A strong preparation has the QBE Sydney Swans Academy’s Under 18s setting their sights on cross-town counterparts GWS for the opening round of the new-look Division 2 U18 National Championships.

In place of the Academy Series,  the National Championships’ Division 2 competition will see the northern academies square off against one another, plus representative sides from Northern Territory and Tasmania, over the next six weeks.

For head coach Jared Crouch and his 40-strong squad, it all begins on Sunday at Blacktown International Sportspark against the Giants.

Following a big pre-season campaign on Tramway Oval and a successful series of practice matches in recent weeks, the Under 18s feel up to the task to account for whatever their GWS counterparts throw at them.

“North Shore were very physical, which is what we were after, so that we prepared for our first game against the Giants who are a very talented and physically strong squad,” Academy General Manager Chris Smith said.

“We’ll need to be at our best to challenge them.”

Sunday’s clash begins at 1pm.

See a full wrap of the practice matches below, including two Under 18s games and an Under 16s hit out, plus further comment from Smith.

U18 Academy 11.10 (76) def. North Shore Prems 2.6 (18)
Goals - Blakey 4, Skrivanic, McKellar 2, Brown, Hardman, Rogers.
Best - Carroll, Bell, Blakey, Rogers, Wicks, Flanagan, Stern.
Smithy’s words:
“The first hit-out for the U18s was extremely promising,” he said. “Especially their willingness to apply pressure and use the ball cleanly.”

U18 Academy Reserves 11.6 (72) def. North Shore Div 1 10.3 (63)
Goals - Close 4, Carr 3, Rankin 2, Bartholomaeus, Mapleson.
Best - Kaporis, Close, Mullen, Kilpatrick, Meacham, Kirk, Barkley.
Smithy’s words:
“It exposed our players to senior level football and the players stood up when it counted,” he said. “And got away with a win which was pleasing.”

U16 Academy 13.13 (91) def. U19 Sydney Uni 4.4.28
Goals - Parker, Campbell 2, Casalini, Dyson, Dol, Bayliss, Price, Watling, Loughnan, van Huisstede, Nash.
Best - McGrath, Watling, Parker, Drum, Adams, Martin, Campbell.
Smithy’s words:
“There were some great passage of play,” he said. “The energy and sense of teamwork within this age group is extremely promising.”