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U18: Rugby league prospect impresses for NT

Jack Hardman kicked five goals for the Sydney Academy - ${keywords}
Jack Hardman kicked five goals for the Sydney Academy

FORMER promising rugby league junior Rodney Baird turned heads for Northern Territory in the under-18 NAB AFL Academy Series at TIO Stadium as the Sydney Academy ran out 57-point winners on Saturday.

Baird was on a scholarship with the NRL's Paramatta Eels before he was brought into the AFL fold.

Playing across half-back, Baird was among his team's best players. Baird's kicking looked somewhat awkward at times but his composure and ability to read the ball in the air before taking strong marks stood out.

His tackling was also excellent and the players that tried to step around the athletic 192cm prospect were taken to ground with force.

Forward Beau Schwarze booted five goals and gave Northern Territory a target. He is somewhat undersized at about 180cm but is a 17-year-old.

Another to show signs in attack was Ryan Althouse-Cooper, who was also good against Tasmania last week.

Northern Territory came out with serious pressure and intent in the first half before a 10-goal third term from Sydney. Four top-age players were missing from the Northern Territory side and the lack of leadership showed after the main break.

For the Sydney Academy, Jack Hardman slotted four of his five goals in the third term. A small forward, Hardman has serious speed and only needs half an opportunity to make opponents pay.

Another Sydney Academy player to excel was Mitchell Rogers at centre half-back. The son of former Essendon and Geelong player Andrew, Rogers showed his strength in contested situations – both on the ground and in the air – and also offered rebound out of defence.

Rogers was originally from South Australia and moved to New South Wales in the middle of last year. His father did not play enough games for the Bombers or Cats for Mitchell Rogers to be eligible to be drafted by either club as a father-son selection.

One player who will be on the radar of three very interested clubs is Nick Blakey. The son of former Fitzroy and North Melbourne player John finished with three goals.

Nick Blakey qualifies for the Brisbane Lions and Kangaroos as a father-son selection, and could also be picked up at a discount by Sydney, where John Blakey is on the coaching panel.

NORTHERN TERRITORY                3.1       5.8       6.8       9.9 (63)
SYDNEY ACADEMY                          2.3       2.5       12.8    18.12 (120)

GOALS
Northern Territory: Schwarze 5, Derksen, Bricknell, Bailey, Prowse
Sydney Academy: Hardman 5, Skrivanic 3, Blakey 3, Maze 2, Rankin, Carr, Kilpatrick, Stern, Loone

BEST
Northern Territory: Bailey, Scrutton, Baird, Schwarze, Bricknell, Althouse-Cooper
Sydney Academy: Rogers, Stern, Bell, Maze, Robertson, Hardman