WITH no football on given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, the Draft Central team takes a look at where the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s left off, and will examine each of the eight teams from reverse ladder order. Today’s team summary is Norwood.
RECORD: 5th (1-2-1)
R1: lost to Central District by 4 points
R2: defeated WWT Eagles by 1 point
R3: lost to South Adelaide by 30 points
R4: drew with West Adelaide
With three results decided by a combined five points to start the year, it is fair to say Norwood has given its supporters plenty of nervous, but exciting moments. A shock loss in Round 1 to Central District would have had last year’s minor premiers nervous given the amount of change they had over the off-season, but the Redlegs quickly bounced back to level the score with a come-from-behind win over the Eagles. They were completely outplayed by the reigning premiers, but they drew with an impressive West Adelaide outfit and if the season had continued, would have likely been in the mix for finals again.
THE PROMINENT BALL-WINNER:
Matilda Zander (18.8 disposals, 4.5 marks, 3.8 tackles, 1.5 clearances, 3.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds)
The 21-year-old small midfielder continues to improve at a rapid rate and it showed in 2020 in the absence of teammates such as Najwa Allen and Hannah Dunn who stepped up to AFL Women’s level. With an increased role, Zander led the competition in kicks and finished top three in disposals and Dream Team points to be one of the top ball-winners across the league. She averaged 18.8 disposals per game, as well as 4.5 marks, 3.8 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 1.5 clearances and 1.5 rebounds, and of course, 788.5 Dream Team points. Zander was announced as a Collingwood VFL Women’s signing for 2020, which would be exciting for the South Australian to test herself in that competition assuming it goes ahead as expected, albeit with the delay.
THE DOMINANT RUCK:
Leah Cutting (11.5 disposals, 3.0 marks, 5.8 tackles, 3.0 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s, 20.5 hitouts)
For consistency, Cutting was just a clear star in the ruck and finished the year as the top ranked player in hitouts and Dream Team points for the league, but was also among the top tacklers in the competition. Averaging 11.5 disposals, 3.0 marks, 5.8 tackles, 3.0 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s and 80.3 Dream Team points, Cutting filled up the stats sheet, but none more impressive than her 20.5 hitouts per match. She consistently won the ruck battle and most importantly followed up her ruck work with fierce defensive pressure hence her minimum five tackles per game.
THE STANDOUT RECRUIT:
Mattea Breed (16.3 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 3.8 clearances, 3.5 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1 goal)
Like Zander, Breed went to another level in her first season at Norwood in 2020 and was one of the best stories of the overage players running around. Having represented Central Allies last year at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, Breed was able to step up and have an impact at senior level. Breed joined the club from the NTFL where she had previously played with both Darwin Buffaloes and Southern Districts, as well as representing NT Thunder in the VFL Women’s where she played five games last season. Winning the Breakthough Player of the Round in her second match for the Redlegs, Breed continued that form throughout the season to average 16.3 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 3.8 clearances, 3.5 inside 50s and 1.5 rebounds per match.
THE LEADING GOALKICKER:
Jo Hill (6.8 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6 goals)
At 46-years-old, Hill is not only a calming and reliable presence on the side, but a danger inside 50 with her nous and craft still outsmarting defenders in the 2020 season. She booted six goals in four games at 1.5 per match to lead her side in goalkicking and continued on from her form in 2019. While she was quiet in the draw against West Adelaide, Hill had a couple of standout games against Central District and Woodville-West Torrens, hauling her team across the line in the latter with 3.1 from six disposals and three marks (two contested). She only averaged the 6.8 touches and 2.0 marks as the stay-at-home forward, but Hill is always a danger and closely watched by opposition defender.
THE VERSATILE YOUNG GUN:
Bella Smith (8.0 disposals, 3.3 marks, 2.8 tackles, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.3 hitouts, 1 goal)
Another 18-year-old who represented the Central Allies at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year, Smith had a consistent year playing a number of roles from giving a chop out in the ruck to playing through the midfield, and even getting forward to kick a goal against South Adelaide in Round 3. She averaged the eight disposals, 3.3 marks, 3.3 inside 50s and 2.8 tackles per game, using the ball well at a 75 per cent efficiency. At 182cm, Smith has the capacity to play through the ruck, but is able to work hard at ground level to win the ball for her team as well and send it forward.
THE CONSISTENT PERFORMER:
Sophie Armitstead (13.0 disposals, 2.5 tackles, 2.5 clearances, 1.5 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds)
A ray of consistency in 2020, Armitstead had 12 disposals in three of her matches this year, and then her best performance of 16 touches in the win against Woodville-West Torrens. She finished the season averaging 13.0 disposals, 2.5 tackles, 2.5 clearances, 1.5 inside 50s and 1.0 rebounds, showing an ability to play anywhere and have an impact. She was the cream on the cake last year with Norwood’s strong midfield group, and has continued her reliability to help guide the young guns through season 2020. As she showed in the early rounds, Armitstead is capable of winning the ball at stoppages and pumping it forward.
Norwood did well in its transition after losing a number of key players to the AFL Women’s, as well as head coach Steve Symonds to Collingwood. The Redlegs needed time to gel and one could see them get better as the season went on, albeit with still some consistency question marks. If they were able to finish the season the Redlegs were every chance to battle for a finals spot again, with the young guns and reliable veterans guiding the new-look outfit each week.