Blakely stars as WA beaten by reigning champions
WA’s Sam Bevan, left, and Ryan Lim combine to lay a strong tackle during Saturday’s under-18s clash in Adelaide. SA won the match by 31 points. Pic supplied

Swan Districts midfielder Connor Blakely looks set to rise in draft calculations after starring for the WA under-18 side in a 31-point loss to South Australia on Saturday.

WA were swamped early against the defending AFL under-18 champions at AAMI Stadium, letting the Croweaters get away to a big lead and holding their position until the final siren.

Bottom-aged South Australian tall Ryan Burton, who looms as a high pick in the 2015 draft, kicked five goals in the 14.8 (92) to 8.13 (61) win, in which captain Jake Johansen collected 30 touches.

The lively Blakely was the stand-out player for WA, leading a charge late in the game with his bustling work around the stoppages.

He finished with 26 disposals, nine clearances and seven inside-50s and drew praise for his work rate when it came to pushing back and helping out an under-siege defence.

East Perth forward Tyler Keitel proved he has something to offer at both ends of the ground after being sent to defence to cover for Peel's Dylan Winton, who was forced from the ground early with a thigh injury.

Potential top-10 pick Clem Smith was another to stand up and win the ball under duress for the Black Swans.

Blakely is one of the few under-18 squad members to have played regularly at senior WAFL level.

The Bunbury midfielder made his league debut for Swans as a 17-year-old late last year and has been a regular in 2014.

Blakely played in the first seven games of the season, averaging 18 disposals for the competition's pace-setters before concentrating on his under-18 commitments.

WA will have a chance to rectify their game-one loss when they return home to play Vic Metro at Medibank Stadium on Saturday.

While the player most likely to be taken at pick No.1 in this year's national draft is still undecided, Vic Metro boast at least two candidates in ruck-forward Peter Wright and midfielder Angus Brayshaw, the son of former North Melbourne and Claremont defender Mark Brayshaw.

With another top-flight forward and potential Collingwood father-son selection Darcy Moore also in their squad, the game represents a significant challenge for WA.

WAFL talent academy manager Raff Guadagnino said the squad was disappointed with its slow start but was confident the issues could be fixed quickly.

"As a team we lost focus early, however we still made an impact on the scoreboard with only one the difference in scoring shots and inside 50s," he said.

"The experience was a great learning opportunity to support the players in overcoming adversity and ensuring a team-first attitude stays at the forefront of every minute of the game."

The West Australian

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