South Australia kicks off champs with emphatic win

SOUTH Australia proved too strong for a gallant Western Australia to run out 35-point winners to kick off the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships at Joondalup today. Despite an inaccurate performance from the Croweaters, the weight of numbers going forward and the defensive pressure helped set up the 8.12 (60) to 4.1 (25) victory.

Leading from the front were top draft prospects Shineah Goody and Lauren Young, who sparked their side in the first half and caused plenty of headaches for the opposition. Though South Australia came away with the victory, credit goes to the Sandgropers’ defence which held up despite an onslaught of inside 50s, particularly through the third term.

South Australia took just two and a half minutes to kick its first goal with Lauren Young laying a strong tackle on double bottom-ager Evie Cowcher to win a free kick and slot the goal. Fittingly it was Young herself, who won her state’s MVP as a 15-year-old, the same age as the talented Peel Thunder defender who was stepping up to her older grade from the Under 16s.

Young would prove too much for the combination of Cowcher and fellow young gun Olivia Crane, kicking 2.2 before over-ager Mackenzie Webb was moved onto the prestigious talent. While Young would kick a third goal late in the second term via a free, Webb was incredible one-on-one and held her own against the prestigious talent all game.

It was a strange kind of match with South Australia always seemingly in control, and having forward half possession, but the Sandgropers defence stood up time and time again. Cowcher and Crane adapted to the game as it went on, with the pair alongside Webb and the skilful Zippy Fish having some eye-catching plays. It would not be enough though, as South Australia kicked away in that third term to open up a five-goal lead at half-time that would ultimately win them the game.

The sheer class of Goody and strength of Young, with cameos from inside midfielders Brooke Boileau and Piper Window was enough to keep the visitors on top throughout the game. Despite having 14 of the first 15 inside 50s in the third term, the Croweaters only managed the 1.4, with a mix of inaccuracy and terrific defence from the Sandgropers.

The pressure coming from Central District’s Elaine Grigg was equally eye-catching as South Australia won the tackle count 63-45, a remarkable effort considering the winners went plus-59 in disposals. After India Rasheed kicked a goal in the opening minute of the third term, there were danger signs on the wall, but Western Australia only conceded two more goals from that point on – last quarter majors to Ruby Ballard and Zara Walsh – while kicking three majors in the final quarter themselves.

Natasha Entwistle, Ella Slocombe and Noa McNaughton all converted goals to add to skipper Anjelique Raison‘s major in the first quarter. There were plenty of hard-fought efforts from players such as AFLW Academy members Georgie Cleaver and Jaime Henry who had 19 and 17 disposals respectively. Fish was clean and precise off half-back while Slocombe was a standout all game.

Goody was the clear best on ground though, racking up 30 disposals, and having seven marks, six clearances, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s in the win. Young (20 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and 3.2) was the dominant play inside 50, while Boileau, Grigg and Window all took control in the midfield. Rasheed was uncharacteristically inaccurate with 1.3 but still influenced the game with 13 disposals and four marks, while Molly Brooksby worked back from an injury in her second game for 15 disposals, three clearances and three rebound 50s playing off half-back.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA U18s 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 4.1 (25)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA U18s 2.4 | 5.7 | 6.11 | 8.12 (60)

A. Raison, N. Entwistle, E. Slocombe, N. McNaughton
SA: L. Young 3, B. Boileau, M. Anderson, I. Rasheed, R. Ballard, Z. Walsh

E. Slocombe, M. Webb, J. Henry, Z. Fish, G. Cleaver
SA: S. Goody, L. Young, B. Boileau, P. Window, E. Grigg

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