2021 SANFL Women’s Semi-Finals preview: Redlegs and Bays fight for GF spot, while no turning back for Panthers and Westies

FOUR teams are out and just four remain in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition this weekend, with the finals kicking off. In two blockbuster semi-finals, Norwood will take on Glenelg for a spot in the 2021 SANFL Women’s Grand Final, whilst for the loser, they will activate a second chance. That second chance next week will see the unsuccessful top two team taking on the winner of West Adelaide or South Adelaide, with the losing semi-finalist of that pairing joining the other four eliminated teams.

NORWOOD vs. GLENELG
Saturday, May 22 @ 4:45pm
Coopers Stadium

Minor premiers Norwood is the only side which has named its final team for the huge semi-final clash with Glenelg, bringing in Sachi Symes and Adrienne Davies to replace the injured Emma Clark, and Jessica Meachin. Meachin remains an emergency with Ella Murison, as the Redlegs eye off their first flag since the inaugural year of the competition. Having made the finals every season, Norwood was bundled out in the first week last year by a red-hot West Adelaide outfit, and will be keen to bounce back here. For Glenelg, they enter their second finals series having made it in 2019, before losing to North Adelaide in the first week by a narrow two points. They have included Molly Affolter, Lucy Armitage and Sarah Wilton to an extended bench.

LAST TIME: Norwood 3.11 (29) defeated Glenelg 4.3 (27), Round 5

In a thrilling contest, Glenelg led for most of the game, with Norwood unable to fire straight, booting 1.9 to 3.3 at the final break. Luckily thanks to Rosette Zerella and Erika Sporn in the last quarter, the Redlegs came from 12 points down three and a half minutes into the final stanza to win by just two points. The now-injured Clark recorded 15 disposals, six tackles and three clearances, but it was Leah Cutting who tore the opposition to shreds with 34 hitouts, 14 disposals, 15 tackles and four inside 50s. Morgan Johnston (14 disposals, four rebounds) and Murison (14 disposals, five rebounds) were also busy for the Redlegs. Sheridan Howell amassed the match-high 17 disposals for the Bays, as Milli Gentle (16 disposals, five tackles) was also lively. Ellie Kellock (12 disposals, four clearances, four inside 50s and a goal) was best-on, whilst Tessa Kohn (11 disposals, six tackles and five clearances) and Madisyn Freeman (10 disposals, four rebound 50s) were also strong.

CHANGES SINCE:

Norwood has regained the services of Najwa Allen from the Adelaide Crows, as well as State Academy members Jade Halfpenny, Alana Lishmund and Sarah Branford, while Isobel Martin is another one who missed that clash. For the Bays, there are no bigger inclusions that Ebony Marinoff and Caitlin Gould who are outstanding players at AFL Women’s level, let alone state league, which is why the Bays could easily be considered favourites. Throw in the red-hot form of Brooke Tonon returning alongside Tamsyn Morriss, and the Bays have some terrific players that were not involved in that tight loss.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can Norwood back up its brilliant regular season by booking straight entry into the grand final, or will Glenelg play party pooper with the incredible inclusions?
  • Can the Redlegs find a way to win the midfield against the likes of Marinoff, Kohn, Kellock and Jessica Bates who are the strongest combination going around?
  • Will Glenelg find a way to reduce the dominance of Cutting through the ruck by tag-teaming her through Meara Girvan and Gould?

Overall, the inclusions for the Bays seem to have Glenelg in the box seat given the midfield core they have, but the Redlegs just have a really consistent all-round team, and are playing at home which will hand them the advantage. With Norwood still having some great experience across the board, and good form in Sophie Armitstead, Elisha Gallagher and Jess Macolino among those already mentioned, they have every chance of following through with a win here, though it will be tough given Glenelg’s recent inclusions.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, May 22 @ 6:35pm
Coopers Stadium

Unlike the other match, these teams do not have to look too far back for recent matchups. They went head-to-head in the final round of the season last week, with West Adelaide booking its finals spot with the narrowest of victories. Fast forward to this week, and both teams have opted to just add to their sides, with three inclusions to extended benches. South Adelaide bring back the experienced and talented Hannah Munyard, joining State Academy member Sarah Wright, and pocket rocket Madison Bennett as inclusions. For the Bloods, Tiana Fernandez, Georgie Gray and Maddy Zacher have all earned temporary recalls before the final team is confirmed. South Adelaide has been the most successful team in the SANFL Women’s, winning back-to-back flags in 2018-19 and then knocking West Adelaide out last year in the preliminary final on their way to a third straight grand final, albeit a loss to the Roosters. The Bloods only played in their first finals series last year, defeating Norwood before falling to the Panthers, hoping to at least match that stage with a win here.

LAST TIME: South Adelaide 5.3 (33) defeated by West Adelaide 5.4 (34), Round 11

In a virtual finals atmosphere, West Adelaide took control in the third term, booting three goals to one to race out to a 21-point lead. The match looked done and dusted until Jess Kirk, Jorja Hooper and Gypsy Schirmer all slotted goals in the first half of the final term. The Panthers were able to get within a point courtesy of a Tahlia Meyer behind late in the term, but unable to overthrow the result. The Westies win meant they grabbed the finals spot over reigning premiers North Adelaide who won its clash with Sturt. Nicole Campbell (21 disposals, nine marks – two contested – three tackles, five clearances and six inside 50s) and Teah Charlton (21 disposals, three marks, five tackles, four clearances and six inside 50s) ran rampant, as Montana McKinnon through the ruck (14 disposals, 27 hitouts, five tackles, three clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Brianna Wedding (12 disposals, four rebound 50s) were both impressive. For the Bloods, teenage star Lauren Young had 22 disposals, four marks, eight tackles and a goal, whilst fellow State Academy member Zoe Venning finished with 18 disposals, six tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s. Add in the AFLW experience of Ailish Considine (19 disposals, four tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and strength of Sharnie Whiting (15 disposals, four marks and six rebound 50s) and the visitors had plenty of top performers.

CHANGES SINCE:

As mentioned in the opening par, the match was last week, so the three inclusions for each side are the only changes. Munyard is the biggest one of the lot, with the AFLW talent adding extra pace to the Panthers outfit, whilst the younger inclusions will be hoping to force their way into their respective sides for some finals footy.

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Given West showed it could take control with a flurry of goals, while South showed it could catch them if required, how much will last week play into this week?
  • Will there be negating/tagging through the midfield or just genuine head-to-heads with so many talented players across the field?
  • South Adelaide dominated the hitouts last week (39-10) but West won the clearances (24-21), will the teams make any chances to reverse their fortunes?

This looms as a genuine classic, with South Adelaide’s full strength side as good as anyone’s, but that includes West Adelaide’s. The strength of the competition means any of the four competing teams could be deserving premiers, and both these sides have incredible youth. The likes of Young and Venning – as well as bottom-ager Keeley Kustermann and Scarlett Griffiths as other Academy members – up against Schirmer, Tahlita Buethke and developing tall Hooper are ones to watch for the future. Jordann Hickey was a crucial inclusion for the Panthers at the back-end of the season, as was Sarah Dargan for the Westies, so these teams are brimming with talent and it is likely to go right down to the wire once again.

Picture credit: David Mariuz / SANFL

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