SANFL Women’s Round 4 preview: Top of the table clash beckons

AFTER the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s players enjoyed a long weekend off, they return to action tonight and tomorrow night with a couple of double headers played at X Convenience Oval and Flinders University Stadium. The final game of the round is predicted to be the best of the lot with the top two sides, South Adelaide and North Adelaide doing battle, whilst West Adelaide looks to keep breathing space inside the top three when the Bloods take on fifth placed Norwood. In the games tonight, Woodville-West Torrens hopes to open its account against fourth placed Glenelg who found form last round, whilst one of Central District or Sturt will grab their second win of the season in the other game.

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS vs. GLENELG
Friday, March 13, 6.30pm
X Convenience Oval

Woodville-West Torrens is still waiting for its maiden SANFL Women’s competition win after pushing reigning premiers, South Adelaide all the way in Round 1, almost having it against Norwood in Round 2, and then getting narrowly beaten by Sturt in Round 3. For Glenelg, its season did not look great early, going down to North Adelaide in the opening round by 24 points, then getting smashed by West Adelaide to the tune of 40 points in the second week. Last week the Tigers turned it around with a smashing of their own to gain back some vital percentage points thanks to a 50-point win over Central District. The win catapulted last year’s fourth placed team into that position and put the Tigers’ season back on track. Now they take on a side that has been so good for long stints of games, but just failed to close it out when it counts.

The Eagles are renowned as the competition’s premier tackling team. Whilst it does mean that often they are second to the ball – ranked seventh for disposals and fifth for disposal differential, they are miles ahead of any other team when it comes to defensive pressure. The Eagles have laid a whopping 237 tackles in just three games – 51 more than their nearest rival. They have a plus 69 in the statistic, and that is an area that Glenelg will have to be wary of, though the Tigers also rank strongly with a plus 26 (second) and 182 total for third overall.

Glenelg’s strength comes in its ruck craft with a competition high 90 and plus 44 in hitouts and hitouts differential respectively. The Eagles have a struggled a tad in that area, ranked sixth for differential, whilst both teams have similar clearance numbers. Often the Eagles defence has to stand up under immense pressure with a minus 30 in inside 50s, ranked seventh in the comp, though Glenelg is only marginally better ranked fifth with a plus seven. Despite losing two games, Glenelg’s rebounding numbers are the equal worst in the comp at 46, with a seventh rank of differential at minute 10. The Eagles are the top side in both areas, with 84 and plus 26 respectively.

Both sides have been forced to make a number of changes to the Round 3 line-ups, with Caitlin Gould the huge out from the Tigers as she was recalled for Adelaide AFL Women’s duty. Along with Chelsea Packer and Sam Franson who are both injured, the Tigers are understrength for the clash, and are missing a number of quality players from the 22. To try and fill the quality lost in the side are Molly Althouse, Molly Affolter and Tasja Batzavalis, with Althouse not playing since Round 1, and the other two recalled after missing Round 2. A player who has been in some ripping form this year is Tessa Kohn, who will look to control the midfield, averaging 12 disposals, 4.7 tackles, 4.3 clearances and 2.3 inside 50s so far this season on the inside. Alongside her is the tackling machine in Lucy Armitage who has laid a whopping 7.3 tackles to go with her 9.3 disposals (86 per cent efficiency). The Tigers coaching staff have also shuffled the magnets with midfielder-defender, Madisyn Freeman named in the forward pocket to try and potentially fill the void left by Franson.

The home team has also been forced to make a number of changes with Georgia Taylor missing through a knee injury and Mikayla Cavallaro suffering concussion, whilst three other changes have been made. Jaida Tabb – sister of Eagles and Adelaide AFL Women’s Jaimi is set to make her debut after just missing out last week, whilst Charlotte Dolan achieves the same milestone in the game. A crucial recall is Adelaide’s Rhiannon Metcalfe who will proved an important presence in the ruck against a Tigers outfit renowned for its stoppage work. Jaimi Tabb (12.3 disposals, 6.7 tackles, 6.7 tackles and 1.0 goals) has been thrown into the midfield after three goals playing out of full-forward last week, joined in there by fellow teenager, Teagan Usher (7.0 disposals, 4.3 tackles, 2.3 clearances). With Tesharna Maher (11.3 disposals, 4.7 rebounds) in defence and Kiana Lee (9.7 disposals, 3.7 marks and 1.3 goals) up in attack, the Eagles’ youth is what drives the team each week and sooner or later the scales will tip and they will close out a game.

Based on what we will witness, it will be a fierce tackling game with two sides who are not renowned for getting a heap of ball inside 50, but Glenelg will need to make the most of its opportunities if it is to capitalise on its ruck dominance. The Eagles’ defence and defensive pressure are rated the best in the league for a reason, and you cannot fault them in that regard. Woodville-West Torrens players just need to hold their nerves during crucial moments, because they could well have been 2-1 or even 3-0 to start the season, though you feel a win is not too far away.

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. STURT
Friday, March 13, 8.15pm
X Convenience Oval

The second game of tonight’s double header pits home side, Central District up against Sturt in a battle of seventh against sixth respectively. The Bulldogs started the season with a groundbreaking four-point win over last year’s minor premiers Norwood for the first time. Since then though, they lost to North Adelaide by 54 points, and Glenelg by 50 in what has been a rough couple of weeks in Rounds 2 and 3. They have had a week off to reassess and this game could be a real chance for the Bulldogs to get back on the winners board with Sturt having a similar season, but in reverse. The Double Blues finally grinded out a win by eight points over a plucky Woodville-West Torrens outfit last week, which came after back-to-back losses of 21 (West Adelaide) and 34 points (South Adelaide), but more concerning was the fact the Double Blues had only kicked 3.6 in those games combined. They turned that around last week with 5.6 in the game, and will be hoping to take advantage in this contest. Central District has only scored 2.5 combined in the past two weeks themselves, so the Bulldogs might look to a similar inspiration to bounce back with some more scoring.

Central District’s defence is ranked second in the competition, with 75 total rebounds, and a differential of plus 23, just three behind the leaders in that stat, Woodville-West Torrens. Whilst it might seem obvious the bottom two sides have the highest differential (with sixth placed Sturt third but a bit behind with plus three), they have managed to rebound 76 per cent of the opposition’s inside 50s. The Bulldogs are not a high possession side though, ranked eighth in total disposals and differential, kicking and handballing differentials, clearances, and hitouts and inside 50s total and differential. But it is hard to read into that too early in the season, though they won in Round 1 with these stats in the red. The Bulldogs are a kick-first side with a 3.26 ratio between kicks to handballs (more than three kicks to every handball), whilst their opposition has run at a ratio of 2.1. Their defence is their strength, so that is where they can look to rebound from and counter against Sturt in this game.

The Double Blues have a few more areas where they lead the league, with marks differential (plus 67) and total hitouts (80), which shows that they like to get first hands on it and also play more of a simplified game by hitting targets more so than running and gunning it. Their 2.4 kick-to-handball ratio is higher than the league average, but despite their hitouts dominance, they have not been able to translate that into clearance numbers, ranked eighth in the league with a differential of minus 27. They also only have one more inside 50 than their opponent coming into this game, though with 28 more on differentials. Their matches so far have largely been played between the arcs compared to the Bulldogs, with 131 times going inside 50 at either end of the ground compared to Central District’s 197. They win a bit more of the ball, but again are ranked seventh for disposal differential, so these are two sides that are not huge possession sides, but try and make the most of their opportunities going forward.

With the return of the rebranded National Basketball League (NBL)1 Central, Sturt will be without ruck Stephanie Ratliff, whilst Jaimee Wittervan will play her other sport of touch football this weekend. Lane Trenorden is the other forced out for the Double Blues, missing due to illness, whilst six players have been named in an extended interchange situation. Olivia McEvoy, Kiera Mueller and Louise Firth could make their debuts in the match, while Hannah Dreckow and Cherie Bamford join Elsie Dawes as other ins for the side. The strength of the Double Blues was their hitouts, though it is hard to deny the impact of co-captains, Georgia Bevan and Maya Rigter this season. Bevan has averaged a team-high 19.3 disposals, 2.7 marks, 7.3 tackles, 2.7 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s and 2.3 rebounds, while Rigter has put up numbers of 14.7 disposals, 4.0 marks, 8.0 tackles and 2.3 clearances. Right alongside them in the best and fairest contention would have to be 17-year-old Hannah Prenzler who has been a rock in defence, averaging 12.3 disposals (at 81 per cent efficiency), 5.7 marks, 2.3 tackles and 2.3 rebounds from her three games this season. Fellow youngster, Zoe Prowse might have a bigger role in the ruck now Ratliff is out of the side, averaging 10.7 disposals, 2.7 marks and 10.3 hitouts per game thus far.

Central is lucky enough to not have to make any forced changes, instead adding four players to its side with an extended bench ahead of tonight’s big clash. Keely Cannizzaro returns after a couple of weeks out and slots straight into centre half-back, while Ella Mickan (wing), Tess Gerhardy (back pocket) and Hannah Pavlovich (interchange) are the others to come into the team. The focal point up forward is undoubtedly Katelyn Rosenzweig who after booting four goals a game in the win over Norwood, has only managed the two since. She has booted six of the Bulldogs’ seven goals in season 2020, so the home side must find more options to goal if they are to be a threat of kicking a winning score. With Sturt having some strong defenders, the likes of Shannon Murphy (full-forward) and Georgia Madigan (forward pocket) could be targets to add scoreboard pressure. Demi Sonneman (14.7 disposals, 5.0 rebounds) is enjoying a really strong season in the back 50, teaming up well with Kimberley Fry (10 disposals, 3.7 rebounds) and making it difficult for opposition teams to control the airways. Through the midfield, Shelby Smith (14.7 disposals, 43.7 marks, 3.7 clearances, 3.7 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s and 2.0 rebounds) is the one to watch out for as she has been finding her fair share of the ball for the Bulldogs on the inside.

The Bulldogs have put out a really stable side for the next round match, not panicking with changes and backing in their squad. The Double Blues have lost a number of players through various circumstances and that could assist the Bulldogs in bouncing back with a win. In saying that, last round Sturt looked very impressive in its victory over Woodville-West Torrens and if it can replicate its form, then the Double Blues deserve favouritism. With more avenues to goal, the Bulldogs will be a bigger threat and if they can execute that, then watch out.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. NORWOOD
Saturday, March 14, 5.30pm
Flinders University Stadium

Opening up a massive double header at Flinders University Stadium which features four of the top five teams is a clash between third and fifth on the SANFL Women’s ladder. West Adelaide is coming off its first loss of the season, going down to North Adelaide by 21 points last week after accounting for Glenelg (40 points) the week before, and Sturt (21) in Round 1. They head into this match hoping to bounce back, and remain a win clear of the Redlegs inside the top three. Norwood started its season off with a four-point win over Central District in Round 1, before bouncing back with a thrilling last-minute win over Woodville West Torrens by a point in Round 2, then suffering defeat again, this time by 30 points to South Adelaide.

Statistically speaking, West Adelaide is the number one clearance team in the competition. Racking up 77 clearances – nine more than the Bloods’ nearest rival – and 26 more than their opponents across the first three weeks, it is an area that they can really take advantage of here. Unfortunately the stoppage dominance has not always led to inside 50 numbers, ranked sixth overall in that area, and when it does go back the other way, the Bloods are equal lowest in terms of overall rebounds. In many other areas they are middle of the road and not too bad, though they are very much a handball-happy side with a 1.87 kick-to-handball ratio, and are ranked fourth overall for disposals.

One ahead of them in ball-winning numbers is the Redlegs who are ranked third in the competition for total disposals, though in their loss to South Adelaide had 63 less touches despite clocking up 201 disposals themselves. One of Norwood’s top strengths is its marking ability, having clunked the second most marks in the competition (141) and marking differential (plus 57). They also lead the league in clearance differential (plus 32) and pump the ball inside 50 more often than any other team (93) with a healthy plus 18 in that stat differential. Their areas of improvement are defensive ones, with Norwood’s tackling differential (minus 68) and rebounding differential (minus 26) the two key areas where they rank eighth in the competition for.

Looking to the teams and West Adelaide has made three changes, with Nicole Hooper missing the game due to injury, while Tara McDermott and Marie Martino are also listed as outs. Coming into the team is clever forward, Kasia Culhane to boost the attacking stocks, as well as Taylor Hand and Ashlea James. What makes the West Adelaide midfield so deep is the top-end talent of Abbie Ballard (19.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.3 tackles, 4.7 clearance and 3.0 inside 50s) and Rachelle Martin (17.3 disposals, 6.3 tackles, 5.0 clearances and 2.3 inside 50s), while Zoe Greer (11.0 disposals, 6.3 tackles and 3.7 clearances) adds to that talent with all three making life difficult for opposition onballers. Up forward, Melanie Elsegood is a strong target coming out of full-forward with multiple goals in all three goals, while Zoe Venning is just 16, but has been good rotating up the ground for 18.3 disposals, 4.3 marks, 2.3 tackles, 2.7 clearances and 2.0 inside 50s. Throw in Keeley Kustermann (13.7 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.0 tackles and 3.7 rebounds) off half-back alongside the reliable Helen Maidment and Lauren Rodato and West Adelaide’s defence can be as stringent as its forward line can be potent.

Norwood has been forced to make three changes to its Round 3 side, with Alison Ferrall missing the game due to a wedding, and Rhiannon Busch and Rosette Zeralla both out of the team as well. Kate Fenton is among three changes coming into the Redlegs’ side as they eye off a potential top four spot with a Glenelg loss. While they might be 1-2 from a win-loss perspective, Norwood has some serious top-end talent that has just taken a hit due to the quality of last year’s team which saw players drafted into the AFL Women’s competition. Leading the way for Norwood is Leah Cutting who has been sensational in the ruck and a key reason why the Redlegs are ranked second in the competition for hitout differential. The combination of Matilda Zander (17.7 disposals, 5.0 marks, 3.0 tackles and 3.0 inside 50s) – who has recently signed with Collingwood VFL Women’s side – and Bella Smith (8.3 disposals, 3.3 marks and 3.3 inside 50s) through the midfield has been a strong one in the absence of players such as Najwa Allen, Hannah Dunn and Ebony O’Dea who all left to chase their dreams at the elite level. Veteran, Jo Hill continues to be a source of scoring for the Redlegs, booting six goals from three games and will look for that to continue in this game, while versatile utility Mattea Breed (16.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.7 tackles, 3.3 clearances, 4.0 inside 50s) has been able to play across all three lines.

The game itself is a hard one to predict, but given West Adelaide’s consistent form – only being overrun by a premiership contender in North Adelaide last week – and Norwood’s inconsistent form, the Bloods start as favourites in the game. Added to the fact the Redlegs have lost a few key players in the game, expect the Bloods to try and dominate the midfield and give their forwards first opportunity at scoring going inside 50.

SOUTH ADELAIDE vs. NORTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, March 14, 7.15pm
Flinders University Stadium

The top of the table clash is the most anticipated match of the SANFL Women’s season thus far, with the second placed South Adelaide hosting the top ranked North Adelaide. In what is also a replay of last year’s SANFL Women’s Grand Final, the Panthers and Roosters have overcome some serious outs from the off-season to still lead the pack in the 2020 competition. In Round 1, the Panthers survived a scare against Woodville-West Torrens to win by four points, then got their groove going after that with a 34-point triumph over Sturt and a five-goal victory over Norwood. The Roosters have had a flawless start to the season with a 24-point win over Glenelg in the opening week of the season, then dominated Central District by 54 and clocked up a 21-point win over West Adelaide in another top of the table clash just last week.

Statistically, both these teams are the clear standouts throughout the season, ranked in the top two in most areas. Starting with the Panthers, they are ranked first for disposal, kick and handball differential, and second for disposals, kicks, tackles and clearances. They do not have too many Achilles heels in the side, though despite having the second most tackles, are actually minus four in that differential, ranked sixth overall. It has helped them prepare for fierce defensive pressure from their opposition and being able to withstand it, something that will help the reigning premiers along the way. In terms of inside 50s they rank third, and also rank third for rebounds, with the Panthers more than capable to defend and attack between and inside the arcs. They are ranked fifth in hitout differential, but it has not stopped them being a premier clearance side.

North Adelaide has its fair share of elite qualities, proving that sheer weight of numbers can overwhelm opposition sides. They ranked first in disposals, kicks and marks in a simple, yet effective possession-style game. With a slight deficiency in tackling (134 total, plus five differential ranked eighth and fourth respectively), it is hard not to have one given their ridiculous amount of the ball they collect each week. They will need to improve their hitouts and clearance work, ranked in the bottom three sides for both, with their real strength coming in their inside 50s. The Roosters have pumped the ball inside 89 times (ranked second in the competition) and have a plus 26 in that statistic, eight more than their nearest rival, and nine more than the Panthers. The Roosters are ranked lower in their rebounds, with an equal fifth and sixth ranked respectively for total and differential in the stat. North Adelaide can take advantage with its keepings-off style and dominating play through a kick-mark-inside 50 gameplan, whilst the Panthers will look to handball their way down the field with speed, often straight out of the stoppages.

The home side has been forced to make at least four chances to its winning combination which could play a role in the game. Montana McKinnon got her chance for the Crows last week during the bye and has retained her spot after a strong debut which is great news, but not so much for the Panthers who will miss her presence around the ground. Also out due to work and unavailability are Lucy Northcott and Sophie Flanagan-Sjoberg, while Kelli Nijhuis suffered a knee injury and will miss. A procession of players return to the line-up with seven players named on an extended bench. Those named straight into the side are 17-year-old Brooklyn Kraft who replaces McKinnon in the ruck for Kraft’s first game of 2020 after four last year, and 16-year-old Lauren Clifton who slots into centre half-back after missing the last two games. Much of the talk around South Adelaide has been its impressive youngsters with Teah Charlton averaging a massive 21.3 disposals, 5.3 tackles, 3.7 clearances and 4.3 inside 50s per game, having really picked up in the past two weeks in particular. Indy Tahau is another who has not been overawed averaging 14.7 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2.3 tackles, 4.0 clearances and 2.3 inside 50s – ranked equal fourth in contested marks having taken five already this year. Somehow flying under the radar is South Adelaide’s midfield of Czenya Cavouras (18.3 disposals, 6.7 tackles and 4.3 clearances), Tahlia Meyer (16.7 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.7 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s) and Samantha Pratt (11 disposals, 2.7 marks, 5.3 tackles and 3.0 rebounds) – the latter of whom has been named onball after playing a key role in defence last week.

North’s team selection by comparison is relatively stable with just one player added to the line-up on an extended bench with none yet to come out of the side. Charlea Taylor could potentially make her debut for the red and whites in what is the Roosters’ biggest game of the season. It is hard to fault too much with North Adelaide’s performance this year and many of these players will have fire in the belly after losing to the Panthers in last year’s decider. A win here might not make up for the grand final loss, but it will give them confidence going forward they can stand up in big games against quality opposition. The North Adelaide forward line is an embarrassment of riches, with last year’s leading goalkicker Kelly Barltrop yet to dominate but expected to let loose sometime soon, while the likes of Cristie Castle (18.3 disposals, 5.3 marks and 2.0 inside 50s), Hannah Ewings (12.7 disposals, 3.7 marks, 4.0 tackles and 4.0 inside 50s) and Katelyn Pope (14.0 disposals, 5.5 inside 50s, 2.5 tackles) all troubling opposition defenders, with the latter two roaming up the ground and pumping the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions. The star of the club, if not competition this year so far is Ashleigh Woodland who has been dominating on all fronts on her way to an average of 16.7 disposals, 4.7 marks, 2.7 tackles. 2.3 inside 50s and since going forward, has booted seven goals from an average of 20.5 disposals. Also through the midfield is Leah Tynan (14.3 disposals at 91 per cent efficiency, 3.7 tackles, 3.0 clearances and 2.3 inside 50s) and Lauren Daniel (18.0 disposals, 3.7 marks, 3.7 tackles, 3.3 clearances and 2.0 inside 50s), whilst Amber Ward, Kristi Harvey and Lauren Gauci all sure up the defence to give the Roosters a consistent effort across the ground and ensure the opposition team struggles to kick high scores.

The big difference between the teams is the styles that they adopt and while they both are miles ahead of the rest of the competition in terms of disposals, the Panthers look for the quick handball at a competition-low kick-to-handball ratio of 1.3, compared to North Adelaide’s 1.7, which is still below the competition average, but is considerably higher than their opponents. Given North’s strength going inside, if the Roosters can break even in the clearances, then it gives them a huge advantage over their Southern rivals. If the Panthers get on top in the middle, and can find space around the ground, then it gives their chances a huge boost of coming out on top. An absolute ripping contest awaits.

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