FREMANTLE recruiters watched eagerly as potential Dockers draftee Liam Henry starred to lead Western Australia to a shock NAB AFL Under-18 Championships title on Wednesday.
Henry, a classy 179cm midfielder who is eligible to head to Fremantle at season's end as part of its Next Generation Academy, was a clear standout as Western Australia ended its 10-year Championships drought at Marvel Stadium with victory over Vic Country.
Western Australia, who knew that only a win would seal an unlikely carnival triumph, appeared destined to throw away a 31-point lead when it fell behind late in the match.
Liam Henry shows his moves against Vic Country on Wednesday. Picture: AFL Photos
However, a composed set-shot from Regan Clarke with the final kick of the game secured Western Australia's dramatic five-point win and the state's first national title since 2009.
Henry, a skilful onballer who recruiters believe has shot into first-round calculations this season, produced an influential performance to inspire his side's impressive victory.
EPIC FINISH ALERT— AFL (@AFL) July 3, 2019
Regan Clarke was the hero as @WAFLOfficial claimed its first NAB AFL U18 Championship in 10 years.
Enjoy the thrilling last three minutes against Vic Country. pic.twitter.com/PweHrk9saC
He won 25 disposals and took six marks, starring in tandem with Western Australian captain and fellow first-round prospect Deven Robertson before moving forward late.
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While he squandered three separate opportunities to seal the match during his stint in attack, Henry's evasiveness and composure was a highlight throughout the game.
Robertson, another potential first-round draft pick, also continued his impressive campaign.
The likely Larke Medal winner for the competition's best player, the 182cm midfielder finished with 28 disposals, six clearances and eight tackles in another impressive showing.
It continued a carnival where Robertson – who claimed the side's MVP award – had won more than 30 disposals in each of his side's previous three Championships games.
Potential top-10 pick Brodie Kemp had inspired Vic Country's gallant second-half comeback, winning 17 disposals before pushing into attack and kicking two important late goals.
Dashing defensive duo Lachie Ash and Hayden Young were also promising, with each winning 22 disposals and displaying plenty of their trademark drive off half-back.
Western Australia: D Grainger- Barass, J Pasini, R Clarke, L Henry, D Robertson, L Jackson
Victoria Country: S Flanders, I Wareham, B Kemp, L Ash, H Young, C Serong
Brodie Kemp did all he could to get Vic Country over the line. Picture: AFL Photos
Regan Clarke shows his excitement after kicking the winning goal. Picture: AFL Photos
The WA team celebrates with the cup. Picture: AFL Photos