EXCITING Northern Territory forward Adam Sambono has been included in the Allies squad ahead of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, despite turning 20 last month.
Under AFL rules a player can be picked at under-18 level "in exceptional and compelling circumstances" if he doesn't meet regular criteria, with the League believing Sambono's talent and background should see him get an opportunity for the Allies despite being two years older than the draft pool.
He hails from Daly River, 200km from Darwin, and has not played in the AFL's under-aged championships before, but is in brilliant form and kicked five goals for NT Thunder last weekend.
Clubs were notified of Sambono's inclusion on Monday, with the full Allies squad released ahead of next month's national carnival. Sambono is too old to be eligible as a part of any club's Next Generation Academy zone.
Almost half of the Allies will come from the Sydney and Greater Western Sydney academies, in a nod to the growing strength of football in New South Wales.
The Giants have supplied 12 players to the squad of 48 that will be used throughout the five-round championships, while the Swans, who won the under-18 academy series, have had nine players selected.
Highly-touted pair Jarrod Brander and Charlie Spargo are among the Giants' representatives in the Allies list, although GWS does not have first access to them through their academy after the AFL realigned the club's zone earlier this year.
Jarrod Osborne, who won the Swans' most valuable player in the recent academy series, is among his team's selections for the Allies. Bottom-ager and father-son prospect Nick Blakey has also been chosen despite not being eligible for the draft until next year.
Gold Coast's academy had 10 players picked for the Allies, while the Brisbane Lions have had four prospects included in the group. Key forward/ruckman Connor Ballenden, who hit form late in the academy series for the Lions and is a potential top-five draft selection, will play for the Allies.
Six Tasmanians, including highly touted 2018 draft hopefuls Tarryn Thomas and Chayce Jones, are in the Allies squad.
Thomas is a member of North Melbourne's Next Generation Academy and the club will have first call on him at next year's draft. Tony Olango, who is one of eight Northern Territory prospects in the Allies' squad, is eligible to join Hawthorn under the NGA rules having been overlooked at last year's draft.
Adrian Fletcher, having coached Queensland in recent division two national carnivals, will be senior coach of the Allies with Tadhg Kennelly his assistant.
The AFL's Luke Ball, who played 223 games for St Kilda and Collingwood, will be Allies team manager. The squad will be trimmed after its trial game in two weeks.
The Allies' first game of the championships will come in round one against Vic Country at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday, June 11. The carnival will wrap up at Simonds Stadium on Wednesday, July 5.
2017 NAB AFL UNDER-18 ALLIES SQUAD
NSW-ACT (GWS Academy): Nicholas Shipley, Brendan Myers, Jack Powell, Nathan Richards, Jarrod Brander, Alex Paech, Daniel Johnston, Laine Fitzgerald, Doultan Langlands, Jy Lane, Tom Highmore, Charlie Spargo
NSW-ACT (Sydney academy): Luke Skrivanic, Nick Blakey, James Bell, Michael Carroll, Harrison Carr, Luke Robertson, Jarrod Osborne, Jake Brown, Jack Hardman
Queensland (Gold Coast academy): Brodie Foster, Brayden Crossley, Harry Simmington, Jacob Dawson, Bailey Scott, Sam Davidson, Damien Burke, Timakoi Bowie, Caleb Graham, Kwaby Boakye
Queensland (Brisbane Lions academy): Connor Ballenden, Jack Payne, Jack Clayton, Ben Sloan
Tasmania: Chayce Jones, Tarryn Thomas, Hugh Dixon, Thomas Mundy, Jake Hinds, Nicholas Hutchinson
Northern Territory: Rodney Baird, Zac Bailey, Matthew Green, Jeremiah Scrutton, Tony Olango, Adam Sambono, Dominic Grant