FINALS fever is in the air in South Australia as the South Australia National Football League (SANFL) Women’s finals series commences tonight in a double-header at Coopers Stadium. Three of the four sides were in last year’s finals series, with Glenelg bundling West Adelaide out in the final round to ensure a fresh face made it to the final month of competition. The Tigers won the wooden spoon last year and will take on the high-scoring North Adelaide outfit, while minor premiers Norwood were the clear best team all year, only dropping one game – but that was to their opponents South Adelaide.
NORTH ADELAIDE vs. GLENELG
Friday, May 10, 6pm
The do-or-die clash between North Adelaide and Glenelg has the relentless scoring team up against the underdogs whose wildcard – that of Adelaide star Ebony Marinoff – is the best of any team. She joined the Tigers in the penultimate round and has led them to two victories, lifting the confidence of the team heading into the clash. It is hard to weigh up how much she can do against a top three side with so much depth, but making it to the finals was the first box ticked. Now she and her teammates will have to compete with the likes of Kat Reynolds, Brittany Perry, Lauren Daniel and Paige Allan in the midfield, while Amber Ward will patrol the backline with ease. The one aspect the Tigers will have over the Roosters is the Round 2 victory where they won a see-sawing contest 7.6 (48) to 5.3 (33). Since then, the Roosters have dropped just one match and won six on the trot, and have looked every bit the premiership contender. In that win, Chelsea Packer picked up 16 disposals, while Lucy Bellinger and Jordana Bradley both had the 12, while Madisyn Freeman booted two majors. Ward was terrific out of defence with 15 touches and four rebounds, while Adrienne Davies and Nadia Von Bertouch had 14 disposals each and laid seven tackles between them. Dominant goalkicker, Kelly Barltrop booted two goals in the match from limited opportunities, amassing just the five disposals. In this game, expect Samantha Franson to head to her, while Ward will take the dangerous Bellinger who can play anywhere on the field.
Kelly Barltrop (North Adelaide)
Barltrop has booted 12 more goals than any other player in the SANFL Women’s competition and looms as a make-or break player in the side. While the Roosters do have others who can hit the scoreboard, Barltrop is averaging 2.6 goals per game, a remarkable effort and is a key cog in the Roosters’ machine. Franson will have her work cut out for her in defence, but it will likely be double-teaming and third efforts that will slow her impact if they manage to at all.
Ebony Marinoff (Glenelg)
There is no more dominant player in the competition than Marinoff who has played the two games and racked up 35 and 36 disposals respectively. She holds the record for the two highest individual disposal efforts in the competition, but is also damaging defensively, carrying over her tackling prowess from the AFLW to the SANFLW, laying 15 tackles. Throw in a casual 9.5 clearances, 8.5 inside 50s and 143.5 Dream Team Points per game and it is a no brainer that she is the player North Adelaide must nullify in the midfield.
B: (14) Olivia Gallio, (7) Jess Eichner, (31) Nicole Collie
HB: (17) Sarah Ellis, (24) Amber Ward, (30) Kendall Howell
C: (25) Erica Greet, (9) Lauren Daniel, (10) Paige Allan
HF: (8) Nadia Von Bertouch, (29) Emma Sampson, (6) Adrienne Davies
F: (1) Cristie Castle, (15) Kelly Barltrop, (4) Leah Tynan
R: (12) Jane Altschwager, (3) Kat Reynolds, (19) Brittany Perry
INT: (33) Julia Clark, (2) Alex Fitridge, (34) Danielle Nunns, (20) Elysha Willis
IN: Julia Clark, Alex Fitridge, Elysha Willis
OUT: Bonnie Felsbourg, Gabrielle Gormlie, Tyra Pix
B: (15) Caitlin Gould, (1) Samantha Franson, (2) Madisyn Freeman
HB: (8) Ellie Kellock, (7) Tess Morcom, (10) Jordana Bradley
C: (13) Brooke Trevena, (19) Lucy Earl, (21) Melinda Speechley
HF: (11) Tasja Batzavalis, (18) Lucy Bellinger, (5) Cassie Hartley
F: (12) Tamsyn Morriss, (6) Chelsea Packer, (28) Rhiley Ritchie
R: (24) Ellen Fauser, (17) Ebony Marinoff, (3) Charlotte Dawe
INT: (30) Lauren Bungey, (34) Hannah Crump, (14) Lucy Armitage, (4) Laura Isaac, (22) Sheridan Howell, (9) Bonnie Wells
IN: Hannah Crump, Laura Isaac
North Adelaide deserve to win the game after an outstanding season that realistically had it not been for a sluggish start could have netted them a top two spot. For as good as Norwood and South Adelaide have been, when it comes to scoring, North Adelaide have done it consistently and it will take a mighty effort for Glenelg to restrict them. In saying that, Marinoff will give her forwards at least nine chances inside 50 and have a couple herself, so if the Tigers can make the most of their opportunities this is anyone’s game. North Adelaide by 15 points.
NORWOOD vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Friday, May 10, 7.45pm
The other semi-final pits the two best sides of the season against one another for a spot in the decider. Last year South Adelaide triumphed over Norwood in the Grand Final after finishing top of the table, while this year it is the other way around, with the Redlegs gaining the vital pole position heading into finals. The Panthers are the only side making a forced change heading into the post-season series with Maddison Bennett out with a hamstring injury. She is a crucial loss for the Panthers, rebounding and creating run out of defence. Otherwise both sides have named extended benches to keep their opposition guessing, with the sole on-field inclusion being South Adelaide’s Jess Kirk named at half-forward. These two powerhouses have met twice throughout the season, with South Adelaide defeating Norwood – the Redlegs’ only defeat of the season – in Round 9 by seven points. The pair faced off in Round 2 as well, which saw Norwood take home the chocolates with a 12-point victory. Unsurprisingly, Najwa Allen has been the top ball winner across the two games, picking up 24 disposals in each match, and averaging six marks, 3.5 clearances, 3.5 inside 50s, three tackles and one goal per game. Hannah Dunn also has 37 disposals across her two games, as well as averaging six tackles per match. For South Adelaide, Czenya Cavouras has been the major ball winner, averaging 20.5 disposals, as well as 7.5 tackles, while Teah Charlton was the Panthers’ best in their win over the Redlegs as only inaccuracy (five behinds) stopped her from having a massive day out as she had 12 touches and laid 14 disposals with terrific forward pressure. Heading into this match, the likes of Charlton, Hannah Munyard, Nicole Campbell, Cavouras and Elyse Haussen go head-to-head with Allen, Dunn, Sally Riley and Monique Hollick as the best two midfielders go to-for-toe. What makes these teams so damaging is not having a dominant goalkicker and instead sharing the load making them unpredictable inside 50.
Najwa Allen (Norwood)
No surprises her for Norwood’s top player. While a number of the Redlegs are so crucial to the team, Allen has time and time again being named best on ground and will be a real leader for them in the midfield or when she plays forward. In nine games she is averaging 26 disposals at 74 per cent efficiency, while also having 5.2 marks, 3.4 clearances, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.7 tackles and 2.1 rebounds. With the exception of her Round 3 game where she had just 13 disposals against Sturt, Allen has amassed at least 20 touches in every game – having three matches greater than 30.
Montana McKinnon (South Adelaide)
There is a long list of key players you could name in this line-up for a key player, but I’ve opted with McKinnon – not only because she is a terrific young prospect, but the fact if she can win her head-to-head ruck battle against Leah Cutting, it will got a long way to winning the match. Cutting is the number one ruck in the league, averaging 20.8 disposals and also laying 7.7 tackles. If McKinnon can get on top of her, being able to drift forward and make her accountable, she can try and not only nullify Cutting’s influence, but have an influence on the game herself. She averages three more touches and three more marks than her direct opponent, and will look to get around the ground and help her side get the important win.
B: (5) Cassie Tsoumbris, (30) Bella Smith, (35) Jessica Macolino
HB: (36) Sophie Armitstead, (25) Jo Hill, (16) Ashlee Gould
C: (18) Hannah Priest, (8) Hannah Dunn, (17) Tahlia Meyer
HF: (24) Kate Fenton, (6) Najwa Allen, (1) Matilda Zander
F: (28) Rhiannon Busch, (26) Erika Sporn, (29) Jane Fitzgerald
R: (21) Leah Cutting, (2) Monique Hollick, (15) Sally Riley
INT: (12) Elisha Gallagher, (33) Lindsay Bigg, (14) Michele Reid, (4) Zoe Greer, (3) Jiarna Zerella, (32) Rosette Zerella, (39) Ella Murison
IN: Jiarna Zerella, Rosette Zerella, Ella Murison
B: (22) Samantha Pratt, (35) Jaslynne Smith, (44) Elke Jarvis
HB: (41) Indy Tahau, (29) Cheyenne Hammond, (39) Emily Brockhurst
C: (25) Teah Charlton, (6) Hannah Munyard, (9) Nicole Campbell
HF: (2) Nikki Gore, (14) Tiffany Copley, (7) Jess Kirk
F: (33) Brooklyn Kraft, (40) Sarah Wright, (45) Emogen Johnson
R: (19) Montana McKinnon, (11) Czenya Cavouras, (8) Elyse Haussen
INT: (1) Emily Woods, (5) Mykala Walker-Murphy, (20) Tamara Page, (21) Alana Browne, (30) Emma Gryczewski, (34) Nat Gibbs
IN: Emily Woods, Jess Kirk, Alana Browne, Nat Gibbs
OUT: Madison Bennett (hamstring), Airlie Schirmer
Norwood will be keen to stamp its authority on the game in what is a coin toss of a result. They looked to have let loose last week on Central District after losing to the Panthers and will look to exact revenge here. South Adelaide have the key to beating them with a midfield to match them one-on-one, but there is a reason the Redlegs finished on top of the table. This has all the makings of an absolute epic contest, and the tip will be Norwood by a point, but do not be surprised if this goes into extra time.