2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Preliminary Final

IN the second week of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s finals series, West Adelaide secured its place in the 2021 Grand Final, bundling out Norwood in straight sets. We took a look at the State Academy players running out for the four sides, with all notes the opinion of the individual writer.

West Adelaide:

#3 Abbie Ballard

Great performance from a hard-working midfielder, using her great left foot to hit up her teammate Lauren Young, laying some hard tackles to create stoppages to give her team time. As someone who always will create something forward of centre, the small midfielder was able to set the tone to finish with eight tackles to go alongside her nine disposals. Ballard just finds space and works it so well to give her teammates scoring chances, such as putting it on her non-preferred side to put it to the danger spot where Biddell marked and goaled to put the team 18 points up late in the second term. Her footy smarts with ball-in-hand and without it – such as diving on the ball seven minutes into the final term to stop a last-touch – are very evident for all to see.

#7 Scarlett Griffiths

Tracked a ball seven minutes into the second term, could not quite get it over-running it, but laid a good tackle to drag down her opponent. Provided a target inside 50 at the 14-minute mark but the kick from Zoe Venning drifted to the right. Showed terrific attack at the ball contest by winning it midair and getting tackled, disposing of it quickly under pressure as she landed. Played up on the wing to start the fourth term and immediately got a touch running at half-back to cleanly pick up and handball to a teammate, then worked well a moment later.

#8 Keeley Kustermann

Starting early with good pressure on the ball carrier and getting involved in the first term with quick hands. Held her position around the ball very well in space to get the back hand release pass. Used her strong hands to mark at the highest point to then deliver accurate kicks to her teammates with having nine kicks for the game, and took a strong mark in defensive 50 one-on-one to intercept six minutes into the third quarter. Not afforded the same space as she would love, but did not take a backwards step around the contest. A really strong performance out of defence pushing up the ground.

#9 Zoe Venning

An outstanding performance from the teenager who was clearly a standout across the board. She racked up the ball with ease and was a dominant ball-winner across the ground. While still ironing out some parts of her game, there were some really noticeable traits that set her aside in this game and it was clearly one of her best efforts all year. Venning a great marking style whilst using her strong hands. Venning uses her athleticism to keep powering through stoppages and never gave up. Her footy smarts come into play when the mark was taken and exploded to play on and run and carry, then deliver a nice kick inside 50. With 23 disposals, 17 of them being kicks, her endurance was always there throughout the four quarters of the game. Keep an eye out this week for our SANFLW Player Focus for a detailed account of Venning’s performance.

#30 Lauren Young

Early throughout the game, Young was pinged holding the ball, but as the game progressed, the young 15-year-old showed her talent through her football smarts. Using to her advantage with her great hands, marking it inside 50m, then almost kicked a goal from 45m out only eight minutes into the game. Young fiercely chased the ball and stuck the tackle inside their 50 and created a ball up, hardworking through the use of her endurance and athleticism made herself a standout. A highlight was a hit-up kick to Chelsea Biddell at the top of 50 midway through the second term.


#15 Alana Lishmund

Quiet game playing forward after spending games off half-back this season which did not help, but tried to track it at half-forward in the second term, kicking along the ground but could not quite grab it and was knocked off it, then almost took a mark but just slipped between her hands. Her sole kick came three minutes into the third term on the wing rushed quickly going forward. Lishmund did show good pressure close to the line to force a rushed behind early in the fourth term.

#22 Jade Halfpenny

With a tough game on their hands, it made it very hard for Norwood to win the ball themselves, luckily Halfpenny used her legs to keep attempting at the second efforts after fumbling the ground ball, but continued to track the ball, this showing the willingness to never give up and to keep going even if it may not be going your way, and that was shown. She kicked long inside 50, almost gave off a goal assist with a deep long kick 14 minutes into the third term, but Erika Sporn could not quite cleanly kick it off the boot. Halfpenny took an intercept mark at half-back and delivered short to Leah Cutting in the final minute of the match.

#30 Sarah Branford

Laid a great tackle on Lauren Young at half-back early in the game but her kick was intercepted on the wing. Clean pickup in the opening 15 seconds of the second term and had a quick kick off half-back going into the middle under pressure. She spent time on the wing as well, showing off her versatility. Her intent at the ball, even when she could not win it, was really admirable. Branford took a mark at half-back early in the third term and kicked to the wing well, then took the game on a moment later running off half-back.

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