The McDonald’s SA Under-16 team has won its fifth AFL National Championship since 2010 after holding off Victoria Metro by 12 points at the Gabba today.
Kingston pair Hagan Wright and Luke Pedlar and Keith’s Will Schreiber were all part of the side.
Wright and Schreiber won plaudits for their games in defence in the final, while Pedlar kicked a goal.
After defeating Western Australia and Victoria Country in their opening contests, the Croweaters were able to maintain their unbeaten run to claim their first title under new coach Julian Farkas.
But their first crown since 2016 didn’t come without a major scare in the final term, as the Big V slammed on five goals to SA’s one despite trailing at every change.
Apart from the opening 10 minutes of the match – in which Vic Metro chalked up a 10-2 advantage on inside 50 entries – SA was in control of the contest as evidenced by it leading by as much as 42 points early in the final term.
SA key forward Zac Dumesny had slotted through his second major for the afternoon just a minute into the fourth quarter but it was to be his team’s last for the match as the Vics made a desperate late charge.
The Croweaters’ significant margin proved too much for their rivals to overcome though, as the instruction to slow the play down and control possession paid dividends for SA.
SA vice-captain Corey Durdin was again prolific through the midfield as he racked up 20 disposals and a clever snap goal when he dodged around three opponents in the second term.
The pint-sized Central District midfielder illustrated why he was a worthy winner of the Kevin Sheehan Medal as the best player across Division One while also being named as SA’s Most Valuable Player for the carnival.
Durdin and fellow leadership group member Henry Nelligan were primed examples of how SA’s clearance work around stoppage was a class above with this advantage leading to several goals being kicked by Farkas’ charges.
There was no better example of this than Cooper Horsnell’s perfectly timed run inside 50m which resulted in him gathering the ball without needing to break stride and kicking truly along the ground from 15m.
Horsnell, the hero in Game 1 against WA with his goal late in the final term, was a continual threat at ground level inside 50m as he booted three goals to match the classy Isaiah Dudley.
Dudley sprang to life with three goals in succession during the second term, his third coming after catching his opponent holding the ball with some great defensive pressure.
Both Dudley and Horsnell continually got to dangerous spots around the feet of Dumseny and McDonald’s SA Under-16 captain Kaine Baldwin, who again provided a strong presence in attack.
Strong-bodied midfielder Luke Edwards displayed poise at pivotal moments with his controlled use of the ball in the final term before finishing with 19 disposals and five tackles.
Backmen Will Schreiber and Hagan Wright were steady influences in defence throughout the encounter while Riley Thilthorpe completed his consistent carnival with another solid display in the ruck to collect 13 disposals, 19 hit outs, four marks and three inside 50s.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 3.6 9.7 12.10 13.12 (90)
VICTORIA METRO 2.3 3.6 6.9 11.12 (78)
BEST – Durdin, Jones, Nelligan, Thilthorpe, Horsnell, Kraemer.
LEADING DISPOSALS – Nelligan 21, Durdin 20, Edwards 19, Schwerdt, Dean 16, Baldwin 14, Dumesny, Thilthorpe, Higgins 13.
GOALS – Dudley, Horsnell 3, Dumesny 2, Dean, Baldwin, Durdin, Higgins, Pedlar.
KEVIN SHEEHAN MEDAL – Corey Durdin (Central District)
SA MVP OF THE CARNIVAL – Corey Durdin (Central Distict)