A POOR second half consigned Victoria Country to its first defeat of the AFL under 18 national championships.
The bush boys led by 22 points at quarter-time of their clash against South Australia before falling away to lose 9.21 (75) to 8.5 (53) at Football Park, Adelaide.
The defeat gave them a 1-1 record after two rounds of the championships. Victoria Metro, which they beat in round one, awaits at Kardinia Park on Sunday.
Victoria Country coach Mark Ellis was yesterday upbeat despite the loss, encouraged by the strong start which had his side up 6.4 to 4.7 at half-time.
Ellis praised the performances of Geelong Falcon Rhys Mathieson and Bendigo Pioneers’ Billy Evans, who were among the best.
“It’s disappointing but there certainly were some really good signs come out of it,” he said. “We played some really good footy in the first half. It was as good footy as I’ve seen the boys play.
“It wasn’t so much the legs (that we lost). I think the second half we didn’t play as well as what we did in the first half.
“We might’ve gone away from a few things we wanted to do but that’s going to happen in footy.
“South Australia are a good side, you’d expect them to come back, especially at home. We were disappointed for sure, but there were some positives.”
Portland ruckman Rowan Marshall missed the match with injury, while his clubmate Tom Templeton played in the Hampden league.
State selectors are required to use 32 players on their rosters in at least two matches, meaning Templeton will come into contention to play this weekend.
“It’s not a matter of all-out winning and playing our best 22 each week. It’s about experience, it’s about development,” Ellis said.
“It’s about the kids playing on AFL-standard grounds and travelling and being professional in the way they conduct themselves.”