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Clark, O'Brien top 2017 class after MCG exhibition

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 29: Hunter Clark of Vic Country in action  during the Under 18 Championship match between Vic Country and the Allies at Simonds Stadium on June 29, 2016 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Hunter Clark shone in the U17 All Stars ahead of the Grand Final

MIDFIELD pair Lochie O'Brien and Hunter Clark have confirmed their status as leading draft hopefuls next season after brilliant efforts in the under-17s NAB All Stars match on Saturday.

The Victorian duo was terrific for the Chris Judd side as it overcame the Michael O'Loughlin line-up by 13 points at Punt Road Oval in the Grand Final curtain-raiser, winning 11.8 (74) to 8.13 (61).

O'Brien gathered 20 disposals and kicked two goals to finish his bottom-age season in excellent style, showing his piercing left-foot kick and elite running on a wing. 

Clark has been touted for some time as a likely early selection at the 2017 NAB AFL Draft and had one of the best games of his season with 21 disposals. He also laid eight tackles, kicked both sides of his body and took a leaping mark over a pack of prospects.

South Australian half-forward Darcy Fogarty was named the best player on the field with 17 disposals and a goal, continuing his strong end to the season.

Others to impress from the Judd line-up, which was coached by outgoing NAB AFL Academy coach Brenton Sanderson, James Worpel (18 disposals), Cameron Rayner (16, one goal) and Charlie Spargo (16, one goal).

Jack Higgins was the O'Loughlin team's best player, gathering 24 disposals (including 16 to half-time) and kicking a goal. If not for inaccuracy in front of goal – he booted four behinds – the busy Oakleigh Chargers midfielder/forward would have been a clear standout as best on ground.

Captain Lachlan Fogarty was solid with 19 disposals, lively half-forward Joel Garner picked up 19 touches and Adelaide father-son prospect Jackson Edwards (the son of former star Tyson) showed his class with 19 disposals and a goal.

Brisbane Lions academy prospect Connor Ballenden had a super first half, kicking two goals and taking a strong contested mark. The 200cm key forward is developing nicely and looms as a possible early choice next year.

TEAM JUDD                      3.0    5.2   9.4       11.8 (74)
TEAM O'LOUGHLIN          1.2    4.8   6.10     8.13 (61)

GOALS
Team Judd: O'Brien 2, Henness 2, Fogarty, Rayner, Spargo, Brander, Petruccelle, Grant, Crossley
Team O'Loughlin: Domic 2, Ballenden 2, Higgins, Edwards, Hayes, McLean

BEST
Team Judd: O'Brien, Fogarty, Clark, Rayner, Worpel, Spargo
Team O'Loughlin: Higgins, McPherson, Fogarty, Edwards, Garner, Ballenden