Vic Metro 15.10 (100) defeated Western Australia 12.9 (81)
Goals: Lennon (4), Boyd (3), Honeychurch (2), Maginness (2), Apeness, Curnow, Kennedy-Harris, Salem
Best: Honeychurch, McDonald, Kelly, Cavarra, McStay, Lennon, Apeness
Vic Metro traveled to Western Australia looking to win their third straight game of the Under 18s Championships. They started well, with key forward Tom Boyd booting three goals in ten minutes. But midway through the first quarter, Boyd went down with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Scans later showed that this injury would for him to miss the rest of the Championships. So with Boyd out, the other Metro forwards had to step up. Ben Lennon kicked four goals, and Mitch Honeychurch had 33 touches and two goals. The Metro midfield was just too strong for WA, with Luke McDonald and Josh Kelly having a huge impact on the game.
Vic Metro 8.7 (55) defeated by South Australia 8.10 (58)
Vic Metro and South Australia was billed as the biggest clash of the Under 18s Championships. Unfortunately with Metro missing Tom Boyd, it meant that Max Hayes had to stand up, something that didn’t happen. While Hayes has had an impressive year, he just couldn’t have a ‘Boyd-like’ influence on the contest and therefore the likes of Ben Lennon and Jack Billings stood up in the forward line. Mitch Honeychurch and Josh Kelly were also among the best, continually driving the ball inside 50 and creating options for the Metro forwards. With the likes of Tom Cutler and Mitch Keedle being late withdrawals, the side was left a little vunerable in defense and the three talls from South Australia ran rampant against a smaller Metro side.
Vic Metro 9.7 (61) defeated Vic Country 6.6 (42)
Goals: Billings (3), Apeness, Lennon, Honeychurch, Sicily, Walker, Bontempelli
Best: Honeychurch, Kennedy-Harris, McDonald, Billings, Kelly, Bontempelli
Vic Metro got one over their state rivals Vic Country in the final round of the Under 18s Championships. Jack Billings had an impressive first half, with 11 disposals and three goals to the main break. Ben Lennon and Michael Apeness were also dangerous in the Metro forward line, as they both created contests close to goal and hit the scoreboard. Mitch Honeychurch continued his great form this Championships, as he racked up 23 touches and laid seven tackles; was one of the best for Metro again. Josh Kelly and Jay Kennedy-Harris also shone in the midfield.
Overall, Vic Metro finished second to winners South Australia, with a 4-1 record, with the three point loss to SA being the deciding game. Had Tom Boyd played that match, the result may have changed and Metro may have been celebrating a three-peat of carnival wins.
Tom Boyd is by far the most talked about player in this draft. At 198cm and 100kg, Boyd is the highest rated key forward since Nick Riewoldt graced the field as an 18 year old. It’s not surprising that Boyd was always going to be a key factor at the Under 18s Championships and was seen as the difference between Vic Metro and the rest. Unfortunately for Boyd and Metro, he lasted barely a quarter, injuring himself against Western Australia in the first match. He still booted three goals in the first quarter but an awkward landing saw his Championships come to an end before they’d barely started. He is a lock for a top three pick this year.
Josh Kelly is one of those elite ball users who can run through the middle and pinpoint a target up forward. Despite his slight build, Kelly has good evasion and vision which helps him weave his way through traffic and deliver lace out to the forwards. Prior to Champs, Kelly had played primarily APS football and had only been sighted twice at TAC Cup level. Against South Australia, Kelly stood up and stamped his authority on the game to almost get the Metro side home. They fell short despite his piecing passes to the likes of Jack Billings and Ben Lennon, but Kelly well and truly put his hand up as a top five pick.
Jack Billings has been considered a star since he made his mark for the Under 16s. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder/forward has the talent to be a top ten pick but sides may elect to go with more complete midfielders. Despite his size, Billings is a fantastic mark overhead and a great kick for goal. He can play midfield but loomed a dangerous forward target alongside Ben Lennon in the Metro forward line. He would add so much class to any forward line with his neat skills and goal kicking prowess. Billings is a first round prospect who should go top ten, but may slip to a late first round depending on needs of the AFL clubs.
Ben Lennon is one of the best overhead marks for an Under 18s player and stepped up when he was called upon at the Under 18s Championships. Against South Australia, Lennon was marking everything in sight and ensuring his side stayed competitive. He’s strong around the core and can shake off tackles and more importantly play that third tall role so incredibly well. Like Billings, sides may prefer to go with a full midfielder, but anyone looking to add another dimension into their forward line couldn’t go too wrong with Lennon.
Christian Salem is considered the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the TAC Cup competition. He is the best user by hand or foot and has great spacial awareness to find targets that many players wouldn’t have the nous to see. Salem is that outside midfielder who isn’t overly quick, but he has that ability to evade would-be tacklers. For sides keen on good ball use, Salem is one player that should be firmly on the radar of most sides. His main knock is his lack of finding the footy compared to other players (17 disposal average) but his disposal is incredibly damaging.
Mitch Honeychurch is one guy who through injury early in the season was unsighted and almost became a ‘forgotten man’ as Eastern Ranges captain Ben Cavarra stood up in his absence. Since returning from injury, Honeychurch has reminded us of what kind of player he could be and really stamped his authority during the Championships. Good against Western Australia, Honeychurch was clearly in the top five players for Metro against South Australia. Playing in the midfield, Honeychurch used the ball cleanly and was able to deliver it to the Metro forwards to provide another midfield option beside Josh Kelly. His Champs form has undoubtedly shot him up the rankings and could well come into top 30 considerations.
Max Hayes didn’t have the Under 18s Championships that he would have liked. After an impressive season with Sandringham thus far, Hayes couldn’t impact the games the way he would have liked. A goal after the siren to reduce the margin to three points was Hayes’ input against South Australia but he provides a strong target up forward to drag away a key defender. Missing Tom Boyd meant Hayes received the best defender, nullifying his impact somewhat. He’ll still be one to watch come draft time and should be drafted in the top 40, depending on how he goes for the rest of the season. Still in the top five key forwards this season.
Ben Cavarra is likened to the underdog that everyone loves so much. He’s small and doesn’t have the best skill set in the world, but runs, chases and racks up important contested disposals. Cavarra has no trouble finding the football and he usually the one under a pack scooping it out to the classy outside runners. Despite his clear limitations, Cavarra has a lot to offer AFL clubs with his hard running and clearance ability. Captain of Eastern Ranges, Cavarra has a good head on his shoulders and oozes leadership. His impressive season and carnival should see him drafted somewhere in the first few rounds, a potential bargain for a side craving an inside midfielder.
Jay Kennedy-Harris is that X-Factor that could be a high-risk, high-reward type player. By high-risk we’re not talking off-field, purely on-field as Kennedy-Harris is a superb individual who has led the Chargers magnificently this year. He has that game changing ability to tear opposition to shreds but his tank needs a lot of work which sees him play a majority of the game up forward. It also sees Kennedy-Harris sometimes go missing for a quarter after dominating for three. Almost single-handedly winning a game against the Bendigo Pioneers off his own boot, Kennedy-Harris could be a handy second round pick for a side with great development that can turn him into an elite player.
Nathan Freeman is another player who stood up during the Under 18s Championships and could potentially push other players out for a top ten spot. Freeman is primarily a high half forward who runs through the midfield with great class. Freeman wins his own football and regularly hits the scoreboard. He is different from other midfielders in the draft as he kicks goals but can also move into the midfield and rack up possessions. His clearances and inside 50s are first class and you’d be struggling to find a team not read his name out on draft day in the first two rounds.