POTENTIAL top-five pick Hayden Young has steered Vic Country to a strong 13-point win over Vic Metro in the opening game of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
Young had a game-high 29 disposals playing across half-back in Country's 9.10 (64) to 7.9 (51) victory at the MCG on Saturday ahead of the Collingwood and Fremantle clash.
The Dandenong Stingrays prospect, who is Country's vice-captain, was excellent with his left-foot disposal out of defence, recording seven rebound-50s and seven marks.
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He is considered a likely early selection at November's NAB AFL Draft, having also played well for the Australian under-18 side in its game at the MCG against VFL side Casey Scorpions in April.
Country midfielder Caleb Serong was also terrific in the win, finding 22 disposals and having five clearances, while Lachie Ash's dash (21 disposals) out of defence was eye-catching.
Lachie Ash showed off his skills off half-back with 21 disposals. Picture: AFL Photos
Small forward Ned Cahill chipped in with two clever goals from 16 disposals, the bustling Josh Smith booted three, while Sam Flanders showed his power and burst through the midfield and in attack with 21 disposals and a goal.
Midfielders Jay Rantall (21), Ryan Sparkes (19) and Thomson Dow (18), the younger brother of Carlton's Paddy, were also strong contributors in the win, which was something of a surprise given Metro's star-studded midfield.
Metro went into the game considered favourites and its top-end players lived up to the billing.
Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson, the likely top two picks at this year's draft, were busy. Rowell had 28 disposals (a game-high 11 were contested), while Anderson collected 25 and laid eight tackles to go with his five clearances.
Metro led at quarter-time by one point but Country kept its opponents goalless in the pivotal second term to take a 12-point lead into half-time that it never relinquished thereafter.
Louis Butler was handy for Metro off half-back with 24 disposals and seven rebound-50s, Darcy Cassar had some nice moments (16 disposals and a goal) and tall forward Charlie Dean showed his forward craft but was unable to convert his opportunities.
VIC METRO 3.2 3.4 5.6 7.9 (51)
VIC COUNTRY 3.1 5.4 6.9 9.10 (64)
Vic Metro: Cassar, Rowell, McAsey, Maginness, Jones, Honey, Ralphsmith
Vic Country: Smith 3, Cahill 2, Flanders, Hollands, Martin, Comben
Vic Metro: Rowell, Anderson, Butler, Bergman, Cassar
Vic Country: Young, Serong, Ash, Rantall, Cahill, Sparkes