THERE will be plenty of eyes on this weekend’s action of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) competition, as a number of teams searching for form face off. We take a look at the big games across the weekend.
Central Districts VS North Adelaide
North Adelaide will make the trip into the outer suburbs to face Central Districts on Saturday afternoon. The Roosters were made to pay for their goal kicking inaccuracies by ladder leader Woodville-West Torrens at Prospect Oval last weekend. Meanwhile at The Parade, despite a spirited fourth quarter comeback, the Bulldogs winless streak continued with a loss to Norwood.
The Roosters depth has been tested over the past few weeks, with injuries to gun recruits Billy Hartung, Cam Hewett and Robbie Young and first choice ruckman James Craig. Midfielder Harrison Magor was called upon to provide engine room assistance, with forward Lee Minervini and speedy utility Keanu Miller also elevated from the reserves to fill the gaps. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, were encouraged by last weekend’s return of star medium forward Justin Hoskin and two-time best and fairest winner Travis Schiller, who reunited with brother Jarrod in the Bulldogs midfield.
With North Adelaide key forward Alex Barns set to miss several weeks with a hand injury and Mitch Harvey required to cover the ruck duties in the absence of Craig, the red and white have been perhaps too reliant upon enigmatic forward Lewis Hender. Hender is a gamebreaker at his best, with his seven straight goals in round one a clear example of his goalkicking talents. The 26-year-old booted just one goal in round two and was held goalless against the Tigers, only to bounce back and nail three majors in last round’s loss, such is his inconsistency. The Bulldogs backline will be wary of Hender’s talents, but have kept him goalless in the past three matches between the sides.
Since returning to Elizabeth, prolific Bulldog James Boyd has formed a strong partnership in the middle alongside Troy Menzel and the Schiller brothers, however they were simply outclassed by a talented Norwood unit. Although slightly depleted, the Roosters also boast an imposing midfield core, led by tackling machine Campbell Combe. The potential battle between Boyd and North’s Andrew Moore will be interesting, with both able to find the ball with ease. On the outside, classy duo Jarrad Allmond and Harrison Wigg have been excellent for the Roosters across halfback and along with wings.
Bulldogs skipper Luke Habel has been consistent at halfback and John Butcher has provided the side with a genuine leadup option alongside Nick Lange, who is perhaps the Dogs’ most exciting talent. The Roosters smalls were not as dominant against the Eagles, but Kym LeBois and Frank Szekely are just about as dangerous as the league has to offer. The Bulldogs will likely recall Jonathan Marsh after they were comprehensively beaten in the hitouts last weekend.
The Roosters were edged in the clearances last weekend and will be hopeful of regaining some of their injured stars. Central Districts will be looking to capitalise on North’s injury misfortunes, with Hoskin’s return giving the Bulldogs a much needed boost. The teams split their two meetings last year, with the Dogs gaining an early victory but North recording their second win of the year with a victory later in the season.
After booting six goals last weekend, Hoskin will play his 150th SANFL league match against the Roosters, but he may be without Butcher in attack, who suffered a hamstring injury. Karl Finlay, Cam Hewett and James Craig will face fitness tests for the Roosters.
Although the League side may be struggling, the Bulldogs Reserves are flying at the top of the ladder. They smashed the reigning premiers, Norwood, by 88 points at Coopers Stadium last round and will start as favourites against a Roosters side who suffered a narrow loss to the undefeated Eagles.
At Under 18s level, North Adelaide and Central Districts both sit at one win and three losses after four rounds of action. The potential clash between two of the best midfielders in the competition, Jamison Murphy (North Adelaide) and Lewis Cowham (Central Districts), is set to be a beauty.
Glenelg VS Woodville-West Torrens
Since prevailing in two close encounters in rounds one and two, the Bays have suffered consecutive losses to North Adelaide and, most recently, West Adelaide. While the side which won it all last season remains relatively intact, coach Mark Stone will be eager to right the wrongs of the past fortnight. It has been a different story for the Eagles, however, who soared to the top of the ladder after running over the top of the Roosters on Saturday afternoon.
The Bays lost their mojo against an energetic Bloods side chasing their first win in over 12 months, with key defenders Matthew Merrett and Max Proud unable to stop Westies skipper Tom Keough, who booted five goals. This weekend they face another tough challenge in the form of the Hayes brothers, Jack and Nick. The brothers from Red Hill have kicked a combined 13 goals this season and their strong contested marking ability has caused plenty of headaches already.
However small forward James Rowe has perhaps been the most impressive Eagle so far in season 2020. He currently leads the Ken Farmer Medal race after nailing 13 majors in four games, including three bags of three and a tally of four last round. The former Sacred Heart College skipper is arguably the competition’s most dangerous forward, with his elite goal sense and football smarts impressing.
Glenelg have their own dangerous small forward in Darcy Bailey, who was restricted to just five disposals in round four. The Eagles will be hopeful of restricting dangerous Tigers duo Liam McBean and Luke Reynolds, who combined to kick five of Glenelg’s seven goals. However reigning Ken Farmer medallist McBean will be eyeing a bounce back game after he was held to just three touches by the Bloods.
Glenelg were outworked by West Adelaide, loosing the possession battle, clearances and inside 50s. However they boast one of the most talented onball units in the league, including tough nuts Matthew Snook and Bradley Agnew and star Luke Partington. The Eagles lost many key statistical areas, but made the most of their shots on goal, booting ten goals and nine behinds to North’s seven goals and 12 behinds. Jordan Foote will be expected to lead the way in the midfield after he ran wild in a best on ground performance against the Roosters. He brings real energy to the side with his speed around the contest and ability to hit the scoreboard.
Consistent trio Joseph Sinor, Matthew Goldsworthy and Angus Poole have also been vital to the Eagles strong opening month, while youngsters Lachlan Jones, Lachlan McNeil and Jacob Wehr have all performed well since slotting into the senior side. They will be required to stand up again if the Eagles are to topple the reigning premiers away from home.
The Tigers defeated the Eagles in both clashes between the two clubs last season, by 50 points in round six and 15 in round 12. Woodville-West Torrens have really found their grove in the past few weeks but, like all good sides, Glenelg will be expected to respond strongly. The Bays reported no injuries from their loss but Jade Sheedy‘s men may be without captain and defensive general Luke Thompson, who faces a fitness test to prove he has recovered from a thigh complaint. The clash will be Eagle Matthew Goldsworthy‘s 200th match at SANFL league level.
Much like the league battle, the Reserves matchup is also poised to go down to the wire, with both sides yet to drop any points after four rounds of competition. The Eagles have a couple of injury concerns but will have been encouraged by their gritty 17 point win over the Roosters last round, while the Bays continued their strong start with a victory over the Bloods.
A handful of South Australia’s brightest talents will be on show when the two clubs Under 18s sides clash at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval. Jase Burgoyne‘s starred for the Eagles last weekend, winning the round four under 18 MVP nomination. Caleb Poulter has also been in some terrific early season form for Eagles, with draft watchers beginning to sit up and take notice of his talents. Glenelg is undefeated in the Under 18s competition and will be full of confidence after recording a powerful 109 point win over West Adelaide on Saturday evening. Luke Pedlar, Riley Holder and Lewis Rayson are ones to watch for the yellow and black, alongside a number of other talented juniors.
South Adelaide VS West Adelaide
The battle of the feel good stories will be played out at Flinders University Stadium on Saturday afternoon. South Adelaide have made a promising start to the campaign, as they continue their seemingly neverending quest to deliver the club its first league premiership since 1964. Meanwhile in the western suburbs, the Bloods will be full of confidence after knocking off Glenelg to snatch their first victory in over 12 months.
West Adelaide outworked the Bays last round, winning more of the ball around the ground and generally using it more effectively (80 per cent efficiency to Glenelg’s 74 per cent). Their tackling pressure was strong for the entirety of the match and they made the most of their chances in front of goal, finishing with an impressive 71 per cent scoring accuracy. The Bloods also dominated the inside 50s (48 to Glenelg’s 31), clearances (42 to 25) and hitouts (47 to 26).
After Sturt cut the margin just before half time, South Adelaide coach Jarrad Wright will have loved seeing his sides ability to wrestle back the momentum after the long break. Similar to West, the Panthers easily won the inside 50 battle (57 to Sturt’s 32) despite loosing the clearances and hitouts. The blue and white took 71 marks to Sturt’s 35, with key forwards Ben Haren and Sam Overall clunking four contested grabs between them.
Intercept marking machines Tom Highmore and Joseph Haines have been instrumental for the Panthers in the back half. Highmore leads the league for marks (38), with the underrated Haines sitting behind him having taken 33 grabs. The 27-year-old Haines has elevated his game to a whole new level this season, taking intercept marks at will and providing plenty of rebound from half back. He is also averaging 23.3 disposals at an incredible 96 per cent efficiency.
It has taken Highmore just four games of league football to cement his place amongst the league’s best defenders, after crossing over from the NEAFL’s Canberra Demons in the off-season. This round, their sights will be set on cutting off supply to dangerous West Adelaide pair Tom Keough and Riley Thilthorpe. Captain Keough booted five goals to drag his side over the line in round five. Thilthorpe took some time to get involved but worked his way into the contest well, with his run and leap at the contest particularly exciting.
The ever-reliable Joel Cross has been at it again this season and it comes as no surprise to see the two time Magarey medallist averaging 25.8 possessions and 7.3 clearances per game. Matthew Broadbent has been very good since joining the Noarlunga-based Panthers. The former Power defender, who kicked his first goal for the Panthers against Sturt, sits equal fifth with Cross for total disposals, averaging 25.8 per game at 80 per cent efficiency to go with 6.3 marks, 4 tackles and 5.8 clearances.
Like Cross, West Adelaide’s Kaine Stevens has been a consistent SANFL A-grader for a number of years. His toughness around the contest and stoppage-nous have remained impressive throughout what has been a challenging past few years for the club. He will no-doubt be loving the service being provided by ruckman Andre Parrella, who accumulated 43 of West’s 47 hitouts in his return to the side, having missed the round three match. The 204cm giant has not been super effective around the ground, but has dominated the ruck duals, recording 43 taps against Central Districts and Glenelg and 49 against North Adelaide.
He poses a tough matchup for 21-year-old Cameron McGree, in what will be just his tenth game of league football. Draft hopeful Zac Dumesny has enjoyed a consistent start to his first grade career, while the X-factor of Liam Fitt and goal sense of Beau McCreery have been exciting to watch up forward for the Panthers. The likes of former Crows top-up player Jordon Boyle, onballer Brett Turner, defender Elliott Dunkin and forward Lyndon Hupfield have all had positive moments so far in 2020.
South key defender Jake Summerton is set to play his 50th league match this round. The Panthers reported no injuries against Sturt, but could bring back Malcolm Karpany following a back injury. Six players will face tests for West Adelaide, including midfielder Josh Schiller, livewire Gibson Turner, former Tiger Josh Koster and outside midfielder Dallas Willsmore. South Adelaide were victorious in both games against Westies last season, first by 32 points in round six then by 28 points in round eleven. However Bloods coach Gavin Colville will have his side up-and-about following last rounds emotional victory at Hisense Stadium. However South have been excellent this season and will enter the clash as deserved favourites, especially at home.
The Panthers and Bloods Reserves have not performed the way they will have liked so far, with West sitting in sixth spot with one win and South Adelaide stuck down the bottom along with fellow winless side, Norwood. But for one team, victory at Flinders University Stadium could kickstart their season.
South Adelaide’s Under 18s are loaded with talent, with bottom-agers Matthew Roberts and Jason Horne already amongst the competition’s best midfielders. Skipper Nick Kraemer, exciting wingman or small forward Phoenix Spicer and Arlo Draper are also names to watch. Things have not been so rosy for West, but midfielder Bailey Chamberlain continues to find plenty of the ball through the midfield.
Sturt vs Norwood
Many SANFL watchers would have expected better starts from Norwood and Sturt – two clubs that have consistently played finals football across the past few seasons. The Double Blues just edged the winless Bulldogs in the opening round before suffering a heavy loss to the Eagles and just limping over the line against West in round three. Last weekend the Double Blues trailed all day and kicked bellow 50 points for the third time in four matches.
Norwood have had their troubles too, suffering narrow losses to Glenelg and North before copping a 65 point hiding against Woodville-West Torrens. However things are beginning to look up after the talented eastern suburbs side finally earned its first premiership points of the season against the ‘Dogs. With both clubs desperate to keep up with the league leaders given recent revisions of the finals system, this contest is expected to be closely fought.
Norwood proved too good for the Bulldogs last weekend, with their skills clearly a class above at times, finishing with an excellent efficiency of 82 per cent. The small-tall combination of Peter Bampton and Tommy Pinyon worked well for the victorious Redlegs, with each booting four goals from limited disposals. The Double Blues were smashed around the ground by South, who took 71 marks to Sturt’s 35.
Despite winning the hitouts and clearances, Sturt has struggled to get the ball inside 50, doing so just 31 times compared to the Panthers 57. Up forward, Ash Johnson has kicked six goals, Jake Sutcliffe has nailed five and Josh Hone has booted four. Gun recruit Abe Davis has kicked just one goal after booting 21 in 2019. Sturt will need him to bring more offence to the table against the Redlegs.
Skipper and clearance specialist James Battersby has led from the front despite Sturt’s inconsistencies, with ball magnet Sam Colquhoun and dual Magarey Medalist Zane Kirkwood both producing arguably their best performances of the year against South Adelaide. Norwood’s midfield is also loaded with established talent, headlined by Richard Douglas, Mitch Grigg and Matthew Panos – all of whom hit the scoreboard in round four and are known goalkickers.
However the ruck battle looms as perhaps the most fascinating, with impressive Sturt youngster Dan Fahey-Sparks set to face the imposing Sam Baulderstone. Fahey-Sparks has recored the most hitouts of anyone so far in 2020, however Baulderstone is just 15 taps behind. Baulderstone’s work around the ground has been particularly impressive, with the 29-year-old averaging 18.8 disposals and 7.8 clearances (ranked third in the competition). Fahey-Sparks has been providing first use to the Double Blues onballers and his field kicking has been clean (70 per cent efficiency compared to Baulderstone’s 58 per cent).
Sturt will have been wrapped with the early season performances of young trio Casey Voss, Tom Lewis and Jed McEntee, who certainly don’t appear to be shy of a tackle. Voss struggled a bit at times against the Panthers, but is averaging 16.8 disposals at 79 per cent efficiency, three clearances and six tackles in an onball role.
Pocket rocket Lewis has enjoyed a wonderful start to his SANFL career, laying an elite 22 tackles in just two games, including an equal game high 14 against South. He tackles and hunts with genuine ferocity, is a capable clearance winner and has terrific athleticism to match. McEntee has also provided plenty of defensive pressure, averaging 5.3 tackles per match. Norwood have already blooded promising teenager Henry Nelligan, who got more involved against Centrals after debuting in tough circumstances the week prior.
Norwood are expected to start as favourites, having beaten Sturt in all three meetings between the two clubs last season, winning by five points in round three, 59 in Round 16 and 14 in the Elimination Final. Aidyn Johnson will play his 50th league match for the Double Blues, who reported a clean slate of injuries in Saturday’s loss. Norwood have an extensive injury list, with several senior players sidelined. However Lewis Johnston has been listed as available after recovering from a quad injury, with Ryan Bastinac also a likely inclusion.
At Reserves level, Sturt finds itself just inside the top four with a two and two record. With both wins coming in the past fortnight, the Double Blues will be looking to keep the Redlegs winless, despite Norwood winning the reserves premiership last season.
Sturt’s Under 18s have been exciting to watch so far in season 2020, with midfielders Tom Powell and Mani Liddy turning heads and earning some recognition for their domination. Morgan Ferres and Malachy Carruthers have also shown exciting glimpses. Norwood’s under 18s have pieced together three very solid weeks after an opening round loss to Glenelg, with bottom-ager Cooper Murley, smart midfielder Michael Cavallaro and tall forward Finn Heard starring. An in form Norwood could be the side to end Sturt’s winning streak.