The Queensland Under 18 State Academy Squad has arrived at the business end of 2015.
The boys have jumped on the big bird to take on the Calder Cannons in Melbourne tomorrow (Saturday June 13), in their final TAC Cup game before the NAB AFL Under 18 Championships begin next week.
They head into the game off the back of a confidence building win over Oakleigh two weeks ago, getting on top of the Chargers with their run and carry in the second quarter.
They took the game on, were prepared to tuck the ball under the arm when required, and got it in long and quick into the forward line.
“Our tackling pressure was up, we took away the uncontested marks from the opposition, and we won the footy around the clearances,” coach Adrian Fletcher said.
“If we can do that, we have got enough talent to move the ball in transition, and we get it back quicker.”
Wylie Buzza’s dominance up forward, finishing with five goals, was a reflection of the ball movement.
The Queensland boys will look to take that form into tomorrow’s game.
“One you get one win you hope you can replicate that effort, we need to play four quarters though, and make sure we get some players consistently playing some good footy,” he said.
“We will have to grind away for a full game down in Melbourne.”
The Chargers also come into tomorrow’s game with their tails wagging, after a good win over the Bendigo Pioneers and a draw with the Gippsland Power in their last two games.
The Cannons might be some key personal down due to Vic Metro selection, but their list runs deep.
“I just know that every time we play a TAC Cup team, they may have a couple out in the state team, but the ones that come in are very talented players,” Fletcher said.
“They kick the ball well, Victorian kids, so you’ve got to get the ball back quickly otherwise they hurt you in transition. That’s what happened against Oakleigh in the third quarter, and we rectified it in the last.”
Ethan Reeves and Isaiah Edwards get their opportunity this week, but the Queenslander’s be travelling without AFL-AIS player Eric Hipwood, who will miss due to a minor corky.
This weekend will be the final chance to impress before selection is made for Queensland’s opening championship game against the Northern Territory next Saturday at Southport.
“This weekend is very important. We need our a-game now. With the championships just around the corner, it’s really important we are playing our best footy, and everyone is in their best form,” Fletcher said.
The lead in is not about individual performances, but about how the boys play as a team
“We want the competition for spots to be fierce, but we don’t’ want the team aspect to go out the window. We have got to make sure that team comes first, and you have to fit into the team environment,” he said.
The preparation for this weekend kicked off on Tuesday night at the AFL Queensland under 18 and under 16 jumper presentation night.
The under 18-leadership group of Bean Keays, Corey Wagner and Connor West was officially unveiled, before Brisbane Lions captain Tom Rockliff presented each team member with their jumper.
The night concluded with a video interview with ex-Queensland representative Nick Riewoldt, who shared his experiences of being in the exact same position the under 18 boys are currently in.
You know what you’re going to get out of Keays, Wagner and the like out of the middle, the key to a Queensland win will be the next level of players stepping up and taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
The game at Rams Arena gets underway at 11:00am.
By Andrew Wiles – @andrewjwiles