A crunching tackle by Kyle McKellar.
A desperate smother from Marc Sheather.
A goal-saving chase by Tommy Tyson.
They were just a few of the team-first acts highlighted by coach Jared Crouch after the QBE Sydney Swans Academy under-18s beat the Tasmania Devils in Blacktown on Saturday.
The Academy began the 2019 representative season with a hard-fought win over the Devils, 7.14 (56) to 6.6 (42), in the expanded NAB League.
The Swans hit the ground running in wet and slippery conditions, with busy midfielder Errol Gulden and Sheather kicking goals in the first quarter.
Tasmania didn’t score until midway through the second term, as Academy defenders including Luke Parks, Jacob Dol, Max Geddes and Reed van Huisstede stood firm, and teamed with half-backs Nick Brewer and Noah Casalini to move the ball forward.
The Academy dominated the second quarter but was inaccurate in front of goals, kicking 1.6, but Crouch was pleased with the way the team persisted in the second half as Tasmania fought back.
“I was very happy with our performance,’’ Crouch said.
“There was a lot of nervous energy because it was our first game for the season, so it wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to like.’’
Crouch praised the Academy players’ strong attack on the ball, their physicality and their relentless tackling.
The Swans laid 84 tackles for the game, compared to Tasmania’s 71.
“A number of our players including Kyle McKellar, Braeden Campbell and Aidan Watling laid eight tackles each for the day and led the way with their pressure,’’ Crouch said.
Captain Sam Thorne was also impressive, with 22 disposals and seven tackles, while Gulden dominated in the midfield with 24 kicks, 12 handballs and two goals.
“We constantly emphasise that we want to play team-first football and the boys really carried that out on the weekend,’’ Crouch said.
“The tackle count shows how hard they worked for each other.’’
But Crouch believes there will be plenty of room for improvement when the Academy takes on the GWS Academy side in Canberra on Saturday.
The Swans will face the Giants at Manuka Oval from 11am, and the match will be live streamed on the NAB League app.
The Swans Academy will then meet top Victorian teams the Sandringham Dragons, Murray Bushrangers and Geelong Falcons to round out its first season in the new NAB League.
The Academy under-16s side will start its three-match Academy Series against the Giants on Saturday.
That game will take place at Manuka Oval and will start at 2pm.