South Australian stars shine in Country cull

AFTER two underwhelming performances to start the 2023 AFL Under 18s Championships, South Australia came to play, storming to a 19-point victory over Vic Country at Ikon Park today. After Vic Country kicked the first four goals of the match – three to number one pick Harley Reid – South Australia kicked eight of the next 10 and went on to win, 15.4 (94) to 11.9 (75).

While Reid was the star for the first 10 minutes of the match, it quickly became the Tyler Welsh and Jack Delean show. The forward pair, along with talented Glenelg forward Ashton Moir all went to work, and the trio finished with 11 goals between them, outscoring the Country side.

The opening 10 minutes looked ominous for Vic Country as Reid kicked three goals in different ways to put his side 18-0 up in the blink of an eye. When GWV Rebels small Lachlan Charleson snapped one from just outside the goalsquare, the home side was 25 points up and the writing was already on the wall.

Then, against the tide, something changed. The South Australian midfield led by Kane McAuliffe and Sid Draper got on top, and the X-factor duo of Delean and Ashton Moir started getting their hands on the ball. The trio combined for Delean to nail a brilliant set shot which came just after Welsh converted South Australia’s first of the contest.

It smarted a run-on for the visitors, as Welsh kicked his second not long after, and slowly but surely, South Australia had clawed to within seven points at the first change. The momentum from the last half of the first term rolled into the second quarter, as Moir and then Delean – with a clear Goal of the Day contender from the pocket – incredibly put South Australia in front.

From then, it was game on for the rest of the first half. Vic Country had the majority of the forward half possession, and though a few chances fell short, the pressure was on. Darcy Wilson capitalised after being caught high and then downed by South Australian defender Alex Holt and set to the goalline where he put his team back in front.

It would change hands five times in the quarter, with Moir kicking a ripping goal from long-range up the other end, and strong midfielder/defender George Stevens – who had been lively to that point – found himself in space to convert a set shot goal. Vic Country continued to attack but missed a number of gettable chances, and then bottom-age Port father-son prospect Louie Montgomery snapped a dagger in their hearts with a great goal on the run.

When Phoenix Hargrave made no mistake from a long-range set shot just before the siren, South Australia found itself in front at the half. Heading into the rooms at the main break, the Croweaters had kicked seven of the last nine goals to roar to a 8.1 (49) to 6.8 (44) lead.

Returning from the break looking every bit the better side, South Australia started to apply some serious scoreboard pressure to the Vics. Welsh kicked another two goals at either end of the quarter, but evrn the South Australian talls were starting to get involved. Taylor Goad dribbled a brilliant one out of nothing, while Tom Luck marked on the goalline off a Luca Slade snap, and tat one point, the lead had grown to three straight kicks.

Had it not been for Geelong Falcons forward Michael Rudd – who kicked two of his sides’ three goals after missing a couple of earlier chances – the game could well have been done and dusted by the final break. The momentum was largely with the Croweaters throughout the quarter, but a late free kick to Bushrangers’ Wilson – who kicked his second from 30m out straight in front – cut the deficit back to 12 points at the final break, setting up a ripping last quarter.

Unfortunately for the Vics though, South Australia’s star power would continue to shine early in the fourth term as South Adelaide top-ager Delean slammed home two goals in the space of a minute and put the icing on the cake. When Welsh pulled out the party tricks and slotted a goal on the run from 45m, it was 30 points the margin and game over.

Vic Country kicked two consolation goals to Joel Freijah and Kade De La Rue in the final term, but it was not going to be enough, falling 19 points short of an impressive South Australian lineup. Stevens and Dandenong talent Kobe Shipp were among the best with Rudd, but the work of Welsh, Delean and Moir up forward, with McAuliffe and South Australian skipper Will Patton down back proved too much.

VIC COUNTRY 4.2 | 6.8 | 9.9 | 11.9 (75)
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 3.1 | 8.1 | 12.3 | 15.4 (94)

Vic Country:
H. Reid 3, M. Rudd 2, D. Wilson 2, L. Charleson, G. Stevens, J. Freijah, K. De La Rue
South Australia: T. Welsh 5, J. Delean 4, A. Moir 2, L. Montgomery, P. Hargreave, T. Goad, T. Luck

Vic Country: G. Stevens, K. Shipp, M. Rudd, B. Wilson, H. Reid, H. De Mattia
South Australia: T. Welsh, J. Delean, K. McAuliffe, A. Moir, W. Patton, S. Draper

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