Young gun focus: 2020 SANFL Grand Final wraps

WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS (WWT) took out both senior South Australian National Football League (SANFL) premierships on Sunday, defeating North Adelaide in the League and Reserves Grand Finals at Adelaide Oval. Meanwhile, Norwood’s even team spread helped the Redlegs take home the Under 18s flag.

With young guns impressing at state league level, 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 final edition for the year, with Under 18 prospects scattered across the two senior levels, and a bunch of youngsters impressing in the junior grade. Amid make-or-break situations in dramatic season finales, the cream of South Australia’s finest crop rose to the top.

LEAGUE:

WWT EAGLES | 1.1 | 10.3 | 12.8 | 13.9 (87)
NTH ADELAIDE | 3.4 | 4.4 | 5.6 | 7.6 (48)

Woodville-West Torrens converted its minor premiership into a League flag after defeating North Adelaide by 39 points at Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon. Just a fortnight removed from their semi final defeat to the Roosters, the Eagles soared to victory on the back of a nine-goal to one second term. The match-defining period saw WWT inflict a 50-point turnaround, inspired by three goals to Jack Oatley medal winner, Jordan Foote en route to seven unanswered majors. North was unable to truly recover from there, with a pair of late consolation goals only slightly trimming the final margin.

As has been the case all season, a bunch of promising young types excelled for the Eagles. Competition leading goalkicker, James Rowe has attracted a heap of elite level interest after a fantastic season, which he capped off with two goals from 15 disposals. Jacob Wehr is another in the same boat, and he was strong once again with 19 disposals, six marks, and five tackles. Defender Rhyan Mansell proved his worth with eight marks from 19 touches, joined down back by Port Adelaide NGA prospect Lachlan Jones (18 disposals, five marks). Up the other end, VFL import Sam Lowson snared 1.2, while Ben Jungfer‘s mid-finals senior promotion yielded seven disposals and plenty of promise.

Former Adelaide and Gold Coast player Harrison Wigg was among North Adelaide’s best, notching a team-high 29 disposals to go with eight tackles and seven breaches of either arc. His rating for effort was arguably matched by 2020 Magarey Medallist Campbell Combe, who got his hands dirty with 15 disposals, seven clearances, and a game-high 10 tackles. Will Combe managed a goal from his 10 touches, while 19-year-old defender Karl Finlay justified his senior selection once again with 13 disposals, three marks, and five tackles.

RESERVES:

WWT EAGLES | 2.1 | 3.5 | 5.8 | 8.11 (59)
NTH ADELAIDE | 2.2 | 3.2 | 5.6 | 6.8 (44)

The Eagles’ Reserves provided the perfect base for their League teammates to build off, trumping North Adelaide by 15 points in a tense decider at Adelaide Oval. 20-year-old Mitch Mead earned the Bob Lee Medal as best afield, as he snared a goal from 15 disposals and laid a whopping 15 tackles. While the Roosters snuck ahead during the first and second terms, they could not catch the Eagles back up after half time as fresher legs perhaps prevailed for the premiers.

An injury to key midfielder Harrison Magor in the first term meant North was always going to be up against it, though Lee Minervini showed just why he has played at League level this season with 20 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances, and a goal. He formed a strong partnership with 2020 Reserves Magarey Medallist Dakota Nixon, who also managed 20 touches. Patrick Davies was another to impress up forward with two majors from 19 disposals, while Dyson Hilder had it 16 times and clunked seven marks.

For the triumphant Eagles, Ethan Haylock clearly led all comers with 27 disposals, topped by five clearances and a goal. Jackson Lee also contributed a handful of clearances among his 21 touches, while former Port Adelaide rookie Kai Pudney showed his class at the level with 17 disposals and a goal. But it was Mead, the son of Port champion Darren who stole the show and best afield honours.

UNDER 18s:

NORWOOD | 4.4 | 5.7 | 11.10 | 15.13 (103)
STURT | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.5 | 8.5 (53)

The best two SANFL Under 18s sides went head-to-head in this year’s decider at Thebarton Oval, but it was Norwood who claimed a second victory in three weeks over minor premier, Sturt to claim the premiership flag. Kicking towards the wind-favoured end, the Redlegs put together four goals in the opening term to set up a two-goal buffer, and proceeded to strangle any form of Sturt attack in the following period. The Double Blues seemed to grow increasingly frustrated as the contest wore on, with Norwood’s astute defensive structure and quick transitional play allowing them to stay on top. Undisciplined acts followed as the umpires kept their whistles up, with Norwood cruising home to an emphatic 50-point win.

Redlegs ruckman Nathan Hearing was named best afield after bombing forward 11 clearances from his 21 disposals. Teammates Henry Nelligan (28 disposals, 1.3), Xavier Tranfa (19 disposals, two goals), and Harlee Chandler (19 disposals, six tackles) were not far behind either. Nelligan worked hard to accumulate around the ground, while Tranfa’s majors came in quick succession to break the game open, and Chandler proved a very handy finals addition. Ethan Schwerdt also booted two goals from midfield, while pacy 17-year-old Cooper Murley managed 1.3, and bigman Finn Heard provided a terrific target en route to bagging three majors. Up the other end, co-captain Sam Duke was solid as ever, leading a phenomenal team effort from his side.

Mani Liddy was arguably Sturt’s best in a losing effort, particularly early as he finished with 18 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal. If not, Adelaide NGA hopeful James Borlase (22 disposals, eight marks) was a worthy candidate having brought some serious fire and physicality to the contest, albeit a touch overzealous. Malachy Carruthers‘ ball use off half-back was quality as he booted forward nine rebound 50s from 21 touches, while usual suspect Tom Powell found the most ball with 25 disposals and a goal. Skipper Ned Walter tried hard with five rebound 50s in a tough gig from defence, with Morgan Ferres (15 disposals, six marks, one goal) a lively target leading up the field. Will Spain also had an impact, digging in at ground level and laying a game-high seven tackles.

Featured Image: Eagles coach Jade Sheedy holds aloft the 2020 SANFL League premiership trophy | Credit: SANFL

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