A decade has passed since Barossa lad Shannon Hurn – now captain of AFL grand finalist West Coast – led the South Australian Under-18 team of 2005.
In that time I’ve seen plenty of elite young footballers come out of this state; today I have picked my best “Starting 22” young Croweaters from ten years of the Under-18s.
The criteria for selection isn’t about what they achieved since being drafted to the AFL – it is about the respective players’ performances at the national under-18s tournaments.
Taking account of team balance, I’ve selected six forwards, six midfielders – including a ruckman – six defenders and four interchange players.
Argent’s SA Under 18 All-Star team 2005-2015
Forwards – Sam Day (Sturt), Troy Menzel (Central District), Sam Gray (Port Adelaide), Cory Gregson (Glenelg), Sam Mayes (North), Wayne Milera (Central District)
Midfielders – Jack Trengove (Sturt –Captain), Chad Wingard (Sturt – Vice Captain), James Aish (Norwood), Brodie Grundy (Sturt), Jared Polec (WWT Eagles), Luke Dunstan (WWT Eagles)
Defenders – Brodie Smith (WWT Eagles), Levi Greenwood (Port Adelaide), Matt Scharenberg (Glenelg), Hamish Hartlett (West Adelaide), Phil Davis (North Adelaide), Matthew Broadbent (WWT Eagles)
Interchange – Shannon Hurn (Central District) Bryce Gibbs (Glenelg), Sam Durdin (West), Jack Hombsch (Sturt)
Coach – Brenton Phillips
Interestingly, both James Aish and Shannon Hurn were dual SANFL league premiership players before getting selected in AFL drafts. Three from the team – Hurn, Phil Davis and Jack Trengove – are, or have been, AFL captains, while six of the players – Polec, Hombsch, Troy Menzel, Davis, Aish and Greenwood – have already changed AFL clubs.
Over the decade, the program has had two coaches; former South Adelaide captain and Tasmanian Football Hall of Famer Darren Trevena mentored the 2005 and 2006 campaigns, and current SANFL Talent Manager Brenton Phillips has been in charge since.
The 1993 Magarey medallist and 2002 Sturt premiership coach took the SA Under-18s to back-to-back titles in 2013-2014 – the Croweaters’ first taste of premiership success since 1995, when it was a Teal Cup under-17s competition. The Under-18s championships were first held in 1996.
Phillips viewed injury-cursed Demon Jack Trengove as an outstanding leader, both in word and deed.
“Jack was a natural leader of young men,” Phillips explained.
“He didn’t play as a bottom ager with us, because he was in England as a part of a college cricket tour.”
He remembers the mercurial Chad Wingard as one of the few players that even took a game by the scruff of the neck, dragging his teammates with him to change the course of a match.
“Chad has already excelled as a first year Under-18 in 2010, but his match against Victorian Country at Adelaide Oval in 2011 was the only time an individual performance had such a dramatic influence on a game of underage football,” Phillips said.
“He was knocked out after an aggressive tackle by Jack Viney in the next game, which had a serious impact on us winning the title that year.”
Phillips also enthused about Port Adelaide Magpies draftees Levi Greenwood and Sam Gray.
“Levi was one of the few standout players in the 2007 campaign, along with Brad Ebert and Matthew Wright,” he said.
“He deserved All Australian honours that year.”
West coast lad Sam Gray was finally rookie listed by the Power in 2014, after being runner-up in the 2013 Magarey Medal count.
“It took a long time for AFL club to release what we saw in Sam Gray…I recall at contest at Simonds Stadium in 2010 where Sam ripped up the game,” said Phillips.
“He was regularly fed by ruckman Scott Lycett, and dominated the contest…it is really pleasing he finally got his chance with the Power in 2014, and started to show signs at AFL level this year for his immense talent.”
Crow Brodie Smith was another who blossomed in the Under 18 program.
“He played as a bottom ager under Jack in 2009 and was our MVP in 2010…he was considered unlucky not to win the Larke Medal (awarded to the best division one player in the competition).”
Brodie Grundy, the “obvious choice” as the first ruck over the decade, “came from a basketball background and produced a number of outstanding efforts in his final year (2012) to become a first round draft selection”.
Phillips believes Sam Day was the best power forward the junior Croweaters had in the past decade, and deemed my 22 “a balanced side” that would make a tremendous “State of Origin” team.
“Among the many that could consider themselves unlucky not to make the final cut, include West Adelaide small defender Rory Laird, midfielders in the 2014 title winning side Alex Neal-Bullen and Billy Stretch, and South East lad Tim O’Brien, who was a strong marking forward in his final year with us,” he said.
Others within the timespan that came under consideration included Seb Tape (Glenelg/Gold Coast), Jared Petrenko (WWT/ Adelaide/Essendon), Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide/ West Coast/Power), Rhys Stanley (West Adelaide/St Kilda/Geelong), Jack Redden (Glenelg/Brisbane/West Coast), Daniel Menzel (Central/Geelong), Lachlan Neale (Glenelg/Fremantle), Jordan Murdoch (Glenelg/Geelong), Mitch Grigg (Norwood/Adelaide), Alex Forster (Norwood/Fremantle), Todd McKay (South), Brad McKenzie (Sturt/North Melbourne), Rory Laird (West/Adelaide), Matt McDonough (WWT/Richmond), Luke Dunstan (WWT/St Kilda), Tim O’Brien (Glenelg/ Hawthorn), Billy Stretch (Glenelg/ Melbourne), Alex Neal-Bullen (Glenelg/Melbourne), Caleb Daniel (South/Bulldogs), Dean Gore (Sturt/ Geelong/Adelaide), Delcan Hamilton (Port/Bulldogs), Aaron Francis (West), Ryan Burton (North), Luke Partington (Norwood/Port), Mason Redman (Glenelg).
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