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U18s: Vic Country stuns with after-the-siren win over Vic Metro

Harley Balic of Vic Metro kicks the ball during the 2015 AFL Under 18 match between Vic Country and Vic Metro at Simonds Stadium, Geelong on May 24, 2015. (Photo: Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
Vic Metro's Harley Balic was best afield in Sunday's clash

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WITH 30 seconds left in their first game of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, Vic Metro led Vic Country by a point and had the ball at the top of its forward 50.

A scuffle broke out before the ball-up, distracting some Metro players and opening space on the already wide expanses of Simonds Stadium.

Country defender Christian Buykx-Smith gathered the ball and passed to Jacob Weitering, who had been pushed forward to create something out of nothing.

The highly rated Weitering smartly played on from the mark on the wing and kicked the ball to a leading Josh Schache, who knew he had to crash the pack of players.

The ball spilt to ground, clever bottom-ager Ben Ainsworth crumbed it, and squared it to teammate Jy Simpkin in the goalsquare. The siren rang, Simpkin converted his shot, and Country claimed a five-point win, 11.7 (73) to 10.8 (68).

Coach Paul Henrikson was already folding up his notepad in the box at the start of the perfect final play, resigned to losing the game everyone predicted his side to win. But he was pleased each decision made in the final perfect play was right.

"It was a bit of luck. It just fell for us, really," Henriksen said on Sunday. "We try to work on scenarios at training and it worked out."

Until that stage Vic Metro, led by exciting prospect Harley Balic, looked likely to cause an upset.

Balic was the most consistent and influential player in the contest, gathering a game-high 27 disposals through the wing and half-forward. His creativity, class and strength in close makes him a difficult match-up, and a likely first-round pick at this year's NAB AFL Draft.

The 18-year-old's long goal on the three-quarter time siren put Metro within seven points at the final break, and a snap – after breaking through a couple of tackles and baulking another – late in the final term appeared set to be the match-winner but was touched off the boot. It was Metro's final score before Simpkin's goal.

Nick O'Kearney (26 disposals), half-back Ben Crocker (24), Jade Gresham (22 and two goals), James Parsons (14 and six marks) and Ryan Clarke (20) controlled the midfield battle for Metro, while ruckman Mark Covacevic was also solid.

It was fitting three of Country's best players – Ainsworth, Weitering and Schache – contributed to the last goal.

Ainsworth is not eligible for the draft until next year but the small forward excited in the first half with his strength in the air, finishing skills and goal smarts. By the main break he had collected 10 disposals, six marks and kicked 2.2 and although he was quieter after that, he remained lively.

Weitering again highlighted his credentials as 2015's possible No.1 pick by showing poise in the back half before his switch forward, while Schache was imposing in attack and kicked two goals.

Rhys Mathieson, a midfielder who thrashes and crashes out of trouble, was also good with 19 disposals and five tackles while David Mennen also did some impressive things as an over-ager through half-back.

Vic Country will travel to face Western Australia next Sunday in Perth, while Vic Metro will play South Australia at AAMI Stadium on Saturday in round two of the championships.

With a stack of this year's most talented draft prospects lining up for Vic Country it is expected to win the division one title, but Henriksen will be looking for more against WA, who also won its first game of the carnival over the weekend.

"We were a bit off for the first 15 minutes and I wondered whether we'd turned up," Henriksen said.

"I thought our effort started to get going after that, and we were still in touch and hadn't been blown out of the water. We'll have to go back and reassess, because there were some poor pieces of play. But a win like that brings the group together."

VIC METRO        3.3   5.5   8.6  10.8  (68)
VIC COUNTRY    2.2   6.5   9.7  11.7  (73)

GOALS
Vic Metro: Gresham 2, Hardwick 2, Kerbatieh, Balic, Houston, Crocker, Parsons, Silvagni
Vic Country: Ainsworth 2, Schache 2, Berry 2, Maishman, Cole, Holmes, Simpkin, Skinner

BEST
Vic Metro: Balic, Crocker, Collins, O'Kearney, Parsons, Gresham
Vic Country: Ainsworth, Weitering, Mennen, Mathieson, Rice, Schache