QBE Sydney Swans Academy head coach Jared Crouch is calling on Melbourne-based fans to get behind the club’s young stars when the Academy under 18s take on the Geelong Falcons next Sunday.
After four games in the revamped elite national under 18 competition, the NAB League, the Swans Academy is undefeated and equal first on the ladder.
The competition includes the best under 18 teams from Victoria as well as sides from the Swans, GWS, Lions and Suns Academies who play a limited series of games.
The Swans Academy plays its final match in the NAB competition this Sunday at midday at Trevor Barker Oval in Sandringham, when they meet the highly-rated Falcons.
The Academy players will be out to prove once again that they can more than match it with the top teenagers in Victoria.
“We’d love Swans fans to come along and support us next Sunday,’’ Crouch said.
“We’ve got a very talented group of players in the Academy at the moment and no doubt some of them will play for the club in the years ahead.
“This is one of the best teams the Academy has fielded. There are boys from as far away as Grafton on the north coast, such as Hamish Ellem, down to Wollongong where our captain Sam Thorne lives, so they represent the breadth of our Academy and they’ve gelled as a very strong unit,’’ Crouch said.
The team claimed another big scalp on the weekend with a fighting 24-point win over the Murray Bushrangers in Blacktown.
The Swans started strongly and held a six goal lead at half-time before the Bushrangers struck back in the third term. The Swans toughed out the final quarter to win by 24 points.
The win came without several of the Academy’s best players including ruckman Sam Gaden (concussion) and Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell who both represented the Australia under 17 team in a match against a New Zealand open age side.
Key forward Ellem was dominant against the Bushrangers, with 21 disposals, nine marks and three goals.
Crouch also paid tribute to midfielder Thorne, who led the way with a game-high 10 tackles, and the team’s band of stalwart defenders.
“We’ve had a very stable backline with Luke Parks, Nick Brewer, Max Geddes, Reed van Huisstede, Josh Rayner, Jacob Dol and Kyle Martin down there, and they’ve been outstanding. They’ve really set the tone every week with their pressure and their ball use,’’ Crouch said.
The Academy has now beaten the Tasmania Devils, the GWS Giants Academy, the Sandringham Dragons and the Murray Bushrangers over the past month.
Thorne is urging his team-mates not to be complacent ahead of the final test against the Geelong Falcons.
“It was a gutsy win against the Bushrangers. They were at full strength and it was a very physical game,’’ Thorne said.
“But we have a big challenge this week against the Falcons who are another really strong Victorian outfit.
“Our pressure has been our biggest asset so far, we’ve been ferocious at the footy,’’ he said.
“We’ve shown that we can compete with the best young players in Australia so we want to make a big statement and do all we can to finish our series undefeated.’’
Crouch’s message is similar. “The job isn’t finished yet,’’ he said. “We only have five games in the NAB League and while we’ve done really well, we want to tie it all together this week and play at our best for four quarters.’’
Gulden, Campbell and Gaden are all expected to come back into the Academy side.
Game 5 NAB LEAGUE
QBE Sydney Swans Academy V Geelong Falcons
Sunday May 5, Midday
Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham