SANFL Women’s review: Round 1 – Panthers survive scare as Bulldogs topple Redlegs

IN a huge first round of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition, the reigning premiers just escaped a fierce battle against last year’s wooden spooners, while fellow bottom two side from 2019, Central District claimed a confidence-boosting win over last year’s minor premiers, Norwood.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 2.2 | 2.2 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)
WWT EAGLES 1.0 | 3.2 | 3.2 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS:

South: L. Buchanan, J. Kirk, K. Nijhuis, C. Wilson.
Eagles: M. Cavallaro, N. Collie, J. Zecevic.

DISPOSALS:

South: C. Cavouras 20, M. McKinnon 18, I. Tahau 17, J. Smith 15
Eagles: A. Evans 15

Reigning premiers, South Adelaide survived an almighty scare from Woodville-West Torrens to post a win in its opening game of the season. Heading into the match, the Panthers were strong favourites despite so much off-season turnover with a number of players earning places on AFL Women’s lists. Montana McKinnon was available for South in this game however, while Jaimi Tabb ran out for the Eagles after missing out on Crows selection as well.

The match started relatively as expected with Lauren Buchanan and Kelli Nijhuis both booting goals, the latter of whom was on debut prompting much celebration. The celebrations did not last long though, with Nicole Collie breaking through with a major for the Eagles, before Madison Bennett missed a couple of chances on goal. In a surprise to the home fans, the Eagles showed they were well and truly up for the fight, booting two goals to zero in the second term, courtesy of Jovanka Zecevic and 21-year-old debutant, Mikayla Cavallaro. The quarter put the underdogs up by a goal at the main break, but four minutes in and the scores were level again thanks to a Jess Kirk major for the Panthers. Callie Wilson regained some breathing space for South Adelaide with a major midway through the term, and then an arm-wrestle ensured for the remainder of the contest. Neither side could find the big sticks, with five behinds in the last quarter – four to the Eagles with the breeze, and it meant they fell agonisingly short of an inaugural win and massive upset.

South Adelaide had a kick-first mentality that seemed to work, with 35 more disposals, with 65 per cent of those 204 disposals being kicks, while the Eagles had a much lower 56.7 per cent from 171 disposals. It was the outside marking ability of the Panthers that really stood out, taking 37 marks to 18, eight of which were contested. They also won the hitouts (24-20), clearances (26-17) and inside 50s (31-25), but you could not take the defensive pressure out of the contest with the Eagles winning the tackle (73-59) and rebound 50 (25-22) counts.

McKinnon was absolutely sensational and would have given the Crows’ coaching staff plenty to think about, amassing 18 disposals, 20 hitouts, seven marks (five contested), six inside 50s, two tackles and two rebounds in a clear best on ground performance. Working hard through the midfield roving the teenagers’ taps were fellow teens, Indy Tahau and Teah Charlton. The pair combined for 31 disposals, eight clearances, six inside 50s and nine marks in a combination that will no doubt be on show at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships later in the year. Czenya Cavouras‘ ball-winning ways continued with 20 touches, 11 tackles and six clearances to be the next best after McKinnon, while Jaslynne Smith (15 disposals, seven rebounds) was superb in defence.

For the Eagles, Allison Evans had a team-high 15 touches, three marks, eight tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Sophie Zuill finished with 13 disposals, eight tackles and two clearances. Providing a hard edge along with that duo was Tabb, who finished the game with 12 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and three rebounds, but was unlucky not to boot a goal in the game, finishing with two behinds. Tesharna Maher was really prominent defending in the back half, having a team-high six rebounds to go with 10 touches and three tackles, while Adele Gibson was fluent in midfield, with four inside 50s, five tackles and 10 disposals.

In the end it was just the overall class of the Panthers and star-stuffed top dozen players that helped them get over the line against a plucky Eagles outfit. Woodville-West Torrens will be better for the run, and come up against a vulnerable Norwood next week at Hisense Stadium, while South Adelaide faces Sturt back at Flinders University Stadium again in a match they should be strong favourites for too.

NORTH ADELAIDE 1.0 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
GLENELG 1.4 | 1.4 | 2.9 | 2.10 (22)

GOALS:

North: K. Barltrop 2, C. Castle, H. Ewings, T. Gordon, K. Reynolds, L. Tynan.
Glenelg: J. Bates, J. Bradley.

DISPOSALS:

North: C. Castle 17
Glenelg: S. Franson 16

A hungry North Adelaide side desperate for redemption following last year’s SANFL Women’s Grand Final loss sent a message to the rest of the competition with a four-goal victory over an inaccurate Glenelg side. Six unanswered goals from the 12th minute of the first term through to the 12th minute of the third term handed the Roosters the win, and showed exactly why they could well be the team to beat in season 2020.

It was a mid-morning game on Saturday and Jordana Bradley was the first player to seize the moment, pouncing on a goal for the Tigers to put her side in front. For the majority of the first term, Glenelg dominated, booting 1.4 and looking like they would really build a strong lead. Unfortunately inaccuracy plagued them – as it would throughout the contest, and instead thanks to a Leah Tynan goal midway through the term, the Tigers only led by four points at the first break. Any doubts about the Roosters’ premiership credentials were soon put to bed with a massive four-goal second term, booting 4.4 to 0.0 to run away with a 24-point lead at half-time. Last year’s competition leading goalscorer, Kelly Barltrop got on the board for the first time in season 2020 with a couple of goals, while Hannah Ewings and Cristie Castle both booted majors. All three players could have had more, with Ewings missing a couple of chances and Barltrop and Castle also missing the opportunity for an additional major. With the breeze again in the third term, it was up to Glenelg to make the most of it, but four consecutive behinds in the first 10 minutes of the quarter stung deep. When Tayla Gordon converted the Roosters’ sixth consecutive goal, it was like a dagger to the heart. Jessica Bates managed to boot a drought-breaking major a minute later, but the result was decided. Kathryn Reynolds booted a fourth quarter goal – the only one from either side – to help North Adelaide record a 24-point win.

Despite the lop-sided result, it was largely the second term that decided the match, with Glenelg largely matching it with the Roosters across the statistics. The Tigers had three more disposals – and looked to utilise their kicking ability more – with a 73 per cent disposal efficiency, while laying seven more tackles (41-34). They won the hitouts (23-15) and clearances (22-15), but their decision making once inside 50 needed improvement with just two goals from 12 chances – an additional scoring shot to their opponents. The Roosters showed that despite not playing at their best and being beaten in the midfield, they were able to put away a side by four goals, and still show the damaging firepower they have at their disposal which was a feature of their game in 2019.

Castle was a real inspiration in the forward half and through midfield, winning a game-high 17 disposals and five clearances, as well as taking six marks – three contested and four inside 50s. Lauren Daniel was predictably busy around the ground with 14 disposals, five marks, two clearances and two rebounds, while Adrienne Davis had 13 touches, four marks, three tackles and a clearance. All eyes were on Bek Rasheed in the ruck, with the debutant continuing on the famous family ties – father Mick Redden is the club’s games record holder – with the red and white, having 14 hitouts in the bulk of the ruckload, while also helping herself to seven disposals, three clearances, two tackles and two inside 50s. Barltrop booted two goals, but also had three marks and two tackles, while up the other end, Kristi Harvey marked her return from Carlton’s VFL Womens’ side with nine disposals, two marks and five rebounds playing at full-back. Tynan also had a notable game, amassing 12 touches, four marks, three inside 50s, two rebounds, two clearances, two tackles and a goal.

For Glenelg, youngster Madisyn Freeman looked impressive through the midfield, buzzing around with 14 touches, two marks, four clearances, two tackles, two rebounds and one inside 50, only bettered by Sam Franson who looked fierce through the middle, racking up 16 touches, two marks, six tackles and two inside 50s in her first performance back for 2020. Lucy Earl had 13 kicks which were her total amount of disposals, spreading nicely and trying to create run with five marks and three rebounds out of the back half. Tessa Kohn was one of Glenelg’s most prominent midfielders with the debutant looking good thanks to 12 disposals, four clearances, three inside 50s and two tackles. Also making her debut and holding her own against fellow debutant Rasheed, ruck Soriah Moon had 15 hitouts to accompany 10 disposals, four tackles, two clearances and two inside 50s.

Overall it was a promising, yet not quite perfect performance for the Roosters who once they click across four quarters will be hard to stop. North Adelaide travels to X Convience Oval once again in Round 2, this time being the genuine visiting side against a Central District outfit that looked impressive in Round 1. Glenelg on the other hand takes on West Adelaide at Hisense Stadium in the first game of a double header at the ground on Friday night.

STURT 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 2.3 (15)
WEST ADELAIDE 1.1 | 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS:

Sturt: A. Ballard, A. Ladas.
West: K. Culhane 2, M. Elsegood 2, Z. Venning.

HIGH DISPOSALS:

Sturt: G. Bevan 19, M. Rigter 18
West: A. Ballard 27, Z. Venning 17, R. Martin 15

An absolutely inspired performance from pocket rocket, Abbie Ballard has propelled West Adelaide to an opening round win over Sturt. The Westies always looked in control, but stepped it up in the second half to boot three goals to two, restricting the Double Blues to just five scoring shots for the entire match. It was an imposing performance from the West Adelaide line-up that looked desperate to undo the wrongs of last season where the Bloods narrowly missed out on finals. Fast forward to the start of 2020, and they look ready and raring to go for a big season ahead.

The first half was largely anticlimactic for the neutral as West Adelaide completely dominated its opponent. Kasia Culhane kicked the first goal of the match six minutes into the game, before a goal early in the second term to Melanie Elsegood was the only other major in a low-scoring half of action. Elsegood had chances to add to her total with a couple of behinds either side of her goal in the first half, while West Adelaide’s fierce pressure provided plenty of forward entries, four consecutive behinds meant the Westies were not getting value for money going forward. Ally Ladas finally broke the drought for the Double Blues in the opening two minutes of the third term, albeit with a behind, before business returned to normal as Culhane and Elsegood both booted their second goals to race out to a 29-point advantage at the final break. Something clicked in Sturt to start the last term, as co-captains Maya Rigter and Georgia Bevan both had chances in the opening few minutes but missed, while Ladas broke through with her first goal, joined by Alex Ballard four minutes later. The margin was back to 15 points and there was an air of uncertainty about the result for the first time since before the game, though Zoe Venning soon put that to rest with a goal midway through the term to solidify a 5.6 (36) to 2.3 (15) victory.

West Adelaide dominated the clearances and inside 50s which was where the game was won, as the Westies doubled Sturt’s clearances (30-15) and almost doubled the inside-50 count (24-13). This came off the back of Sturt actually dominating the ruck contest (28 hitouts to 15), and taking more marks around the ground (46-20). They used the ball more efficiently with a 68 per cent record on the day, but the Double Blues could not win enough of the ball around stoppages and give their forwards enough chances in front of goal. Their effort and intensity was certainly there, but the Bloods were too strong around the clinches.

In what was not only a best on ground performance, but a Player of the Round performance, Ballard had an absolute field day out on X Convenience Oval, racking up 27 disposals, five marks – one contested – nine clearances, four tackles and three inside 50s. To put that in perspective, Sturt only had 15 clearances, six more than Ballard alone. Her partner-in-crime, Rachelle Martin looked very impressive coming back from her debut with Adelaide as the top-up injury player, amassing 15 disposals, five clearances, a game-high 11 tackles and two inside 50s to support Ballard on the inside. Venning’s late goal capped off a strong performance of 17 disposals, two marks, five tackles, three clearances and two inside 50s, while Keeley Kustermann worked hard around the ground on debut with 14 disposals, two marks, three tackles, three inside 50s and three rebounds. To go with her two goals, Culhane also had 12 touches, two marks, four tackles, two clearances and two inside 50s, while Elsegood could have had a real day out with straighter kicking, booting 2.3 from 10 disposals and two marks – one contested.

It was no surprise to see co-captains, Bevan and Rigter lead from the front. Bevan had a team-high 19 disposals, as well as two marks, six tackles, three clearances and three rebounds, while Rigter helped herself to 18 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and two clearances.  In a career-high, Rachel Dunstan‘s homecoming to Sturt – the side she had played with in 2018 before her local club Woodville-West Torrens gained a team and she moved – proved fruitful with the young talent having 11 touches, two marks and two rebounds – five more disposals than any other game last season. Teenager Zoe Prowse showed she will only continue to get better with time, having 11 touches, eight hitouts, three clearances and two inside 50s, working in tandem with ruck Stephanie Ratliff (16 hitouts).

In Round 2, both sides face off in Friday night encounters as West Adelaide returns home to Hisense Stadium where the bloods host Glenelg to try and continue their winning run, while Sturt heads to Flinders University Stadium to take on reigning back-to-back premiers, South Adelaide.

CENTRAL DISTRICT 0.1 | 1.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 (33)
NORWOOD 1.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Central: K. Rosenzweig 4, M. Lane.
Norwood: J. Hill 2, L. Bigg, J. Halfpenny.

HIGH DISPOSALS:

Central: S. Smith 20, L. Huynh 15
Norwood: M. Zander 20, A. Ferrall 15

It is often said that the gap is closing between the best and worst sides in the competition, and that could not be more true in the SANFL Women’s considering the results in Round 1. While the winless Eagles from 2019 almost toppled the reigning premiers, last year’s second bottom side and fellow inaugural outfit, Central District defeated one of the premier sides of the past three years in Norwood. With a new coach, an almost entirely new midfield group and a high turnover of players due to the success of the Redlegs, Norwood went down to a determined Central District outfit, led by Katelyn Rosenzweig in a come-from-behind win.

Norwood was the first team on the board during the match with Jo Hill getting an early goal two minutes in which followed from an Isabel Martin behind. The visitors were already looking dangerous but the Bulldogs settled down the tempo as Rosenzweig had a chance but missed early, and a dour first term came to an end at 1.1 to 0.1. It was not long before the crowd got up and about in the second term with Madison Lane converting a major two minutes into the quarter. Lindsay Bigg soon responded for the Redlegs and both sides had multiple chances to add to their totals, but in the end it was Norwood up by seven points. What happened next was a mixture of shock and elation for the X Convenience crowd as their Bulldogs – or more accurately Rosenzweig – piled on four of the next five goals to race out to an eight-point lead five minutes into the final term. Hill had added her second goal to briefly grab back the lead midway through the second quarter, but it was not until Jade Halfpenny finally broke the drought in the ninth minute of the final term that Norwood could get back on track. But in a twist, it would not be enough for the favourites, as the Bulldogs held on despite fierce pressure to record a narrow four-point win and start their season off on the right foot.

Unsurprisingly despite a new-look group the Redlegs still played a possession brand of football with 23 more disposals (211-178) and tried to use quick handballs and run to move the ball going forward. They had a whopping 30 more marks (55-25) and were too strong in the air (7-2 contested), as well as dominating the hitouts (32-11) and inside 50s (28-21). The Bulldogs defensive unit – which was underrated last season given the high amount of inside 50s its opposition was getting – played incredibly well with 22 rebounds to 14, whilst the Bulldogs laid 54 tackles to 38. The home side also used the ball better (68-65 per cent) and were more efficiency with five goals from eight chances compared to four from nine.

While the statistics might have looked like Norwood should have been on top, Rosenzweig’s finishing ability – 4.1 from seven touches and three marks – one contested – was the difference and she will prove to be hard to stop not only each game, but for the leading goalkicker trophy overall. Shelby Smith was terrific for the Bulldogs on debut with the 28-year-old having an equal game-high 20 touches, as well as five clearances, three marks and three tackles, getting back to help the defence with three rebounds and getting forward for two inside 50s. Latiah Huynh had her share of the ball with 15 disposals, two marks, two tackles and two inside 50s, while Demi Sonneman played at a high level in defence, racking up six rebounds and 13 touches on the day. Youngster Kimberley Fry had 11 disposals, two marks, three tackles and three rebounds, while Abbey Scheer was also strong defensively with 11 touches, six tackles and three rebounds.

One of the few remaining midfielders from last season, Matilda Zander stepped up in the absence of Najwa Allen, Hannah Dunn and Ebony O’Dea, picking up an equal game-high 20 disposals, as well as six marks, four tackles, two clearances and two rebounds. Alison Ferrall had 15 disposals and six inside 50s running hard on the outside, while Lindsay Bigg and tall utility, Mattea Breed both had 14 touches and three clearances, as well as combining for seven inside 50s and five tackles. Sophie Armitstead was another consistent performer with 12 disposals, three tackles and four clearances, while Hill (11 disposals, two marks, five hitouts and three clearances) and Bella Smith (10 disposals, five marks – two contested – two tackles, six hitouts and five inside 50s) aided ruck, Leah Cutting (eight disposals, five marks, six tackles and 19 hitouts well.

Looking ahead to Round 2, Central District faces North Adelaide in a battle of the two most impressive sides from the opening round – at X Convenience Oval – while Norwood has to back up and look to knock off the Eagles at Hisense Stadium on Friday night.

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