National U18 Championships preview: South Australia

By: Jamie Morgan and David Chapman

For South Australia (SA), the U18 Championships kick off with their first game versus Western Australia at the home of Port Adelaide – Alberton Oval. With it widely to be considered the “super draft”, it is expected that a number of the SA talent will feature inside the Top 20. 

The SA team looks to have quite a potent forward  line led by Jack Lukosius and Hugo Munn as the tall targets, Oscar Chapman linking the play and Izak Rankine extremely dangerous and capable of kicking those ridiculous goals with ease. All other teams will have their work cut out stopping SA scoring.

The SA midfield is also going to be tough to move, with tall midfielder Jackson Hately dominating in the last trial game and playing consistently good League footy for Centrals, he also rotates up forward and slots goals. Captain Luke Valente, also super skillful will be setting up a lot of the play as well, and then the midfield bulls of Tom Lewis and Tom Sparrow, both fierce tackling monsters will make any opposition midfielder earn every possession and also bust out of packs with their own ball. This allows Conor Rozee some freedom on the wing to set up the play.

The SA defence is of most concern. Not overly tall, the players to watch include underager Will Gould, being the most consistent during the trials playing as a key back, either crashing the pack to spoil, or dropping off to take the intercept mark. Jez McLennan and Mihail Lochowiak both possess some real poise and attack off half-back, both having played SANFL Reserves this year.

Players to watch:

Jack Lukosius
Key Position Forward | 194cm | 84.5kg | Woodville West Torrens
League Ave: 11.8 disposals | 4.4 marks | 1.0 tackles | 1.75 goals

Lukosius has shown at a number of levels including SANFL League, that he is ready to play.  He can play as a running hit up forward, or as a dangerous marking forward closer to goal.  With a smooth kicking style and ability to read the play, Lukosius is considered by recruiters as a top pick and with senior experience already there’s not much more to prove. 

Hugo Munn
Key Position Forward | 197cm | 92.5kg | Sturt
League Ave: 4.5 disposals | 1.0 contested marks | 1.0 tackles | 0.75 goals

With real talent and an AFL frame, Munn would be looking to rip apart a few games this championship.  Having showed glimpses at league level for Sturt, in last weekend’s U18 trial game v West Adelaide reserves, whilst not getting much of still managed 4 goals.  With strong hands in the contested mark situation, Munn can be that key deep forward target.  He also can pinch hit in the ruck and it would be expected to see him switch through there during the champs.

Izak Rankine
General Forward/Midfielder | 180cm | 76.4kg | West Adelaide
League Ave: 13.3 disposals | 3.7 marks | 0.7 tackles | 2.3 goals

All Australian last year as a 17 year-old, with pace, creativity and a desire to take them on, Rankine can kick goals from any location and break apart games and break the lines.  Having played SANFL League as a 16 year-old, and consistently delivering at that level by hitting the scoreboard, it will be interesting to see if Rankine gets some more midfield minutes to further demonstrate his talent in different roles. Another proven performer at senior level. 

Oscar Chapman
Medium Forward | 187.5cm | 71.7kg | North Adelaide
Res Ave: 7.5 disposals | 2.3 marks | 1.5 tackles | 2.25 score involvements

Coming into the team as an over-ager, Chapman jumped into the picture with some good performances at school and SANFL level in the second half of last year, being invited to the SA Combine. Playing SANFL Reserves, Chapman has the tank and pace to push up and down the ground to link the play, and does not mind the big pack mark. But it is his defensive pressure which he has added which keeps him in this team and balances the SA forward line.

Jackson Hately
Balanced Midfielder | 190cm | 80.6kg | Central Districts
League Ave: 18.5 disposals | 3.5 marks | 5.8 tackles | 1.0 goals

Playing League footy this season, Hately has been at home in the midfield and across half-forward. He is a consistent ball winner and goal kicker. At 190cm, he is a modern prototype midfielder.  School captain as well and leading scorer and in the All-Tournament team at the U16 national basketball champs, Hately is comfortable in traffic and when up forward with his leap and smarts is dangerous. Could be the most complete midfielder in the 2018 draft pool.

Luke Valente
Balanced Midfielder | 186cm | 80kg | Norwood
Res Ave: 22 disposals | 7.0 marks | 3.0 tackles | 4.0 score involvements

Named Captain for SA – as well as school captain, Valente is dripping with leadership. You will often find him in the packs, riding the tackles and dishing out the ball to teammates to open up the game. Given the chance by foot, Valente’s skill on either side is elite. He will be looking to the championships to show what he can do and move up the draft board.

Tom Lewis
Inside Midfielder | 178.5cm | 80kg | Sturt
Res Ave: 20.5 disposals | 2.0 marks | 7.5 tackles | 6.0 clearances

Is found at the feet of ruckman and bottom of packs, Lewis is a midfield bull.  With an AFL ready frame, Lewis gets a lot of contested ball, and can burst into and out of packs.  The scary part if he does not get it, is that he tackles like you stole his wallet, fierce, hard and bruising. At Reserves levels he averages just under eight tackles per game.

Tom Sparrow
Inside Midfielder | 182cm | 81kg | South Adelaide
U18 Ave: 20.3 disposals | 3.3 marks | 3.8 tackles | 5.8 clearances

Another midfield bruiser and hard as a cats head, Sparrow likes to work in close. Gets his own ball in the contest and gets the ball out to the outside runners well. When he invariably bursts out of the pack himself, Sparrow can use his speed to create space on the opposition. Sparrow plays both SANFL and College footy, where he is captain for Prince Alfred College, last years State Champions and victors over Haileybury in a pre-season match this year. 

Connor Rozee
General Utility | 185cm | 71.2kg | North Adelaide
League Ave: 10.5 disposals | 3.3 marks | 2.3 tackles | 3.0 score involvements

A medium sized utility, Rozee started the year setting up the game across half back in the SANFL Reserves and then was selected across half-forward in the League team.  More of an outside runner in the midfield, Rozee reeks class with his positioning and precision of disposal.  Has a nice leap as well as a keen eye for goals and has the potential to get into space undetected. 

Will Gould
Tall Defender | 190cm | 93kg | Glenelg
U18 Ave: 17 disposals | 4.8 marks | 2.5 tackles | 4.5 rebounds

An underager Gould has been playing against the older boys his whole career including being U15 All Australian as a 14 year-old.  Has played up forward and kicked bags including seven goals in an U16 SANFL Grand Final.  But it is in defence during the SA U18 trials that Gould has cemented his place.  His ability to read the flight of the ball, and either jump into the pack bringing the ball to ground, or drop back to mark the ball is top notch. For his frame he is deceptively quick and can either chase down forwards or drive the ball into attack. 

Jez McLennan
General Defender | 183cm | 80.7kg | Central Districts
Res Ave: 12.6 disposals | 3.8 marks | 3.2 tackles | 1.4 clearances

Playing across half-back, McLennan provides a quarterback role in this team and rebounds well from the defensive 50m arc with smart choices.  Has demonstrated courage on numerous occasions to drop in front of the oncoming forward without flinching. Given the chance, McLennan can take a nice overhead pack mark as well.

Mihail Lochowiak
General Defender | 184cm | 81.6kg | Sturt | Medium Defender
Res Ave: 16 disposals | 3.6 marks | 3.6 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s

Another classy half back, Lochowiak continues to find the ball at half-back and attack with pace. Comfortable to take on the opposition, brush a tackle and take a bounce, he is exciting to watch and really breaks the lines. Probably needs to tidy up his final disposal, but the positives of his 70-80m plays are worth it. 

Others to note include:

Mid/forward Hayden Sampson (son of Crow Clay) who can use his smarts to get loose and create forward thrusts and kick goals. 
Riley Grundy (brother of Pie Brody) is a likely key back, and shows real desperation in the contest to beat his opponent, and still has some development to come.

 Leadership Group:

Captain: Luke Valente
Deputies:  Jackson Hately, Tom Lewis, Jack Lukosius and Jez McLennan

Fixture:

Game 1: June 3 vs. WA – Alberton Oval
Game 2: June 17 vs. Vic Country – Adelaide Oval
Game 3: June 29 vs. Allies – GMHBA Stadium (Geelong)
Game 4: July 4 vs. Vic Metro – Etihad Stadium

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