A RECORD-breaking performance from Norwood State Academy member Sachi Syme has her as the next player under the microscope for the 2022 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Player Focus. The Norwood hardnut was fierce throughout her sides’ win over West Adelaide on her way to a best afield performance. Standing at 165cm, Syme has never been afraid of winning the contested ball, but also has the ability to cover ground really well.
Before we delve into her game on the weekend, we will take a look at what makes her such a consistent ball-winner at the top state level. Syme made her debut last year, playing nine games and averaging the 9.7 disposals, as well as 1.1 marks, 2.7 tackles, 2.8 clearances and 1.7 inside 50s. In the absence of several key midfield departures over the off-season, Syme has been a part of the new generation of Redlegs midfielders, alongside past and present State Academy members, Jade Halfpenny, Lana Schwerdt and Sarah Branford.
Syme is one of those players who just ticks boxes and has a consistent overall profile without too many major flaws. Her disposal is efficient by hand or foot, and she regularly makes the right decisions. Though at times the execution is not always pinpoint – particularly when rushed or under pressure – when given the time to assess, she will more often than not hit targets over various distances. She is not a goalkicking midfielder, which is an area she could improve on, having just kicked the one goal in her first 16 games at SANFL Women’s level.
In saying that, she plays the majority of the match through the midfield, and is a very crash-and-bash type who can shovel the ball out to teammates and also rack up the pill. Even still, Syme’s 12-clearance effort on the weekend is a SANFL Women’s record, surpassing Crows midfielder Anne Hatchard who held the previous record of 11.
Syme has been named in South Australia’s final squad of 30 players for the upcoming 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, and will likely rotate both inside and outside, and have no trouble finding the ball. Since stepping up to her full-time midfield role, and in particular since Round 2, Syme has not dropped below 17 disposals in a display of consistency across the board. Most remarkably, her 12 clearances nearly surpassed her entire season’s total (13) prior to the match. Additionally, is noticeable about her game on the weekend is the fact that she picked up either six or seven disposals in each of the quarters to finish on 27 for the match.
State: South Australia
ROUND 7 VS WEST ADELAIDE: (2022 AVE)
Disposals: 27 (18.7)
Marks: 2 (2.0)
Clearances: 12 (3.6)
Tackles: 8 (4.6)
Inside 50s: 4 (3.0)
Rebound 50s: 4 (1.0)
QUARTER BY QUARTER VS WEST ADELAIDE:
Surprisingly, Syme’s game started slow for a player who would rack up plenty of touches, but with a big second half of the quarter, she would end the term on seven. Her first touch was six minutes in, deep in defence, then tried to have another but her kick was smothered. Midway through the quarter, Syme read the ball brilliantly close to goal and was able to clear safely by foot to half-back.
Her term got better as it went on, with a couple of long kicks down the ground. Though one was turned over, it was largely due to kicking off a step and rushing, whereas her second one, though not pinpoint, went to her teammates’ advantage. She was dragged off the ball at the 15-minute mark, then won it at the clearance via a quick handball standing up. Though her handball was turned over, she laid an immediate tackle on the player who received it in Keeley Kustermann. She had a couple more touches in the last couple of minutes, with a nice kick to a dangerous spot inside 50 after intercepting at half-forward, then soccered the ball back inside 50 allowing Shai Hiscock to win the free and have a set shot, but it just drifted.
The second term also started similar to the first, with her first impactful touch coming in the eighth minute when she kicked inside 50 from half-forward. She also laid a great tackle and won some touches around the ground, but she burrowed in and was amongst the thick of it to amass the ball in close. A lot of her disposals in this term were of a contested nature, and there were a couple of times where she was immediately tackled after winning possession. In one instant, she was grabbed and pinged unluckily for holding the ball. By half-time, Syme had recorded 12 disposals.
Syme’s third term saw her go at it like a bull at a gate early with a fierce tackle, winning the free and then immediately charged off to kick to half-forward. She won another free kick for being held – as the opposition was starting to worry about her – in the ninth minute, and she hit up a lovely kick to Halfpenny on the wing. Her footy smarts came into play in the 10th minute when she tried to tap it to space, then picked up some late touches in the match.
In the final minute of the term, Syme had repeat rebound 50s, with the first kick turned over down the corridor to Kustermann, before looking a little wider and finding Alana Lishmund closer to the boundary line. She was able to pinpoint this pass, and it being her last of the term saw her finish on seven touches for the quarter, and 20 across the first three terms to lead all-comers.
Capping off a consistent performance, Syme had another seven disposal quarter in the final term, and yet again was fierce from the outset, attacking it hard in close. She won an early clearance out of the middle kicking to half-forward, then showcased her work rate to mark clear on the wing at the five-minute mark of the term. Her kick further down was effective, as she continued to rack up the disposal numbers. Another kick, though this time rushed, came at the 10-minute mark of the term after receiving the handball.
Though Syme did win another few touches in close and finish with 27 overall, a lot of her disposals came as first receiver with a handball in tight, or second receiver but having to kick long from a pack to clear the area. This MO was what saw her accumulate not only the ball, but her clearance numbers as well.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
Sachi Syme is a midfielder who just does a lot of things right, and had a career-best game of 27 disposals and 12 clearances. She has that nice blend of inside and outside traits, and her season is putting herself in the mix to be considered at the top level. One of the more consistent midfielders this year – particularly since Round 1 – Sym is not always a massive clearance expert, but she is a natural contested ball-winner, and her ability to also play on a wing and create space is important for her team.