Tag: west adelaide

Ballard ready to take next step

BETWEEN her football commitments and working on her family farm, Abbie Ballard does not have much time to relax. However, while on the cusp of achieving her AFL Women’s dream, we offered Ballard the opportunity to reflect on her football journey so far.

“I started playing at the Peake District Football Club when I was 10,” Ballard said. “I mainly played with the boys in the Auskick at half time of the A Grade, but every now and again the boys needed me to fill in for the Under 13s. I did that for a year, then played full-time for the boys until I was 15.”

Unlike female footballers who competed in the boys’ competitions because it was their only option, Ballard actually preferred playing against the boys.

“I loved it, it was a much cleaner game to play and just so much more fun,” she said. “The boys weren’t afraid to tackle me and I wasn’t afraid to tackle them, it was the best.”

Ballard moved to West Adelaide to play against the girls when she was 15. Although the competition was not originally played at a great standard, Ballard says the league has made significant progress.

“[SANFLW footy] has definitely been improving, everyone’s getting better and the competition’s becoming great,” she said. “It’s a really good quality of football now, the speed of the game is quicker and the skills are much better than they used to be.”

Ballard has achieved extraordinary continuity and consistency during her time in SANFLW, having played 31 out of 32 games over the past three years. She missed her first game this year due to an unfortunate concussion.

“I’ve been really lucky with injuries and have never really had one until this year, and I’ve always played consistent football so I’ve been picked every week,” Ballard said.

At just age 17 in 2019, Ballard won West Adelaide’s SANFLW Best and Fairest and finished sixth in the SANFLW League medal count. Very few AFLW prospects have attained this level of success prior to their draft year.

“These were huge achievements,” she said. “I was so proud that, at such a young age, I was playing such good football in the women’s league. “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am and it really just made everything worth it. “The Best and Fairest is definitely the best accolade in my career so far.”

This season, Ballard finished fifth in the SANFLW medal count and led the Bloods to their first SANFLW Finals appearance. In a convincing semi-final victory over Norwood, Ballard collected 12 disposals, laid eight tackles and kicked a goal. Their season ended the following week with a 30-point Preliminary Final loss to South Adelaide.

“Everyone was so proud of how well we did this season,” Ballard said. “We worked so hard to get there and we wanted to go out and put everything we had left on the field, which is definitely what happened.”

Ballard has learnt plenty from teammates that have already made the leap from SANFLW to AFLW. She is delighted that they continue to play at West Adelaide when they are available.

“Some Westies girls who are now at the Crows like Maddi Newman, Chelsea Biddell and Rachelle Martin have been major inspirations for me,” she said. “It’s been amazing to watch what they’ve been able to do and see them improve so much. I want to follow their pathway.”

Ballard highlights Martin, the joint 2020 SANFLW League Best and Fairest, as the player that has helped her the most.

“Rachelle has taught me a lot about how to become a better midfielder, how to tackle better, how to body people and how to get into the right positions at stoppages,” she said.

As Ballard has stated, her career goal is to follow in these girls’ footsteps.

“I’d love to get into AFLW, that is my aim,” she said. “Hopefully that will be achievable this year, but we will see what happens. “I’ve put my name down for this year’s draft.”

Although Ballard is primarily an inside midfielder, her booming left-foot kick makes her a weapon on the outside as well.

“I take a lot of pride in my kicking,” she said. “My kicking accuracy and ability to get in the contest and hit the ball hard are my biggest strengths, probably my handball accuracy as well. I work hard to improve my skills every year.”

In order to elevate her game to the next level, Ballard has a specific focus over the next few months.

“I need to improve my fitness and speed to be able to dominate games more often,” she said.

Since finishing school at the end of 2019, Ballard has juggled full-time work with her football commitments. She is based on her family’s farm in Coomandook.

“It’s full-time so I’m working every day with mum, dad and grandpa,” she said. “We’ve got pigs and sheep, and we do a bit of cropping.”

Ballard says her family has been incredibly supportive of her football over the journey.

“Mum and dad would always spend hours taking me to football and watching me train,” Ballard said. “They’ve been a huge support and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

As much as Ballard loves the farm, she would have no problems moving away to make her AFLW aspirations come true.

“It would be great to stay in SA but if I could go anywhere I would take the opportunity,” she said. “Moving away to play football would be worth it.”

Picture: SANFL

 

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2020 SANFL Reserves MOTR: Round 13 – West Adelaide vs. WWT Eagles

ROUND 13 of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) saw a host of Under 18 talent running around across the two senior grades. With our weekly scouting notes geared towards those at League and Under 18s level, we took a look at some of the young guns plying their trade in between, in the Reserves on the weekend.

In this week’s nominated match of the round, the brightest West Adelaide and Woodville-West Torrens (WWT) prospects from their clash were put under the microscope, as the Eagles ran away 49-point victors via a six-goal to one final term. Below are scouting notes on just some of the young talent afield, with a paticular focus on the Under 18s products on display.

WEST ADELAIDE 1.2 | 1.4 | 2.5 | 3.6 (24)
WWT EAGLES 2.4 | 4.5 | 5.5 | 11.7 (73)

GOALS:

Bloods: T. Harris 2, M. McKenzie
Eagles: N. Moore 2, A. Asfaha 2, T. Carcuro 2, H. Morgan 2, C. Poulter, L. Beecken, G. Armfield

BEST:

Bloods: L. Hupfeld, C. Fairlie, J. Sinderberry, B. Chamberlain, W. Mead, Z. Wooldridge
Eagles: C. McLeod, M. Mead, R. Bruce, L. Barnett, A. Asfaha, S. Michael

SCOUTING NOTES

West Adelaide:

#4 Nicholas Couroupis

The hard-nosed inside midfielder was part of a young trio of Bloods to feature at the centre bounces, but he also did some nice work away from the coalface. In his fifth-consecutive Reserves outing since entering the grade, Couroupis was able to showcase his admirable defensive work-rate and ability to impact aerially, using his courage and vertical leap to reel in a couple of nice marks. He provided a safe outlet in the back half when a hold in possession was required, but also attacked the ball hard in open play and came out better for it. This was most evident in the final term, as Couroupis straight-lined the ball between three opponents, burst free, and delivered a goal assist to Tyler Harris, who was free inside 50.

#23 Cooper Gilbert

Another of Westies’ young inside midfielders, Gilbert has adapted his hardness around the contest well at senior level. In his fourth Reserves appearance, Gilbert was thrust straight into the centre bounces, where he showed great tenacity going both ways. He was able to get first hands on the ball, without winning a mountain of possessions, and was just as impactful in his defensive duties with plenty of bumps and tackles. Gilbert is not one to boast massive numbers by game’s end, but makes his presence felt throughout and pops up in exciting spurts.

#28 Hugo Kelly

Although he managed to recover well, the tall defender had some shaky moments in defence, starting with a horror spilt mark which led to Caleb Poulter converting the game’s opening goal. The soon-to-be 18-year-old found steadiness as the game wore on, and went on to have arguably his greatest impact in the first term despite the aforementioned slip-up. He constantly got a fist in to prevent WWT from linking up quickly on the outer, positioning aggressively up the ground and looking to become an option on the turnover. Kelly was quieter in the second half, but showed some nice signs.

#40 Bailey Chamberlain

There may not be much of him, but Chamberlain finds a way to become as prominent as any player at stoppages. Having narrowly missed the cut once more for a League debut, the balanced midfielder went about his business once again with great speed coming away from congestion, and great accumulative quality. His five-step acceleration made him nearly impossible to catch when sweeping up the ground balls, though a lack of strength found him wanting at times when caught in congestion. Still, Chamberlain stayed busy and got his hands on plenty of the ball throughout, while also showcasing good closing speed in tackle chases. He still looks to be polishing his disposal and decision making at speed, though a nice lateral kick coming away from the first centre bounce was neat.

#60 Jye Sinderberry

While the National Combine invitee has impressed this season as a defensive interceptor, he was stationed up on a wing throughout this particular contest. He got his hands on the ball straight away via Chamberlain’s smooth centre bounce exit, and went on to enjoy a solid first half. Directly opposed to Caleb Poulter when the Eagles’ man was on the wing, Sinderberry got goalside of his dangerous opponent despite sometimes losing direct touch of him. His vertical power allowed him to mark well when required, though the 189cm prospect did not show the same explosive traits when covering the ground. Nonetheless, Sinderberry was able to get up and back to good effect, and even won a one-on-one on the end of a fast break to burst inside attacking 50. His delivery by foot was also neat, and physicality evident in a sweet run-down tackle on Taj Schofield in the third term.

WWT:

#11 Harrison Dawkins

In just his second Reserves appearance, Dawkins looked sharp at the level with some superb drive out of congestion and smart work in-close. The big-bodied 18-year-old has the body to match it with more mature players, but also showed enough class to prove his Under 18s form was not simply down to brawn. Having rotated off the bench into the centre bounce, Dawkins immediately found the ball and generated some forward momentum. When unable to burst clear, he was able to prize his arms clear and release, adding finesse to his inside grunt.

#30 Taj Schofield

The Port Adelaide father-son hopeful was another to rotate into the game off the bench, taking up a familiar role on the wing. Schofield’s read the movement of play well off each centre bounce, while also working hard both ways to impact around either arc. This was particularly noticeable in defence, as Schofield positioned at the back of stoppages and got on his bike to receive and deliver forward. The clever small stayed involved with each play and while his kicking radar was a touch off under pressure in the early goings, he adjusted well to showcase his class later on. Schofield arguably looks most dangerous wheeling on the outside, where he can properly assess his options in space and get creative via foot. He was caught holding the ball a couple of times for a lack of strength and explosive speed, but showed good combativeness in the dying stages to beat Jye Sinderberry to a ground ball, before hitting up a teammate inside 50.

#33 Caleb Poulter

Perhaps the most highly-fancied draft prospect afield, Poulter had some nice moments in his fourth Reserves appearance. The smooth moving big-bodied midfielder was stationed out on the wing to start off, before rotating into the centre bounces sporadically. He kicked off his game perfectly with the opening goal, which he read well off the hands of an opponent before snapping home beautifully on his trusty left side. Poulter’s greatest strengths at Under 18s level were his overhead marking, defensive acumen, and presence at stoppages, all of which seemed to suffer a touch due to a perceived lack of confidence. While positioned perfectly in some dangerous spots, it seemed Poulter was unable to fly at or win balls he usually would. That is not to say he had a bad game though, with his high level of performance this year making for lofty standards. The 17-year-old still showed dare and penetration in his kicking, and was able to float around the ground in his usual manner, covering it beautifully both ways.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Dandenong Stingrays vs. West Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between Victoria and Adelaide, as the Dandenong Stingrays and West Adelaide face-off. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Carlton full-forward, Brendan Fevola (Dandenong Stingrays) and Adelaide champion, Mark Ricciuto (West Adelaide).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded sixth (Dandenong Stingrays) and 11th (West Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the Port Adelaide Magpies.

STRENGTHS:

The Stingrays have a number of strengths, but it is hard to look past the spine. With Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch holding down key defensive positions and Tom J. Lynch and Fevola being the twin towers up forward, they have enough talls to control the airways. Further to that, they have one of the best small forwards of all time in Stephen Milne, and a ridiculously deep midfield with Matthew Boyd, Luke Parker and Nathan Jones providing the hardness, and Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel providing the run.

The West Adelaide starting 18 is very strong, particularly in midfield and defence. Ben Rutten and Sam Fisher form a stingy key position pairing down back, supported by the likes of Rory Laird and Beau Waters among the six. It gets even better in the engine room, led by skipper Ricciuto, who is joined by fellow Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney on the ball. Adelaide 300-gamer Tyson Edwards is also among the action, while Shaun Rehn was a straightforward choice for the ruck duties.

WEAKNESSES:

The Stingrays do not have too many weaknesses in the line-up with a real honest group of players across the field. If you were to be picky, you would say another small forward or two would be handy, because aside from Milne and Shane Savage – who realistically has been turned into a defender – the Stingrays are relying on their midfielders to rotate up forward.

Scott Welsh featured as an 188cm centre-half forward for the Bloods, though he has swapped with Rhys Stanley up forward, and pure excellence of Tony Modra. While the starting 18 is very solid, West Adelaide’s bench depth is decent, but does not feature as many world beaters.

SUMMARY:

Both these sides have elite key position talent and would have some dream matchups across the field. Dandenong has a bit more depth and a better balance across midfield and in defence, while the Bloods have a more potent small forward line. Expect the Stingrays to win, but it would be close.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Dandenong Stingrays
West Adelaide
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SANFL Women’s season review: West Adelaide

WEST ADELAIDE is the next team up in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season review series as we look at the eight sides in reverse ladder order and how their 2020 seasons went down.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 6
Losses: 5
Draws: 1

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

West Adelaide enjoyed a successful season in 2020, going all the way to a Preliminary Final. The Bloods had no played in a finals series previously, but saved their best game for the elimination final when they piled on the highest score in their club’s history. They went down to South Adelaide the next week, but can be proud with how they played this year, and certainly showed huge signs of improvement and will be a serious contender in 2021.

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Emma Smith

Is a clever outside player who generally uses the ball well between midfield and attack. She is often seen running down the wing and creating things going inside 50, and uses good vision to spot up free targets and short kicks to open up space.

Zoe Venning

Strong overhead and a fierce attack on the ball, the mid-forward had a really good season in 2020, becoming one of West Adelaide’s top players despite still being a middle-age prospect. She can find her own footy easily, and as she showed in the All-Stars game, is quick on the lead and strong overhead.

Abbie Ballard

Possessing a lethal left foot, Ballard loves the contested side of things and just attacks the ball and the ball carrier. She can play inside or down forward, and has such superb defensive pressure, but also capable of playing an outside role too. Despite not being tall, she is not afraid to take on players much bigger than herself in a tackle.

Rachael Martin

The league’s top player this season, Martin earned a train-on invitation with the Crows and even got a game early in the year given Adelaide’s injury list. More than capable of playing at the top level, Martin is just a natural ball winner with elite defensive pressure and a knack around goals or creating goals for other players. A deserving equal league best and fairest in 2020. Unfortunately she was unavailable for the All-Stars game but showed enough this season to show clubs what she can do.

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

  • Madison Newman
  • Stevie-Lee Thompson
  • Keeley Kustermann
  • Chelsea Biddell
  • Lauren Rodato
  • Kate Walsh
  • Zoe Greer

There was no shortage of talent across the Bloods list in 2020, with defender, Madison Newman and Keeley Kustermann providing great run and balance, and elite skills coming out of the back 50. They flanked captain Lauren Rodato who was reliable as ever there, making it difficult for most opposition attacks. Looking through the midfield, Stevie-Lee Thompson and Zoe Greer were superb, while Kate Walsh had a breakout season in the ruck, and Chelsea Biddell provided a presence when in attack.

Summary

West Adelaide won a maiden final and showed how exciting the Bloods can be with some great attacking football. They had plenty of youth mixed with their AFL Women’s experience, and it made for a really strong season and something to build on for 2021.

Picture: SANFL

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: West Adelaide vs. North Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is one between two South Australian clubs in West Adelaide and North Adelaide. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Mark Ricciuto (West Adelaide) and Wayne Carey (North Adelaide).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded 11th (West Adelaide) and 22nd (North Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 32 clash in our second half of the draw. The winner will qualify for the Round of 16 stage, set to face the winner of our Central District vs. Dandenong Stingrays tie.

STRENGTHS:

The West Adelaide starting 18 is very strong, particularly in midfield and defence. Ben Rutten and Sam Fisher form a stingy key position pairing down back, supported by the likes of Rory Laird and Beau Waters among the six. It gets even better in the engine room, led by skipper Ricciuto, who is joined by fellow Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney on the ball. Adelaide 300-gamer Tyson Edwards is also among the action, while Shaun Rehn was a straightforward choice for the ruck duties.

North Adelaide’s defence is just as good, if not better with Phil Davis and Sean Wellman heading the likes of Ben Hart and Jared Rivers in support on the last line. The marking power up forward is also formidable, as one of the all-time greats in Wayne Carey commands the six alongside Holland brothers, Nick and Ben. Another set of siblings, Darren and Andrew Jarman also provide some class through midfield and the forwardline.

WEAKNESSES:

Scott Welsh features as an 188cm centre-half forward for the Bloods, though that problem can be easily rectified by the height of Rhys Stanley up forward, and pure excellence of Tony Modra. While the starting 18 is very solid, West Adelaide’s bench depth is decent, but doesn’t feature as many world beaters.

The Roosters’ midfield isn’t quite as fearsome as West Adelaide’s despite featuring Jarman, Shane Edwards, and Josh Francou, while the standard on the bench again drops off a touch, but not significantly.

SUMMARY:

This one is much tighter than the seeding suggests, but we think Westies’ midfield strength will go a long way to taking out this battle against their South Australian counterparts.

Which All-Star Team would you pick?
West Adelaide
North Adelaide

All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era: Which club is the best of the best?

EVERY year, a new crop of AFL Draft talents rise up and make waves at AFL level. Some clubs such as Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons are referred to as ‘footy factories’. Others are less well known, but nonetheless vital in providing players with their start to the AFL.

Over the past couple of months, Draft Central has gone through all of the NAB League, SANFL and WAFL clubs and tried to determine the best 24-player squad for their respective clubs. The captains and vice-captains were determined by the public through Instagram voting. Now, it is up to the public to decide which All-Star Team is the greatest of the lot. That’s right, the 30 teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are going head to head in a knockout draw.

Which teams are competing?

NAB League [12]: Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons, Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, GWV Rebels, Murray Bushrangers, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons, Western Jets
SANFL [9]: Central District, Glenelg, North Adelaide, Norwood, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Sturt, West Adelaide, Woodville-West Torrens
WAFL [9]: Claremont, East Fremantle, East Perth, South Fremantle, Peel Thunder, Perth, Subiaco, Swan Districts, West Perth

How will it work?

Each day at 10am, we will publish the two All-Star Teams of the AFL Draft era, and the public will be able to vote through the article, Facebook and Twitter, with the overall winner moving through to the next round.

Given there are 30 teams, two sides who we have picked out as the top two seeds – East Fremantle and Geelong Falcons – will have the bye in the opening round, with the other 28 teams seeded appropriately similar to the All-Star Player voting (3rd against 28th, 4th against 27th etc.).

Who is up first?

The first All-Star Team battle is between a couple of metropolitan sides who we have seeded 16th and 17th in the draw. They both have some absolute elite stars, but Calder Cannons and Western Jets will begin the voting on Monday. They will be followed by the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Eastern Ranges on Tuesday, before a cross-state clash sees third seed Port Adelaide Magpies tackle Peel Thunder.

Draft Central All-Star Team: West Adelaide

WEST ADELAIDE Bloods have plenty of experience in the starting line-up of their All-Star Team of the AFL Draft era. With a midfield to dream of and a stringent backline, the Bloods have enough about them to really restrict opposition sides from scoring, while having some serious talent inside 50.

THE TEAM:

The West Adelaide side is arguably the strongest of all the SANFL clubs, with Crows premiership greats Mark RicciutoTyson Edwards, Shaun Rehn and Tony Modra contributing to the sides strong blue, red and gold flavour. The backline has the potential to blanket opposing forwards and the midfield also happens to include Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney. Modra is the obvious focal point up forward, but he is surrounded by a talented array of former-stars.

DEFENCE: 

Former-Crows full-back Ben Rutten leads the West Adelaide defensive unit. ‘Truck’ played 229 AFL games in the tri-colours and is regarded my many as one of the best shut-down backman of the modern era. He is joined in defence by current-day Crow Rory Laird, who recently played his 150th game at the elite level. A dual All-Australian and club best and fairest winner, Laird was an integral member of the 2017 Crows side which came close to winning it all. West Coast premiership defender Beau Waters joins the Crows pair down back. Regarded as an excellent club man off the field and an effective left-footer on it, Waters  was named an All-Australian in 2012 and played 120 AFL games in total.

Pinnaroo’s own Nathan Brown also earned selection in the West Adelaide side, having played 146 matches with the Demons. Brown was a consistent defender during his career at Melbourne, finishing second in the best and fairest in 2004 and fourth in 2002. Occupying the all-important centre-half-back position is All-Australian and two-time St. Kilda best and fairest winner Sam Fisher. Fisher and Rutten kicked just 31 goals in a combined 457 matches, however they would prove very difficult match-ups for opposition forwards. Half-backman Peter Walsh takes out the final on-field spot in defence, having played 139 matches with Melbourne and Port Adelaide.

MIDFIELD:

The Bloods midfield is headlined by a pair of Brownlow medalists in Ricciuto and Cooney. Ricciuto, who won the famous award in 2003 alongside Nathan Buckley and Adam Goodes, is regarded as the most accomplished player in the history of the Adelaide Football Club. Just as deadly up forward as he was through the midfield, ‘Roo’ played 312 games for the Crows and booted 292 goals. An eight-time All-Australian, he accumulated 146 Brownlow votes, won three best and fairest and was a member of the clubs 1998 premiership side, amongst a lengthy list of personal accolades. It came as a shock to many when Cooney won the award in 2008, however the former-Bulldog and Bomber had a terrific AFL career, spanning 13 seasons. His ability to hit the scoreboard ensured he was one of the games best midfielders during the late 2000s. Edwards joins his former teammate Ricciuto in the West Adelaide midfield. A durable and consistent on-baller, he played 321 games with Adelaide, booting 192 goals and accumulating 75 Brownlow votes. Yet another Riverland product, Edwards was a member of the Crows back-to-back premiership sides.

Ruckman Rehn would provide premiership teammates Edwards and Ricciuto with ample supply. A dual All-Australian and inaugural member of the Crows, Rehn was pivotal in the ruck and up forward for Adelaide throughout the ’90s. Hamish Hartlett earns a spot on the wing for West Adelaide for his 164 AFL games with the Power. Despite facing several injury set-backs, he has been a strong contributor for Port Adelaide since being drafted with pick four of the 2008 National Draft. On the other wing is the late Shane Tuck who took full advantage of his second AFL chance after playing for West Adelaide prior to being drafted by Richmond.

FORWARD:

The forward-line features more Crows but none were bigger than Modra. The definition of a cult hero, Modra was known for his high-marking and goal-kicking accuracy at Adelaide and Fremantle. The Crows all-time leading goal-kicker, Modra booted 440 goals in 118 games in the tri-colours and 148 in 47 matches with the Dockers. The full-forward was Adelaide’s leading goal-kicker on five occasions and Fremantle’s in 1999. Modra was also a two-time All-Australian and won the mark of the year in 1993, 1997 and 2000. Small forward Jason Porplyzia would be hoping to get on the end of whatever Modra didn’t mark, while Rhys Stanley would rotate through the ruck and forward-line with Rehn.

Scott Welsh was named at cente-half-forward after kicking 363 goals in 205 games with North Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide. He is surrounded on the flanks by current-Crows coach Matthew Nicks and long-kicking forward Nathan Eagleton. Nicks played 175-games with Sydney, while Eagleton featured in 56 games with Port Adelaide before heading to Victoria, where he played 221 with the Western Bulldogs from 2000-2010.

DEPTH:

Riley Bonner can predominantly played a half-back role for the Power but his booming left-foot kick would fit a wing role nicely. Dockers utility Byron Schammer is deserved of a spot in the side after he played 129 matches with Fremantle. Medium-Sized defender Jordan Russell spent time at Collingwood but is better known for his 116 games of service with rivals Carlton. Adding to the defensive depth are fearless former-Tigers backman Steven Morris and former-Bomber Henry Slattery. The final bench spot went to ruckman Cameron Wood.

SANFL Women’s weekly wrap: Preliminary Final – South salutes to setup North rematch

SOUTH Adelaide has given itself the chance to record a remarkable three-peat after downing a determined yet unlucky West Adelaide in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Preliminary Final. The Panthers weathered the early pressure and then got away in the third term, holding off a Bloods outfit in their first ever finals series to record a comfortable 30-point win at Thebarton Oval.

Given the early stages of the game, spectators were not to know which side had the finals experience as West Adelaide brought all the heat to really control play early in the contest. Unfortunately despite forward pressure, the Bloods could not seemingly put one through the big sticks. Abbie Ballard and Rachelle Martin were controlling play at half-forward as the ball did not go past the half-back line for the Panthers as West continually drove the ball inside. Stevie-Lee Thompson looked dangerous in the early stages with a few early chances, while Emma Smith and Chelsea Biddell pumped the ball in deep. Amber James had a chance from straight in front, but her kick skewed to the right.

For all of the Bloods great work, the worst possible scenario happened as the Panthers – with their first inside 50 of the contest – got the ball long and deep, and off a chaos ball inside 50 from Indy Tahau, Hannah Munyard read the ball perfectly off the contest and boot a major against the run of flow at the 10-minute mark of the term. West Adelaide had dominated play but failed to land a meaningful blow, and the reining champions, stunned but not knocked out, showed just what they were capable of. The work of Czenya Cavouras in the back half with her tackling pressure, and Nikki Gore and Munyard through the middle was proving the difference. Tahau almost had a chance herself on the siren, but the ball just slipped from her grasp in the dying seconds.

Tahlia Meyer was arguably one of the most influential on the ground with a terrific pass straight to Jess Kirk in the last 90 seconds though the usually reliable Kirk missed from straight in front, giving the Bloods a let off and only a three-point deficit. After one quarter of play, the Bloods were plus seven on the inside 50s count, but could not put through a major. Then, like a wounded champion that was ready for the counter attack, South Adelaide struck three times in the second term to instead turn the tables on their young opponent and head into the main break with a 21-point lead.

Again it was Meyer who was hitting targets left, right and centre, and when she combined with Kirk for a second time three minutes into the term, the Panthers leading goalkicker made no mistake. An unlucky in-the-back call against Emma Smith deep in defence handed the talented Teah Charlton an easy set shot from 25m out on a slight angle, and she would make it two before the half-time siren. Alexandra Mason had a chance up the other end for the Bloods but her shot from 35m came off hands and rushed through, with work from Munyard a couple of minutes later off the back of a density free kick got it to Charlton who controlled it, kept it in front of her and she kicked the easiest of goals.

South had regained control of the contest with tackling cameos from Gypsy Schirmer and Madison Bennett following the lead of Gore and Munyard through the middle, while Nicole Campbell locked down the dangerous Thompson, limiting her influence. While Martin and Ballard were a couple of standouts, the Bloods could not quite match the Panthers in the second term. Just when the game looked like the sting was out of it in the third term – with West struggling to get it deep and South happy to play controlled football – Biddell worked some of her magic with a monster goal from 50m to sail past the charging back Munyard’s hand on the line, giving her team a small sniff. There was only about 23 minutes left in the match at that stage, but the vital goal drew the Westies to within 15 points.

Munyard was continually getting busy, and while Thompson had a chance to make it two for the Westies, the shot close to goal went a mile in the air and stayed in. The Bloods were getting frustrated by the lack of scoreboard pressure, and Madison Newman and Biddell both gave away 25m penalties, with the last kick of the term going to Charlton for her third. From 35m out she fancied her chances as she came in and began the celebration of icing the game on the siren, only for her shot to cannon into the post as she tried to disguise the premature celebration. Nonetheless, South had a handy lead of 16 points, even with West chewing back a little thanks to the sole goal in the term.

West threw everything they had at South early in the term, but the Bloods were still rushing their kicks inside 50s, and could only muster a couple of behinds. The tackling pressure of South remained, and the likes of Gore, Munyard and Meyer were superb. A forward stoppage six minutes in had the Panthers set up perfectly with the ball falling to Elyse Haylock who slammed it on the boot and sent her team into the grand final with 11 minutes remaining on the clock. Six minutes later, Kirk kicked her second and put the icing on a delicious cake for the second placed side, recording an impressive 6.6 (42) to 1.6 (12) victory to butter up and prepare for the undefeated North Adelaide next week.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 1.1 | 4.2 | 4.4 | 6.6 (42)
WEST ADELAIDE 0.4 | 0.5 | 1.5 | 1.6 (12)

GOALS:

South: T. Charlton 2, J. Kirk 2, H. Munyard, E. Haylock.
West: C. Biddell.

ADC BEST:

South: T. Meyer, H. Munyard, T. Charlton, N. Gore, C. Cavouras
West: R. Martin, A. Ballard, S. Thompson, C. Biddell, E. Smith

West Adelaide Bloods Player of the AFL Draft Era: Vote for yours on our Instagram channel

WEST ADELAIDE BLOODS are up next in our Player of the AFL Era series which will be run through our Instagram channel starting at 12.30pm today. The Tasmania Mariners/Devils All-Star voting was completed yesterday with Matthew Richardson announced as the winner and captain of their All-Star side.

West Adelaide is rich with South Australian talent, and a number of Adelaide stars of the 1990s have been seeded as such, with Mark Ricciuto, Tony Modra, Shaun Rehn and Tyson Edwards nominated as the four champions coming out of the Bloods. Port Adelaide premiership coach, Mark Williams is a name that might be brought up as a startling omission, but not only did he join the competition prior to the AFL Draft era, but he went via Port Adelaide, which is why he has not been included. With so much talent in the group, West Adelaide is a quality unit.

The voting will run over the next four days starting today, with the winner to be decided by Sunday night (unless extra time and the full 24 hours is needed in the final vote). The next club involved in the voting process is Woodville-West Torrens Eagles starting on Monday. All eligible players were selected thanks to the Draft Guru site.

Caught the Eye: SANFL Women’s – Semi-Finals

A DOUBLE header at Thebarton Oval provided South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s fans with plenty of top quality action, and we have taken a look at two players from each team that Caught the Eye. We have looked at players 21 years or younger, and have never been on an AFL Women’s list, showing the talent at state level which is bursting for a chance at the elite level.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

Hannah Ewings (midfielder/forward)

The bottom-age prospect has been one to watch since her debut in Round 1 this season earned her a Rising Star nomination. Now well established in the line-up for 2020, Ewings not only held her spot, but became one of the most dominant midfielders running around because of her speed, agility and game smarts to move through congestion with ease. In terms of 2022 top South Australian players, she would be right up there with the top group. Not only does she have the athletic traits, but she has a low bullet pass that is rare in players of her age – having the composure to lower the eyes when blazing away and hitting targets. Even more so, on the finals stage where she looked more than comfortable running around and against AFL Women’s opponents, was able to use her composure to be a key reason why her side got over the line and into a grand final.

Brianna Arthur (forward)

The 20-year-old is a damaging forward who plays a key role. She has her moments throughout games and usually always looks dangerous around the ball with nice pace on the lead. She protects the ball drop and can mark above her head or on her chest, and kick goals from multiple opportunities both in play and from set shots. This season she has really been a key component of the Roosters’ forward line and one that can just have her moments within quarters or games that stand out and help contribute for her side. She is one to watch coming into the grand final as she works well when leading out in conjunction with other teammates inside 50.

 

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

Teah Charlton (midfielder-forward)

There would not be too many surprised by Charlton making the list from the weekend given her already littered resume. She was a star at last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships as a middle-ager and was one who was as good in the air as she was at ground level. Charlton has terrific goal sense and has time and space when she wins it, as well as a penetrating kick and the ability to play in multiple roles. Spending time in defence this year as well as up forward and through the midfield, the likely top pick for the Crows this year continues to impress as one of only two top-age AFL Women’s Academy players. With an All-Australian to her name, as well as a SANFL Women’s Team of the Year selection, Charlton is a key player for the Panthers.

Indy Tahau (tall utility)

The other AFL Women’s Academy member who hails from the same side, Tahau is another utility who can roll through the ruck, or stand as a key forward. But what sets Tahau aside compared to other 180cm-odd players is her ridiculous speed. She showed on the weekend she is not afraid to take the game on, setting up a Panthers goal to Hannah Munyard with her ability to break the lines and go from half-back to half-forward. She has already proven she is capable on the big stage, winning best afield in South Adelaide’s premiership last year. She will be keen to put in a similar performance this time around if the Panthers can make it again, and upset North Adelaide in the decider in two weeks time. In terms of talls, Tahau is right up there with the top group in the draft crop.

 

WEST ADELAIDE:

Abbie Ballard (inside midfielder)

The top-age midfielder is one who you would just love on your team. She cracks in hard, lays a plethora of tackles throughout games and never takes a backwards step. She can play on the inside, outside or up forward, but she belongs under a pack where she fights tooth and nail for the ball. A real see-ball, get-ball player, Ballard is one who never gives in and you know what to expect from her. She showed it on the weekend in her second game back since missing a week for the Bloods. She might not have had the same amount of touches others did, but she was influential, particularly when the game was on the line, and led by example by bringing the heat and laying double-figure tackles around the ground, six of which came in the first term.

Zoe Venning (midfielder/forward)

An exciting, raw talent it is clear that Venning has a fair bit of upside to her game. She can sometimes do a touch too much, but that confidence is great to see, and Venning is one who with time will become a really dangerous player. Already she has no trouble finding the ball, and roams between the midfield and forward line, and takes the game on. She hits the scoreboard and sets others up, and while she will be disappointed she missed a golden opportunity running into goal, she got the first final jitters out of the way, and was still one of the Bloods best in the win. She has a lot to offer to the side, and is a point of difference in a side with a lot of inside ball winners as she has a touch of class to go with her hardness as well.

 

NORWOOD:

Matilda Zander (midfielder-forward)

Zander is still only 20-years-old and had the COVID-19 pandemic not ruined the chances of Victorian football, the Redlegs midfielder had signed on to run around with Collingwood in the VFL Women’s program. There are plenty of talents in the SANFL Women’s competition who have not yet been on an AFL Women’s list that are over 18, but Zander might just be the best of them in terms of upside. She is tough, has great speed, works hard around the ground and can play as a small forward as well as a midfielder. The interesting aspect of signing up to play with Collingwood in the VFL Women’s is that the AFL Women’s coach is Steve Symonds, her former mentor at the Redlegs.

Mattea Breed (utility)

An over-age utility who predominantly players through the midfield or up forward, Breed’s highlight package and best is as exciting as anyone’s. Still building consistency throughout games and round by round, Breed has the capability of dominating a game in a couple of quarters and kicking multiple goals. Her ability in the air is terrific, and she is mobile enough to cause headaches at ground level. She loves to move the ball quickly, and is a contested marking specialist, having represented Northern Territory and Central Allies at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Seemingly having improved on last season, Breed continues to build aspects of her game to show she has areas of improvement for the future.