MIDFIELD stars Colby McKercher and Ryley Sanders, small forward gun Nick Watson, father-son prospect Jordan Croft and a trio of 2024 prospects were standouts in a big day of under-18s action on Sunday.

In a double-header of the under-18 championships at Thebarton Oval, Vic Metro powered to a 68-point win over South Australia before the Allies were far too strong for Western Australia, winning by 88 points.

In the first game, Metro jumped to an early lead, with 'The Wizard' Watson kicking three first-half goals in attack. The lively goalkicker finished with four majors as the most impactful forward on the ground, with Western Bulldogs father-son Croft also excellent with three goals from 10 disposals.

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Croft, the son of ex-Dogs defender Matthew, is shaping as a potential first-round pick with a run of strong performances in attack as an athletic 199cm forward, while half-back Nathan Philactides (21 disposals) added drive from defence. 

Nathan Philactides during the 2023 U18 Championships match between South Australia and Victoria Metro at Thebarton Oval on June 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Metro was led through its midfield by bottom-age trio Levi Ashcroft (31 disposals, four inside-50s, one goal), Josh Smillie (26 disposals, seven inside-50s) and Jagga Smith (25 disposals, four clearances), who all dominated a year before they hit draft age. 

Ashcroft, the younger brother of Brisbane's Will, was close to best afield with his clean hands and smarts to continue his excellent season, while Sid Draper, the younger brother of Collingwood's Arlo, had a team-high 27 disposals for South Australia. 

Levi Ashcroft of Victoria during the 2023 U18 Championships match between South Australia and Victoria Metro at Thebarton Oval on June 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Western Australia had a strong start to the contest against the Allies before the star-studded unit ran away with the strong win in the second game, seeing the Allies jump to a 2-0 start to the carnival.

McKercher was sensational, gathering 40 disposals, four clearances and seven inside-50s in a complete performance in the 25-minute quarters. The left-footer was exceptional and showed why many clubs have him locked as a top-five pick. 

His midfield partner from Tasmania and the Allies, Sanders, also displayed his power with 39 disposals and nine inside-50s as well as a brilliant running goal out of the centre, while Jed Walter kicked 3.2 in a strong battle with Western Australian defender Daniel Curtin.

Ryley Sanders in action during the U18 Championship match between the Allies and Western Australia at Thebarton Oval on June 11, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The pair of early picks enjoyed an engrossing match-up, with Curtin having 18 disposals, as Walter collected eight marks and competed well. Fellow tall forward Charlie McCormack, from the Giants' Academy, kicked four goals and flew for marks, while small forward Jack Callinan, the son of former Crows forward Ian, kicked three opportunistic goals.

Ethan Read (21 disposals, one goal, 14 hit-outs) and Mitch Edwards (11 disposals, 30 hit-outs) had a competitive clash in the ruck, while Clay Hall (24 disposals) and Riley Hardeman (21 disposals) tried hard for Western Australia in the loss to kickstart their carnival. 

South Australia      2.1       3.3       3.4       5.8 (38)
Vic Metro                3.3       8.7      13.12    15.16 (106) 

South Australia: Rawlinson 2, Dignan, Slade, Weckert
Vic Metro: Watson 4, Croft 3, Johnston 2, LaPlanche 2, Ashcroft, Dattoli, Lorenz, Taha

Allies                           1.5       6.6       11.10   16.12 (108)
Western Australia      1.3       1.5       2.8       2.8 (20)

Allies: McCormack 4, Callinan 3, Walter 3, Rider 2, Gander, Gothard, Read, Sanders
Western Australia: Kentfield, Walsh