The Tasmania Devils will return to action this Friday September 24, with both the under-17 and under-19 boys sides travelling to take on Queensland at the Yeronga Sports Ground. The under-17s will kick off at 9:30 AM, with the under-19s playing at 11:30 AM. They will go up against Queensland sides made up of a combination of players from the Brisbane and Gold Coast academies.
Following the cancellation of the NAB AFL U17 Championships earlier this year, the under-17s will step onto the national stage for the first time this season when they take on Queensland. That makes this game an important one, and it presents a big opportunity for the younger Devils to impress and put their names forward as players to watch for the future.
After captaining the under-17s in August’s intra-club showcase, Sam Banks-Smith will once again lead the side against Queensland. He will take charge of a team that has plenty of big-game experience, with ten players named spending time in the NAB League this season and plenty playing senior football.
One of the biggest names among them is Ryley Sanders, who lined up in the senior TSL grand final with North Launceston a fortnight ago. The young midfielder was a standout across 11 senior games for the Bombers, averaging 17.5 disposals per game and making plenty of eye-catching plays, and he also played seven NAB League games for the Devils. With the ability to both win the ball around the contests and break lines with his outside running, he will be a crucial weapon against Queensland.
Just as important to his team’s chances will be Devonport’s Lachlan Cowan. Another regular in the Devils NAB League side, Cowan was one of the standouts across both teams in the intra-club showcase in August, racking up 27 disposals and seven inside-50s against an experienced under-19 lineup. A midfielder by trade, he has shifted into the backline this season and impressed with his run and ball use.
At the other end of the ground will be Tom McCallum, and the big forward will be one of the main targets inside 50 for the Devils. He showed his sky-high potential in round 10 of the NAB League season, finishing with 23 disposals, 11 marks and two goals against Dandenong. An elite runner for his size and clean in the air, he will pose plenty of problems for the Queensland defence playing back at under-17 level.
Friday’s game will be the first interstate hit-out for the Devils under-19s since early July, with their last NAB League game coming in round 12 against the Murray Bushrangers. They will be without regular captain Sam Banks as he rests an injured wrist, with vice-captains Ollie Sanders and Baynen Lowe taking the reins in his place. This game presents a perfect opportunity for all Devils players to push their case for selection in the combined Allies squad, with a game scheduled against South Australia on October 2.
The Devils will welcome back two of Tasmania’s most talented prospects in this game, with both Oliver Davis and Sam Collins returning to the side after stints interstate. Davis moved to South Australia following round four of the NAB League season, spending time with the Adelaide Crows in the SANFL and thriving in their senior team. Across 12 SANFL games he averaged 16 disposals at 83% efficiency, 5.4 tackles and 3.2 clearances per game, displaying all of the traits that have made him one of the best young inside midfielders in the country. A fiend around the contests, he will be crucial in this game if the Devils are to win the clearance battle.
Collins relocated to Victoria and played for the Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League, where he showed off his versatility across the ground. After playing largely in defence for the Devils, he moved into the midfield for the Chargers and thrived there, averaging over 20 disposals and six tackles in his last three NAB League games. He also earned a VFL debut with Collingwood and performed well at that level, collecting 15 disposals in a tight win over Richmond. Named in the Devils backline for this game, his ability to intercept in defence and hit targets moving forward will add another dimension to the side.
Both Darcy Gardner and Baker Smith played key roles in Clarence’s TSL finals campaign, where they made it to the preliminary final before bowing out to eventual premiers Launceston. Gardner played predominantly as a forward for the Roos and found plenty of success, named in their best players six times throughout the season. He has shone in the midfield for the Devils this year, and he has been named in the middle of the ground for this game. Smith was the perfect swingman for the Roos this season, kicking three goals in their round 20 win over Launceston before being swung back into defence for their preliminary final. He will line up in the Devils backline on Friday, where he has shone as an intercepting defender in the NAB League.
Jye Menzie is the leading goalkicker for the Devils in the NAB League this season, booting 12 goals from his seven games. He is more than just a goalkicker, though, and is able to push further up the ground and impact the game in the middle. A good decision maker with a damaging kick, he will challenge the Queensland defence by setting up teammates inside 50 or attacking the goals himself.