VIC METRO took the 2022 National Championship title under 18 on Thursday afternoon, after a dramatic seven-point victory over their Country counterparts at Marvel Stadium. In what was the final junior game for many of the top AFL Draft prospects, there was plenty to note in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
>> Match report: Vic Metro 12.8 (80) def. Vic Land 10.13 (73)
#5 Alwyn Davey (Oakleigh chargers)
While he was fairly quiet when on the wing, Davey proved to be a game changer as he moved into the on-ball rotation in the second half. Davey took the game with his usual flair, backing up his speed and stepping to the side to dodge opponents, before continuing on foot with clean elimination. There were a few times when Davey didn’t perform as well as he has throughout the year, but more often than not the option he went for was the best available to him.
#10 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham dragons)
The recipient of the Larke Medal for the best player in the National Championships, Ashcroft played at the same level as the last three Vic Metro games. It was about the same for Ashcroft as he kept reeling in the footy at will and using the ball effectively when he won it. While Ashcroft was challenged at several points due to the higher pressures of the game and unable to run freely around interruptions, Ashcroft worked well on the game to be one of the crucial players for Metro in the exciting final term, taking on steps across the ground and looking to move the ball on foot. He earned a free kick in the final 90 seconds of the match from a center clearance, kicking it into the goal square for North Melbourne father-son prospect Cooper Harvey to mark and seal the result.
#13 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)
Not unlike many other Metro prospects, Harvey didn’t quite get the first half he’d wanted, but stepped down in the third term to help Metro take the lead. Harvey’s controversial mark around the ground was impressive, reliably able to hold the footy regardless of contact, but overall he got enough distance from his opponents that he wasn’t forced into it. Harvey finished the game on a high and took another impressively controversial point into the field to score the final goal of the game.
#17 Bailey Macdonald (Oakleigh chargers)
Somewhat of an unknown quantity given his limited NAB League appearances this year, Macdonald has seized his opportunities late in the season to increase his draft stock. Though he wasn’t always clean or commanding in the defensive 50, Macdonald impressed with his speed and daring bounce on rebound, looking to drive the ball deep into the ground for Metro’s transitions.
#23 Elijah Tsatas (Oakleigh chargers)
It was a solid performance from Tsatas for his only championship game of the year, having missed the previous games due to a foot fracture. It was a different kind of game than we’re used to seeing from the top five contender, as he played solely as a robber for the game, giving spectators a chance to see him on the inside for an extended period of time. Tsatas didn’t quite show off the explosive power he has, unable to get out of space against the Country midfield, he was much more likely to let go of a handball quickly if he won it in tight. As the opponents grew tired, Tsatas began to find more of the ball around the ground where he could demonstrate his run-and-carry play, generally playing the ball long when the opportunity arose.
#28 Josh Weddle (Oakleigh chargers)
Matches the top five contender Aaron Cadman, it could be argued that Weddle got the better of the game over the four quarters, despite Cadman’s brilliant moments. Weddle didn’t quite collect the amount of ball he usually does, but he showed how good his defensive play is and his athleticism, with his closing speed and jump that allowed him to get a punch to ruin many attempts at marking.
#30 Matthew Jefferson (Oakleigh chargers)
As usual, Jefferson played pretty close to the goals for most of the game, but he gave it a good shot when the ball went down there. Jefferson finished the game with two majors, including the match winner, and could have had a few more if not for a wayward kick in front of the goal. What stood out most about Jefferson was some of the work he put in trying to create goals for teammates. A good example came in the first quarter when he put in a nip, followed to the ground and missed the shot, but followed up again and handed to a teammate who ran into the goal.
#35 Lewis Hayes (Eastern Ranges)
The main defender has shown his lockdown prowess well throughout the year but was challenged in a different way against a dynamic Country team. With only one traditional ‘long’ opponent taken by Josh WeddleHayes showed his ability to match it with smaller opponents, rotating between the country’s attackers and doing particularly well against in-form Gippsland forward Bailey Humphrey. In the second half, Hayes started playing as a more traditional rebounding defender, driving away from the half-back line to receive handball and drive the ball long forward.
#3 Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo pioneers)
One of the form players from the second half of the NAB competition season, the over-ager earned a Country call up and did not disappoint. Gallagher fitted seamlessly into the Country defence, playing almost like a winger in the first half as he forced the ground to intercept the ball coming from the front 50, quickly cashed out good options on foot when given them and took some risks that were rewarding.
#5 Jhye Clark (Geelong Falcons)
Clark’s commitment, both on offense and on defense, was as much of a workhorse as ever. He was one of the main men trying to get Country back into the game after three-quarters. Clark showed a lot of class under pressure and saw good options on foot and by hand on both sides of the body to get the ball into space. Clark was one who spread well on the ground to get a bit of the ball in open play, using his strength to beat opponents when marking matches in dangerous spots.
#6 Noah Long (Bendigo pioneers)
Arguably Long’s best performance of the year, the midfielder turned forward showed impressive craft in the attacking 50 while reminding everyone of his toughness throughout the match. Read the ball of the card game for a long time to collect it on speed, a goal early after reading the ball from the hands of his teammates emphasized this best. Long’s use of the ball was clean before the game, kicking the field in favor of teammates.
#7 Jacob Konstanty (Gippsland force)
The lively attacker was another source of headache for opposing defenders as he danced around the opponent with ball in hand. Konstanty struggled to get hold of the ball at first, but created many matches when he couldn’t get his hands on the ball himself. Konstanty came alive from the second quarter and managed to get out of tricky situations with his speed and agility. His pace of work has always been impressive both on offense and defense and it continued against Metro with one particular game where he ran about 55 yards to take a mark within 50 to best emphasize it.
#8 Oliver Holland’s (Murray Bushrangers)
Hollands, the main ball winner for Country on the day, started the game on fire, not only winning the ball tight, but also working hard to be an option on the ground. While he had quite a few patches, there was rarely a time when Hollands wasn’t in the running to win the footy, whether it was an interception, a tackle, a handball or getting in and under himself. Hollands’ disposition was generally good for the game, he used it well in space or from free kicks, but also found some good targets in the heat of the battle.
#14 Harley Reid (Bendigo pioneers)
If Reid wasn’t already the first favorite for 2023, he made it a unanimous stance with his display against Metro. Reid played in the backline for the first three quarters, as he did for most games of the Championship, intercepting well and creating drive with his running and clearing quality forward. Reid was aggressive with his positioning, mirroring Harvey Gallagher on the other side of the ground to mount a devastating intercepting and rebounding threat. It was the fourth term in which Reid really made his mark on the game, with Country sometimes struggling to convert their inside 50’s, Reid was sent deep to the front and played a key role in Country’s comeback. While scoring two goals in 15 minutes doesn’t sound as impressive as it used to be, Reid’s two one-on-one contesting marks against bigger opponents stood out because he used excellent body position deep in the field to do so.
#20 Bailey Humphrey (Gippsland force)
It was an ‘almost’ day for Humphrey, who finished with one goal and three deficits, disappointingly missing several achievable shots, including one from the goal square. Despite the less fortunate day in front of goal, Humphrey showed off all the other traits that have put him firmly in the top 10 mix for November. His controversial mark and speed of goal were on display from the start, which alarmed the Metro defenders as it seemed like they were all trying to play on him at different stages. Despite not having the best day for the sticks, Humphrey showed some kicks in the sound field and got better as the game progressed with the weighting of his decision.
#25 Aaron Cadman (GWV rebels)
Cadman, a mixed play of the crop’s main frontrunner, sometimes suffered from Metros Josh Weddle, which didn’t let him get much secretion across the ground, suppressing his game to some degree. However, as all good players do, Cadman found a way to get to the top later in the game and became a vital part of Country’s comeback with his work on the ground and delivery within 50. It was another mixed bag in front of Cadman’s goal, in which he took two set shots but missed a few more, Cadman’s best goal came when he intercepted an attempted under-50 hand, moved through traffic without losing balance and the goal snapped under pressure.