2020 SANFL Club Preview: Sturt

Following an elimination final defeat in 2019, Sturt will be looking to make a deeper finals assault under second-year senior coach Nathan Grima. Although the Double Blues lost a handful of veterans in the off-season, Sturt recruited well to add fresh faces to a finals-hardened outfit.

LEAGUE/RESERVES:

Terrific defenders Jack Stephens and Fraser Evans headline the list of departures. Both two-time premiership players and Jack Oatey Medalists, their retirements leave the club in need of key defensive replacements. Strong-bodied midfielder Aidan Riley also announced his retirement, as did former Power and Docker speedster Danyle Pearce and small forward John Greenslade.  

Former Sydney Swan Abe Davis made the move to Sturt after kicking 51 goals in 50 matches with South Adelaide. The brother of Crows forward Ben, Davis will provide the Double Blues with a strong frame in the forward line or midfield. He averaged 22.3 disposals, 5.4 marks, 3.1 tackles and 3.9 clearances last season and is capable of kicking a couple goals per game, booting multiple goals in six matches in 2019. Dean Gore returned to his native South Australia after a stint with Geelong in the VFL. Known for his inclusion in the Patrick Dangerfield trade, the Double Blues will be hoping the midfielder fills the void left by Riley. Having been delisted by Essendon, medium forward Jordan Houlahan made his way back to his junior club and will be hoping to cause headaches for opponents with his high x-factor and strong aerial ability. Small forward Harry Morrison joined after kicking 35 goals in the NEAFL with Sydney University last season. The 21-year-old’s speed, goal sense and agility has seen him attract attention from AFL clubs. He appears to be one to watch going forward. Sam Smith joined the club from the NT Thunder, Ashley Johnson made the step-up from the Adelaide amateur league’s Scotch Old Collegians, and Sam Wundke moved from North Adelaide.

At 29-years-old and with 206 games under his belt, Zane Kirkwood remains one of the league’s best midfielders. A two-time Magarey Medalist, Kirkwood averaged 24.5 disposals (at 86% efficiency), 5.1 marks, 4.2 tackles and 4.3 clearances in 19 matches last season. He formed a prolific on-ball partnership with former Power draftee Sam Colquhoun, who lead the league for disposals with an average of 29.3 per game to finish fourth in the Magarey Medal count. Stoppage specialist Tom Lewis will be looking to make an immediate impact at senior level, having missed the 2019 season with a torn ACL. Skipper James Battersby will go at it again in the guts, whilst 2019 leading-goalkicker Josh Hone and veteran Mark Evans will again be relied upon up forward.

UNDER-18S:

The Double Blues under-18s struggled last season, managing just five wins to finish ninth, ahead of Central Districts. The club’s 2020 draft prospects are headlined by Crows Next Generation Academy prospect James Borlase. A tall defender, Borlase has impressed with his strength overhead and competitiveness. Already 191cm and 88kg and having played eight reserves matches with the club last season, Borlase could be eyeing off a league debut after the aforementioned retirements of Stephens and Evans. Also included in the 2020 South Australian Academy Hub is hard-at-it inside midfielder Mani Liddy, who appears likely to featured prominently on-ball for SA at the National Championships. He averaged an impressive 25 disposals, 4.2 marks, and 5.5 clearances in the under-18s last season. Tom Powell is the third Double Blue in the hub set-up. An outside midfielder with speed, Powell has been plagued by injury in recent years but will be looking to put his best foot forward in front of recruiters in 2020.

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