The QBE Sydney Swans Academy under-18s will be strengthened by the return of key forward Hamish Ellem when they take on NSW rival the GWS Academy in Canberra on Saturday.
Ellem, who was selected in the AFL’s Allies Academy after a stand-out 2018 season, has recovered from a knee injury and will make his return to the Swans team for its second match in the newly established NAB League.
He hails from Grafton on the NSW north coast and made his NEAFL debut for the Swans last year at just 16 years old, kicking two goals in his first game.
The battle between the two NSW-based academies is always a highlight of the season, and Swans Academy head coach Jared Crouch says the match will be intense.
“There is a strong rivalry between our Academies and both teams lift because of it,’’ Crouch said.
The Swans started their NAB League season with a 14-point victory over the Tasmania Devils in Blacktown last Saturday, while GWS lost to the Brisbane Lions Academy by 26 points.
Crouch was impressed with the form of his young charges last week, particularly the defenders, but believes there’s plenty of room for improvement against GWS.
“Our pressure was fantastic last week, with 81 tackles for the match, and we’ll need to do that again. But we were a bit rusty with our ball use so I’m really looking for us to better in that regard,’’ Crouch said.
“We want to make life a bit easier for our forwards, and it’s great having Hamish back in the side as he gives us another big target.’’
Ellem will team with fellow AFL Allies Academy member Josh Rayner in the forward line, as well as exciting prospect Harry Maguire.
In the midfield the Swans will have to cover the loss of Errol Gulden, who won’t play this week due to soreness.
Gulden, who is still 16 and not eligible for the draft until 2020, was best on ground last week against Tasmania with 36 disposals.
Another one of the Swans Academy’s talented under-17s players, Pierce Roseby, comes into the side to replace Gulden.
Crouch expects a fierce contest against the Giants.
“They have some fantastic players including midfielder Tom Green, a strong inside player who gives them a lot of drive, and key forward Liam Delahunty.’’
Canberra-based Green is the grandson of four-time Richmond premiership player Michael Green.
While the NAB League is an under-18s competition, each side is allowed to play a number of 19-year-olds – players who weren’t drafted in 2018 but still considered promising prospects and given another year of development.
GWS will field five under-19 players tomorrow, while the Swans will field just one - Kyle McKellar, who put in a strong performance against Tasmania last weekend.
The match between the Swans and Giants under-18 Academy sides will take place at UNSW Oval Canberra Oval (Manuka Oval) from 11am.
It will be live streamed on the NAB League app, available for free download.
The NAB League match will be followed at 2pm by the first game in the under-16s Academy Series between the Swans and GWS.
The three-match series is part of the selection process for under-16s NSW/ACT RAMS state selection.
The Academy under-18s team (with numbers) is:
B: Geddes (22) van Huisstede (4) Martin (33)
HB: Parks (3) Dol (38) Brewer (12)
C: Casalini (28) Barling (10) Campbell (7)
HF: Parker (15) Rayner (39) Watling (11)
F: Sheather (27) Maguire (5) Swaney (16)
Foll: Gaden (40) McKellar (37) Thorne (c) (9)
I/C Nash (6) Baxter (14) Youlten (21) Ellem (2) Tyson (29) Roseby (17)