IN the final stanza of the National Under 18 Championships, all roads lead to Etihad Stadium where the Allies take on Western Australia, and Vic Metro hosts South Australia in an enticing double header. Vic Metro and South Australia become the headline act with the winner-takes-all mentality given the title is on the line for both sides.
ALLIES V. WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Wednesday, July 4, 2.10pm
The opening game of the final round pits the Allies against Western Australia. The winner takes third spot on the final table of the National Under 18 Championships, with both teams having sole wins over Vic Country, and losses against South Australia and Vic Metro. The Allies come into the game with a strong squad, omitting bottom-ager Thomas Green who had been solid so far, and rotating Dirk Koenen for Matthew McGuiness. Overager Michael Mummery gets his chance to shine on Etihad, while the Western Australian side has three fresh faces to add to it’s victorious team over Vic Country. Ian Hill is a huge loss for the Black Swans, with the West Australian captain banned for a sling tackle on Laitham Vandermeer last Friday. With injuries to Damon Greaves and Thomas Baldwin, Western Australia flew over Wil Hickmott to join the squad, and he will run out tomorrow with Luke Moore and Ethan Hansen as the other changes.
The midfield battle will be intriguing with Hickmott joining Sydney Stack, Luke Foley, Deven Robertson and Luke English in the middle. Jack Buller will have his work cut out for him against man mountain Kieren Briggs who is in super form for the Allies. He has been giving his midfield of Tarryn Thomas, Connor McFadyen, Chayce Jones and Fraser Turner first chance at the stoppages. Jacob Koschitzke is in fine form and could be the man for Dillon O’Reilly who has been showing promising signs as a key forward, while Jason Carter and Jordan Clark provide plenty of dash off half-back. Bailey Scott and Connor Budarick will look to keep them honest, while Nick Blakey looms as the danger man for the Allies and one that Western Australia – and perhaps Regan Spooner in particular – will look to contain. Overall, the Allies will head in as favourites, but the West Australians move the ball quick and cleanly to the forward line and it is hoped Jarrod Cameron can provide the spark again after he booted five goals in Geelong.
VIC METRO V. SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Wednesday, July 4, 4.40pm
In the game that everyone will tune in for, the National Under 18 Championships title will be on the line for the undefeated Vic Metro and South Australian sides. In what ended up being a perfect fixture for the AFL, the two best sides are going head-to-head in the final match of the series with the winner to be handed the trophy and celebrate afterwards without any interruptions to other fixturing. South Australia has made its expected two changes, with Mihail Lochowiak and Jacob Collins replacing Kai Pudney and Boyd Woodcock in the team. Vic Metro has rotated rucks for the final game, with Tom Hallebone recalled to ruck against James Siviour after injury struck down Joe Griffiths. Jack Bytel has been named in the side despite suffering what looked to be an injury in the last round which would keep him out of the final match. Isaac Quaynor and Ben Silvagni return from injury and will strengthen both ends for Metro.
The match-up on everyone’s lips – Jack Lukosius pitted against Ben King – is unlikely to happen despite recruiters hopes, with both players named forward. As we saw in Geelong, Lukosius also played on the wing and down back, standing side-by-side with Tarryn Thomas and Nick Blakey at different times showing his versatility. If things start to head south for Vic Metro, King can also play in defence, while Will Kelly is a capable forward if required. It is predicted Kelly will get first chance on Lukosius, while James Blanck will line-up on Hugo Munn. The midfield battle of Izak Rankine, Luke Valente, Tom Lewis and Jackson Hately up against Bailey Smith, Riley Collier-Dawkins, James Rowbottom and Zak Butters is mouthwatering and likely to decide the contest. With both teams having plenty of firepower up front, the midfield is where the game will be won or lost. Curtis Taylor showed he is a danger up forward for Metro, while Xavier O’Halloran and Noah Anderson have already shown through the championships they can boot multiple goals. Will Gould and Riley Grundy are in great form – the latter is the man predicted to head to King. Jez McLennan and Martin Frederick provide great run out of defence and will be keen to break the lines, while Quaynor and Tom McKenzie will be keen to do the same up the other end. It is hard to pick a winner in this game, with both sides filled to the brim with quality.