By ZAC MILBANK
The Torrens University SA U18 team has finished its AFL National Championships on a high with a hard-fought 17-point win against the Allies at Marvel Stadium on Wednesday night.
Finishing their campaign with a 2-2 win-loss record, the Croweaters overwhelmed their opponents with a strong first half as their tackling and smothering quickly became a feature of their game.
SA’s lead stretched to as much as 33 points midway through the second stanza when ruckman Lachlan Burrows converted an unselfish handball from tall utility Dyson Hilder in the goal square.
But that would be the last major for Tony Bamford’s charges until late in the third term as the plucky Allies piled on the pressure to trim the margin to as little as eight points.
Hard-working SA midfielder Jackson Mead finished off a nice team goal for SA to break the Allies’ momentum.
Jed McEntee broke through two tackles to get the ball to Lachlan McNeil who then had his handball palmed instinctively by Kysaiah Pickett into Mead’s path, with the son of Power club champion Darren Mead running into an open goal from 10m.
From there, SA was able to keep its rivals at arm’s length for the rest of the contest as inspirational captain Will Gould held up his team’s defence in impressive fashion.
”They (Allies) kept coming through the third quarter and we held on through the last (quarter),” Gould told Fox Footy after the final siren.
”So it ended up being a complete team effort from our boys, it was good to get the win.”
Gould – who had 25 disposals and 10 rebound 50s – also took six marks including one eye-catching contested grab in the final term.
He was shaded by Eagles midfielder Harry Schoenberg, who was fittingly awarded SA’s MVP trophy of the Championships for his consistent campaign.
Schoenberg registered 27 disposals, five clearances and four tackles while having his work-rate underlined by two inside 50s and two rebound 50s.
And the highlight of his display came when he produced a stunning finish on the run from 40m early in the second quarter.
Midfielders Dylan Stephens and Mead added polish to their ball-winning for their final outing, regularly hitting up their team-mates in the first half by foot.
Pickett, the nephew of Norm Smith Medallist Byron Pickett, played his best game of the tournament to tally 22 possessions and the crucial goal assist to Mead in the third term.
The man known as ”Kozzie” also helped set the tone in the first term when he produced a gutsy smother near the boundary before gathering the crumbs and kicking truly from 35m on the run.
The U18 All-Australian team will be announced on Thursday afternoon with Gould and Schoenberg among the Croweaters to be strongly considered.
SA 3.3 6.5 7.10 9.12 (66)
ALLIES 1.1 2.2 5.5 7.7 (49)
LEADING DISPOSALS – SA: Stephens 33, Schoenberg 27, Gould, McNeil 25, Pickett 22, Mead, Taheny, Shute 21, Day 20.
GOALS – SA: Burrows 2, Morris, Mead, Pickett, Taheny, Durdin, Schoenberg, Hilder.
SA MVP – Harry Schoenberg (Woodville-West Torrens)