Scouting Notes: 2022 AFL U18s – Vic Metro vs. Vic Country
VIC METRO took out the 2022 Under 18 National Championship title on Thursday afternoon, after a dramatic seven-point win over their Country counterparts at Marvel Stadium. In what was the last junior game for many of the top AFL Draft prospects afield, there was plenty to jot down in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
#5 Alwyn Davey (Oakleigh Chargers)
Whilst fairly quiet when positioned on the wing, Davey proved to be a game changer when moved into the on-ball rotation in the second half. Davey took on the game with his usual flair, backing his speed and side-stepping to get around opponents, before following up with clean disposal by foot. There were a few moments where Davey didn’t quite execute as well as he has through the year, but more often than not the option he was going for was the best available to him.
#10 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)
The recipient of the Larke Medal for the best player in the National Championships, Ashcroft played to the same level he has for the past three Vic Metro fixtures. It was much of the same for Ashcroft, as he continued to rack up the footy at will and used the ball effectively when he won it. Whilst challenged at different points due to the higher pressure of the game and not being allowed to run free around stoppages, Ashcroft worked into the contest well to be one of the crucial players for Metro in the tense final term, stepping up around the ground and looking to move the ball by foot. He earned a free kick in the final 90 seconds of the game from a centre clearance, kicking it to the goal square for North Melbourne father-son prospect Cooper Harvey to mark and seal the result.
#13 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)
Not too dissimilar to many other Metro prospects, Harvey didn’t quite have the first half he would’ve wanted to, but stepped up in the third term to help give Metro the lead. Harvey’s contested marking around the ground was impressive, reliably able to hold on to the footy regardless of contact, but generally getting enough separation on his opponents that he wasn’t forced to. Harvey ended the game on a high, taking another impressive contested mark in the goal square to slot the final goal of the game.
#17 Bailey Macdonald (Oakleigh Chargers)
Somewhat of an unknown quantity given his limited NAB League games this year, Macdonald has taken his opportunities late in the season to boost his draft stocks. Whilst he wasn’t always clean or commanding in the defensive 50, Macdonald impressed with his speed and daring run when rebounding, looking to drive the ball deep up the ground for Metro’s transitions.
#23 Elijah Tsatas (Oakleigh Chargers)
It was a solid performance from Tsatas for his only Championships game for the year, having missed the earlier fixtures due to a foot fracture. It was a different kind of game than we’re used to seeing from the top five contender, given he played exclusively as a rover for the game, giving onlookers the opportunity to see him for an extended run on the inside. Tsatas didn’t quite show off the explosive power he has, unable to get out to space against the Country midfield, he was far more inclined to quickly release a handball when he won it in tight. As opponents grew tired, Tsatas started finding more of the ball around the ground where he got to demonstrate his run and carry game, generally driving the ball long when the opportunity presented.
#28 Josh Weddle (Oakleigh Chargers)
Matched up on top five contender Aaron Cadman, it could be argued that Weddle got the better of the contest across the four quarters despite Cadman’s moments of brilliance. Weddle didn’t quite accumulate the amount of ball he generally does, but he showed off how sound his defensive game is and his athleticism, with his closing speed and leap allowing him to get a fist in to spoil a lot of attempted marks.
#30 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh Chargers)
As usual, Jefferson played most of the game pretty close to the goals, but gave a good crack at it whenever the ball went down there. Finishing the game with two majors, including the match winner, Jefferson could’ve had a couple more if not for some wayward kicking for goal. What caught the eye most with Jefferson was some of the work he did in attempts to create goals for teammates. A prime example came in the first quarter as he laid a smother, followed up at ground level and missed the shot, but followed up again and handed off to a teammate running into goal.
#35 Lewis Hayes (Eastern Ranges)
The key defender has shown his lockdown traits well through the year, but was challenged in a different way against a dynamic Country side. With only one traditional ‘tall’ opponent taken by Josh Weddle, Hayes showed off his ability to match it with smaller opponents, rotating amongst the Country forwards, and doing particularly well against in-form Gippsland forward Bailey Humphrey. The second half saw Hayes start to play as a more traditional rebounding defender, running off the half-back line to get handball receives and drive the ball long forward.
#3 Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers)
One of the form players from the second half of the NAB league season, the over-ager earned a Country call up and didn’t disappoint. Slotting into the Country defence seamlessly, Gallagher almost played as a winger in the first half as he pushed up the ground to intercept the ball coming out of forward 50, picking out good options by foot quickly when he got it and taking some risks that paid off.
#5 Jhye Clark (Geelong Falcons)
As much of a work horse as ever, Clark’s application in both offence and defence was impressive throughout as he was one of the main men attempting to pull Country back into the game after three quarter time. Clark showed a lot of class under pressure, spotting good options by foot and hand on both sides of the body to get the ball into space. Clark was one that spread well around the ground to get a bit of the ball in open play, utilising his overhead strength to beat opponents in marking contests in dangerous spots.
#6 Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)
Arguably Long’s best performance for the year, the midfielder turned forward showed off some impressive craft inside the attacking 50, whilst reminding everyone of his toughness at the contest. Long read the ball of the deck well to collect it at speed, slotting a goal early on after reading the ball off his teammates hands best highlighted this. Long’s ball use was clean for the game, kicking to the advantage of teammates up the field.
#7 Jacob Konstanty (Gippsland Power)
The lively forward was once again a headache for opposition defenders as he danced around opponents with ball in hand. Early on, Konstanty struggled to get the ball, but created plenty of contests when he couldn’t get his hands on it himself. Konstanty came alive from the second quarter onwards, getting himself out of sticky situations with his speed and agility. His work rate has always been impressive both in offence and defence, and it continued against Metro with one particular play where he ran about 55 meters to take a mark inside 50 to highlight it best.
#8 Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)
The prime ball winner for Country on the day, Hollands started the game on fire, not only winning the ball in tight but working hard to be an option around the ground. While he had quite patches, there was a rarely a time where Hollands wasn’t in contention to win the footy, whether from an intercept, tackle, handball receive or getting in and under himself. Hollands’ disposal was mostly sound for the game, using it well out in space or from free kicks, but also finding some good targets when in the thick of the contest.
#14 Harley Reid (Bendigo Pioneers)
If Reid wasn’t already the early pick one favourite for 2023, he made it an unanimous view with his display against Metro. Reid played the first three quarters in the backline as he has done for most of the Championships games, intercepting well and creating drive with his run and disposal quality heading forward. Reid was aggressive with his positioning, mirroring Harvey Gallagher on the opposite side of the ground to set up a devastating intercepting and rebounding threat. It was the fourth term where Reid really made his mark on the game, with Country struggling at times with converting their inside 50s, Reid was sent deep down forward and played a key role in Country’s comeback. Whilst kicking two goals in a quarter doesn’t sound as impressive as it was, Reid’s two one-on-one contested marks against taller opposition is what mainly caught the eye as he used superb body positioning deep in the goal square to do so.
#20 Bailey Humphrey (Gippsland Power)
It was an ‘almost’ day for Humphrey who ended up with one goal and three behinds, missing some gettable shots in a disappointing fashion, including one from the goal square. Despite the less than fortunate day in front of goal, Humphrey showed off all the other traits that have him firmly in the top 10 mix for November. His contested marking and speed off the mark were once again on display from the start, troubling the Metro defenders as it seemed all of them had a go at playing on him at various stages. Despite not having the best day in front of the sticks, Humphrey showed some sound field kicking, getting better as the game went on with the weighting of his disposal.
#25 Aaron Cadman (GWV Rebels)
A mixed game from the premier tall forward of the crop, Cadman was troubled at times by Metro’s Josh Weddle, who didn’t let him get much separation around the ground, stifling his game to a degree. However, as all good players do, Cadman found a way to get on top later in the game, becoming a crucial part in Country’s comeback with his work up the ground and delivery inside 50. It was another mixed bag in front of goal for Cadman, slotting two set shots but missing a couple of others, Cadman’s best goal came as he intercepted an attempted handball inside 50, moved through traffic without losing balance and snapping the goal under pressure.