Harvey Gallagher, Bailey Humphrey
Metro – Elijah Tsatas, Luke Teal, Cooper Harvey, Bailey Macdonald, Rye Penny, Max Gruzewski
Two in-form NAB League guns headline Country’s inclusions, and offer handy points of difference respectively. Top 10 bolter Bailey Humphrey will be hungry for success after leading Gippsland Power to a preliminary finals berth, and balances the Country rotations.
Able to play forward or inject some power into midfield, the explosive ball winner is a point of difference to Country’s arguably less versatile on-ballers. His forward craft may also take a load off Aaron Cadman, who has spearheaded the side with limited supply.
At the other end of the ground comes Harvey Gallagher. The Bendigo Pioneers leader has found a niche as a running half-back, with his running capacity and sharp kicking skills making him a dangerous proposition.
His inclusion may free up the likes of bottom-ager Harley Reid to roll into midfield or the forward line, but his immeasurable class with ball in hand is something Country has certainly been crying out for despite their victories.
The updated Metro squad features a bunch of potential inclusions, with many hailing from the Oakleigh Chargers region. Max Gruzewski is among the most highly touted new squad members, offering a swingman option with his clean marking and punchy kicking at 192cm.
Of course, who could forget arguably the biggest addition of them all – Elijah Tsatas. Another Charger, the potential top five pick only adds to Metro’s scarily deep midfield but can also play on the outside.
Country – Harvey Howe, Will Parkhouse
Metro – Nathan Philactides, Ben Hempel, Nate Caddy, Jaelen Pavlidis, Cameron Kizan, Callum Verrell
A few players from either side are set to miss through injury, despite the large gap between games. Top prospect Will Ashcroft was very nearly ruled out via suspension, but has been cleared to play this week.
Sadly, Brayden George misses the chance to represent Vic Country after tearing his ACL minutes into his second NAB League return game, while Jack O’Sullivan (collarbone) suffered a similar fate for Oakleigh.
The likes of Mitch Szybkowski (Covid) and Henry Hustwaite (ankle) were made to overcome obstacles to play in the NAB League decider, but will be available come Thursday afternoon, perhaps with their roles slightly altered again. Will Parkhouse and Harvey Howe miss the selection cut.
On the Metro side of things, George Wardlaw is another star who will miss out on donning the Big V, after sustaining a repeat hamstring injury. Matthew Jefferson (leg) played through pain in the NAB League and looks like getting up.
LARKE MEDAL CONTENDERS:
It’s hard to go past Ashcroft here. Fresh off best afield honours in the NAB League Grand Final, the uber consistent midfielder hardly has a bad game and that has been no different during this year’s National Championships. Expect him to stand up once more.
Of course, another bag of goals from Jefferson could put him in contention after his effort of seven against Western Australia, while Country captain Jhye Clark could get the nod with another standout performance – especially if he leads his side to title victory.