With the sun shining bright on a picture perfect Simonds Stadium, all looked set for a classic battle in division one of NAB AFL Under-18 Championships between arch-rivals Vic Metro and Vic Country on Sunday morning.
Coming off a winless campaign against Metro in the 2013 Championships, Country had a point to prove, and prove it they did.
In front of a few hundred interested on-lookers, Country put on a spectacular display that left Metro heads turning in a stunning 44-point defeat, 12.9 (81) to 4.13 (37).
Vic Country’s engine room of Daniel Butler, Jack Lonie and Joe Maishman were instrumental in the win, providing great intensity and x-factor in a contest where Metro’s midfielders struggled to have impact on the game.
Aaron Wilson stood tall up forward and slotted four goals for Country, and found himself on the end of some superb transitional plays and precision disposals from the midfield.
The opening quarter proved an interesting one however, as Metro hit the lead early and kept Country goalless. Damien Cavka opened up Metro’s account with a quality snap around his body in the opening minutes, whilst Marc Pittonet dominated in the ruck, with precision taps to advantage opening up opportunities for Metro to clear the ball from the stoppages.
Father-son prospect Darcy Moore was a highlight for Metro in the early stages of the game, after starting off in defence. Showing great intensity and maturity, Moore showed glimpses of his potential and led his team from the front.
Despite Moore’s efforts, Metro looked shaky in defence and turned over plenty of ball early. The quarter time score line which saw Metro lead by 13 points could have been a whole different story had Country converted the opportunities that were presented to them.
The second quarter saw the game open up on the pristine surface at Simonds Stadium. Country kicked five goals to Metro’s two, with Butler and Lonie’s electrifying efforts generating scoring opportunities from dangerous midfield thrusts. Butler nabbed two goals for the quarter, including an impressive follow up effort which saw him deliver the ball inside forward 50 and follow it up to crumb the contest and nail the goal.
For Metro, Ben Allan provided the spark that his team had been lacking. Using his pace and classy evasive skills, he nailed a goal of his own and got forward of centre to deliver some superb lace out kicks into the Metro forwards.
But it was Metro’s ball use that proved costly again, as their inability to move the ball quickly down the ground generated pressure, which resulted in consistent turnovers. By half time Country had built a lead of seven points.
The third quarter saw Country take control of the game, nailing four unanswered goals. Gach Nyuon worked himself into the ruck battle which helped generate a host of clean clearances. When Wilson slotted two goals in the space of a minute, Country had extended their lead to 31 points.
Metro had no answers and at this stage and were finding it difficult to compete Country swarmed the contests and worked hard to get numbers around the ball. Maishman and Lonie were in amongst everything as Metro struggled to contain the repeated efforts of their opponents.
It was more evident as the game wore on that Country’s defence all over the ground was a class above. Country did well to zone off their opponents and peel off from the space to pick off errant kicks coming out of the Metro defence. Confounding Metro’s problems was an injury to Matt Goodyear which saw him leave the field in the hands of the trainers.
By the final quarter all life had been sucked out of the game. Metro found ways to generate attempts on goal but were unable to convert with five behinds from set shots. Christian Petracca and Liam Duggan toiled to generate respectability on the scoreboard, but it was too little, too late.
Butler continued on his brilliant performance in the last quarter. His phenomenal and gritty second, third and fourth efforts at the contests showed great endurance and a hunger for the ball which Metro appeared to lack for most of the day.
Defender James Richards drifted forward in the dying moments of the game and slotted a final goal on the siren for Country, to put an exclamation mark on a dominant performance.
Vic Metro 2.3 4.4 4.6 4.13 (37)
Vic Country 0.2 5.5 9.7 12.9 (81)
Vic Metro: Cavka, Dear, Allan, Maynard
Vic Country: Wilson 4, Lonie 2, Butler 2, Nelson, Schache, Harnett, Richards
Vic Metro: Pittonet, Allan, Duggan, Petracca, Moore
Vic Country: Butler, Lonie, Maishman, Wilson
3 – Daniel Butler
2 – Jack Lonie
1 – Joe Maishman