Darwin hosts SSA National Under 12s Carnival

Last week, Darwin hosted teams from both New South Wales and the ACT as they competed in the School Sports Australia National Under 12s AFL Carnival.

While New South Wales and the ACT often bind together to play as one in national competitions, the state and territory were split during this week of football.

A tournament run by School Sports Australia, the carnival has been the starting place for famous Australian Football names such as John Longmire, Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack and Wayne Carey, who all began their successful AFL careers in the New South Wales squad.

The carnival brings Under 12s players from across Australia to compete at TIO Stadium, the home of the famous NT Thunder.

Players from both sides found themselves in humid weather, unlike either state or territory are commonly used to. The New South Wales ‘Blue Pups’ had held a training camp in the cold conditions of the Riverina earlier this year – a stark contrast to the heat experienced in Darwin.

As luck would have it, New South Wales and the ACT played each other in the opening round of play. The Blue Pups got off to a strong start, and accounted for their ACT brothers by 75-points. Despite the score line, there were plenty of positives to be taken out of the game for both sides.

For New South Wales, Corby Robertson and Willem Allen both kicked two goals, while Harvey Thomas put in a physical performance, despite being one of the smallest members of the team.

For the ACT, Bailee Gilbert was impressive, setting a standard which he would match for the rest of the carnival.

New South Wales would go on to defeat hosts, the Northern Territory (118-14) and Tasmania (46-40), but were unfortunately taken to task by Queensland (52-62) and South Australia (12-103).

While team efforts saw the success of the New South Wales side, impressive individual displays from across the week included those from Caleb Clemson in front of goal, Ned Hawkins, Nicky Anderson, Koby Hedges, and Jag Daniel-Alchin, who kicked four goals against the Northern Territory.

The ACT defeated the Northern Territory (67-1) later in the competition, but rounded out their tournament with defeats to both South Australia and Queensland – two teams which proved highly competitive across the week.

For the nation’s capital, Michael Armstrong and Will Axelby were strong against Queensland, Marcus Unger and Leo Lahey impressed, and Bailee Gilbert carried his form from the game against New South Wales throughout the competition.

Coaches from both teams remarked on both of their sides’ marked improvements on previous years – a sign of things to come in school footy across the region.

New South Wales finished fifth in competition, with the ACT coming in a close seventh.