The Tasmania Devils, made up of the state’s best talent under 25, played host to the best talent of the same age from Melbourne’s metropolitan leagues and impressed in the 15.13 (103) to 10.7 (67) triumph.
Featuring the best emerging Tasmanian State League talent and NWFL star Bailey Boag, the Devils gelled well together and delivered a strong team performance as a result.
Led by Lefroy Medalist Aiden Grace inside 50, the Devils had winners across the park – despite missing opportunities in the opening stanza.
Grace was in special marking form throughout the afternoon, clunking everything in his vicinity.
With nine marks for the day and seven disposals in the opening term, Grace looked likely to get the Devils off to a fast start. However, with one out on the full and three behinds to the first change, Grace was left to rue missed opportunities at the first change.
Metro threatened to get on top of the contest throughout the opening term, with a late Alex Saunders finish keeping the Devils within touch after the first stanza.
Grace’s afternoon improved in the second term, however, kicking a goal at both the start and end of the second term to help the Devils work towards a five-goal to two quarter.
Grace was the focal point of a mobile forward line that proved difficult for Vic Metro to stop.
With the likes of Lauderdale pair Henry Kerinaiua and Alex Saunders, Tigers dynamo Elijah Reardon and Magpie Callen Daly buzzing at Grace’s feet, the Devils looked difficult to stop whenever the ball went forward of centre.
12 goals out of this group of five proved crucial, with the hosts keeping Metro at arms length for much of the afternoon en route to the six-goal win.
Coach Jamie Hayward was full of praise for this forward group.
“We picked the side based on what we thought eh ground and conditions would do late on a Sunday afternoon and I think again that proved to be a great decision with that small forward line,” he said.
“Gracey was monumental down there. He was basically our only forward target all day and when the game was there to win early he was able to take some crucial contested marks and tackle, chase and apply pressure.”
Hayward was buoyed by how the group executed the game plan that had been discussed in the lead-up to the game.
“It was remarkably close to what we spoke about.
“What we didn’t try to do over a three-week period was try to boil the ocean, we knew with the input of the TSL coaches the main structures and how teams are playing at that level of competition.
“We didn’t go too far from what we knew the guys were used to and I think that was proven today because they executed very well.”
The Devils’ engine room boasted an eye-watering depth of talent with the likes of Kieran Lovell, Josh Ponting, Sam Siggins and Phil Bellchambers all underlining their strengths with strong performances.
Lovell was a standout through the middle of the ground, racking up 26 disposals (including 10 handball receives) to generate attacking drive.
Ponting (18 disposals, 12 tackles) and Siggins (22 disposals, nine contested possessions) were also immense in helping the Devils get the better of the battle inside and feed the ball out to runners such as Callum Kilpatrick.
Hayward acknowledged the efforts of the senior TSL coaches at his side in the team’s synergy, which all started out of the middle.
“It’s a dream to coach a group like that. That midfield group, if you had that every week, you would be a very happy man.
“The thing that worked for us in the box was that Mitch (Thorp) knew his responsibility, so did Jeromey (Webberley), Taylor (Whitford) and Richard Robinson. In terms of messages coming down and who was in charge of each area, there was no question. The players complemented the messages that came down and the messages were really clear.
The Devils’ defensive unit was similarly sound, with Josh McGuinness and Jay Foon particular standouts with 22 disposals apiece.
Hayward was full of praise for McGuinness’ performance as captain of the side.
“He was really excited when he got the call to say he would skipper the side.
“As a half back he was really solid. He punched when he had to punch, he marked the footy and was really composed with the ball in hand throughout some crucial moments coming out of the defensive 50.
“He led the way we expected him to lead and again we based that leadership decision on his age and level of maturity and background and I think today he again demonstrated why we chose him as captain.”
Joshua MacDonald was a standout for the visitors with three goals, while ruckman Chris Carey was also dominant.
Tasmania 2.4, 7.6, 10.11, 15.13 (103)
Vic Metro 3.1, 5.2, 7.4, 10.7 (67)
Tasmania : A. Saunders 3, A. Grace 3, H. Kerinaiua 2, C. Daly 2, E. Reardon 2, S. Egger, J. Foon, C. Kilpatrick
Vic Metro : L. McVeigh 3, J. MacDonald 3, M. Calvaresi 2, J. Hobbs 1, T. Simpson 1
Tasmania : A. Grace, J. Ponting, J. McGuinness, K. Lovell, H. Kerinaiua, J. Foon
Vic Metro : J. MacDonald, C. Carey, T. Wallis, H. Tanner, T. Simpson, L. McVeigh