THE PENULTIMATE round of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season is here, with finals spots up for grabs as five teams fight for four spots, and wins for West Adelaide and Glenelg in particular become of the upmost importance.
NORTH ADELAIDE vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT
Friday, April 19, 4.15pm
The Roosters have been in ripping form of late and after a slow start to the year which saw North Adelaide start 1-3, last year’s minor premiers have strung four games on the trot to not only all but guarantee a finals spot, but keep the heat on second placed South Adelaide who are just one win ahead. For Central District, their finals dream was doused last week, but there is still plenty of pride in performance on the line as the Bulldogs look to leapforg Sturt into sixth place if they can muster an unlikely away win. North have brought back Melbourne AFL Women’s player Ashleigh Woodland who has returned to the half-back flank alongside Amber Ward and the duo will no doubt make it hard for the Bulldogs to score. The Roosters have lost Paige Allen to a hamstring, while winger Erica Greet also comes into the side among three changes. The Bulldogs have named an extended bench which includes Taryn Wills and Shannen Solly who return to the side, while the Bulldogs were forced to make a change with their half-back general, Gemma Doughty out of the team with a knee injury. The Bulldogs will look to Katelyn Rosenzweig up forward, while Chantelle Reynolds and Abbey Scheer are among the consistent performers thus far, while sisters, Jayme-Lee Sonneman and Demi Sonneman have been crucial cogs since coming into the club this season. For North, they have the dominant Kelly Barltrop who leads all-comers in the goalkicking and beside her is Brittany Perry and Cristie Castle who are potent in attack, while Nadia Von Bertouch has enjoyed her time at half-forward leading the troops, with Jane Altschwager dominant in the ruck and Leah Tynan consistent in midfield. With a strong line-up across the park, North should get the job done here, while Central will miss Doughty who has been an important player in their side.
WEST ADELAIDE vs. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS
Friday, April 19, 5.15pm
City Mazda Stadium
West Adelaide hold the coveted fourth spot in the SANFL Women’s competition with Glenelg biting at the Bloods’ heels to sneak into the final four. The Bloods face the winless Woodville-West Torrens Eagles in this clash and will be keen to take the points and set up a huge final round. Youngster Jaimi Tabb has returned for the Eagles to join Kiana Lee in the forward line with the midfielder Tabb looking to add extra firepower up front. Jess Wilson also comes into the forward line amongst at least four changes for the underdog, with Annastasia Falkenberg forced out of the team due to a finger injury. The Eagles have some good developing talent in the team, but have not been able to sustain their intensity for four quarters, with blow-outs often not reflective of the effort, more lapses in play. Natalie Subelli and Natasha Farrier will hope to win the midfield battle, while Stephanie Walker and Tesharna Maher will hope to provide some good movement out of defence. Chelsea Biddell and Melanie Elsegood are a dominant key forward duo, and the likes of Ashlee Reid and Colbie Frankland could have their work cut out for them. For West Adelaide, Kasia Culhane will miss after a great 18-disposal, five-clearance game last week; she has succumbed to a shoulder injury. The big return – both literally and metaphorically – for the the home side is Leah Swain who will be an important presence in the ruck. She, along with Alexandra Mason in the forward pocket, join five potential inclusions on an extended interchange bench. Maddie Newman is the one to watch in defence, sure to rebound time and time again, while through the midfield, Rachelle Martin and Abbie Ballard lead an underrated group who can match it with most sides. West Adelaide have much more to play for and should grab the points in this one, although the Eagle could enjoy spoiling the finals party for their opponents.
GLENELG vs. STURT
Friday, April 19, 7.15pm
ACH Group Stadium
The inclusion of the round, and arguably the season by far is that of Ebony Marinoff, the Adelaide Crows’ star onballer who slots into the Glenelg midfield for her first local game in a few years. Marinoff supported the Tigers growing up and now will run out for Glenelg at home as they try and keep in touch with West Adelaide in the penultimate round. She is joined by ruck, Rhiley Ritchie and Hannah Crump in the side, while Sturt have opted for an unchanged line-up for this game. Sturt’s season unofficially came to an end last week when its hopes for finals were dashed. A win here and the Double Blues can dash those of Glenelg fans too. It will be more than a tough ask for the visitors, with Georgia Bevan, Maya Rigter and Caitlyn Swanson a strong trio onball, but coming up against Marinoff will make the Tigers hard to combat. Throw in the likes of Ellen Fauser and Charlotte Dawe and the Tigers are still solid through midfield. Glenelg is one of the teams which does not have a particular strength, rather relying on efforts across the ground with Tess Morcom and Samantha Franson making a consistent key defensive duo, Lucy Bellinger providing the firepower up forward, and Madisyn Freeman and crucial key position player, Caitlin Gould also have great seasons. All eyes will be on Marinoff given the midfielder had the most touches at AFL Women’s level in a game this season, so seeing what she could do at state level will be reminiscent of the time Nathan Buckley suited up for Williamstown and packed out the stadium – hopefully we see the same at ACH Group Stadium. The Double Blues have a strong midfield, while Alex Ballard has been a talent in defence, and Georgia Swan and Nicole Baker good in the forward half. If they can win the midfield battle while controlling Marinoff, the Double Blues are a solid chance, but like West Adelaide in the previous game, Glenelg have a lot more at stake and should grab the points.
SOUTH ADELAIDE vs. NORWOOD
Saturday, April 20, 1pm
Flinders University Stadium
The final game of the round and standalone match is that of the top two sides going head-to-head in what could be a Grand Final preview. Last year’s premiers host last year’s grand finalists in what is shaping up to be a sensational clash. Both teams have taken different approaches to their team selection, with South Adelaide making at least seven changes compared to Norwood’s one confirmed change. Both have crucial players returning, with ball-winner and Adelaide Crows midfielder, Nikki Gore coming into the Panthers line-up alongside Mykala Walker-Murphy who booted a bag of four goals earlier in the season. Also returning to the Panthers are defenders Emily Brockhurst and Tiffany Copley, while Rhiannon Busch comes into the fold for Norwood, as does recently departed Crow, Sally Riley. The Panthers will be smiting at their second defeat of the season last weekend when they went down to Glenelg having defeated them a week earlier, while the Redlegs are yet to taste defeat and will look to secure top spot with a victory here. Norwood won the clash between the powerhouses in Round 1, and have had such a settled team throughout the season. Their midfield is the best in the competition, and the inclusion of Riley allows Ellen Maple Medallist Najwa Allen to play forward which is a fantastic luxury to have. Add in Matilda Zander and Hannah Priest in attack, and the defensive rebound duo of Sophie Armitstead and Monique Hollick in defence, and the Redlegs are covered at both ends. Leah Cutting provides first use to her midfielders including Busch and Hannah Dunn, but she will have to contend with the athletic, Montana McKinnon who is a terrific emerging talent. Their young and talented midfield at South Adelaide include Hannah Munyard and Teah Charlton who get forward and apply scoreboard pressure, while Czenya Cavouras, Elyse Haussen and Nicole Campbell make the Panthers have the best depth of anyone in the competition. Basically, the best top-end midfield going against the deepest midfield makes for a fascinating contest. Norwood deservedly go in as favourites for this game, while South Adelaide would have geared itself up for this match as both sides look to go deep in finals. With North Adelaide breathing down the Panthers’ necks, South will hope to get the job done and secure second spot.