TWELVE months ago – or more accurately 16 months ago given the COVID-19 pandemic postponement – South Adelaide and North Adelaide faced off in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s decider. Fast forward to 2020 and the same two sides oppose each other to determine this year’s premier in South Australia’s top women’s competition. The two best sides have made it through to the decider, and in Draft Central‘s preview, we take a look at the teams and where the game could be one, and some of the key questions coming out of it.
North Adelaide come in as the clear favourites in this game simply because they are undefeated in 2020. South Adelaide are the next best side in it though, having only lost to the Roosters this year, first back in Round 4 prior to the SANFL Women’s postponement, and then a fortnight ago in the semi-final. Having backed up from that loss with an imposing win over an confident West Adelaide side, the Panthers will back themselves in to finally topple the Roosters.
The key questions
Can North Adelaide go undefeated in season 2020?
It might not be spoken about as the main aim – and nor it should be – in 2020, because at the end of the day, it does not matter how they are won, as long as they can get the job done. Eleven games in and the Roosters are yet to taste defeat, though they are likely to remember their last loss – the 2019 decider against the Panthers – and be keen to go one better this year.
Could South Adelaide achieve a three-peat?
Anything with the list the Panthers have is achievable. But they will need to rekindle their best form to get up in the match. They have the experience to follow through and get it done, but their opposition is formidable. The Panthers defence showed in the semi-final that it can contain the best of forward lines, and that effort will need to be repeated again here.
Who goes to Anne Hatchard?
There will not necessarily be a hard tag on Hatchard who has the running ability to just power away from her opponents, but Nicole Campbell did well in stints on Stevie-Lee Thompson and might be the player for the job again. Last time they met, Hatchard ran rampant and was clearly best afield, and while you cannot stop her getting her 30-odd touches a game, limiting them to non dangerous areas – ie. out of the stoppages particularly in the forward half – is a must.
Where does South Adelaide have the advantage?
The unpredictability and speed inside 50 is what sets the Panthers aside from many other teams. Jess Kirk is a leading forward and reliable in front of the big sticks, but a lot of the Panthers goals come from finding space inside 50 and lowering the eyes to hit targets from midfielders dropping back, or just by working the ball forward and creating something out of nothing. They can build from defence and run down the ground with speed.
Where does North Adelaide have the advantage?
The midfield is quite simply elite. South Adelaide’s is unbelievable, but the Roosters have the lot with Hatchard, Ash Woodland and Hannah Ewings, as well as Leah Tynan, Katelyn Pope and Erica Greet all capable of rotating through there. The South defence is well structured and back themselves one-on-one, but the Roosters have so many scoring options inside 50 and the midfielders usually pick the right option.
North Adelaide defence vs. South Adelaide attack
The Roosters defence is tall compared to their opponents, with Kristi Harvey, Amber Ward and Talia Radan all capable of taking contested marks. It means the Panthers cannot afford to kick long and high inside 50. What they need is opening up space to allow one-on-ones because Kirk will struggle to be beaten on the lead, but in a one-on-one contest Harvey for example would take the chocolates. The half-forwards push up to the wings, with Indy Tahau and Gypsy Schirmer able to rotate with the likes of Teah Charlton and Cheyenne Hammond, which creates havoc with matchups. A chaos ball inside 50 while not perfect could help the Panthers at ground level, though Julia Clark and Lauren Gauci have been capable rebounders.
North Adelaide attack vs. South Adelaide defence
Up the other end, the matchups are a dream, with both sides having a number of in-between heights that could play the role of talls or smalls. Britt Perry is the one the Roosters love getting the ball too because of her reliability in front of the big sticks, while Cristie Castle continues to run all day. The pure speed of the attack such as Pope and Ewings might be a key reason why Hannah Munyard has been named in defence this week. She can match those quick players and also take the game on out of the back half, even though she is also capable of hitting the scoreboard up the other end. Woodland will spend time up forward, and like rotate with Ewings, while the South defence of Jaslynne Smith, Lisa Whiteley and Lauren Buchanan in particular is incredibly consistent.
The midfield battle
Starting in the ruck, the Panthers have a couple of young guns in Montana McKinnon and Brooklyn Kraft rotating through there. McKinnon has been getting better each week since returning from injury and capable of taking contested marks around the ground providing strong second efforts. She will be opposed to Bek Rasheed in the middle, with Kendall Howell named as backup on an extended bench. Rasheed has been terrific in her debut season for the Roosters and will need to work McKinnon hard around the ground and be offensively dangerous. The midfield has already been touches on for the Roosters, but for South, Hammond has been a really strong user of the ball, while Tahlia Meyer might be one of the best decision makers in the competition with her low darts inside 50 last week setting up so many scoring opportunities. With Elyse Haylock and Czenya Cavouras also running through there and the speed of Nikki Gore and Munyard, the South side will have no issues batting deep through the middle.
Much like two weeks ago, it would take a brave prediction to go against the Roosters but this build up is going to special. The best team of the year against the best team of the past couple of years. Expect the game to go down to the wire and there be less than a kick between the sides by the final siren. With the Panthers likely to do all they can to restrict Hatchard, expect an Ewings or Woodland to be among the Most Valuable Player (MVP) contenders, while Tahau showed last year they are not afraid to give it to youth, and she and Charlton, along with Munyard and Gore would also be among the contenders if the Panthers get up.
Picture: SANFL/Deb Curtis