It was a chance to be seen, and the NEAFL Under-22s took it with both hands, in every respect, in a 15.2.92-11.20.86 win over the SANFL Under-20s on Saturday.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in their goal kicking, with the NEAFL taking until the 20th minute of the third quarter for the NEAFL side to notch up a behind, after kicking 12.0 to start the game.
Even NEAFL coach, Shaun Hart, was taken aback by his team’s sharp shooting.
“I’ve never seen a scoreboard like that,” he said.
“Over the day, they dominated in forward 50 entries but we were just able to get better method.
“I think we were able to get a goal every two entries, which is just ridiculous, even at AFL level”
Despite some of the players only meeting for the first time on the eve of the game, the NEAFL gelled well, with co-captains Kaine Stevens and Eddy Mallan leading the way.
It certainly didn’t go all the NEAFL’s way on the day, with the SANFL Under-getting an early jump, with a score from the first clearance.
Despite the SANFL’s strong finish to the game, the NEAFL didn’t let up, in the intense match.
The NEAFL’s Jake Goldsmith kicked their second straight and suddenly the visitors were seven point ahead, brimming with confidence, before co-captain Kaine Stevens delivered a brilliant snap to stretch it out to 13.
A late goal from Todd McKay narrowed the lead again, but the momentum was with the NEAFL at the first change.
The SANL Under-20s kicked the opening two goals of the second term, and threatened to put their foot down, but again the NEAFL side didn’t let them get away, with strong defensive pressure.
A sensational grab from Labrador’s Jake Goldsmith set Blake Grewar up for a goal in the shadows of half time, putting the NEAFL up by nine at the major change.
A great running goal from Barrett stretched the lad, after a tight start to the third quarter.
Ainslie midfielder, Aaron Vandenburg, took an intercept to set up Stevens for their 11th straight goal.
Ineffective kicking really hurt the home side, with an 8.17 record early in the last term.
A goal to SANFL’s Thomas Schott halfway through the last narrowed the margin to one point.
Both sides were showing the effects of the physical affair late, but the NEAFL maintained their high defensive pressure to close out the game.
Hart said the fight shown by his side was the difference in the end.
“The whole game was built around real aggression,” he said.
“There was periods where they were dominating us I reckon and it was just our ability to maintain tackling pressure on them that really allowed us to stay in the game, I thought.”
Fraser Thurlow, put on a show in a ruck/forward role, dominating and clinching some strong marks, earning him the Sam Gilbert Medal for the NEAFL’s best on ground.
The Labrador young gun said the opportunity to play against the SANFL was a major boost for the Queensland-based players.
“Being from QLD, probably not too many recruiters get to see us really so it’s good for them to see us in action,” he said.
“Hopefully after seeing our standard of footy, they realise that we are pretty good footballers and get out to watch us a bit more often.