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U18: Bolter Bailey blooms at the right time

Marc McGowan  July 8, 2017 10:00 AM

AFL 2017 U18 Championships - Vic M v Allies

Zac Bailey was best on ground when the Allies beat Vic Metro on Wednesday

We always thought with the right sort of patience and temperament with him ... he was going to be right around the mark

THE BOLTER in this year's NAB AFL Under-18 All Australian team couldn't get a game for the Northern Territory's equivalent side a year ago.

Zippy midfielder Zac Bailey, who was best afield in the Allies' stunning upset of Victoria Metro on Wednesday, is suddenly all the rage at the end of the AFL Under-18 Championships.

Match report: Allies leave it late to stun Metro

Seven AFL clubs have already spoken to the soon-to-be 18-year-old, and player managers are swirling around him trying to secure his services.

Bailey stands 180cm and is lightly framed, but explodes away from stoppages, boasts a neat kick and is a diligent worker – attributes that have helped make him the NT's top draft prospect in 2017.

Who made the U18 All Australian team?

AFLNT high performance manager Wally Gallio said Bailey's rise had not surprised him despite the way he burst onto the national scene.

"We always thought with the right sort of patience and temperament with him, as with a lot of our players in the Territory with their late developing, he was going to be right around the mark," Gallio told AFL.com.au.

"That's why we held him back last year a bit, instead of throwing him in at under-18 level, when we didn't think he was quite right or up to it.

"We thought playing him as an over-age (player) in the 16s, he could play more of a leadership role and play in the midfield more and teach him how to play the finer art at that level."

Under-18s hub: Every result, all the stats

Bailey, who hails from NTFL club Southern Districts, is the first Territorian to make the AFL Under-18 All Australian team since future Geelong draftee Brandan Parfitt in 2015.

He, like Parfitt, relocated from Darwin to Adelaide to play in the SANFL. Bailey plays for Norwood, while Parfitt was at North Adelaide.

Bailey's emergence comes amid the NT's hard-luck story, with top draft hopes Dominic "Junior" Grant (foot stress fractures) and Kieren Parnell (partial tear of ACL in right knee) suffering serious injuries.

Another Territorian in the Allies squad, Rodney Baird, was unable to contest the division one edition of the AFL Under-18 Championships, also because of foot stress fractures.

Late-blooming Adam Sambono played his best game of the championships for the Allies against Vic Metro and was second in the NEAFL goalkicking before the carnival.

The NT's other leading chance is spring-heeled ruckman Tony Olango, who is part of Hawthorn's Next Generation Academy.

Olango spent last week with the Hawks and played for Box Hill in the VFL development league.

Territorians Parfitt, Ben Long (St Kilda) and Willie Rioli (West Coast) joined AFL clubs last year.