AFL North West: region's under-17 side shows promise at Coffs Harbour carnival

AFL North West’s under-17 side have delivered a promising performance at a two-day carnival at Coffs Harbour that belied the squad’s inexperience and augurs well for the future.

In a side featuring seven Moree Suns players – Jack Montgomery, Daniel Brown, Rhys Smith, Adrian “Bob” Smith, Tyson Green, Nick Fisher and Will Caccianiga – North West lost to the vastly more experienced North Coast  8.5-53 to 4.7-31 over two quarters in the third-place playoff on Wednesday afternoon.

They qualified for the match after beating North Coast 7.4-46 to 4.5-29 on Wednesday morning.

It was a great recovery for a team that was given little chance at the five-team event, especially after favourites Hunter thumped them by 10 goals in the opening game on Tuesday.

In game two on Tuesday, North West rebounded admirably with a six-point loss to Northern Rivers, before beating Central Coast by 33 points in the final game that day.

To underline the promise shown by the side, drawn from a competition launched in April last year, AFL North West development officer Sonia Martin said: “Our most experienced players have played about 15 home and away games compared to the other teams’ 50 to 60 gamers, at least.

“We’re a raw talent, is the way to put it.”

Martin said eight players in North West’s 21-member squad were normally under-15 players. “No other leagues are playing any under-15s,” she added.

RAW TALENT: North West's Rhys Smith in action in a two-day under-17 representative carnival in Coffs Harbour that finished on Wednesday.

RAW TALENT: North West's Rhys Smith in action in a two-day under-17 representative carnival in Coffs Harbour that finished on Wednesday.

One of those under-15 players is Moree’s Montgomery.

“He did very well in the ruck and learned a lot … He’s really young, so hats off to him,” Martin said.

Commenting on Moree-based Smith’s performance in the heavy loss to Hunter, she said:

“He had an amazing game. “He was so strong in defence … He absolutely put in 110 per cent.”

It was the first junior representative team fielded from this region.

The players also came from Gunnedah, Inverell, Tamworth, Walcha, Manilla and Armidale.

“This carnival is the current pinnacle of the sport for these boys,” Martin said.