By Beth Newman
Spectators, and state selectors, can expect to see more of a defensive game in this weekend’s final Gold Coast SUNS Academy v Brisbane Lions Academy match.
The match will be the final chance for the state’s top under-agers to push for state selection in their Academy teams, with the initial Queensland squad of 30 to be named next week.
Queensland’s three AIS-AFL Academy members, Liam Dawson, Matt Hammelmann and Lachie Weller have all been left out, leaving open the door for some new faces to press their claims.
The Brisbane Lions Academy will be without ruckman, Will Kristelly (ankle), meaning rookie search athlete Nate Dennis will shoulder the bulk of the ruck load, along with Harris Andrews and Dylan Atkins.
Nineteen year-old, Lewis Radford, will also be included in the Lions side for the match, while bottom-ager, Ben Glover (Maroochydore) comes into the side’s forward line, in the absence of Hammelmann, with Blake Hartley and Declan Warren also likely to be included.
Lions Academy head coach, Scott Borlace, said while there were plenty of positives for his side to take from the first match a fortnight ago, he would be looking for stronger defensive efforts from his team on Saturday.
“We were pretty happy with how they played and gelled and in turn, reflected in how many players we got picked in the Queensland training squad,” he said.
“We’ll be looking for more of the same, just a good, positive brand of football where we move the ball well but also defend well.”
“There are some aspects of team defence we want to improve – things like three players going for the ball carrier as opposed to one.”
Borlace said he expected players like Redland’s Scott Miller, who impressed for the Lions reserves against Aspley last weekend, to have a major impact in Saturday’s match.
“He was probably unlucky not to make the Queensland squad last weekend, so he’ll have another chance to impress on a wing,” he said.
“He’s a quality player, who’s played senior footy, so hopefully he’ll grab the opportunity.”
Down the highway, Gold Coast SUNS Academy head coach, Aaron Rogers said efficiency would be the name of the game for his side.
“I think the ball movement needs to be much more efficient and defensive reaction must be much quicker than it was in the first game,” he said.
“We’ve addressed some of those areas and we’ll make a few positional changes to try and get a better outcome hopefully we can reverse the score.”
Four North Queensland players will be coming down for the match, with Glendon Woosup (Cairns), Cody Filewood (Mackay), Dylan McConochy and new inclusion, Blake Bailey from Mackay.
Both Woosup and Filewood impressed in the SUNS forward line in the first Academy match, and Rogers hoped they could deliver again.
Rogers said his players would be more mentally settled ahead of this weekend’s match, with a couple of matches under their belts for 2014.
“It’s always difficult for the players to be coming into the first game of the year, knowing they’re going to be looked at and there’s a high level of anxiety there, for sure,” he said.
“They’ve got those bugs down now, though, and the guys who played last weekend, were much better against Morningside.
“I’m sure they’ll be mentally and physically prepared for this weekend.”
The match kicks off on Saturday at 11:30am at Fankhauser Reserve, Southport.