Sean Lemmens in action for South Australia during the clash with Western Australia at Etihad Stadium
SOUTH Australia has won its inaugural under-18 title, working overtime to overcome a gallant Western Australia by 10 points in the final round of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
Despite a slow start, in which they conceded the first three goals of the match, the Croweaters finished stronger than their less-fancied division one opponents, winning 11.9 (75) to 10.5 (65) at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.
South Australian key forward Darcy Hourigan was the beneficiary of some improved second-half play, kicking three goals – to go along with nine marks and 15 disposals – to take his tournament tally to 16.
Opposing forward Cameron McCarthy booted two majors and threw himself at the ball at every chance but his day ended abruptly when he landed awkwardly in a fourth-quarter marking contest.
WA is bracing for bad news on McCarthy, believing the young forward broke his leg in the incident.
McCarthy's pack marking and attack on the ball were a feature of his play throughout the carnival.
South Australia's Luke Dunstan (22 disposals) worked diligently throughout the game for his state, receiving great assistance from onballer Campbell Combe (21) and rebounding defender James Battersby (17).
James Aish, a likely top-10 draft choice from South Australia, dealt with some heavy treatment but still finished with 14 touches in a gutsy effort.
Western Australia refused to go away and made its opponents earn their victory.
Patrick Cripps, the brother of West Coast's Jamie, was far and away WA's most influential player with 21 possessions and nine clearances.
Cripps' ability to work his way through traffic caught the eye, while bottom-age speedster Clem Smith (14 touches) added a touch of class for WA.
Ryan Lim's overlap run from defence, in gathering 16 touches, was also constructive for the Sandgropers.
The Croweaters had previously tasted success at under-age level, when they won the 1995 Under-17 Teal Cup.
But South Australia had never before taken out an under-18 championship.
SA's James Aish boots the ball forward under pressure on Wednesday. Picture: AFL Media
South Australia 3.2 8.4 10.6 11.9 (75)
Western Australia 3.1 5.2 8.4 10.5 (65)
South Australia: Hourigan 3, Battersby 2, Dumont, Harvey, Karpany, Knight, McKay, Reynolds
McCarthy 2, Sokol 2, Cameron, Johnson, Keitel, Lim, Marsh, Pickett
: Dunstan, Scharenberg, Pitt, Hourigan, Battersby, Combe, Durdin, McKay, SpinaWestern Australia:
C Smith, Lim, Cripps, Jansen, Edwards
Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @AFL_BenGuthrie