NORTH Adelaide has completed an unblemished season to win the 2020 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s premiership in an epic contest against back-to-back premiers, South Adelaide. In what was truly a fitting grand final, the Roosters held off a late Panthers charge and made the most of their chances in front of goal to salute, 5.5 (35) to 4.4 (28) at Thebarton Oval today.
Adelaide AFL Women’s best and fairest winner and All-Australian, Anne Hatchard was named best on ground in the win, producing another sensational performance to cap off her year, picking up 34 disposals, seven marks, nine clearances, four inside 50s and four rebounds to be the clear star around the ground. While South was brave for the vast majority of the game, and even had its own chances to win the match, the Roosters were better for longer, with 10 more clearances and 16 more inside 50s to dominate possession in the forward half.
North captain Leah Tynan won the toss and opted to kick with the breeze in the opening term, with a two-to-three goal breeze estimated for the ladder leaders to begin the game. Despite Bek Rasheed getting the first clearance and inside 50 for the Roosters, it would be South on the board first, as a density rule free kick – the first of a number against the Roosters – saw the Panthers get it inside 50. A downfield free kick resulted in a set shot to Teah Charlton who made no mistake two minutes in, reading the breeze perfectly and hanging it far left for it to violently swing back around the post and through.
Fellow young gun in Hannah Ewings soon made her mark on the day, with the 2020 Breakthrough Player of the Year having a chance, being smothered, then marking out on a lead from a nice Katelyn Pope kick inside 50. Ewings made it look easy from 40m out with her goal sailing home midway through the term to level the scores. North’s ferocity up the forward end was putting pressure on the South defence as the Panthers struggled to clear it beyond half-back. Pope had a chance herself from 50m but it drifted to the left and through for a behind. The forward half dominance eventually won out though with some nice scrapping forward seeing Hatchard get it deep and Britt Perry created something out of nothing close to the line, reading it well and booting it home from a metre out.
No sooner had the Roosters gained some separation from their opponents, did South get it inside 50 off the next clearance. Cheyenne Hammond had a quick kick towards goal that was mopped up, but the rushed exit kick landed in the arms of a waiting Gypsy Schirmer. The teenager took it upon her self to go back and slot the goal from 35m, reading the breeze well herself to keep her team in touch at the break. A late behind to Cristie Castle off what was a golden opportunity put the favourites in front at quarter time, 2.2 to 2.0.
Despite dominating the opening term with a whopping 10-2 clearances and 15-2 inside 50s, North only held a two-point advantage and the Panthers had made the most of their two inside 50s with goals. North began to get a bit more of the momentum, after quarter time as they worked into the game. Another density penalty almost cost the Roosters again, but this time it was the composure of Amber Ward in defence who hit up Hatchard through a number of opponents to clear to half-back. The Roosters pushed forward themselves early in the term, but the work of Lucy Northcott and Nicole Campbell allowed South to have the run in transition.
A few rushed plays from the South defenders when it did get into North’s attacking end resulted in Mollie McKendrick having a number of inside 50s, with the third one finding Perry on the lead 30m out. She worked into the space well and then made no mistake from the set shot, extending the lead out to eight points, eight minutes into the term against the breeze. South continued to press in a bid to force their way back into the contest, with Elyse Haylock having a chance 30m out after an uncontested mark off great work from Nikki Gore, but it fell short and the Roosters cleared again.
Time and time again South had chances, but a run down tackle on Charlton inside forward 50 saved another chance, though eventually some great vision from Czenya Cavouras on the boundary line spotted a leading Indy Tahau who marked and then went back and slotted the goal. It was back to two points and with only a couple of minutes left, looked like heading into half-time that way. Then there was chaos when in the last 30 seconds, Charlotte Taylor won a free kick at half-forward and drilled in a ball to Castle leading out 35m from home. The ball appeared to hit the ground – the South players were appealing – but Castle also had a fair chunk of it before that, and the mark stood. As the siren sounded, the number one put it through the big sticks in what would be a telling contribution. With just two touches to half-time, Castle had added 1.1 and was making the most of it.
Either side of half-time, Castle had an influential period as she kicked the crucial first goal of the third quarter in the seventh minute and handed her side a 12-point advantage. Hatchard was beginning to build into the game – having already amassed her high volume of touches – and was having a real influence with those touches. Hammond had an early chance for the Panthers from 40m, but it was just touched on the line, and then up the other end a few minutes later, it was Hatchard who placed it beautifully for Castle in the goalsquare to mark and extend the lead.
South kept working hard against the breeze, with a terrific smother by retiring captain, Lauren Buchanan saving a scoring opportunity, as both sides had chances but could not quite convert. Ewings had another chance just from inside the 50 from a set shot but her kick went to the right, and then Taylor launched from 50m but it bounced the wrong side of the post. North was firmly in control, but the Roosters had not landed the knockout blow. In the meantime, tempers were flaring with a number of players letting the opposition know how important the game was, with Hannah Munyard and Ewings having a number of fierce words, and actions, throughout the contest.
South needed to kick three unanswered goals in the final term if the Panthers were to get up and cause an upset, but time was against them, and so was the mighty impressive unit of the Roosters. The Panthers’ leading goalkicker and second overall in the competition, Jess Kirk had not touched the ball in the first three terms, but had a chance from the impossible angle early in the last quarter. Her kick was a great effort for a right footer on the wrong side, but it just missed, reducing the deficit to 14 points three minutes into the final stanza.
A crucial turnover in defence by North almost cost a goal but Campbell could not quite gather it and the troops arrived to knock the ball over the line. Every chance they got, North settled and assessed options, with the Panthers trying everything to heap pressure on their opposition. Gore became the only goalkicker in the final term after going for a mark and copping a contact to win a free, converting the major and with four minutes remaining, her side trailed by just seven points.
That solitary extra point was always going to be a pestering one, and coupled with the fact that the oblong ball can be unpredictable, the odds were always in North’s favour. South found that out after a quick kick out from Harvey looked destined to land in the arms of one of a number of South players pushed up to half-forward. Instead, it bounced between them and landed in the arms of Pope who had enjoyed an impressive game, kicking it forward and hitting a target. That bounce all but signalled the end for the Panthers, as with a couple of minutes left, Lauren Gauci took a number of crucial intercept marks, and North had done enough for the siren to sound and the Roosters enjoy the most memorable of victories.
It was no surprise to see Hatchard named as best-on for her efforts, with an otherwise even team performance across the board. Daniel ended the match with 16 disposals, four tackles and two inside 50s, while Taylor was influential in close with five clearances, four inside 50s and 14 touches. Pope had 15 disposals and three inside 50s, while Harvey was rock solid in defence with 11 disposals, two marks and five rebounds.
For South, Tahlia Meyer just battled away all day and finished with 18 disposals, four marks – one contested – two inside 50s and five rebounds, ahead of Gore (15 disposals, five marks, eight tackles, three inside 50s, two rebounds and two clearances). Whiteley (14 disposals, seven rebounds) and Buchanan (11 disposals, six rebounds) were keys in the back 50, while Campbell (13 disposals, four marks, three tackles and four inside 50s tried hard all day.
NORTH ADELAIDE 2.2 | 4.2 | 5.5 | 5.5 (35)
SOUTH ADELAIDE 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)
North: B. Perry 2, C. Castle 2, H. Ewings.
South: T. Charlton, G. Schirmer, I. Tahau, N. Gore.
North: A. Hatchard, K. Pope, L. Daniel, K. Harvey, E. Sundstrom
South: T. Meyer, L. Whiteley, N. Gore, N. Campbell, L. Northcott
Picture: Deb Curtis / SANFL