MINOR premiers fell across all three South Australian National Football League (SANFL) grades in 2020’s first finals week, as strong upset wins reigned supreme. With young guns impressing at state league level around the nation, we again narrow our focus for this week’s SANFL wrap to the performances of youth throughout the competitions. There is plenty to unpack in our next altered edition, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior levels, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade during the first week of finals. In make-or-break situations, the cream of South Australia’s finest crop rose to the top.
South Adelaide 14.12 (96) def. Glenelg 10.11 (71)
WWT Eagles 9.8 (62) def. by North Adelaide 11.11 (77)
South Adelaide trumped Glenelg by 25 points on Sunday, bringing an abrupt end to the Bays’ 2019 premiership defence. After getting on top early, the Panthers remained in control throughout the contest, earning passage to a preliminary final meeting with Woodville-West Torrens (WWT).
A strong 20-year-old representation helped propel South to the second week of finals, with the likes of Luke Bogle (21 disposals, eight rebound 50s, one goal), Hayden Sampson (18 disposals, one goal), Daly Andrews (17 disposals), and Reece Milsom (16 disposals, six rebound 50s) all contributing well. Bogle is one who has timed his run back at senior level perfectly, while Victorian coup Andrews has added some balance to the lineup through midfield.
Potential 2021 number one pick Jason Horne was up to the challenge of his maiden League finals appearance, collecting 15 touches and booting a classy goal. National combine invitee Tom Highmore was again steady down back with six marks from 11 disposals, while crafty forwards Beau McCreery and Eamon Wilkinson made the most of their opportunities to snare two goals apiece.
For Glenelg, former AFL-listed midfielders Jackson Edwards (23 disposals) and Luke Partington (22) topped the statsheet, even adding defensive work to their respective games with six tackles each. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Callum Park capped off his consistent season at senior level with 16 disposals (14 kicks) and seven rebound 50s.
The Panthers will meet minor premier, WWT in the preliminary finals after the Eagles went down to second-ranked side, North Adelaide by 15 points at Adelaide Oval. Having fallen slightly behind in the second term, the Roosters edged back ahead at the main break and managed to hold off each of the Eagles’ surges to book a spot in this year’s Grand Final.
First year player Will Combe booted 3.2 for the victors, a feat matched by former Carlton small forward Kym Lebois. Combe’s older brother, Campbell laid an astonishing 19 tackles in a true finals performance, while fellow 25-year old Mitch Harvey contributed 18 disposals and 23 hitouts in the ruck. Another former AFL-listed player, Harrison Wigg was again productive through midfield with 17 disposals and four clearances.
For the Eagles, Jacob Wehr returned a team-high 23 disposals to go with 10 rebound 50s, as AFL clubs keep an eye on the 22-year-old defender’s progress. Port Adelaide Next Generation Academy (NGA) gun Lachlan Jones managed 11 rebounds from his 19 touches, while Lachlan McNeil had it 18 times and booted 1.2. Electric small James Rowe managed two majors as he enjoyed some added midfield minutes, also notching five clearances from his 19 disposals.
Sturt 7.12 (54) def. by North Adelaide 8.12 (60)
Central District 9.7 (61) def. by WWT Eagles 12.11 (83)
Central Districts suffered just its second Reserves loss for the season, bettered by WWT to the tune of 22 points. The Eagles remain the only team to beat the Bulldogs in 2020, with the result just a week removed from Centrals’ minor premiership-clinching win over their weekend opponents. A five-goal third term from the second-ranked Eagles ensured they would break away comfortably, opening up a 40-point lead heading into the final term. They would cruise home to victory, booking a Grand Final spot despite Centrals’ consolation efforts to somewhat even up the scoreboard.
Mature-age VFL recruit Sam Lowson responded perfectly to being relegated to the twos after a three-goal League outing, booting four majors in the win. 19-year-old Ben Jungfer was in the same boat, but held his head high to feature among the Eagles’ best half-dozen players. For Centrals, Ben Kelly and Lachlan Grubb each bagged a single goal, but will look forward to redemption across the upcoming fortnight.
North Adelaide will be the Bulldogs’ next test, after the Roosters stayed alive with a thrilling six-point victory over Sturt on Saturday. Having led at every break, the fourth-ranked side looked like cruising home to an easy win when they held a 27-point buffer at the final break, boasting double Sturt’s goal tally with eight. But the Double Blues were not done with yet, as they put through three goals to North’s nil to draw back within a goal. It proved too little, too late though as the Roosters held on.
Harrison Magor and Dyson Hilder were among the best Roosters afield, with Hilder’s strong run of form constantly making him hard to deny in terms of League selection. Adelaide NGA hopeful James Borlase returned for Sturt, while Anzac and Mihail Lochowiak both found the goals, and Tom Emmett and Tyson Hone (two goals) were named among the best in a losing effort.
WWT Eagles 16.7 (103) def. South Adelaide 14.8 (92)
Sturt 8.10 (58) def. by Norwood 16.14 (110)
Two out of three ain’t bad, and that is exactly what the WWT Eagles produced in week one of finals as their Under 18s trumped South Adelaide to keep their premiership defence alive. Despite a valiant effort from South’s stacked side, who even snuck ahead in the third term, the Eagles’ pressure at the contest and true conversion saw them get up in a high-scoring contest.
2021 Port Adelaide father-son prospect Jase Burgoyne was again prolific for the Eagles; notching 22 disposals, six clearances, seven inside 50s, and a clutch final term goal. Nick Mitzithras and Brock Thomson also managed 22 touches apiece, while Caleb Poulter was lively with 20 alongside Taj Schofield (19 disposals, five clearances, one goal). Harrison Dawkins was another midfielder to find the big sticks with two majors, a feat matched by bigman Henry Smith, who also clunked four contested marks.
There were plenty of strong performers for the Panthers too, with bottom-agers Matthew Roberts (24 disposals, two goals) and Arlo Draper (four goals) among those to lead the charge. Max Clifton managed nine inside 50s from his game-high 26 disposals, while highly-rated top-agers Zac Dumesny and Nick Kraemer both contributed 20 touches. Jack Flett was a surprise goalkicking packet as he snuck forward for three majors, while 16-year-old Jaiden Magor booted two classy goals of his own.
Minor premier, Sturt will have to lean on its second chance, after being thumped by Norwood to the tune of 52 points. The Redlegs trailed by a point at the first break, but came out firing with five goals in the second term, and another handful in the third to set up an unassailable lead. They will meet either Sturt, or WWT in the Grand Final.
As has been the case all season, Norwood progressed on the back of an even team performance. Though, among the standouts were Ethan Schwerdt (27 disposals), along with industrious small pair Henry Nelligan and Jack Saunders, who both collected 25 touches. Xavier Tranfa snared a couple of goals from 20 disposals, while Finn Heard made the most of his nine touches as five of his seven scoring shots sailed through the big sticks. For Sturt, Mani Liddy booted forward 10 clearances, joined in midfield by Brad Jefferies (20 disposals, one goal) and a restricted Tom Powell (18 disposals).
Featured Image: South Adelaide’s Jason Horne celebrates | Credit: Cory Sutton/SANFL