SANFLW Preliminary Final wrap: Sturt makes history
AFTER a barren few years in terms of wins and losses, Sturt‘s dedication to its youth and long-term sustainability has paid off with the Double Blues reaching their maiden South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Grand Final. Having had a disappointing loss to North Adelaide last weekend, the Double Blues earned their place in the decider – and a second crack at the Roosters – after a much-improved, hard-fought effort to defeat reigning premiers Glenelg by 17 points at Wigan Oval yesterday.
Despite the final margin being 17 points, Sturt never quite looked home until the last few minutes of the match, with the Tigers continually biting back to remain within an arms-length. Ultimately inaccuracy – both through set shots and unlucky bounces – cost the Bays, who booted five straight behinds before Chelsea Packer kicked Glenelg’s first major 55 minutes into the contest. The fact it took so long for that to happen was credit to the Sturt defence, though the fact that Glenelg was still in the contest despite the drought, was equally credit to the Bays’ defence.
Glenelg was dealt a big blow before a ball was bounced, with AFLW Under 18 All-Australian Sarah Goodwin ruled out of her second game in three weeks, leaving a hole in defence. Regardless, both sides went in hard from the first bounce, and it caused a real armwrestle over the first half. In what was a sense of Déjà vu for spectators, each of the first two quarters saw Glenelg having more than its fair share of chances, but Sturt ran it down the other end in the last couple of minutes and slotted an important goal.
The first major came from a ridiculous set shot free kick to Alysha Healy to get her side on the board, and then on the eve of half-time, the combination of Kate Harris out of the forward stoppage to Ally Ladas, who got it onto Ellie Lynch to run in and kick her side’s second, put the Double Blues up by nine points at the main break. Glenelg’s runners Ella Boag and Violet Patterson were not afforded the freedom that they normally would have, with Ellie Kellock, Jessica Bates and Piper Window all doing well on the inside. Hannah Prenzler and Kiera Mueller were providing run from defence, whilst Zoe Prowse and Matilda Scholz were having an incredible ruck battle.
The third term broke the stigma of one-goal quarters in the match, with Healy kicking her second off another set shot. Kellock had the chance to respond almost immediately up the other end after a fantastic one-on-one mark, but her shot faded well right. The miss stung even more when a few minutes later, a clever touch by Ladas to get it to Healy who handballed back to the running Ladas slotted another one for the home side, and the score was 4.1 to 0.5, summing up the accuracy difference between the sides. Samantha Franson was starting to get involved for the Bays and had a number of crucial forward 50 entries, with the number one hitting up Chelsea Packer who made no mistake for Glenelg’s first at the 15-minute mark of the term.
From there, the Bays could only manage one more behind, but had cut the deficit to a more manageable 13 points. Another unlucky bounce to the Bays saw a Packer flying shot just miss and rushed across the line, and as time was getting on, a number of Glenelg players were getting frustrated at Sturt starting to control the tempo and slow play down, and were giving away free kicks. Just when it looked like Sturt would have plenty to celebrate in the next 15 minutes a disastrous couple of minutes played out for the Double Blues with two crucial midfielders in Alisha Gepp and Isobel Kuiper both helped from the field with suspected concussion and a knee injury respectively.
Not taking any risks, they sat out the game, and in the meantime it was Ladas who nailed the set shot – from the Kuiper incident that earned Sturt a free kick – and the lead was back out to 18 points. Bates tried to rush home a shot form a forward stoppage as Glenelg dialled up the pressure but it just went to the left, then in the 14th minute, Scholz pulled down an intercept grab and hit up Swanson with a lovely pass. The experienced forward was aware of the waining minutes, and quickly ran back with no time wasted for the set shot to slot it home from straight in front.
Sturt’s defensive efforts continued throughout the match, with Lynch diving on a ball in the last few moments to touch it before going over the line, and forcing a throw-in rather than a Glenelg free kick. From then, the Double Blues were able to hold up with the likes of Mueller and Alex Ballard both providing good rebounding. Just when it looked like the scoring had dried up, Sturt went end-to-end with a play, finishing with India Rasheed running onto it, receiving the handball and putting the icing on a very sweet cake for the Double Blues to win by 17 points.
Prowse was a standout all day for the Double Blues in the ruck, racking up 37 hitouts to go with 19 touches, three marks – two contested – seven tackles, eight clearances and five inside 50s. She was well supported in midfield by Harris (16 disposals, three marks, 10 tackles, five clearances, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Kuiper (13 disposals, six tackles, five clearances and two inside 50s). Mueller (16 disposals four marks and three rebound 50s), Prenzler (14 disposals, two marks, two tackles and three rebound 50s) and Ballard (12 disposals, six marks, four tackles and five rebound 50s) was also sensational.
Glenelg’s defence deserves credit, with two of Sturt’s most dangerous forwards in Amy Brooks-Birve and Abbey Rigter not having a disposal in the game. Lauren Edwards blanketed Brooks-Birve and had 10 disposals and laid eight tackles herself, whilst the competition’s leading ball-winner Jessica Bates lead all-comers with 25, as well as three marks, 13 tackles, eight clearances and five inside 50s. Scholz managed the 16 touches, two marks – one contested – four tackles, 25 hitouts, seven clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s. Kellock (15 disposals, two marks, nine tackles, four clearances and two inside 50s), Boag (14 disposals, two marks, two clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Window (11 disposals, six tackles and four clearances) were also among the Bays’ best.
Glenelg’s hopes for back-to-back flags came to an end yesterday, but Sturt still has a chance to make history, taking on Norwood next Sunday.
STURT 1.0 | 2.0 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
GLENELG 0.2 | 0.3 | 1.6 | 2.8 (20)
Sturt: A. Healy 2, A. Ladas 2, E. Lynch, I. Rasheed
Glenelg: C. Packer, C. Swanson
Sturt: Z. Prowse, A. Ballard, K. Harris H. Prenzler, K. Mueller
Glenelg: J. Bates, E. Kellock, M. Scholz, P. Window, L. Edwards