SANFL Grand Final Preview: Who will deliver the knockout blow?
THE South Australian Football League (SANFL) is about to finalise preparations for its annual grand final weekend, where the two best teams in both the seniors and the reserves leagues will face off for the ultimate prize, and each contest boasting great storylines to make the stakes even higher. The SANFL has provided some essential viewing throughout 2021, and this weekend should prove no different, with rivalries and key match-ups adding spice to an already exciting weekend. The matches are set to take place at Adelaide Oval on Sunday Afternoon, with plenty of South Australians preparing for an excellent day of football action.
Woodville-West Torrens Eagles vs. Glenelg Tigers
The match-up that most fans saw coming has finally arrived, with the two best sides of the year set to lock horns as both teams look to continue their dominant form over the last few years. The Eagles and the Tigers are the two most recent SANFL premiers, and have been far and away the best teams for most of the 2021 season, ensuring this match-up excites even the most casual of fans. The two teams went head-to-head in a thriller in the semi-final, with the Eagles emerging victorious by less than a goal. The Eagles will be looking to finish the job while the Tigers will be out for revenge.
The two sides are stacked with talent, with the battle of the midfield set to take centre stage. The Tigers will be led by Luke Partington, while the Eagles will be backing in the duo that has delivered for them all season long in James Tsitas and ex-Crow Riley Knight. Both sides have a brigade of on-ballers that can extract the ball from any position, so this should be a thrilling match-up.
Both sides have different looking forward lines in terms of their source of goals. The Tigers will be looking to ex-Richmond key forward Liam McBean, who has enjoyed a stellar season. McBean has booted a whopping 56 goals for the season (the most in the league), and should be given the best defender on Sunday afternoon, given his importance to the team and match-winning ability.
The Eagles have an extremely dangerous forward duo in Daniel Menzel and Tyson Stengle, who are key to the success of the Eagles’ attacks. The two rank second and third respectively in the league for goals scored this year, having combined for 81 goals during the 2021 season. Both are extremely dangerous around goal, but the Tigers would know this well given it was Stengle who booted the match-winner the last time these two sides went head to head. Stengle booted his side into a grand final and is expected to deal with Tigers defender Alex Martini‘s company for the day.
These two sides have been the clear favourites for grand finalists all year and have lived up to this title. The Eagles will have benefited from the extra rest, but the Tigers will be smarter and hungrier than last time around. This should be a cracking contest.
Glenelg Tigers vs. Central District Bulldogs
Two sides with contrasting paths to this game will face off, as the Tigers take on the Bulldogs in the reserves decider on Sunday. It looms as a David vs. Goliath match, with the Tigers winning seven more matches in the home-and-away season, but the Bulldogs are on a fairytale run, and sometimes that’s much harder to compete with.
The Tigers were far and away the most dominant team in the regular season, winning 16 of their 18 matches, and frequently tearing teams apart with their powerful style of play. They defeated the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles in the semi-final and booked a spot in the big dance, with just one more hurdle to conquer. With weapons across the ground, they have all the makings of a premiership side. Also on their side is the fact that they stormed away with an impressive 45-point victory the last time these two sides went head-to-head, so they will be heavily favoured coming into this clash.
The Bulldogs have had a vastly different journey to the grand final, making the big dance from the unlikely position of fifth place. Having finished the season with a 9-9 record, this side was not expected to advance far into the postseason, let alone make the deciding match. They faced off against West Adelaide in their elimination final and claimed a massive 70-point victory that not many punters would have seen coming. The following week, they tore apart Sturt to the tune of 59 points as momentum began to build, but the preliminary final saw them take on a much tougher opponent. The Bulldogs were tasked with taking down the second-placed Eagles, who had performed admirably against the Tigers in the semi-final. In a low-scoring affair, it was Central Districts who took the chocolates, and stunned the football world by claiming the most unforeseen of grand final berths.
The two sides are entering this clash with very different narratives. One is looking to claim the flag that is rightfully theirs, while another is looking to write the final chapter in their fairytale story. Both will be leaving nothing in the tank in what should be an enthralling battle.
Picture credit: Glenelg Football Club via Facebook