A number of highly talented prospects will be on display this Sunday at the MCG, as Vic Country face off against Vic Metro in Round 3 of the NAB AFL U18 Championships, as Mark Koelmeyer reports.
Vic Metro is undefeated after two rounds of the Championships, and won the last meeting between these two sides in 2017.
Metro will look to midfield duo Bailey Smith (Sandringham) and Rhylee West (Calder) to continue their hot run of form after the pair combined for 54 touches and seven clearances against the Allies.
Although they have won their past two, Metro coach Martin Allison believes there is still plenty to work on the back of two strong performances.
“We have a lot of improvement left in us, that’s the exciting part about this group, we can get better,” said Allison.
“Some of our defensive stuff in all three phases in particular, we can improve. Without the ball we can do a better job of finding an opponent, when the balls in dispute we want to outnumber the opposition.”
Allison understands the challenges a talented Country side present and believes their two losses aren’t a true reflection of how good they are as a team.
“They’re a formidable opponent and Country and Metro games are always a good contest, this game is no different,” said Allison.
“They have good players across all lines. Having watched them on the weekend, they’ve been stiff.
“I thought they were really good against South Australia (SA), they’re an exciting team and a real challenge for the Metro boys, he added.
“It’s a great opportunity for young blokes to be playing in front of an AFL game and a big crowd at the MCG, those opportunities don’t come around too often.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Country, while showing positive signs, haven’t been able to get the job done in the first two games this Championships, and will be hungry for their first win.
Coach Matt Battistello isn’t phased by his side’s two losses thus far, and is focused on developing his players.
“We want our kids to win and we want them to be extremely competitive, but from my point of view, if 21 of my kids have a good day out and showcase all their talent, and get beaten, I’m leaving a happy coach.
“We see the Allies and SA as really good sides, and we’ve had our moments in each of those games so we see no reason why we won’t give ourselves a real opportunity to have moments to win the game on the weekend as well.”
Country has proven to be competitive in their first two games of the tournament, and will look to more strong performances by the likes of captain Sam Walsh who racked up 25 possessions and 10 tackles against SA, and Xavier Duursma who can provide some much needed spark off half back after collecting 16 possessions and four rebound 50’s against SA.
They can also look to Caleb Serong to back up his impressive 15 possession two goal outing against SA and take the next step against Metro.
The idea of playing at the MCG in front of thousands of people is a daunting prospect for some, but coach Battistello wants his players to ‘embrace’ it and enjoy the opportunity they have.
“Obviously the history of the MCG adds another flavour to it, but we just want them to embrace it and enjoy it.
“If they’re excited and nervous that’s all natural, we encourage all that, we’re not trying to suppress it in any way; we want them to enjoy the experience.”
The annual clash will feature some of the best under-18 TAC Cup talent from across the state, showcasing their skills at a venue they will all hope to play at more regularly in the future as AFL players.
The traditional Vic Country and Metro Big V guernseys will take on a different look for both sides, featuring an Indigenous design.
The design has been produced by former Kickstart member and current Eastern Ranges player Todd Garner, the brother of 2017 Port Adelaide draftee and 2017 Metro captain Joel Garner.
Joel Garner will be at the MCG on Sunday along with North Melbourne’s Jy Simpkin, with the two former Vic Metro and Country players assisting in presenting the guernseys to each side pre-game.
Vic Country v Vic Metro, Sunday June 24 12.10pm
Live on Fox Footy or follow update on @TACCup on twitter.
|Backs||20 Cooper Stephens||39 Connor Idun||13 Thomas Berry|
|Geelong Falcons||Geelong Falcons||GWV Rebels|
|H Backs||18 Mitch Riordan||25 Kyle Reid||17 Hayden Young|
|Dandenong Stingrays||Gippsland Power||Dandenong Stingrays|
|Centres||10 Zac Foot||19 Sam Fletcher||6 Laitham Vandermeer|
|Dandenong Stingrays||Dandenong Stingrays||Murray Bushrangers|
|H Fwds||30 Oscar Brownless||38 Blake Schlensog||8 Ned McHenry|
|Geelong Falcons||Geelong Falcons||Geelong Falcons|
|Fwds||14 Sam Flanders||36 Riley Bowman||3 Toby Bedford|
|Gippsland Power||Dandenong Stingrays||Dandenong Stingrays|
|Followers||29 Bailey Williams||5 Xavier Duursma||2 Sam Walsh|
|Dandenong Stingrays||Gippsland Power||Geelong Falcons|
|Interchange||34 Scott Carlin||12 Caleb Serong||11 Zane Keighran|
|GWV Rebels||Gippsland Power||Bendigo Pioneers|
|1 Will Hamill||16 Jake Frawley|
|Dandenong Stingrays||Dandenong Stingrays|
|Emergencies||27 Zane Barzen||24 Matty Lloyd|
|Backs||25 Stefan Radovanovic||29 James Blanck||2 Joe Ayton-Delaney|
|Western Jets||Eastern Ranges||Oakleigh Chargers|
|H Backs||23 Buku Khamis||27 Will Kelly||12 Tom McKenzie|
|Western Jets||Oakleigh Chargers||Northern Knights|
|Centres||13 Lachlan Sholl||15 Bailey Smith||10 Xavier Fry|
|Calder Cannons||Sandringham Dragons||Eastern Ranges|
|H Fwds||3 Zak Butters||34 James Rendell||6 Curtis Taylor|
|Western Jets||Sandringham Dragons||Calder Cannons|
|Fwds||18 Xavier O’Halloran||36 Ben King||4 Rhylee West|
|Western Jets||Sandringham Dragons||Calder Cannons|
|Followers||37 Joe Griffiths||26 Riley Collier-Dawkins||8 James Rowbottom|
|Sandringham Dragons||Oakleigh Chargers||Oakleigh Chargers|
|Interchange||19 Jack Bytel||16 Noah Answerth||11 Ryan Gardner|
|Calder Cannons||Oakleigh Chargers||Northern Knights|
|7 Angus Hanrahan||20 Alastair Richards|
|Sandringham Dragons||Sandringham Dragons|
|1 Jack Mahony (emerg)||35 Thomas Hallebone (emerg)||5 Matthew Rowell (emerg)|