U18 Torrens University Cup Semi-Final Preview

By Tom Wyman

The two dominant U18 Torrens University Cup sides will lock horns at Coopers Stadium for a place in the title-decider.

Despite occupying the first two positions on the ladder, Norwood and North Adelaide have had contrasting seasons in many respects.

The Redlegs looked in trouble at 2-4 after round six, but dropped just two of their remaining 12 games to claim the minor premiership.

The Roosters, on the other hand, raced out of the blocks to sit 11-1 after three months of action, but have won just one of their last five matches.

The clubs have met three times throughout the home-and-away season, with Norwood gaining a 2-1 edge.

The Redlegs won both games at Prospect Oval, but lost when the Roosters visited The Parade.

Given the Qualifying Final will be played at Coopers Stadium, the Roosters will be quietly confident of knocking off the minor premiers.

However, they’ll have to be switched on offensively if they’re to kick a winning score against the dourest defensive team in the competition.

Riley Verrall has been a handy cog down back for coach Michael Knoll’s boys, with Norwood looking to use his running capacity and ball use when transitioning from half-back.

Norwood will also look to gain the ascendancy in the ruck, with big man Alex Van Wyk averaging 21 hitouts per game to only sit behind Central’s Jayden Matz in total hitout numbers.

At his feet, Torrens University SA U18 representative Tyson Walls will combine with the likes of Cruz Polkinghorne and Noah Hyde.

Walls’ burst of speed, football smarts and clearance winning ability will be particularly important against the Roosters.

Fellow U18 state team member Harvey Pedler looms as a wildcard in attack for Norwood, having booted four goals in the round 18 win over West Adelaide.

North Adelaide’s midfield will be bolstered by the imminent returns of college captains Billy Dowling (St. Peters College) and Kane McAuliffe (Prince Alfred College).

Juggling SA U18 and college commitments, Dowling has proven a class above for the Roosters, averaging an outstanding 31.9 disposals, 7.3 marks, 5.3 tackles, 4.6 clearances, 6.1 inside-50s and 1.6 goals in ten matches.

A renowned ball-winner, Dowling will demand attention from the Norwood on-ballers, while McAuliffe’s versatility and clean kicking will be useful whether he’s deployed across half-back or through the middle.

North will look to regain gun forward Isaac Keeler, wingman/half-forward Max Blacker, key tall Jack Hodges and inside ball-winner Hughen Wissman.

Roosters Skipper James White has been the most prolific ball winner in the competition, playing all 18 matches and averaging 23.5 disposals and 4.6 clearances. The Dignan brothers, Oliver and Jed, have also been mainstays in attack for the red and whites, booting 37 and 16 goals respectively.


Max Michalanney v Isaac Keeler

The potential battle between versatile Norwood defender Max Michalanney and Roosters’ tall forward Isaac Keeler will be critical for both teams.

Making his league debut in round nine, coincidently against North, Michalanney spent most of the year with the reserves where he showed an ability to take on smaller and taller opponents and peel off to intercept when necessary.

If he isn’t recalled to the Redlegs’ league side, the Crows father-son prospect may be assigned the role of stopping fellow Torrens University SA U18 representative Keeler.

Hailing from Port Augusta, Keeler has game-breaking potential up forward or through the ruck. Also eligible to join Adelaide at November’s AFL Draft, this time via the Next Generation Academy rules, Keeler is a big-game player boasting elite athleticism and high level skills in the air and at ground level.

Sturt’s Chad Reschke (centre) is the competition’s leading goal kicker. Picture – Peter Argent

Glenelg and Sturt will face off in another do-or-die clash in the U18 Torrens University Cup after their respective league sides did battle last weekend.

Both clubs will be confident of progressing, having claimed important scalps in the final minor round while also regaining a handful of big-name college players.

Despite Lachlan Scannell missing the year through injury, the Bays will be eager to go one step further after going down to Woodville-West Torrens in the 2021 decider.

Standing in their road are is a Double Blues side which has bounced back strongly after collecting the wooden spoon last year.

Albeit inconsistent at-times, Sturt has played a strong brand of football this season, claiming wins against all clubs except the Bays.

They’ll be boosted by the return of son-of-a-gun Luca Slade, who will play an important role for the Double Blues after starring all season with Prince Alfred College.

His college affiliation restricted the versatile bottom-ager to just ten U18 matches, but he still averaged 19.9 disposals. 5.1 marks, 3.7 tackles and over a goal per game.

Glenelg claimed an emphatic 79-point win over the Double Blues in round three, when forwards Jayden Davis and Ashton Moir combined to boot nine goals. But the clubs’ round 11 meeting was much closer, with first-year coach Jared Millington’s boys getting over the line by just three points after a late Davis major.

Although Moir and Davis will both miss the finals, Glenelg’s returning college contingency will loom large.

Torrens University SA U18 representatives Jakob Ryan, Archie Lovelock and Jake Walker will be joined in the side by Bowen Payne, Jake Pavia-Amato, Beau Symonds, Ben Dewhirst and Chester Forster.

Ryan Wurfel and Bodie Ryan will also make their returns to football after stints out through injury, but Charlie Hildyard remains sidelined with a knee complaint.

In the absence of their college-aligned stars, Tigers midfielders Hayden Brokensha and Ben Ridgway have been impressive.

Brokensha’s running power and ball use on the outside has been noticeable, averaging 23.6 disposals at 83% efficiency in 16 matches.

While on the inside, strong bodied skipper Ridgway has averaged 23.8 touches, 5.8 tackles and 4.3 clearances in 15 games as a bottom-ager.

To combat Glenelg’s talented midfield unit, Sturt will seek strong performances from Kobe McEntee and George Pope, who have proven to be consistent performers in a well-rounded Double Blues outfit.

Going forward, plenty of responsibility will rest in the hands of Chad Reschke, the competition’s leading goal kicker.

Strong in the air and an accurate kick for goal, Reschke booted 63 majors in 16 matches – 13 majors clear of second-placed Bloods tall Tom Scully.

Reschke doesn’t need much of the ball to have a big impact on the outcome, registering a haul of seven goals in round one and two bags of six in rounds 16 and 18. He booted five of Sturt’s 11 goals when they played the Bays their second 2022 meeting.


Chad Reschke (Sturt) v Jakob Ryan (Glenelg)

Reschke has often been the main man in attack for the Double Blues this season, so stopping his marking dominance inside-50 will be at the top of the Bays agenda.

With his ability to lock down an opponent and control the airways down back, Jakob Ryan may be the best option. He has the speed to match Reschke on the lead then can look to make the Sturt forward work hard defensively.

If Millington prefers to free-up Ryan or push him up to a wing, Glenelg could task talls Brandon Smith or Jack McAuley with the job.

Sturt must be weary of being overly reliant on Reschke inside-50, with goals from their midfielders set to be vital. 


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