SANFLW Round 12 preview: Finals on the line
A MASSIVE Round 12 of action in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s, brings a close to the regular season. The last round could not have been scripted much better, with all spots in the top four up for grabs. The top three clubs are locked in, but the order can still change, with two of them – North Adelaide and Glenelg facing off – whilst Sturt takes on Central District who has a mathematical chance of making the top four. Realistically though, fourth spot will come from the winner of Norwood and South Adelaide in a simple scenario for those sides, whilst West Adelaide will hope to snap a 10-game losing streak against fellow bottom two side Woodville-West Torrens who is too far ahead to drop onto the bottom even with a loss.
The final round of action opens with plenty on the line for Sturt as the Double Blues prepare to enter their first finals series. Having won no more than three games in a single season, the Double Blues have racked up an impressive eight in 2022 to sit second on the table. The equation for them is simple – win and they will get a double chance given the two sides around them, North Adelaide and Glenelg face off against each other. If North win, even a Sturt loss will see the Double Blues top two, providing they do not lose by considerably more than Glenelg. They have not been forced to make any changes thus far, with spiritual leader and captain Maya Rigter becoming the first Sturt player to reach 50 games. Sturt has also recalled Sarah Wallace and Tahlia Walker for the clash.
Central District on the other hand is a “mathematical chance” of making the top four. When that term is used, it often the equivalent of clutching at straws, and unfortunately for the Doggies, once you did into the mathematics, it shows just how hard it will be. What Central District needs is first off for South Adelaide to beat Norwood by the smallest possible margin. In the case that the Panthers win by a point say 20-19, their percentage would drop to 50.67. In order to overtake them, the Bulldogs would need a casual 110-point win (120-10) as an example to grab fourth. Their percentage is able to overtake Norwood easy enough, but the Redlegs have the extra win on the board. Unfortunately for the Doggies, it looks like that one-point loss to North Adelaide – when they were a point in front late in the last term – will come back to bite them. They do regain young gun forward Georgia McKee for the clash – though lose three-goal hero Caitlin Wendland – and did defeat Sturt last time out in a terrific win.
The Bulldogs midfield is chugging along nicely, with Isabelle Starmer having an outstanding game in the ruck. and will be tested against Double Blues duo in Alex Pearce and Zoe Prowse. Central’s forward threats in McKee, Demi Sonneman and Shannon Murphy are ones to watch, with Lauren Breguet and Laitiah Huynh in tip-top form alongside the incredibly consistent Shelby Smith. Sturt’s defence has been its standout quality all year when at full strength, and the likes of Kiera Mueller, Alex Ballard and Jaimee Wittervan make life difficult for the opposition. Up forward, Amy Brooks-Birve and Abbey Rigter have become good for a couple of goals a game, whilst Isobel Kuiper is getting back to her best form in midfield.
Sturt need to win to grab second and should do that, but the Bulldogs can be proud of the season they have had, and will want to go out on a high.
Pride is definitely on the line in this contest, with Woodville-West Torrens playing host to West Adelaide. Last year’s wooden spooners in the Eagles will hand over that title to the Bloods regardless of the result in the Round 12 game, thanks to a 16 percentage point gap. As a whole across the season the Eagles have been more competitive, really taking it up to the top sides more often than not, and falling marginally short of a number of victories, including single digit losses to Norwood, North Adelaide, Glenelg and Central District. In fact, whilst the Eagles past month might read 1-3, their 23-point upset win over Norwood was joined by tight losses to those latter three clubs by an average of four points.
West Adelaide on the other hand have just never found the consistency in the lineup, with so many changes week on week. The Bloods started on a high against North Adelaide in Round 1, but have not come within a single-digit loss since. Since being up against Bulldogs at three quarter time in Round 3, the Bloods have fallen away off the back of Heath and Safety Protocols and injuries, to score no more than 28 points in a single match. They come up against an Eagles side they have not played since Round 2 – where they lost by 33 points – and will be hoping for one last hurrah in outgoing coach Mark Moody‘s last game at the helm from a three-season stint that included a grand final last year.
The Eagles will lose young gun Shineah Goody for this game along with Georgie Blades, but have a super quarter of inclusions. Abbey Dowrick has clocked up more frequent flyer miles than most, returning back to the Eagles after another couple of games with Subiaco, whilst Leah Kaslar, Jessica Sedunary and Cher Waters also come back into the lineup. The Bloods will welcome back the likes of Olivia Smith and Tiarna Harfield, but lose talented midfielder Keeley Kustermann to the AFLW Academy game in Melbourne, as well as Tamika May to a wrist injury. The West Adelaide midfield of Jess Macolino, Zoe Venning and Charlie Scutchings battling against the likes of Sedunary, Waters and Sophie Zuill will be one area to watch.
Woodville-West Torrens should notch up their third win of the year here, with a strong side – minus Goody – which has been consistent enough week-on-week that coach Narelle Smith will be happy with at season’s end.
A much more straight-forward result looms between fourth placed Norwood and fifth placed South Adelaide, with the winner to play finals. Though there is the next to impossible scenario where Central District leapfrogs them both, it is realistically not going to happen, so the winner of this game will play whatever team finishes third by the end of the round. The Redlegs grabbed fourth spot a couple of rounds ago with a win against West Adelaide, whilst both dropped matches heading into the final round. Norwood being at home at Coopers Stadium has the upper hand, but either side is capable of winning. The Redlegs welcome back Grace Mulvahil and Nicola Burns, whilst South has included tall Jemma Ellis on an extended bench.
Norwood comes into the game having had some inconsistent form, dropping that game to Woodville-West Torrens a month back, which would have had the Redlegs on a four-game winning streak given Norwood defeated West Adelaide the next week. A gallant loss to Sturt in Round 11 would have given Norwood some confidence, whilst South Adelaide has now dropped three consecutive games after winning four on the trot midseason. Not expecting to play finals at the start of the year, the Panthers are just one win away from doing it again, with both these sides being perennial finals players.
One minor battle within the match will be the race for the leading goalkicker. With Shae Archbold and Jess Waterhouse leading for most of the season, both missed crucial games, and allowed Norwood’s Alana Lishmund to sneak into top spot and now hold a firm three-goal lead on the pair. All three have played 10 games, with Waterhouse (15) and Archbold (14) chasing Lishmund (18) for the title. The South defence of Nicole Collie, Jaslynne Smith and Samantha Pratt has been pretty reliable all seson, whilst Leah Cutting and Jade Halfpenny were outstanding last week, and the return of the State Academy members such as Sachi Syme and Lana Schwerdt will have big job up against the likes of Czenya Cavouras, Nicole Campbell and Cheyenne Hammond.
Both these sides are close to full strength bar the fact they both lost their captains – Brianna Wedding and Alison Ferrall – to long-term injuries during the year. Norwood’s best has been been better, but South’s consistency has been better outside of results. The Redlegs will be favourites, but it should be a cracker.
The final game of the season is an absolute cracker, with the past two premiers going head-to-head as another potential grand final preview takes place. North Adelaide sits top of the table in pole position to grab the second chance, but will have its work cut out for it against reigning premiers Glenelg. If the Roosters win, top spot is theirs, where as a loss could potentially bump them to a cutthroat elimination final. Sturt is expected to beat Central District, and depending on the margin, could catch the Roosters’ percentage. Glenelg is a little way behind, but a victory by enough would work both ways given the Bays will gain what the Roosters lose. After dropping two of their first three games, North Adelaide has racked up eight consecutive wins to be the standout team throughout the year.
Glenelg has been thereabout all-season, with only a two-game losing streak in Rounds 7-8 when the Bays were understrength – including against the Roosters – as the chink in their armour this season. Since then, Glenelg has won three on the trot and are percentage out of the top two. However, a small win may not be enough to grab the double chance, because if Sturt wins, then the Bays have to win by more, or take over North Adelaide’s percentage. Having come from second last year, the Bays won their premiership off a double chance, whilst North went undefeated in 2020 to claim its flag.
North Adelaide will be without some firepower up forward with Doreena Hansen and Letisha Ackland both out of the side, as is Tayla Gordon. Coming back in is a trio of Roosters, Rachael Plummer, Sky Jensen and Kate Ferguson. Glenelg has lost some important players with running half-back Sarah Goodwin (injured), Alice Bradley (Health and Safety Protocols) and Laura Chigwidden (work) all missing from the crunch clash. The Bays to regain the likes of Tessa Kohn, Grace Duffy and Poppy Scholz on an extended bench. The midfield duo of Ellie Kellock and Jessica Bates up against Jessica Edwards and Hannah Ewings is a highlight, with Piper Window and Jaimi Tabb also in great form.
A traditional nail-biter in every sense of the word, North has the upper hand at home, but Glenelg is primed to strike at the right time of the year. What is for sure is that both teams just know how to get it done, winning tight games against the odds – when they were down – to ensure they are in the best position to mount a finals assault.