WESTERN Australia has ensured it will not finish bottom of the table in the National AFL Under 18 Championships after defeating fellow winless side Vic Country by 32 points at GMHBA Stadium on Friday. The Black Swans looked to have the contest under control for the most part, courtesy of a brilliant first quarter, but they never looked completely comfortable until late in the final term, recording an 11.10 (76) to 6.8 (44) victory in the first of a two-game stint in Victoria.
The Black Swans piled on five goals to one in the opening term, with the likes of Jarrod Cameron – brother of Brisbane Lions’ small forward Charlie – and Tyron Smallwood looking damaging at half-forward. Ely Smith had a massive first term for Country, and was one of the few who stood up against the might of the West Australian onslaught going forward. In the second term, Vic Country regained the ascendancy in what looked to be the scoring end, booting four goals to two, with Bailey Williams beginning to have an impact up forward, while Toby Bedford‘s move into the midfield, and with Sam Walsh‘s usual lofty standards beginning to come into the match, the tide began to turn.
Western Australia got back in control with a great goal from Cameron to hand them a nice 25-point buffer at the final break, as Vic Country managed just the two behinds in the third quarter. A quieter final term saw both sides arm-wrestle for most of the contest, booting a goal each before Cameron fittingly put the icing on the cake, running to the square and receiving the handball over the top for the easiest of goals for his fifth major.
West Australian midfielder Luke English was the clear standout through the middle for the home side, racking up 25 disposals, five marks and laying six tackles running hard on the outside, while also booting a goal from a running shot, and narrowly missing another. Sydney Stack (22 disposals, four clearances and three inside 50s) was all class, while Rylie Morgan (23 disposals, five marks, nine tackles and four clearances) worked hard in tandem with the other midfielders to really pose problems for Vic Country. Jordan Clark was the standout defender for the winners, mopping up everything on his way to 23 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and six rebounds, while Cameron’s five goals from 10 disposals was the highlight of the match, receiving three free kicks for troubling the opposition defenders.
Ely Smith was one of the clear standouts for Vic Country on debut, coming in as a late call-up to the side, Smith dominated on the inside with 30 disposals, nine clearances and five tackles, while also getting around the ground for three inside 50s and three rebounds. Bedford’s move into the middle was fruitful, coming away with 20 disposals, seven inside 50s and laying eight tackles, while Walsh had a standard game for him, notching up 30 touches, three clearances, five inside 50s and laying eight tackles. Williams’ work up forward was very good, bouncing back from a poor game against Vic Metro to record 17 disposals, eight hitouts and four tackles, while also booting a goal. Oscar Brownless was consistent up forward with 17 disposals, four tackles and a goal, while another Vic Country debutant – Brodie Kemp – was good in defence with 15 disposals, four marks, six tackles and four rebounds.
For Vic Country, the loss spelled the end of the national carnival, going down in each of its clashes, but every game was marred by injury. Jye Caldwell and Mitch Riordan were crucial losses to the inside midfield brigade, while Laitham Vandermeer‘s broken collarbone and concussion early on Friday night meant the Country team were one runner down for most of the match. Western Australia heads to Etihad Stadium tomorrow to take on the Allies who were unlucky against both South Australia and Vic Metro, having the one win against Vic Country. The winner of that clash claims third spot in what is effectively a bronze medal match ahead of the grand final between two undefeated teams.
VIC COUNTRY 1.2 5.4 5.6 6.8 (44)
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 5.2 7.4 9.7 11.10 (76)
Vic Country: Williams 2, Flanders, Walsh, Barzen, Brownless
Western Australia: Cameron 5, Foley, Georgiades, Smallwood, O’Reilly, English, Medhat
Vic Country: Bedford, Smith, Walsh, Williams, Brownless
Western Australia: Cameron, English, Stack, Clark, Morgan