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U18: Giants duo lead Academy to narrow win

Laine Fitzgerald was one of the Giants' best against Tasmania - ${keywords}
Laine Fitzgerald was one of the Giants' best against Tasmania

COMMANDING performances from Tom Highmore and Laine Fitzgerald have inspired the Giants to their first win of the Under-18 NAB AFL Academy Series, prevailing over Tasmania by 11 points at North Hobart Oval on Saturday.

Tasmania pulled the game back to within five points late in the final term, but a steadying goal from Fitzgerald saw the Giants' Academy run out 14.4 (88) to 12.5 (77) winners.

The Giants established their ascendancy through the midfield, with Highmore and Nicholas Shipley leading the way in the engine room.

Highmore, a 19-year-old prospect from Canberra, continued his stellar form through the Under-18 series with 18 disposals and seven marks in another top-notch display.

Shipley's hardness at the stoppages and clean hands made him a prominent figure for the Giants, as he gathered 17 disposals and laid 11 tackles.

Fitzgerald was the Giants' playmaker through the midfield and forward, controlling the flow of the game as he finished with 24 disposals, six clearances and the clinching goal.

With Allies coach Adrian Fletcher watching on, Doulton Langlands, from Albury, also caught the eye with 18 disposals and seven marks for the Giants.

Both Fitzgerald and Langlands will be eligible for selection by any club in this year's NAB AFL Draft, while Highmore and Shipley are priority selections as members of the Giants' academy.

For Tasmania, who fought hard to arrest back the momentum after it led at quarter-time, captain Lachie Clifford played an outstanding game in the midfield.

Clifford, from Kingborough Tigers, was clearly his side's best player, racking up 23 disposals, seven tackles, seven clearances as well as booting three goals.

Mobile forward Zac Buechner booted three goals for Tasmania, with the 192cm prospect's pace and elusiveness inside forward 50 standing out.

The Giants had recorded previous losses to Sydney's Academy and Gold Coast's Academy.

The loss to the Giants was the Mariners' first of the series with their postponed match against the Brisbane Lions (due to the affects of ex-cyclone Debbie) now scheduled for April 22.

TASMANIA                3.1    5.6    8.3    12.5 (77)
GWS ACADEMY         2.1    6.2    10.3 14.4 (88)        

TASMANIA: Clifford 3, Buechner 3, Dixon 2, Pearce, Auckland, Brenner, B McGuinness
GWS ACADEMY: Paech 3, Lane 2, Stevens 2, Pollock, Walker, Highmore, Palombi, Briggs, Cuthbert, Koschitzche 

TASMANIA: Clifford, Buechner, Pearce, Dixon, Brenner
GWS ACADEMY: Highmore, Shipley, Langlands, Gaynor, Owen-Auburn, Fitzgerald