In blustery yet reasonably mild conditions at Adelaide Oval on the weekend, a building Showdown crowd headed to their seats early to witness a seesawing affair between the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) and West Australian Football League (WAFL) representative sides.
With both teams boasting a multitude of former AFL listed talents, the match promised to be a close contest.
In what was a slow, scrappy yet hotly contested start to the game, Western Australia dominated the inside-50 count 11-4 early. However, the first goal was not kicked until the the 17th minute mark when former Crow-turned-Sturt onballer Aiden Riley converted a regulation set-shot from close range.
As the South Australian side began to get on top, two-time Magarey Medalist and SANFL skipper Zane Kirkwood (Sturt) put the home side nine points clear.
Late goals from Marlon Motlop (Glenelg) and Josh Hone (Sturt), led the Croweaters to a comfortable 22-point buffer at the first break.
The lead was short-lived, with the WAFL’s Blaine Johnson (South Fremantle) finally booting his side’s first major of the game, sparking WA into life.
The West Australian’s completely dominated the second term with big name stars Jye Bolton (Claremont), Sharrod Wellingham (East Perth) and Rhys Palmer (Swan Districts) all becoming heavily involved across the midfield dominating the clearances and getting the ball moving in their advantage.
Goals from Corey Gault (Swan Districts), Wellingham and another from 22-year-old medium forward Johnson capped off a breathtaking 54-point quarter which included eight unanswered goals to put the Sandgropers ahead at the main interval.
In desperate need of a quick turnaround, the SANFL piled on three quick goals courtesy of prolific onballer Kaine Stevens (West Adelaide) and forwards Josh Scott (Glenelg) and Justin Hoskin (Central Districts) to trim the margin back to a kick.
Tough midfielder Matt Panos (Norwood) brought his side to within just one-point from tying things up, before key forward Corey Gault kicked truly from a set-shot.
Former Power defender Sam Colquhoun (Sturt) hit back with a running goal to again close the gap, with Kirkwood showcasing why he is regarded as one of the best state league players in the country.
Down by eight points at the final change, Rhys Waters (Subiaco) added the first six-pointer of the quarter before a goal-for-goal shootout saw Josh Scott, Jack Hayes (Woodville-West Torrens), Rhys Palmer and Andrew Strijk (West Perth) all exchange blows.
Strijk snagged his second and third goals within three minutes and Corey Gault converted his third to put the WAFL comfortably in front late in the game.
It was a game of inconsistencies from quarter-to-quarter, much like the showdown that would follow, but the WAFL’s stars proved too good on the day, leading their side to its first victory in Adelaide in 24 years.
Kirkwood finished with 35 disposals, six marks, eight tackles and a goal to claim the Fos Williams Medal for SA, while Jye Bolton again reminded AFL recruiters of his talents, collecting 34 touches, six marks and three tackles.
Bolton won his second Simpson Medal as best afield for the WAFL. Panos (25 disposals, eight marks and seven tackles).
Mitch Grigg (Norwood, 27 disposals and seven tackles), Stevens (24 disposals and six tackles) and Jarrod Allmond (North Adelaide, 24 disposals and four marks) were also prolific for the home side with Josh Scott the lone multiple goal kicker booting 2.2 for the afternoon.
For the victorious visitors, Shane Nelson (West Perth, 30 disposals and 10 tackles) was rugged throughout all four quarters, while Wellingham (27 disposals and a goal) was classy with his ball use all day.
Kane Mitchell (Claremont, 25 disposals) provided spark around the contest, and another former-Magpie, Johnathon Marsh (East Fremantle, 20 disposals) was also strong down back limiting the dangerous Jack Hayes to just one goal.
Corey Gault and Andrew Strijk snared three apiece with Johnson and Waters chipping in with two each.