SANFL Round 8 Preview: Ladder implications as the midway point rolls in

SOUTH Australian National Football League (SANFL) Round 8 will see a heap of tense contests across all three major divisions, with a couple of significant clashes heading up the round in terms of ladder positioning. In the League competition, the clash between Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) Eagles and South Adelaide will have huge bearings on where the likes of Glenelg and Norwood lie at the end of the round given Glenelg have a chance to leapfrog Norwood into the top four – and potentially nab third – if South drops too the ladder leaders.

West Adelaide vs. North Adelaide

League:

The Roosters and Bloods will kick off round eight under Friday night lights at Hisense Stadium. Jacob Surjan‘s North Adelaide have pieced together a strong start to the season and appear to have cemented their spot in the top four for the time being. The red and whites will be looking to continue their winning ways, despite boasting a lengthy injury list. Meanwhile, West Adelaide are in a rebuilding phase, but will still be eyeing off a couple of scalps in the latter stages of the season.

It certainly was not the prettiest of victories, but North Adelaide got the job done on home soil against the Double Blues on Saturday. The Roosters have scored the least amount of points of the top five sides, but their rugged midfield has stood up well so far in season 2020 and applied an abundance of pressure. Vice captain Andrew Moore has been Mr. Consistent, averaging 25 disposals, 5.6 tackles, 6.9 clearances and nearly a goal per game. His fellow deputy Tom Schwarz has also accumulated plenty of the ball, averaging 24 touches 4.7 tackles and 5.1 clearances, while hard-at-it on-baller Campbell Combe remains the league’s number one tackler and currently sits a whopping 14 ahead of second place. West Adelaide trailed the ladder-leading Eagles for the entire match on Saturday afternoon but there were still some bright spots. The Bloods recored more disposals (plus-19) and clearances (plus-8) than their opponents and generally used the ball well (83 per cent kicking efficiency), but were unable to generate enough chances and perhaps overused the ball at-times, finishing -16 for inside-50s. The Roosters will be well aware of Kaine Stevens contested ball winning capabilities and Jordon Boyle‘s ability to both accumulate the footy at will and use it effectively (averaging 24 disposals at 83 per cent efficiency). Stevens and Boyle sit inside the top ten for disposals and, with the support of Brett Turner, must step up against a hard-nosed Roosters midfield.

Westies captain Tom Keough is the Bloods main man in attack, having booted a team-high 11 goals this season. Alongside the veteran, Lyndon Hupfeld adds some much-needed x-factor and recruit Josh Koster will continue to improve after returning from injury last weekend. The Bloods forwards must also pay attention to Rooster Harrison Wigg, who has already proven to be one of the best off-season acquisitions. His precise ball use off half-back has been integral in turning defence into attack for North and should be nullified if West are to claim victory. At the other end of the field, Robbie Young proved he is a valuable component of the Roosters side after booting three goals against Sturt. Fellow small forward Kym LeBois has booted 13 goals this season and is as lively as they come. Their speed and energy in attack is infectious and has sparked the side on several occasions this year.

The Roosters and Bloods faced off in round one earlier this year, with North Adelaide pulling away in the second half after a tight start to the game. Lewis Hender proved the match winner, booting seven straight goals. The Bloods will no doubt be putting plenty of time into him, but the excitement machine will fancy another bag under Friday night lights. The Roosters injury list continues to be of concern, with Ben Jarman and captain Alex Spina the latest to enter the casualty ward. Both will face a test to prove their fitness, as will Bloods ruckman Andre Parrella and key defender Josh Ryan. West midfielder Dallas Willsmore is expected to miss two-to-three weeks with a hamstring injury.

Reserves:

The Bloods and Roosters reserves will be eager to bounce back from hefty losses when they meet on Friday evening. Both sides have struggled this season but a win could provide a much-needed confidence boost.

Under-18s:

It’s been a similar story at under-18s level, with both sides seemingly anchored at the foot of the ladder. However there will still be plenty of talent running around at Prospect Oval. West’s Bailey Chamberlain continues to accumulate a heap of the ball and teammate Luke Young is amongst the competitions best contested markers. For the Roosters, Matthew Borg and Kallis Freer have been the standouts, along with exciting half-backman Blayne O’Loughlin. The athletic Lam Simon continues to show some encouraging signs and AFL Academy Hub duo Jamison Murphy and Tariek Newchurch have also performed well.

 

South Adelaide vs. Woodville-West Torrens

League:

The Panthers and Eagles will meet at Flinders University Stadium in a clash between two likely finalists. Woodville-West Torrens have won seven on the trot, but South Adelaide remain the only side to knock them off in season 2020, after recording a narrow victory at Adelaide Oval back in round one.

The Panthers are one of three sides currently sitting at four wins and three losses, following back-to-back defeats at the hands of North Adelaide and Norwood. South have been up to the challenge every week this season, with their three losses coming at a combined margin of just 17 points. Coach Jarrad Wright must be frustrated with their tight losses, but he will be pleased with the efforts of Joseph Haines. An intercept machine, he has provided plenty of run and carry from defence and used the ball with precision. However, terrific defender Tom Highmore sustained an ankle injury last round and is set to miss up to five weeks. Given the Eagles’ overhead prowess, his injury could not have come at a worse time. Eagle-brothers Jack and Nick Hayes have been outstanding in season 2020, hauling in 14 and 12 contested marks respectively. Jake von Bertouch has also played a pivotal role in the air, taking 13 contested grabs. The trio have booted a combined 32 goals this season. On the rare occasion they don’t stick their marks, small forwards James Rowe and Tristian Carcuro have been ready and waiting to pounce on the crumbs. After both kicking four majors in the win over West, Rowe sits second in the league for goals (22) and Carcuro in eighth with 12.

It’s been relatively smooth sailing for the Eagles over the past few weeks, recording comfortable victories against cellar dwellers Central Districts and West Adelaide in consecutive rounds. And whilst they boast the league’s best forward-line, their defence has also stood tall and conceded the least amount of total points against. Teenager Lachlan Jones has been very impressive down back, as has Tasmanian recruit Rhyan Mansell. Veteran Patrick Giuffreda is as reliable as they come and key defender Pierce Seymour has also performed well. Perhaps most impressive is that the side has been without skipper and key defensive general Luke Thompson, who has not played since round four due to a thigh complaint. The Panthers missed a couple of key chances in-front of goal against the Redlegs at the Parade, but their small and medium forwards have been good so far this season. Liam Fitt is a difficult match up for any opposition defence and Eamon Wilkinson and Beau McCreery are both clever around goal. Of course, the midfield battle will also be a tantalising one, with the likes of dual-Magarey Medalist Joel Cross, former-Port Adelaide veteran Matthew Broadbent and Hayden Sampson going head-to-head with Angus PooleJimmy Toumpas and Joey Sinor. South Adelaide’s young talent has been a real positive this season, with 17-year-old Jason Horne joining Zac Dumesny and McCreery in making their league debuts in 2020.

Although South will sorely miss Highmore, Woodville-West Torrens could regain as many as four senior players, with Matthew Goldsworthy, Jesse Lonergan, the aforementioned Thompson and Jordan Foote all set to face fitness tests. The Eagles mounted a substantial comeback and even grabbed the lead late in the game against the Panther in round one. But South were able to hold their nerve and open the new season with a victory. With both sides boasting plenty of talent, this clash is set to be a beauty.

Reserves:

The Eagles Reserves remain the only undefeated side across all competitions after seven rounds of action, following a comprehensive 88-point demolition of the Bloods. Meanwhile, although inconsistent throughout the year, the Panthers knocked off the Redlegs by 80 points last weekend. With both clubs coming off resounding triumphs, this clash, like the league match to follow, promises to be a close encounter.

Under-18s:

At under-18s level, South Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens find themselves jostling for a spot in the top four. These two clubs have met in the past two Under-18 Grand Finals and boast plenty of talent. Panthers half-forward Brayden Cook caught the attention of AFL recruiters after his four goal effort against the Redlegs. Speedster Phoenix Spicer has also booted nine goals this season and his long runs on the wing have been breathtaking at times. For the Eagles, midfielders Jase Burgoyne and Caleb Poulter have been prolific and Henry Smith has shown some good signs up forward.

 

Sturt vs. Central Districts

League:

The Bulldogs will make the trip across cross-town to Peter Motley Oval to face the Double Blues in the traditional Saturday afternoon time slot. There is no denying it has been a tricky season for the ‘Dogs. But to their credit, they haven’t dropped their bundle and have fought until the final siren each week. It has also been tough going for Sturt, who have lost four in a row after being defeated by the Roosters at Prospect last round.

The Bulldogs, much like the Bloods, are in a rebuilding phase and don’t quite boast the talent level of the top SANFL clubs, but they managed to hold their own in the midfield against the reigning premiers. They were narrowly edged in the hit-outs, clearances and inside-50s, but were more efficient in front of goal than the Tigers. Travis Schiller collected 39 touches and James Boyd gathered 32 and a goal, with both generating plenty of forward-50 entries and winning their fair share of clearances. Troy Menzel and Jarrod Schiller have also been solid contributors this year, with the former collecting a career-high 31 disposals to go with 13 marks. In the Double Blues engine room, skipper James Battersby and Sam Colquhoun have been terrific, accumulating an abundance of the ball, alongside dual Magarey Medallist Zane Kirkwood.

Perhaps Sturt’s biggest concern this season has been their inefficient forward line. Key forward Jake Sutcliffe has booted eight goals in six matches and leading goal kicker Josh Hone has kicked a major in all but one match. However, lacking a genuine focal point, ruckman Dan Fahey-Sparks has spent considerable time up forward in recent weeks, in the hope his size and marking ability can indeed provide a spark. He booted two goals in the loss to the Roosters and another couple in round six. Central Districts’ Justin Hoskin is capable of booting a bag up forward, with his six goals in round four a good example. However he has been held goalless in four of his six games, including by Sturt in round one. Teenager Corey Durdin has been good for a goal per game and, although injury prone, John Butcher has given the ‘Dogs a genuine target in his four matches this season.

The Bulldogs could regain Trent Goodrem and Kyle Jenner from their respective injuries, with both listed as available for selection. However Nick Lange is questionable after he sustained an ankle injury last round. For the Double Blues, Ash Johnson remains a week away from returning from his own ankle complaint. The Double Blues and Bulldogs faced off at Adelaide Oval in round one, with Sturt winning by 15-points in a close affair. Expect their round eight meeting to be a similarly tight and low-scoring contest.

Reserves:

Despite their senior sides siting in the bottom half of the ladder, Sturt and Centrals reserves teams have enjoyed a strong start to the campaign. The Double Blues lost to the ‘Dogs in round one and to the Eagles a week later, but have played some excellent football ever since, recording five straight victories. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs sole defeat was a one-point loss to the Eagles in round six. 

Under-18s:

Sturt appear destined to feature prominently at the pointy end of the SANFL Under-18 season. Tom Emmett has been terrific up forward and midfield trio Will SpainMani Liddy and Tom Powell have received plenty of attention for their onball dominance. The Bulldogs earned their first points of the season after defeating the Tigers last weekend. Ruckman and tall forward Saxon Evans turned some heads with a terrific performance, headlined by four goals and 32 hitouts.

 

Norwood vs. Glenelg

League:

Norwood will be seeking revenge after the Tigers beat them by three points in the opening round. With the ‘Legs and Bays possessing two of the most talented lists in the league, this Saturday night clash should be closely fought.

Norwood found themselves in a spot of bother early on in the year, recording three losses to start the season. However they have dug themselves out of the hole beautifully and have appeared to be back to their best in recent weeks. The Redlegs have relied heavily upon their star-studded midfield hitting the scoreboard, but coach Jarrod Cotton will have been impressed by the efforts of tall forward Tommy Pinyon and speedster Anthony Wilson, who both booted two goals in the win over South Adelaide. Pinyon has been particularly impressive across the past month of action, having booted 12 goals in four games. However Glenelg boasts the most dominant key forward in the competition in Liam McBean. An aerial master, McBean was inaccurate in front of goal against the Bulldogs, booting four goals and four behinds, but is well-placed to defend his Ken Farmer medal as the league’s leading goal kicker. His partner in crime Luke Reynolds is also a star in his own right, but was held goalless on Saturday for the first time since round 17 of 2018, though small forward Darcy Bailey bobbed up to kick three.

Redlegs ball-magnet Matthew Nunn missed three matches (rounds three through five) earlier this season and his value to the Norwood midfield cannot be understated. A hard-nosed onballer, Nunn is a strong tackler and clearance specialist who compliments the likes of Richard Douglas, Matthew Panos and Mitch Grigg. He could go head-to-head with perhaps the best in-and-under midfielder in the competition in Glenelg’s Matthew Snook. A genuine warrior in the Tigers midfield, Snook and teammates Luke Partington and Bradley Agnew have accumulated plenty of the ball throughout the season to-date. The Norwood midfield has received plenty of credit for its brilliance, but the Tigers array of working class on-ballers will be up for a fight. They will, however, need ruckman Jack Hannath to nullify the impact of Norwood’s Sam Baulderstone both at the contest and around the ground. The big man has been in tremendous form and is up there with the leagues best players when on song.

The Tigers have proven time and time again that they are willing to play their youth, with potential Crows father-son Luke Edwards the latest to make his league debut. Luke Parks has been outstanding down back since breaking into the senior side against the Redlegs in round one. He took three contested grabs on debut and currently sits equal-third with von Bertouch for total contested marks – an impressive feat for such a young player. Unfortunately, Edwards suffered some concussion and could miss the clash with Norwood. The Redlegs themselves are likely to be without skilful utility Lewis Johnston (quad) and former-Western Bulldog Declan Hamilton (ankle).

Reserves:

At Reserves level, the Tigers find themselves in fourth spot in the ladder, ahead of Norwood in seventh. Glenelg started the season well but have struggled in the past few weeks, recording three losses in a row. A Redlegs win could spark them into life and trigger a finals push in the second half of the season.

Under-18s:

Norwood’s under-18s have been very impressive so far in 2020, with their terrific midfield leading the way. Bottom-ager Cooper Murley continues to show why he is a likely early pick in next years draft, while fellow midfielders Michael Cavallaro and Jack Saunders, key forward Finn Heard and intercept-defender Daniel Fairbrother have also impressed. The Bays have been without a number of their stars due to school football commitments, but Harry McInnes‘ five goals ignited his side.

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