THE Allies and Victoria Country kicked off their 2018 National Under 18 Championships at Blacktown Oval on Saturday, with both sides exposing elite talents and midfield depth. The match up was very hotly contested with the midfield and ruck battle producing high disposal and tackle counts in the rough conditions.
Vic Country kicked the first goal of the game from a boundary stoppage as Geelong Grammar’s Jye Caldwell received a handball from Hudson Garoni as he steadied from 40 metres out to roll through the first off the day. Starting well with six disposals in the first quarter that goal was co-captain Jye Caldwell’s last meaningful contribution of the game as he succumbed to a hamstring injury and was followed by Dandenong Stingrays’ midfielder Mitch Riordan. Vic Country dominated the early contests and acclimatised themselves to the slippery conditions with superior skills coming from onballers Sam Walsh and Sam Fletcher. Hudson Garoni was Vic Country’s barometer up forward as he marked superbly and was able to have multiple shots at goal in the first quarter.
Down at quarter time, the Allies responded after a tough first quarter where they were beaten in most areas. The Allies midfield significantly stepped up in clearances as they started to gain some ascendency in the match. James Peatling kicked a super roving goal to kick the Allies back into match, as the boundary throw in evaded both Jacob Koschitzke and Bailey Williams, Peatling pounced and kicked a superb snap while being swung around in the tackle by Sam Walsh. Tasmanian midfielder Chayce Jones was integral to the fight back winning many clearances and crucially intercepting a poor kick in by Connor Idun and converting with a goal. The final play of the half was an attack by Vic Country as ruckman Bailey Williams got a kick away just in time to kick goal just before the half time siren.
The third quarter commenced with Chayce Jones kicking a booming goal on the run from 50 metres as his influence was growing stronger on the game. The low scoring continued throughout the quarter, as the heavily-contested footy saw many stoppages and sparse opportunities. Sam Flanders did brilliantly to pounce on an errant kick in Allies defensive 50 and snapped truly, this was possible from the forward line pressure by Oscar Brownless. But Allies hit back once more as Tarryn Thomas expertly found Thomas Green 30 metres out on a slight angle, Green made no mistake from the set shot as the match up was set for a tight finish.
With Allies key forward father-son pick Nick Blakey missing through illness an opportunity arose for another big man forward to fill his void. With Victoria Country leading by two points at the final break the Allies yearned a match winning performance and that came in the way of ruck/forward Kieren Briggs. The Greater Western Sydney academy player stamped his authority early in the final quarter by taking a huge pack mark over three Country defenders and converting, as Briggs then added two more goals that saw the Allies pick up their first win of the championships.
A key to Allies victory was Chayce Jones as he was comfortably the best player on the ground, his performance featured 28 possessions, five clearances, six tackles and two goals. Bottom age stars Tom Green (24 disposals) and Mitch O’Neill (26 disposals) were also very serviceable, Green’s team high six clearances stood out as the conditions required cleaner skills and disposal.
Allies and Tasmania’s great draft hope Tarryn Thomas was barely sighted in the first half as Vic Country dominated through the middle. Thomas’ second half was much more productive as he finished with 17 touches and six tackles with his contributions key to the Allies last quarter.
Swingman Matt McGuiness was very valuable for his side in multiple roles, as Jacob Koschitzke – who played against many of his Murray Bushrangers teammates – was also great with his positional changing role.
For Vic Country, potential top draft pick Sam Walsh was at his dominant best, accumulating a game high 31 possessions which included five tackles and six clearances.
With Jye Caldwell and Mitch Riordan off early, Geelong father-son prospect Oscar Brownless – the son of Geelong star Bill Brownless – was productive with 18 touches and seven tackles, as Sam Fletcher provided a game high 14 tackles and gained 19 possessions.
Defenders Kyle Reid and Connor Idun held the defensive fort throughout the day but couldn’t stop the Allies goal rush in the last quarter.
In the next championship fixtures Vic Country travel to Adelaide Oval to face South Australia on Sunday June 17, as the Allies will face Victoria Metro at Southport Oval on Saturday June 16.
Allies 10.11 (71) defeated Victoria Country 6.12 (48)
Allies: Briggs 3, Jones 2, Scott 2, Green, Peatling, Turner
Vic Country: Flanders 2, Garoni 2, Caldwell, Williams
Allies: Jones, Briggs, Green, Tomkinson, McGuiness
Vic Country: Walsh, Fletcher, Reid, Brownless