SANFL Round 9 preview: Top two look to continue dominance

ROUND 9 of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) will see a couple of interesting match-ups across League, Reserves and Under 18s competitions as the pointy end of the season edges ever closer. In the League competition, two ladder-leading sides will looks to continue their form and knock their lower ranked opposition off their game, bordering on top four contention.

North Adelaide vs. Norwood

League: The Redlegs will travel to Prospect Oval to clash with the in form North Adelaide on Saturday afternoon. The Roosters sit alongside Woodville-West Torrens at the pinnacle of the SANFL ladder after two months of action. Meanwhile, the Redlegs sit just outside the top four and appear locked in a battle for a finals spot, after the Tigers ended their four-game winning streak. The Redlegs were competitive against Glenelg early in the match at Coopers Stadium, but a poor second half which yielded just one goal was never going to be enough. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Jacob Surjan‘s North Adelaide continue to get the job done. The red and whites pulled off a miraculous one-point victory after trailing the Bloods late in the final term on Friday night. It was a seesawing affair at Hisense Stadium, but two final quarter goals to Will Combe proved the difference.

The Redlegs managed to win many of the key statistics, including disposals, disposal efficiency, marks and tackles, however Glenelg’s hard-nosed midfield finished plus-9 in clearances and generated 24 scoring shots to 16. A major reason behind the Bays triumph was the performance of Jack Hannath in the ruck, who kept dominant Redleg Sam Baulderstone to just 28 hit-outs – his lowest of the season. This week, Rooster James Craig will go head-to-head with Baulderstone and attempt to nullify his influence. Craig is averaging 30 hit-outs per game but must be weary of Baulderstone’s ability to get involved in general play, having averaged 18.3 disposals at 73 per cent kicking efficiency in eight matches.

North were largely outplayed for much of the game at Richmond, loosing most of the key statistics. But at the end of the night, they prevailed on the scoreboard, the most important statistic of all. The aforementioned Craig provided the Roosters midfielders with first use and they took advantage, smashing the Bloods 22-37 in the clearances. Vice-captains Andrew Moore and Tom Schwarz almost recorded more clearances than the entire West Adelaide side, combining for 17. However it was the rebound and precise kicking of half-back duo Harrison Wigg and Alex Spina which proved decisive. They collected 33 and 27 disposals respectively, and set up a multitude of Roosters scoring shots from defence. This weekend, the Norwood forwards must prevent them from using their excellent kicking to break the lines. However the ‘Legs also boast a strong rebounding game, with Brad McKenzie and Cameron Shenton given the role of turning defence into attack.

Up forward, Norwood big man Tommy Pinyon took two strong contested grabs and kicked two goals but was missing for most of the match, collecting just four touches. Peter Bampton and the Richards brothers, Zac and Josh, were also amongst the goals against the Bays. The Norwood midfield, known for their goalkicking ability, must find a way to push forward and help out in attack against a well-drilled Roosters backline, led by key pillars Cameron Craig, Tanner Smith and youngster Dyson Hilder. At the other end of the ground, the Roosters received a six goal boost from Will Combe and Jarrad Allmond – both of whom are not exactly dominant in front of the sticks. Club leading goal kicker Lewis Hender was kept goalless but smalls Kym LeBois and Robbie Young both slotted majors.

The Roosters won by two points when the two sides met in round two, with Campbell Combe starring through the midfield for North. Norwood will dearly miss Josh Richards, who is expected to spend 4-6 weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury. The Roosters could regain premiership duo Alex Barns and Mitch Clisby for the clash, but midfielder Cam Hewett and Billy Hartung will miss at least another week. If past meetings between the 2018 grand finalists are anything to go by, this should be a very entertaining clash.

Reserves: The Roosters made light work of the Bloods in the reserves on Friday evening to move up to fifth on the ladder. Meanwhile, the ‘Legs were downed by Glenelg by 32 points. North will be looking to mount a surge towards the finals while Norwood continue their search for a second win.

Under-18s: Norwood are certainly the team to beat at under-18s level, after moving one game clear at the top of the ladder with a win over the Bays. Meanwhile, the Roosters pilled on the goals against West to win by 54 points. Norwood bottom-ager Cooper Murley and fellow midfielders Jack Saunders and Michael Cavallaro are names to keep an eye on in the red and the blue, while for the Roosters, the prolific Matthew Borg continues to rack up the touches and Elliott McNamara is coming off a six goal performance. Adelaide’s bottom-aged Next Generation Academy (NGA) prospect Blayne O’Loughlin is one to watch for Crows fans.

 

Central Districts vs. West Adelaide

League: Round nine features the battle of the battlers, with Central Districts set to host West Adelaide at Elizabeth. The Dogs remain winless at the bottom of the ladder, while the Bloods sit above them with just one victory. However the two sides earned their first premiership points of the season when they couldn’t be separated after at the final siren back in round two. Although the results have not gone their way, the two clubs have fought valiantly and will both be eager to claim victory on Saturday afternoon.

West Adelaide will be kicking themselves for dropping points on Friday night after leading the Roosters late in the fourth term. Over at Peter Motley Oval, the ‘Dogs opened the scoring after just 30 seconds of play thanks to a Jordan O’Brien goal. But the Double Blues, desperate to keep their season alive, kicked away after the first break and never gave the Bulldogs a sniff. Although West tackled well, kicked at 80 per cent efficiency and won more disposals than North, the Bloods were comprehensively beaten in the hit-outs (47-20) and clearances (37-22). Central’s scoring woes continued, booting five goals and 12 behinds. Unlike the Bloods, they were well-beaten around the ground, finishing minus-56 for disposals and a massive minus-50 for marks. Although they were able to win the clearances (44-38), the ‘Dogs are finding it difficult to mount any scoreboard pressure of late.

The Bulldogs and Bloods midfielders have battled hard for little return so far in 2020. This clash features two of the SANFL’s most consistent on-ballers in Bulldog James Boyd and West’s Kaine Stevens. A genuine ball-magnet, Boyd comfortably leads the league in disposals, averaging 31.4 per game. However he is also using it beautifully, going at 89 per cent efficiency, and will almost certainly feature prominently come Magarey Medal night. Stevens also sits inside the top ten for disposals, at an average of 24.9 per game. A stoppage specialist who uses his big body to good advantage through the middle, the 27-year-old has provided West with plenty of experience through the middle and complimented fellow on-ballers Jordon Boyle and Brett Turner. The ‘Dogs have been well-served by the Schiller brothers, Jarrod and Travis, for a number of years now and they remain an important component through the middle with their strong defensive pressure and clearance-winning.

West Adelaide skipper Tom Keough has booted 12 goals so far this year and is the go-to guy up forward. Likely top ten draft pick Riley Thilthorpe has also shown plenty of glimpses of his tremendous talent, playing predominantly up forward with stints through the ruck at various times. The teenager has taken 12 contested marks this season and his size, leap and reach has proven a tough assignment for opposition defenders. John Butcher is the undisputed focal point of the Bulldogs forward line, but youngsters Corey Durdin and the aforementioned O’Brien have also provided impacted the scoreboard. Durdin was kept to just four touches against Sturt before he injured his hamstring, but has pieced together a strong season in difficult circumstances. However, he is expected to miss two weeks with a low-grade hamstring strain.

Boyd has been his side’s leading rebounder, but skipper Luke Habel has been a calming presence for the inexperienced Bulldogs outfit. For West Adelaide, veteran Logan Hill‘s rebound and ball use (95 per cent kicking efficiency) has been a real standout. The 188cm Mitch Duval has also shown good signs since coming into the league side in round three.

In a cruel blow, the Bulldogs will be without Troy Menzel for the remainder of the season after he suffered a serious ankle injury in the loss. He joins brother Daniel on the clubs long-term injury list. Meanwhile, West will be hoping defender Elliott Dunkin (wrist) and Josh Ryan (shoulder) can pass their respective fitness tests in time for the Saturday afternoon clash.

Reserves: Central Districts flexed their muscles with a 46-point win over Sturt in the reserves competition, while the Bloods woes continued, loosing to North by 52-points. Unlike the league side, Centrals reserves have been the highest scoring side, averaging 90 points per game. Expect them to enter this clash full of confidence.

Under-18s: The Bulldogs under-18s caused the upset of the competition so far when they knocked off the second-placed Double Blues by 17 points. Leek Alleer was excellent in the win, finishing with 22 disposals, two goals and four contested marks. Austin McDonald also continues to find the ball at under-18s level after spending the first few weeks of the 2020 season dominating at under-16s level. West Adelaide continue to fight on in what has been a tricky campaign, however Edward Van Den Berg is one to watch in the red and black.

 

Glenelg vs. South Adelaide

League: South Adelaide will head to the bay to face Glenelg at ACH Group Stadium on Saturday. The Tigers and Panthers find themselves inside the top four after eight rounds of SANFL football. Yet while Glenelg have steadied the ship and won three games on the trot, the Panthers find themselves at risk of dropping out of a finals spot following three consecutive losses.

Glenelg recorded less disposals, kicks, marks and tackles than Norwood last round, but got on top in the midfield and generated eight more scoring shots than the Redlegs. The Panthers, on the other hand, played well for much of the game against the Eagles and kept themselves within striking distance. They won the midfield battle and finished plus-32 for marks and plus-20 for disposals, however Jarrad Wright‘s men were left to rue missed opportunities in-front of goal, finishing with six majors and 15 behinds.

In his first game in the blue and white, the terrific performance of ruckman Paul Hunter will have excited the Panthers coaching staff. The former Crow went up against Eagle Jordan West for much of the game and accumulated plenty of the ball in general play. He collected 24 disposals to go with nine marks (three contested), 22 hit-outs, eight inside-50s and an equal game-high nine clearances in what was a complete performance. This week he is set to come up against Tiger Hannath, who impressed with his ability to nullify the influence of Baulderstone.

The Panthers boast an experienced midfield core, led by superstar Joel Cross, former Power defender Matthew Broadbent and hard-nut Nic Schwarz. On the outside, youngster Hayden Sampson has provided some spark with his speed, run and carry. The Panthers have also given talented 17-year-old Jason Horne an opportunity at league level in recent times. However this week they will do battle with arguably the leagues best in-and-under midfielder in Matthew Snook. As tough as they come, Snook is averaging 28.5 disposals, 7.5 tackles and 9.8 clearances per game and currently sits atop the R.O. Sherman Medal count. However he hasn’t been alone. Luke Partington has started to return to his 2019 best in recent weeks and Bradley Agnew‘s defensive pressure has been outstanding all season. The Panthers will know all about Partington’s abilities, given he kicked three goals in a dominant display against them in round two. Billy Stretch also had his best game in the black and yellow against the Redlegs.

Up forward, the Bays dynamic duo of Liam McBean and Luke Reynolds were kept to just one goal apiece at Coopers Stadium. Both capable of kicking a bag, when they are on the key forwards are very hard to stop. The Panthers will again be without key defensive pillar Tom Highmore who is set to another couple of weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury. Jack Kluske has also found some form in front of the big sticks, kicking five goals in the past four rounds. The Panthers have had an even spread of goal kickers, with smalls Eamon Wilkinson and Beau McCreery combining with big Sam Overall, who slotted three goals against the Eagles – comfortably the leagues best defence.

Down back, Tigers skipper Max Proud has done much of the heavy lifting, with Luke Parks and Michael Virgin providing plenty of rebound from the defensive-50. South Adelaide’s Joseph Haines was held to just eight disposals by Eagle Jack Firns – his lowest count of the season by a considerable margin. Haines has been highly effective this season with his intercept marking, run and carry and penetrating kicking sure to earn him a few Magarey Medal votes. Negating his influence should be high on the agenda of Glenelg coach Mark Stone.

The Tigers beat the Panthers by just five points in their round two encounter, and appear set to enter the re-match with a reasonably clean bill of health. Although draft hopeful Luke Edwards is set to miss another week after suffering a concussion on debut. South Adelaide have four players listed as a ‘test’, including promising teenager Zac DumesnyMark Noble, Jaidan Kappler and Ben Sawford. But, unfortunately, Ben Haren is set to miss 2-3 weeks with a quad strain.

Reserves: After racing out of the blocks at reserves level, Glenelg find themselves in fourth spot on the ladder after recording three losses in the past four games. They should enter this clash as favourites, however, against a Panthers unit which has looked promising at times but struggled for consistency.

Under-18s: The Panthers under-18s will be full of confidence after knocking off the Eagles in a thrilling one-point win at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval. All eyes will be on forward/wingman Brayden Cook after his match-winning performance. He continues to rise up draft boards and looks to be a draft smokey. The Tigers have struggled of-late, but watch out for Brodie Edwards, the third son of Crows-legend Tyson, who has accumulated a bit of the ball in recent weeks.

 

Woodville-West Torrens vs. Sturt

League: This week Sturt is provided with the daunting task of taking down the high-flying Eagles, who are still yet to lose since the opening round. The Eagles already possess a match-winning forward line, dour defence and strong, experienced midfield but managed to bolster their on-ball stocks further with the recent signing of James Tsitas from Geelong’s VFL side.

A standout in the VFL for several years, Tsitas made his presence felt in just his second SANFL match on Saturday, laying eight tackles, winning nine clearances and collecting 25 disposals. His side was not dominant on the stats sheet but, as all good sides do, they made South Adelaide pay for their goal kicking inaccuracies. Sturt, on the other hand, recorded a much-needed victory of the Bulldogs at their Peter Motley Oval home. They controlled much of the match on the scoreboard and won most of the key statistical indicators.

A six-goal performance from key forward Jake Sutcliffe was just what the doctor ordered for a Double Blues side which has struggled to kick a winning score all-too-often in season 2020. Better still, two goal-showings from veteran Mark Evans, ruck/forward Dan Fahey-Sparks and small forward Harry Morrison added to the promising display. They will have to replicate their scoring pressure if they are to match it with the potent Eagles offence. James Rowe booted another four goals straight and is clearly the competitions premier small forward. Jack and Nick Hayes were kept relatively quiet against South, but Jake Von Bertouch booted another couple. Firns’ tagging role on Panther Haines was also instrumental in their round eight triumph.

Sturt’s midfield mainstays were all prolific in the win over Central Districts, with skipper James Battersby brilliant at the stoppages, (11 clearances), Sam Colquhoun typically industrial and teenager Casey Voss amongst the leading possession winners once again. However the performances of some fresh faces is what will have really excited coach Nathan GrimaAbe Davis took a few weeks to find his feet at his new club, but has recorded tallies of 26, 31 and 32 disposals in the past three games and is starting to show why Sturt were so keen on recruiting him from South Adelaide. Fellow newcomer Jack Henderson showed some excellent signs in just his second league game and ruckman Darcy Bennett won 32 hit-outs.

They will do battle with an often-underrated Eagles engine room featuring the likes of Tsitas, reigning club champion Jordan Foote, experienced duo Joseph Sinor and Matthew Goldsworthy and Jimmy Toumpas. Youngster Lachlan McNeil has also found his feet at league level this season and is averaging 17.6 disposals at 90 per cent efficiency. Tasmanian Rhyan Mansell’s dash off the half-back line for Woodville-West Torrens has been terrific and teenager Lachlan Jones continues to perform strongly as he pushes for draft selection.

Angus Poole (ribs) and Jarrad Redden (abdominal) have been listed as ‘tests’ for the Eagles. And for the Double Blues, small forward Josh Hone is likely to miss some time after sustaining a foot injury early in the game against the Bulldogs. A win for the Double Blues would be a sensational moral booster, but the ladder leaders present an imposing challenge.

Reserves: The undefeated Eagles reserves just keep getting the job done in the second-tier competition, after easily accounting for the Panther on the weekend. Third-placed Sturt will be looking top bounce back from a hefty-loss at the hands of the second-placed Bulldogs.

Under-18s: The Eagles and Double Blues under-18 sides will be looking to return to the winners list after both recording disappointing losses last round. And there will be plenty of talent on show at Peter Motley Oval, with the likes of Caleb Poulter, Henry Smith and Jase Burgoyne (Eagles) clashing with Tom Powell, Mani Liddy and Will Spain (Sturt).

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