Williamstown midfielder Adam Marcon racked up 29 disposals and five marks as Victoria dominated everything but the scoreboard in its 22-point loss to South Australia at North Port Oval on Saturday.
Marcon, who crossed from the Northern Blues to Williamstown during the pre-season, won the Frank Johnson Medal for the best VFL player on the ground.
The 21-year-old was considered a top draft prospect two years after he won the VFL coaches award in a dominant season for the Blues.
However, he failed to follow up on his promising season after an unlucky run with injuries last year. He has been in ripping form for the Seagulls this season and his performance on Saturday would be one to remember for AFL recruiters.
“I’m always trying to do my best and that [playing AFL] is the ultimate dream,” Marcon said.
“First things first, I guess I’m trying to enjoy my footy which I find I am this year. I’m happy either way. I’d love to get a crack at it. I’m very passionate about that. Hopefully someone’s watching today and liked what they saw.”
He said he was honoured to receive the medal for best on ground.
“It’s something that I’ve sort of quietly set myself to hopefully do one day so it’s nice to get it and I’m very honoured to get it,” he said. “I thought I was a bit quiet in the first half, but I thought my second half, I had much more of an impact on the game. I thought Nick Lower played pretty well, [but] I’m really happy to get it, I won’t be giving it back."
Marcon, an elite runner and user of the ball, said he has set high standards for himself this season.
“I’ve been trying to build up throughout the year and really get that extra level of fitness so hopefully the little bit of extra work I’ve been doing has paid off today,” he said.
He wasn’t the only midfielder to star with Footscray skipper Lower snaring 32 disposals and Port Melbourne’s Chris Cain, last year’s Frank Johnson medallist, getting 30 touches.
VFL state coach Damian Carroll said the SANFL was cleaner and stronger with its ball movement.
“We got a lot right, we just didn’t use the ball well enough and connect with our forwards. We probably played into their hands a little bit,” Carroll said.
“We had more of the ball, we had more inside 50s, we just didn’t use it like they did. Their transition from the back 50 through to the forward 50 at times was exceptional ... we just couldn’t put in place a system to stop them enough and put them under pressure.”
Despite trailing at every change, the Vics had their opportunities, particularly early in the final term as they took the lead but failed to go on with it.
Michael Wundke, a former North Ballarat player, caused headaches up forward where Vic skipper Sam Pleming struggled to contain him. He finished with five goals.
Ian Callinan, a mature-age recruit from Adelaide, was classy up forward with three goals – including two important ones in the second term. Another former VFL player, Brett Eddy, was purposeful around the goals with three, including a steadier just before three-quarter-time.
While some of the delivery inside 50 was poor, Victoria’s main issue was that it squandered opportunities when it had the momentum in both the second and third quarters. Julian Rowe, who has been in outstanding form for Port Melbourne, finished with 2.4 after a bright start.
South Australia’s Zane Kirkwood, an early Magarey Medal favourite, took out the Fos Williams Medal for best on ground with 30 disposals.
Victoria hasn’t won a match against South Australia since 2002.
Despite another loss to its arch-rivals, Carroll said he was particularly happy with the performance of Williamstown’s Cameron Lockwood on Callinan, while Marcon, Cain, David Mirra and Josh Scipione showed plenty during several of Victoria’s revivals.
“I would’ve thought it was a great exhibition so no doubt we saw today that some of these players can step up another level,” Carroll said.
There have been eight mature-age AFL players recruited from the past two VFL state representative teams.
And there have been a lot more success stories before that – including Fremantle’s Michael Barlow – who watched the match in the stands. The state league match has become a quick guide for AFL recruiters given the high quality of the contest.
“It’s a bit hotter [than VFL clubs games],” Marcon said. “It was very intense, you didn’t have much time with the ball."