Panthers, Redlegs take chances in SANFLW finals

AFTER two narrow semi-finals, South Adelaide became the first team through to the 2023 SANFL Women’s Grand Final, while Central District will utilise its second chance against Norwood who survived a scare from Sturt.

The double-header at Noarlunga provided some typical finals action, with both games largely contested and coming down to the which sides could make the most of their chances. In the end, despite both teams trailing in disposals, marks, tackles, clearances and inside 50s, South Adelaide and Norwood grabbed the wins and the Panthers earned a week off and a spot in an unprecedented fifth grand final.

South Adelaide 4.4 (28) defeated Central District 2.5 (17)

The game was tight and contested for the majority of the game, but particularly early where the only difference between the sides proved to be a clever Senna Gulden snap out of traffic which bounced home. South had done a lot of the attacking in the first term and though Central District had its chances, the Panthers defence was up to the task.

After a rusty start following three weeks out of the side, skipper Shelby Smith worked into the game for the Bulldogs to arrest the momentum that had early gone to the Panthers. Despite an early missed chance from South, the Dogs were ale to hit the scoreboard first with a great set shot goal from Chantel Reynolds.

Though the visitors had the momentum at times, South’s ability to withstand pressure – with a defence led by Jaslynne Smith and aided by youngster Alissa Brook – stood the test of time against the best offensive side in the competition. Up the other end, Lucy Northcott won a free kick for a sling tackle and converted, only for Under 16s MVP Sophie Eaton to set up a goal to Lauren Breguet up the other end.

Central District certainly had its chances in the second half of the second term and early third term but could not maximise its chances. A poster to Caitlin Wendland – who was one of the Dogs’ best all game – hurt their chances, and in typical style, South was able to wait tis turn and punish its opponents. Gulden centred a ball inside 50 for Jordann Hickey to clunk and send through the big sticks.

The Bulldogs kept attacking with Wendland and Laitiah Huynh looking to link up between midfield and attack, and another shot on goal was just touched on its way through to make it a five-point margin at the final break. South could have made it really difficult with Melissa Anderson looking to handball to a running Charlotte Dolan alone inside 50, but it missed and the siren sounded shortly after.

South Adelaide was quick out of the blocks in the final term and had its own chances through Northcott and Jorja Hooper both missing shots to ice the game. It would be a case of third time lucky though for the Panthers, as Elise Barwick nailed the set shot goal.

That goal proved to be the match-winner as another set shot for the Dogs – this time through Dakota Williams – hit the post. Another snap shot from the younger fell just short and was mopped up by Soriah Moon in the goalsquare and was cleared. That was enough to see the Panthers home by 11 points.

SOUTH ADELAIDE 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)
CENTRAL DISTRICT 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 2.5 (17)

South: E. Barwick, S. Gulden, J. Hickey, L. Northcott
Central: L. Breguet, C. Reynolds

South: S. Gulden, A. Brook, J. Smith, B. Boileau, E. Schirmer
Central: C. Wendland, S. Smith, L, Huynh, S. Murphy, C. Teague

Norwood 4.3 (27) defeated Sturt 2.9 (21)

In an eerily similar clash to the first game in the double-header at Noarlunga, the second saw Norwood grind out a six-point win over Sturt. The difference between the sides was the goalkicking, with the Redlegs weathering the storm and then kicking two crunch goals in the final term to record the victory and move through to the preliminary final.

Both teams dug in early, but the class of top-age talent Molly Brooksby stood out with a clever snap around her body to sail home for a goal. In a tale of the game, Sturt had some early chances up the other end, but could not quite convert, with Zara Walsh and Jasmyn Hewett looking busy. It took until the final five minutes for some Monique Bessen magic soccering through her side’s first and the Double Blues went up by three points at the first break.

Star bottom-ager India Rasheed was outstanding throughout the match and started well from the opening bounce, having a say around the clearances with ruck Hewett and skipper Kate Harris. The second term was just a slog though, with Norwood adding two behinds to it tally and Sturt, despite having plenty of forward action, unable to score.

The Double Blues started to score in the third term, but they were all behinds as Tessa Doumanis had a few chances on goal that missed. Then up the other end with the Redlegs’ first inside 50 of the quarter, Amelia Rusden won a free kick and made no mistake from the set shot. The defence of Lauren Smith and Brooksby was holding up well for the third placed team and Norwood headed into the final break up by a point.

Norwood stepped up early in the fourth term with a nice link-up play from half-back from Brooksby leading to an open 50 where Tesharna Maher ran into an open goal an soccered it home for a seven-point buffer. After missing chances up the other end, Doumanis got on the scoreboard with a response to cut it back to a point, and when a set shot from Elsie Dawes was touched on the way through, scores were level.

Scores stayed that way until the 13-minute mark, when Rusden put a high ball to the top of the goalsquare, and coming off hands, 2022 SANFL Women’s leading goalkicker Alana Lishmund also soccered it off the deck. Despite protests from multiple Sturt players of it being touched, the goal was called and the Redlegs went up by six.

Sturt kept attacking in the final few minutes, but Norwood managed to hold up. Though the Redlegs gave away an anti-density free kick, the Doubble Blues could not quite find that final target inside 50 to convert a major and with Lana Schwerdt leading the way as she had all game, the Redlegs held on in fantastic style.

The result meant Norwood now advances to the preliminary final to take on Central District for a spot in the grand final. For Sturt, it is season over and unfortunately marks the end of a glittering career to former captain and consistent leader Georgia Bevan who announced her retirement a few weeks ago.

NORWOOD 1.1 | 1.3 | 2.3 | 4.3 (27)
STURT 1.4 | 1.4 | 1.8 | 2.9 (21)

Norwood: M. Brooksby, A. Lishmund, T. Maher, A. Rusden
Sturt: M. Bessen, T. Doumanis

Norwood: M. Brooksby, L. Schwerdt, S. Simmonds, T. Buethke, T. Maher
Sturt: I. Rasheed, J. Hewett, K. Harris, G. Swan, E. Dawes

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