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SA wins at a Stretch over Vic Country

Billy Stretch in action for the AIS-AFL Academy - ${keywords}
Billy Stretch in action for the AIS-AFL Academy
THE SON of a gun has proved influential in undefeated South Australia's 22-point win over Victoria Country at AAMI Stadium in round two of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships division one competition on Sunday.

Glenelg's Billy Stretch, the son of former Melbourne and Fitzroy wingman Steven Stretch, gathered an equal-team high 24 disposals and delivered at 75 per cent efficiency, to pilot the Croweaters to an impressive come-from-behind victory.

Stretch started at half-back before moving to a wing and improved as the game wore on with his composure and neat ball use.

In cold, slippery conditions, SA faced a 22-point deficit at quarter-time but thereafter outscored Vic Country 8.17 to just 3.3. They kept the visitors to just 1.2 in the middle two quarters.

SA skipper Jake Johansen, all 171cm and 63kg of him, again set a strong example for his teammates with 24 touches (including a game-high 19 kicks), seven clearances, six tackles and a goal.

Seventeen-year-old West Adelaide utility Aaron Francis overcame a slow start to have a significant impact on proceedings. After being well beaten by highly rated forward Tom Lamb in the first half, Francis responded well to a half-time spray and a shift to attack, finishing with two goals and two contested marks.

Fellow forwards Ryan Burton and Jackson Press spoiled their good work with wasteful tallies of 1.4 and 1.3 respectively.

SA's 197cm ruckman Sam Durdin continued to show promising signs in his comeback from thumb surgery, regaining some touch and kicking a goal.

Vic Country fielded eight 17-year-olds, including inside midfielder Rhys Mathieson – the second-youngest player afield – who amassed a game-high 32 possessions (13 contested) and eight clearances.

Strong-bodied midfielder Billy Evans had 28 touches, including game-high tallies of contested possessions (16) and clearances (11).

Possible top-10 draft pick Lamb showed glimpses of his potential as a tall forward/midfielder with 20 possessions (10 contested) and 1.1.
He was also reported for striking in the third term.

Tall defender Caleb Marchbank also did his draft chances no harm with a sound performance.

The visitors sorely missed two key players – key forward and potential top-five draft pick Patrick McCartin was sidelined with a minor quad injury sustained in a school match, and tough 19-year-old midfielder Nathan Drummond has a hamstring problem.

South Australia 1.4 4.7 6.15 9.21 (75)
Victoria Country 5.2 6.4 6.4 8.5 (53)

GOALS
South Australia:
Francis 2, Johansen, Hamilton, Gore, Gregson, Burton, Press, Durdin
Victorian Country: Lamb, Dunkley, Lonie, Webb, Butler, Schache, Goddard, Skinner

BEST
South Australia:
Ramsey, Johansen, Stretch, Hamilton, Spurling, Wigg, Hayes
Victoria Country: Evans, Mathieson, Miles, Tucker, Parish, Butler