POTENTIAL first-round pick Jhye Clark has helped steer Vic Country to a two-point win over South Australia in its opening game of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
In a contest that came down to the wire, Vic Country held on to win 9.8 (62) to 8.12 (60) at Thebarton Oval on Sunday, with South Australia having the last six scoring shots of the game – all behinds.
Clark was excellent throughout with 24 disposals, eight marks and a goal as the Geelong Falcons midfielder continued his consistent season that has seen him come into top-15 considerations for clubs.
Mitch Szybkowski was also terrific for Vic Country through the midfield with 25 disposals and four clearances, while Coby Burgiel collected 25 touches.
Harley Reid, who is not eligible for the draft until next year, had some starring moments playing in defence, gathering 21 disposals and taking 10 marks, including an important strong grab in the dying moments.
Jonti Schuback (21 disposals, 11 marks), Ollie Hollands (19 disposals, one goal) and Melbourne Next Generation Academy prospect Finn Emile-Brennan (19 disposals) were also busy, while key forward Aaron Cadman kicked two goals.
ALL THE YOUNG GUNS NAB U18 Championship hub
Vic Country got the early ascendancy in the game before South Australia struck back in the second term to take a nine-point lead into half-time. Vic Country kicked four goals to two in the third quarter, however, to set up the win to open their national carnival with a victory.
NAB AFL Academy member Adam D'Aloia had a game-high 28 disposals, eight tackles, seven clearances and booted a goal as South Australia's best, while Jakob Ryan provided plenty of run and penetration with 23 touches.
Adelaide Next Generation Academy talent Isaac Keeler showed some exciting moments by kicking 1.2 from 16 disposals, while ruckman Harry Barnett (14 disposals, 15 hit-outs) was also important at stages.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2.0 6.3 8.5 8.12 (60)
VIC COUNTRY 3.3 4.6 8.8 9.8 (62)
South Australia: D'Aloia, Delean, Keeler, Michalanney, K.Ryan, Rypstra, Sadler, Walker
Vic Country: Cadman 2, Duursma 2, McMullin 2, Binns, Clark, Hollands