Country survives late scare to hold off WA

VIC COUNTRY just got away with its first win of the 2023 AFL Under 18 Championships, defeating Western Australia by two points in a nail-biting 8.13 (61) to 8.11 (59) victory in Perth. The visitors lead throughout the contest, but never quite shook off the Sandgropers, with Western Australia threatening to steal the victory with the last inside 50 of the game moments before the siren.

It was the Harley Reid and Daniel Curtin show as the pair put on a clinic for their respective sides and gave fans a glimpse into the best overall player and best key utility in this year’s draft crop. Reid finished with 26 disposals, 10 marks, five clearances and booted 2.3, while Curtin clunked 11 marks from 23 disposals and spent time in both midfield and forward, kicking a clutch goal in the dying moments.

Despite Curtin’s remarkable snap from 45m on the boundary, the Sandgropers fell just short of taking home the points despite trailing for the entire match. Even heading into the last quarter, Vic Country lead by nine points, and when Zane Duursma kicked a goal off a slicing Billy Wilson pass inside 50, the margin was out to nine points with five minutes left.

Curtin was moved into the midfield and immediately had a say, teaming up with Clay Hall who was the equal most highest disposal winner on the ground with Reid, as well as having six clearances and laying nine tackles. Unfortunately, Reece Torrent could not finish off Curtin’s great delivery, hitting the post from 30m. It meant the big man had to do it himself with two minutes remaining, snapping truly in the goal of the day to draw within two points.

The final centre bounce with just a minute remaining saw Curtin at full-forward and Hall deliver lace out, but the West Australian tall was spoiled. Vic Country swarmed the ground ball and locked it up, with a saving rebound 50 from Coby James enough to ensure the visitors won the game.

It was a game of mixed emotions with some incredible end-to-end play, and then some lapses in skill with turnovers between the arcs. There was even a melee just on half-time after Coen Livingstone slotted a goal. The West Australians had Reid in their minds and they, along with the crowd were making sure he knew they were watching.

Harley’s namesake in Archer Reid started the game on a positive note with a terrific snap for the opening goal, and had some nice deliveries inside 50. He along with Angus Hastie and Kade De La Rue were prominent ball-winners, with the latter two defenders providing aggressive run down the field. Hall and Luke Kelly were key for the West Australians, while Livingstone and Sam van Rooyen‘s goals on the eve of half-time ensure the Sandgropers remained close.

The third term was a slog with neither team able to gain real scoreboard ascendancy, but it built up to the eventual frantic finish. Reid was the most consistent four-quarter player, though Harry De Mattia, Lachlan Charleson and Archer Day-Wicks were all promising. In defence, Luamon Lual provided some terrific run for Country. In attack, Michael Rudd slotted three goals to be the most dominant goalkicker on the ground.

Western Australia was brilliantly lead by Curtin all over the ground, and Hall and Kelly in midfield. In particular, Kelly laid two brilliant tackles at the start of the fourth term to win holding the ball free kicks and set the tone for his side. In defence, Riley Hardeman and Oscar Hine-Baston were busy, while Koen Sanchez also found plenty of the ball.

The result moved Western Australia to 1-2 from the AFL Under 18 Championships, with the Sandgropers’ final match to come against Vic Metro on Sunday, July 9. Vic Country has won one and lost one, with the Allies (July 9) and Vic Metro (July 16) to close out its national carnival for 2023.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 2.1 | 4.5 | 5.8 | 8.11 (59)
VIC COUNTRY 3.6 | 5.8 | 6.11 | 8.13 (61)

WA: L. Collard 2, E. Smith, K. Smith, S. van Rooyen, C. Livingstone, K. Dehavilland, D. Curtin
VC: M. Rudd 3, H. Reid 2, A. Reid, A. Day-Wicks, Z. Duursma

WA: D. Curtin, C. Hall, L. Kelly, K. Sanchez, O. Hine-Baston
VC: H. Reid, A. Day-Wicks, L. Charleson, H. De Mattia, M. Rudd

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