Young Norwood talent to excite in 2022
YOUTH will be the key to Norwood sustaining its remarkably successful history in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition. The Redlegs have had a rich history of players stepping up to the elite level, and last season saw one of the state league’s top players in Leah Cutting making that transition to the AFL Women’s. Speaking to Rookie Me Central ahead of the 2022 season next week, Norwood coach Mat Creeper was excited about the young talent coming through the club.
“We had some players who filtered through there from a lower age perspective or under-age perspective,” Creeper said. “They’ve been really good at training over the course of preseason, so they’ve basically stepped in to fill the void really, really well.
“Even though we’ve lost some really good experience in terms of Leah Cutting, I think we’ve got some pretty handy replacements that are going to take care of what we need to in the ruck department.”
ONES TO WATCH
Among those he named were young gun and State Academy talent Rosie Boon, who he describes as “really, really strong” and “a contested beast”. Other experienced players to leave include Elisha Gallagher (Queensland) and Jess Macolino (West Adelaide).
“In the midfield we’ve lost Elisha Gallagher, but players like Jade Halfpenny, Charlotte Nenke, Sachi Syme, Lana Schwerdt, Sarah Branford, they’re all stepping into the role beautifully. Jess Macolino didn’t really play much in the midfield last year, she was more of a forward so midfield department we’ll still be very, very strong.”
Though the aforementioned players had managed to crack into the senior side last season, Creeper said there were some young talents on the verge of stepping up in 2022. He anticipates that potentially “six to eight” players would be donning the Norwood colours for the first time, including some who would be making their League debuts.
“We’ve got players like Molly Brooksby, Tamsyn Nation, Elle Lineage, Jazmine Egan. There’s a few other kids who are like that two. We’ve also recruited in a couple that are readymade and ready to go as well, so I guess the young kids are forming and they’re looking really good, but some of the new recruits we’ve got coming in too, the pressure is on and come Round 1 it’s going to be a pretty hard task to select them all.”
Creeper said the players had trained strongly as part of an intense eight-week block prior to Christmas, having all presented well from completing their own extensive running programs over the off-season. A further two weeks once returning in the New Year, and Creeper said it was all about freshening up for Round 1 against the reigning premiers Glenelg.
In 2022, there are a few changes to the SANFL Women’s competition, with the league adopting a Development League for players not selected in the senior team. When asked whether he was a fan of the new league, Creeper said “100 per cent”.
“I think it’s a big plus for all the clubs. We’re really excited to be able to have those players to play underneath us and underneath our banner all the time, and our structures,” Creeper said. “What we’re putting out at Reserves level and Development level is then carried on into senior level as well.”
“We get to see them, we get to watch them prior to our game, and not leave them into the lap of the Gods going back to local competition and playing different styles and different structures, so therefore hopefully that will be a big plus for us going forward. If we do have players which we will come into the senior side, they’ve been playing under the same system and they’ll slot straight in.”
The other major change to the SANFL Women’s, is the decision to follow the AFL Women’s lead by reducing the on-field players from 18 to 16. Creeper said it would create similar advantages to the elite level, opening up space and allowing for more scoring, something he had already noticed in trial games.
“Initially the SANFL decided to only have four interchange players, but we were a big advocate in pushing for the fifth, just purely based on our rotations, time of the year, player fatigue and obviously having 16 on the field,” Creeper said. “I think what will happen is you’ll probably see a lot more rotations now they have decided to go with the fifth, and it will just open up the game a little bit more.
“It might be a little bit similar to what we see with AFLW as well, open up the game and also allow for more scoring. If trial games are anything to go by from what we’ve seen, the scoring has been a little bit higher, so hopefully it puts on a bit more of a showcase for the fans.”
Norwood finished minor premiers in 2021, but again fell short of a flag, going down to Glenelg and West Adelaide in the finals series. Though they might have missed out on taking home absolute glory, Creeper said he felt the side had still performed strongly, but the AFLW talent filtered through the other sides had lifted opposition teams up.
“I don’t think we’re a bad side in the finals. I think last year the influence of AFLW players coming back into the system in other teams was certainly influential in the end result,” Creeper said.
“We predominantly backed in our talent that we’d had since November. We had the opportunity to bring back plenty of players but we chose not to. “We wanted to back our local talent in and the team and squad that we were using from day one. “I don’t necessarily think that we were any worse of a team or anything like that. We were still a very good strong team, but it was just the other teams became stronger with talent that was coming in. “You look at Glenelg with the likes of (Caitlin) Gould and (Ebony) Marinoff come into the team and it’s pretty hard to stop them.”
Creeper said the Redlegs would stick to that plan and said he would back in his homegrown talent. He was pleased that Norwood was a place where local talent could come to get opportunities, and was keen to continuing to develop that talent going forward.
“I think that if we’re one of those clubs that is happy to keep working with our local talent and keep striving to get them better and better, well then we’ll have players that will be wanting to come and play for us,” Creeper said. “We’ve already seen that, we’ve built a really strong culture since I came back. “We’ve got the girls who are really in-tune, who have worked really hard for each other, and it’s a really good environment at this point. “We keep the aim on further strengthening that, and the results will speak for themselves as time goes on.”
ROUND 1 VS GLENELG
The Redlegs set their sights on the reigning premiers on opening night next Friday, February 4. He said the entire club was excited about the match, and taking on last year’s premiers.
“The last couple of weeks on deck has been pretty exciting, and the girls have been up and about,” Creeper said. “They’re ready to go, and I have no doubt when we get to our first game, the girls are going to be in prime position, and we’ve done everything we can to get them in that prime position and hopefully we can have a good showing first up against Glenelg.”