South Australia is the 2018 Australian Football Under 18 National Champions after defeating Victorian Metro in the final game of the event on Wednesday evening, July 4, at Etihad Stadium and in front of a national football audience.
Already 43 points up at half-time the Croweaters survived a five goals charge by the hosts in the third quarter and rebounded to win in emphatic style by 55 points.
The final score was South Australia 17.14 (116) defeating Vic Metro 9.7 (61).
SA and Vic Metro both came into the contest undefeated and the game was seen as a Grand Final showdown.
“I felt the guys handled the pressure of expectation very well,” SA coach Tony Bamford said.
“We knew Vic Metro we're going to have a run at us and offensively we were ok, with (Oscar) Chapman and Izak Rankine proving good targets.
“So I pushed Jack Lukosius across half back to see if we could stop then getting the ball to Ben King.”
Top five draft candidate Izak Rankine got the SA side off a flying start with three brilliant first quarter goals, and the Croweaters defence kept the Vic’s goal-less in this quarter.
Five more majors in the second term elevated the advantage to over seven goals at the long interval.
“It was the first time we actually controlled the rucks division for the tournament,” Bamford confirmed.
“James Siviour was outstanding.
“Doing a lot of research on Monday and Tuesday, he went into the match with a specific game plan and delivered.
“When we were putting the squad together in April together I was worried about our tall defender options.
“Pleasingly Tyler Martin prove to be reliable in the early rounds and Riley Grundy has grown during the tournament.
“Will Gould was impressive with his long penetrating kick and Jez McLennan had a phenomenal tournament.
“It was pretty clear before the game the boys are up for the challenge.
“During that third quarter they ended up having eight scoring shots to our six.
“It was feather in the cap of the playing group and the leadership of the team that they could actually address the momentum of the game during the third quarter.
“The guys absorbed the Vic Metro charge and hit the score-board later in the term.”
Rankine sealed the victory and his best-on-ground performance with a pair of last term goals to finish with five for the match.
In the back line Gould and McLennan gave plenty of rebound, while Jackson Hately and skipper Luke Valente were strong in the engine room.
Oscar Chapman worked hard all day up forward and Jacob Kennerley’s run and drive from his wing was noteworthy.
Dominant in all four games, the SA side certainly proved to be the best in the competition.
This state has now won the National Youth Championships three times since the formal changed from Teal Cup (under 17s) to the current Under 18s structure in 1996.
The previous two times were the back-to-back successes of 2013 and 2014.
“It’s satisfying that the coaching and support staff has been able to provide a vehicle to give this group a lifelong memory,” Bamford continued.
“It is also pleasing for the SANFL to prove a competition has got the structures in place to produce this group of talent.
“There's a certain amount of pride for all concerned getting this result and naturally a little sadness because it's the last time I'll coach this group.”
“Anyone coaching at this level understand it it's a privileged to coach elite young talent.
“We have plenty of high-end footballers this year what was equally as impressive for me are the guys that may have not got the same media coverage, but also delivered.
“Everyone in this squad has the capacity at a minimum to play SANFL league football and many are capable of going to the very highest level.
“Some will achieve this quickly and for others it may take a little more time.”
Six players, Valente (as vice- captain), Lukosius, Rankine, Hately, McLennan and bottom-ager Gould were honoured with All-Australian selection, and as expected Bamford was given the national coach’s accolade.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 4.3 9.4 12.7 17.14 (116)
VIC METRO 0.1 2.3 8.5 9.7 (61)
Goals: South Australia: Rankine 5, Jarvis 2, Munn, Rozee, Lukosius, Chandler, Lochowiak, Siviour, Chapman, Valente, Lewis
Vic Metro: King 4, Taylor 2, Mahony, Rendell, O'Halloran
Best: South Australia: Rankine, Siviour, Kennerley, Hately, Gould, McLennan, Rozee, Chapman, Frederick, Lewis, Valente
Vic Metro: King, Ayton-Delaney, Smith, Rowell, O'Halloran