THE POINTS were evenly split in the Victorian NAB AFLW underage Challenge games, with Vic Country taking the win in the under-19s after Vic Metro were too strong in the under-17s.
With the games played in beautiful conditions at Trevor Barker Oval, there was a clear step-up in quality when the under-19s began, with two years' worth of draft eligible players taking to the field.
Vic Metro dominated from the opening bounce in its 35-point win over Vic Country in the under-17s.
The hosts controlled play through the middle and continually peppered their attacking 50, putting enormous pressure on the Country defence.
Sofia Hurley, 17, dominated proceedings out of the middle for Metro, the Sandringham Dragon finishing with 17 disposals, seven clearances and six inside-50s.
She was nearly matched on the inside by her Country counterpart Keely Skepper (also 17 years old), with 18 disposals, seven clearances and six tackles.
Country finally got on the board in the third term, courtesy of two out-the-back goals, the first to lively small Lila Keck and the second to ruck Kalani Scoullar.
Metro's Amelia Pisano was a constant threat in front of the big sticks (12 touches, two goals), while Charlotte Baskaran (eight tackles) put in a solid four-quarter performance.
It was a tough hit-out for Country, with potential Geelong father-daughter selection Charlotte Simpson (16 touches) looking promising, and Yasmin Duursma – the sister of Port Adelaide's Xavier – showing some potential in her first season of footy.
VIC METRO 2.2 4.3 6.4 8.3 (53)
VIC COUNTRY 0.2 0.3 2.4 2.6 (18)
Vic Metro: Pisano 2, Coyne, Rigoni, Potter, Sutton, Jordan, Ryan
Vic Country: Keck, Scoullar
Vic Metro: Hurley, Baskaran, Hipwell, Busch, Pisano, Taylor
Vic Country: Skepper, Van Loon, Scoullar, Ryan, Crank, Williamson
Vic Country kicked clear of an inaccurate Vic Metro, defeating their rivals by 24 points.
Coached by retired Cat Melissa Hickey, Country defended brilliantly and connected well across the ground in the 8.2 (50) to 3.8 (26) win.
Lively small forward Poppy Schaap got Country off to a perfect start, the Geelong Falcon snapping two clean goals in the opening term.
Metro came to life in the second term, driven by Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Emilia Yassir out of the middle.
But the connection to the forward line was lacking, and in the times when Metro had a clear shot at goal, they struggled with conversion.
Top-age Country forward Renee Tierney slotted a beautiful set shot from the boundary in the third, while bottom-ager Paige Scott (pictured) was a constant threat in attack.
Prespakis, the potential first pick in the Victorian draft, had 19 touches in the first half (20-minute quarters) and finished with 32, 10 clearances and five tackles.
The overhead marking and agility of Country's key forward Tara Slender stood out whole Grace McRae (22 touches), Nyakoat Dojiok and Annie Lee controlled play in defence.
For Metro, tall midfielder Rowbottom (the sister of Sydney's James) was tough to stop coming out of the centre, Stella Reid (22 touches, six inside 50s, two goals) was in the best, while 19-year-old Brooke Vickers was strong coming out of defence.
VIC METRO 0.2 2.5 2.7 3.8 (26)
VIC COUNTRY 2.0 4.0 6.2 8.2 (50)
Vic Metro: Reid 2, Staltari,
Vic Country: Schaap 2, Scott 2, Snell, Tierney, Slender
Vic Metro: Prespakis, Reid, Chaplin, Yassir, Delgardo, Vickers
Vic Country: Anthony, Lee, McRae, Leonard, Schaap