Preview | SANFLW W1 Finals: Panthers and Dogs eye off grand final spot
FOUR teams will battle it out in a massive double-header at Noarlunga this weekend as the 2023 SANFL Women’s finals series gets underway. South Adelaide deservedly finished top spot on the ladder and take on big improvers and first-time finalists Central District. In the knockout semi-final, third placed Norwood clashes with Sturt after the Double Blues secured the fourth spot following a big win over Glenelg last week.
Both these sides are unsurprisingly in ripping form, with South Adelaide winning seven of its past eight games, while Central District has saluted in six of its past seven. No doubt the Dogs will be relieved to not see Glenelg in the finals series with the Bays having inflicted two of Central’s three losses for 2023. South Adelaide only lost two matches all year, but the first of those was to a Central District side that springboarded off that win to set up the double chance.
LAST TIME THEY MET
Central District was able to start strongly against the Panthers and pile on four goals to one in the opening term at Elizabeth back in Round 4. At that point the Dogs were 2-1 and the Panthers 3-0, and though South Adelaide kept in touch during the third term, Central District steadied with the final two goals of the match to win, 8.7 (55) to 3.5 (23). Skipper Shelby Smith and winger Laitiah Huynh were the prime ball winners for the Dogs, while Taylah Levy and Senna Gulden were busy as always for the Panthers.
B: Jaslynne Smith (35), Caitlin Radbone (34)
HB: Sam Pratt (22), Esther Schirmer (23), Tiffany Copley (14)
C: Elise Barwick (24), Mel Anderson (52), Holly Ifould (2)
HF: Alissa Brook (53), Jorja Hooper (38), Lily Baxter (56)
F: Jordann Hickey (4), Lucy Northcott (12)
R: Soriah Moon (32), Brooke Boileau (37), Senna Gulden (25)
INT: Czenya Cavouras (11), Charlotte Dolan (28), Nicole Mark (16), Sarah Wright (5), Lauren Clifton (41), Bri Cleggett (27), Nari Wright (3)
B: Laitiah Huynh (41), Karissa Searle (22)
HB: Caitlen Teague (17), Charlotte Riggs (9), Tess Gerhardy (33)
C: Dakota Williams (38), Shelby Smith (1), Sophie Eaton (12)
HF: Jovanka Zecevic (23), Lauren Breguet (28), Elaine Grigg (8)
F: Shannon Murphy (10), Georgia Avery (18)
R: Katelyn Rosenzweig (2), Jasmine Evans (27), Georgia Madigan (7)
INT: Caitlin Wendland (42), Demi Sonneman (20), Madison Lane (40), Shelby Raven (36), Tiarna Grovermann (45), Chantel Reynolds (30)
South Adelaide looks a little vulnerable at the selection table, losing the silky Caitlin Couch and reigning co-best and fairest winner Gypsy Schirmer both to concussion. They regain the likes of Czenya Cavouras and Brooke Boileau into that midfield, with skipper Brianna Cleggett returning for some experience, replacing top-age tall Jacinda Schunselaar.
South Adelaide has prided itself on an even team spread across the board, and without Couch, the inside presence falls to Boileau and Gulden. It gives a few others a chance to stand up, with Jaslynne Smith impressive in defence, and the height of Jorja Hooper, Lucy Northcott and Jordann Hickey causing headaches for the opposition. Expect defender Samantha Pratt to shut down a Central defender, while Charlotte Dolan cracks in for her first SANFLW final after crossing from the Eagles last season.
Smith headlines the Dogs’ lineup with the visitors also celebrating two 50 gamers. Huynh and Demi Sonneman have reached the milestone together, with the former still only 20 years-old. Along with the pair, some players in great form include defender Madison Lane, and midfielders Caitlen Teague and Jovanka Zecevic. Forward Katelyn Rosenzweig has also won the competition leading goalkicker for the year and booted two against the Panthers in their last clash.c\
Central District speedster Elaine Grigg and Panthers’ Boileau are two of the key ones to watch in the game. Grigg has enjoyed a strong season and has that outstanding evasion as well as ability to impact the scoreboard when forward. Boileau has not missed a beat and returns from a week off with injury to assume her position back in the midfield.
Other top-age State Academy members in the game include winger Holly Ifould, defender Alissa Brook and forward/midfielder Melissa Anderson, all from South Adelaide. Looking to next year, and Dogs’ key defender Charlotte Riggs is a dominant aerial player, while Jasmine Evans possesses an elite kick and has potential.
South Adelaide down at home is a huge advantage for the Panthers, and they have the finals experience that the Bulldogs lack. However, Central’s running capacity looked like it would worry South Adelaide early in the season and it did just that during the win, which means the Panthers will have to re-assess the tape from Round 4 and try and close down the Dogs’ gameplan in order to win in their own style.
Since they faced off four weeks ago, both Norwood and Sturt have won two of their three games. The Redlegs fell to South Adelaide after going 7-1 between Rounds 4-11, while Sturt also suffered defeat against the Panthers – albeit by a point in Round 11 – before bouncing back to dominate an out of sorts Glenelg by 40 points in the final round of the season.
LAST TIME THEY MET
These sides met back in Round 9 at Wigan Oval, and it was a day to forget for Sturt fans, as Norwood ran riot. The Redlegs kicked away after quarter time to slam home six goals to one and have seven individual goalkickers in the 7.9 (51) to 2.3 (15) victory. Sachi Syme and Ebony O’Dea dominated the midfield with a combined 41 disposals, 15 clearances and two goals, while Isobel Kuiper tried hard all gam for the Double Blues and Alex Ballard was a rock in defence.
B: Alison Ferrall (19), Emily Bartsch (27)
HB: Charlotte Nenke (44), Molly Brooksby (18), Lauren Smith (24)
C: Kiana Lee (28), Rosie Boon (46), Morgan Johnston (1)
HF: Amelia Rusden (10), Tesharna Maher (14), Coby Morgan (51)
F: Rosette Zerella (32), Charli Hazelhurst (39)
R: Lana Schwerdt (41), Tahlita Buethke (2), Stephanie Simmonds (17)
INT: Grace Whittaker (60), Nicola Burns (23), Georgina Birchall (37), Emma Clark (7), Alana Lishmund (15), Millie Yardley (42), Elle Lineage (50), Jazmine Egan (58)
B: Lily Whitcombe (24), Lucy Earl (26)
HB: Jemma Valente (36), Isabella Drew (28), Hannah Prenzler (20)
C: Georgia Swan (3), India Rasheed (6), Molly Fletcher (31)
HF: Monique Bessen (16), Alysha Healy (10), Georgia Bevan (7)
F: Zara Walsh (57), Millie McCarthy (1)
R: Jasmyn Hewett (41), Kate Harris (23), Isobel Kuiper (18)
INT: Alex Pearce (38), Tessa Doumanis (4), Ally Ladas (17), Jaimee Wittervan (35), Elsie Dawes (5), Claudia Edmonds (60), Tahlia Walker (40), Abbey Rigter (11)
Norwood has made one change for the game, with Emma Clark replacing Adrienne Davies. Sturt has not been forced into making a chance, with ruck Jasmyn Hewett coming in for Alex Pearce for added experience in that role.
The ruck advantage of Hewett will be crucial for the Double Blues against the athletic but less experienced Rosie Boon will likely give Sturt first hands. The midfield of Isobel Kuiper and Kate Harris up against Tesharna Maher and Lana Schwerdt will also be fascinating to watch, with the former duo wanting to prove a point after the Redlegs did a number on them last game.
Lauren Smith will get her chance on the big stage after crossing from Central District over the off-season, with with former Bay Lucy Earl choosing the right team after her Sturt side knocked Glenelg out of last week. Double Blues midfielder Georgia Bevan announced her retirement last week and will play every game as if it is her last, while Alysha Healy – who plays her 50th game – and Coby Morgan provide dash at their respective ends.
There are are some highly touted prospects over the next three drafts featuring in the knockout semi-final, headlined by top-age midfielder Molly Brooksby. Coming off a 26-disposal game against South Adelaide last week, Brooksby has looked comfortable at half-back with her elite kicking skills. Speaking of elite kicking, India Rasheed looms as one of the top prospects for next year’s draft and a key talent to watch, while teammate Monique Bessen has high potential for the 2025 AFLW Draft.
Looking at other State Academy members, Sturt duo Lily Whitcombe and Zara Walsh are able to do jobs up respective ends. For Norwood, Morgan has some eye-catching traits for next year, while Northern Territory prospect Grace Whittaker has been able to play some consistent League footy the last few weeks.
Both these sides are capable of getting the job done and have had some ups and downs throughout the 2023 season. Norwood has been the most consistent team of the two with the highest percentage in the league. The Redlegs have the capacity to win big and lose small. Sturt on the other hand has not quite been as comprehensive as the year before, but its best is more than capable of winning here and being a threat for the title, it is just a question of whether or not the Double Blues can find that form in the finals.