Scouting Notes: 2023 SANFL Under 18s Grand Final
SOUTH Adelaide has taken out the 2023 SANFL Under 18s premiership after defeating Sturt by two points in a thrilling decider at Adelaide Oval. Minor premiers this year, the Panthers came in off a week off but were pushed all the way by a gallant Sturt outfit who nearly snatched the flag from fourth.
In what was an enthralling contest amid 28-degree heat, South led at every change but could never quite kick away from the plucky Double Blues. Luca Slade cut the margin to two points with under 10 seconds on the clock, which sadly for Sturt ended up being the final kick of the game.
Bottom-aged star and state Under 18 MVP Sid Draper took out the Alan Stewart Medal as best afield, while Under 16 MVP Dyson Sharp won identical honours in the Under 16 Grand Final. His Central District side knocked off Sturt by 20 points in the day’s earlier game.
As always, and for the final time in 2023, we took note of some of the top prospects afield with a narrow focus on state representatives, draft combine invitees, and emerging bottom-aged talent.
2023 SANFL UNDER 18 GRAND FINAL
STH ADELAIDE 3.3 | 6.5 | 9.6 | 10.11 (71)
STURT 2.2 | 6.4 | 7.7 | 10.9 (69)
South: N. Howes 3, J. Delean, S. Draper, P. Hargrave, B. Rodrigues, C. Shortridge, D. Sterzl, T. Wheaton
Sturt: J. Maher 2, L. Rawlinson 2, J. Adams, N. Atkinson, D. Gladigau, C. Mills, L. Slade, S. Waltham
South: S. Draper, N. Schroder, Z. Keir, A. Duke, N. Howes
Sturt: T. McCourt, L. Rawlinson, N. Atkinson, L. Slade, C. Kelly
Alan Stewart Medal: Sid Draper (South Adelaide)
#3 Sid Draper
Midfielder/Forward | 180cm | 72kg | 05/07/2006
Stats: 21 disposals, 3 clearances, 1 goal
It was only fitting that the state’s MVP this year and top prospect for 2024 took out best afield honours on the competition’s biggest stage. Draper perhaps sealed the deal with his three running bounces which set up Dakota Sterzl’s sealing goal, though he had been excellent to that point regardless. The bottom-ager started up forward and soon proved why he’s even more valuable on-ball, providing clean stoppage work and a turn of speed which made him impossible to lay a hand on. He was dangerous on the overlap and matched his flair with substance, as seen in his repeat running effort to get on the end of a steadying goal in the second quarter. A genuine jet.
#10 Jack Delean
Small Forward | 181cm | 75kg | 15/04/2005
Stats: 7 disposals, 3 marks, 1 goal
Camped almost exclusively inside attacking 50, Delean looked lively when the ball entered his area but was contained well by Thomas McCourt and lacked his usual finishing touch. The mercurial small forward showed good speed off the mark when leading and was quite clean when opportunities arose, including when he attacked a ground ball hard to win the free kick and slot his only goal. Aside from that, he bellied a snap from the pocket and missed another set shot chance he would normally take.
#12 Phoenix Hargrave
Midfielder | 181cm | 83kg | 15/09/2006
Stats: 18 disposals, 5 clearances, 1 goal
Hargrave, the recently crowned Under 18 MVP, showed much of the same form which earned him said honour this year. He was strong over the ball and racked it up as per usual, working hard both at the contest and between the arcs to have a say on the game. After a missed snap in the opening quarter, the bottom-ager floated home a goal from beyond the 50m arc in term three.
#23 Tom Wheaton
Midfielder/Forward | 190cm | 82kg | 14/11/2005
Stats: 11 disposals, 8 tackles, 1 goal
Though not as prolific as usual, Wheaton spent a good amount of time up forward and did a lot of the tough stuff in midfield – exemplified by his eight tackles and five clearances. The big-bodied ball winner leant on his strength to break tackles and muscle out handballs, while also hitting the scoreboard with a steady set shot in the opening quarter.
#40 Taylor Goad
Ruck | 205cm | 90kg | 28/04/2005
Stats: 13 disposals, 5 clearances, 17 hitouts
Having perhaps been a little overzealous in the first term, Goad quickly began to assert his physicality in positive ways and provided great presence around the ground. His athleticism helped him win a game-high 17 hitouts, but it was Goad’s five clearances and three contested marks which were arguably more pleasing. The mobile ruck was an ominous figure down the line and hard to shift once planted, which bodes well for his development as an emerging tall.
Though he missed a few crucial chances in the second half, Noah Howes spearheaded South’s attack with three goals before the main break and clunked six marks along the way. At the other end, Zak Keir reeled in 11 grabs to be a settling influence, while the likes of Benny Barrett and Ayden Duke produced their own promising passages of play.
#17 Declan Gladigau
Wing | 180cm | 71kg | 24/08/2005
Stats: 19 disposals, 6 marks, 1 goal
Stationed out on the wing as usual, Gladigau lifted to the early Grand Final intensity by shutting down defensively to complement his usual outside work. He also dropped back to help Sturt move the ball with fluency in transition, and even snuck forward through hard running to kick his one and only goal in term two. Gladigau’s attacking drive slowed in the second half, but he still accumulated a good amount of ball.
#25 Loch Rawlinson
Small Forward | 177cm | 71kg | 01/06/2005
Stats: 17 disposals, 4 tackles, 2 goals
Rawlinson made a busy start to the game and kicked Sturt’s opening major over the mark. At times, he was forced to search high up the ground for possessions, reaching the defensive 50 in hopes of helping the Double Blues get some connection into attack. He looked to step and drive his legs with ball in hand, and once thrown into midfield, his tackling acumen came to the fore. He nearly helped his side get over the line with a booming 50m goal in the final quarter.
#27 Ned Atkinson
Midfielder/Forward | 181cm | 79kg | 31/07/2006
Stats: 20 disposals, 6 marks, 1 goal
The son of Magarey Medallist Brodie Atkinson, Ned’s toughness and work rate were pivotal to his performance. He rotated forward from midfield and was typically gutsy overhead, taking clean grabs as he found the ball in all areas of the ground. Atkinson’s marking nous saw him intercept a South kick-in for his lone goal, though he missed another set shot opportunity later in the game.
#30 Luca Slade
Midfielder | 181cm | 72kg | 11/03/2005
Stats: 26 disposals, 6 marks, 1 goal
Slade led all comers on Sunday and was an integral part of Sturt’s push for an upset victory, pushing until the very last kick of the day – which he goaled with. The robust top-aged midfielder was made to rush by hand in the hot early exchanges, but adjusted nicely to drive his legs and penetrate the lines by foot. With the game up for grabs in term four, he showed good intent to snatch ground and take the game on where possible.
#39 Henry Maerschel
Defender | 189cm | 76kg | 11/10/2005
Stats: 12 disposals, 4 tackles, 2 rebound 50s
An attacking outlet in Sturt’s sturdy defence, Maerschel’s best weapon on Sunday was his aggressive overlap running. He couldn’t quite get his intercept game going, but laid some nice tackles and timed his runs well to break the game open with bursts of speed. Those moments were relatively sparse, but the talent is there.
Defender Thomas McCourt played one of the most important roles afield, manning Delean while picking up 19 disposals and five marks of his own. Cameron Kelly was also solid and earned a spot in Sturt’s best players as a result, while Ted Newman (seven rebound 50s) helped set up play from the back. Up forward, Jasper Maher snapped a couple of timely goals.