NORWOOD Redlegs have a strong defensive side that would be hard to beat, with plenty of accountable players and those who will make life difficult for the opposition.
This Norwood side would be right up there amongst the best of the South Australian sides. The backline is brimming with strong, battle-hardened key defenders who would make life very difficult for opposition forwards. The midfield is similarly workmanlike and features some of the toughest on-ballers to grace the competition. The forward-line is certainly exciting on paper and would pose a genuine threat to even the most dour of backlines.
The Norwood backline is stacked with quality key defenders, including Geelong premiership skipper Tom Harley, who has been named at centre-half-back. He is joined by former Swans full-backman Heath Grundy, who is regarded as one of the best lockdown defenders of the modern era. Making his debut in 2006, Grundy played 256 games in the red and white, including Sydney’s 2012 premiership triumph. A rookie selection by Melbourne in 1996, Nathan Bassett went on to play 210 games with Adelaide, finishing his career in 2008 as one of the Crows’ best defenders. He later coached Norwood to back-to-back SANFL premierships in 2012 and 2013. Current Power skipper Tom Jonas has notched up 139 games at Alberton and may prove to be the best defender amongst the starting six by the end of his career. Reliable small defender Jared Crouch joins Swans teammate Grundy in the side. Martin Pike‘s resume of four premierships and 247 games stacks up with the very best, making him a regulation selection.
Whilst the backline consists of modern day players, the Redlegs midfield is largely dominated by stars of yesteryear. Although perhaps better known for his flamboyant hairstyles and off-field allegations, no-one would question the obvious talent of 125-gamer Adam Heuskes, who provided energy and zip from the wing or half-back. He is joined on the opposing wing by Kangaroo Trent Dumont. In 82 AFL games, Dumont has quickly become one of North Melbourne’s most important on-ballers. The centre position belongs to tough midfielder Roger James, who was one of the Power’s best players throughout their successful 2004 campaign. He played 147 games with the Power, kicked 87 goals and is a member of the SANFL Hall of Fame.
Matthew Primus faced some tough opposition but ultimately earned selection as the starting ruckman. In 20 games with Fitzroy and 137 with Port Adelaide, Primus was a dual All-Australian and renowned as one of the competitions best ruckman. Collingwood duo Scott Burns and Tony Francis form a formidable midfield partnership. A club great, Burns captained the Magpies in 2008 and played a total of 265 AFL games in the black and white. He kicked 149 goals in a polished 14-season career and is now seen as one of the best assistant coaches. Francis is a great of South Australian football, who represented the state on five occasions and kicked 103 goals in 142 matches with the ‘Pies. Despite standing just 171cm, Francis was an aggressive tackler and an excellent crumber.
Despite an abundance of talent down back and throughout the midfield, the Norwood forward line could be the most dangerous of them all. Opponents would be tearing their hair out attempting to shutdown pocket-rockets Orazio Fantasia and Paul Puopolo – two of the deadliest small forwards of the modern era. Yet for all their razzle-dazzle in front of goal, the pair are both capable of applying genuine defensive pressure. Despite his battles with injury, Fantasia has kicked 110 goals in 75 games with Essendon, whilst Puopolo, a three-time premiership Hawk, has kicked 181 goals in 190 matches. A famous last name at The Parade, versatile Magpie James Aish fits in on the forward flank, having played 82 games at AFL level. Nic Fosdike joins his former Swans teammates in the side by slotting in across half-forward. He played 164 games with Sydney, including the 2005 premiership, and kicked 66 goals. Although often criticised at times throughout his career, versatile tall Ryan Schoenmakers joins Puopolo in the starting forward-line. The full-forward spot went to Crows big man Matthew Robran. A two-time premiership star, Robran was often compared to his great father, Barrie, but overcame several serious knee injures to kick 110 goals in 137 games.
Current Crow Luke Brown could consider himself unlucky to miss out on a starting position. Brown could be relied upon to negate the oppositions best small forward. Two-time premiership Crow Brett James joins his brother in the side and Will Minson was selected to provide support for Primus in the ruck. The selections of David Pittman and Rodney Maynard take the tally of Crows players to six, whilst two-time Lions best and fairest winner Joel Patfull complements a backline already loaded with tall timber.