SANFL U18 Player Focus: Kane McAuliffe
NORTH Adelaide midfielder Kane McAuliffe had himself a day out in Round 1, racking up game-high numbers despite his side going down by 39 points to Sturt on Sunday.
The strongly built onballer is one of South Australia’s most highly touted prospects in 2023 and was included in the National Academy intake, rubber stamping his high-end credentials.
He kicked off his top-age campaign in style, and will look to carry on in a similar manner having already picked up a slew of junior accolades. This week, he’s our SANFL Under 18 Player Focus.
2023 SANFL Under 18s: Round 1
Sturt 13.12 (90) def. North Adelaide 7.9 (51)
Player Focus: #7 Kane McAuliffe (North Adelaide)
Stats: 28 disposals (15 kicks, 13 handballs), 5 marks, 2 tackles, 5 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 7 rebound 50s
Starting out in his usual midfield post, McAuliffe’s improved running capacity was on show as him found the ball both at and outside of the contest. He claimed the first clear possession of the game via a holding the ball free kick, spreading the play wide with an effective short pass.
His willingness to wheel and go quickly by foot, on that favoured left side, made for a terrific switch later in the term and adds a nice point of difference to McAuliffe’s inside nous.
The 18-year-old also showcased his smarts in tight spots by picking off opposition handballs and looking to find exits with explosive steps.
In all, it was a solid 25 minutes for the well-built midfielder, who attended three of five centre bounces and made an impact with handy variety in his play.
It was likely no great coincidence that McAuliffe’s absence from the first three centre bounces saw Sturt pile on as many goals within four-and-a-half minutes of term two. Once he was thrown amongst the action, unsurprisingly, the clearance count began to shift – even if he wasn’t the one to claim them.
Though his presence on the inside steadied North Adelaide around the contest, McAuliffe was made to correct a particular facet of his game.
He was caught out a couple of times burning the first option, and he was made to pay as one handpass turned over for a Sturt passage to goal. Eventually he began to take the first option, adding greater fluency to the Roosters’ ball movement.
Later in the quarter, the 187cm talent impressed with his ability to step past opponents, taking a couple on inside defensive 50 in what was a brave play, and shrugging both off with a combination of power and agility. That’s the kind of play which has him poised as one of the best prospects in the state.
Though McAuliffe is capable of fanning the play wide by foot, Sturt began to catch onto his weapon as a left-footer. Feigning right before shifting left, his first kick was smothered and his second was a flying shot on goal which landed out on the full.
Still, McAuliffe shifted gears better after half time both with and without the ball, and again spread the ball from side to side with a lovely switch late in the term.
As a more permanent centre bounce fixture, he continued to rack up the ball and even enjoyed a bit of push and shove with state teammate Alex Holt when rotated forward.
Though North Adelaide was well behind the game with only the last period to play, McAuliffe showed his intent by crashing in at the restart.
A strong intercept mark in the corridor was an indicator of his overhead marking prowess, and McAuliffe very nearly took toll with a 50m bomb of a set shot in the same play – it ended up touched on the line.
He continued to show intent in moving the ball on quickly, often doing so by foot or releasing others in quick chains by hand. That kind of expansive play complimented his contest extraction throughout the day, as McAuliffe rounded out a strong outing.