NOT getting jumped by a fast and furious Central District side is the key to setting up the SANFL Women’s Grand Final for South Adelaide.
Panthers coach Rick Watts said his side learnt from its mistakes in the first game against Central back in Round 4, and reversed the result in the first semi-final. Now the decider is about 48 hours away, and controlling the start is the aim.
“I think that’s probably the biggest hurdle for us is being able to get our young group to settle into the game and not get pounced early,” Watts said. “The first 10 minutes will be crucial for us.
“There’s been a lot made of experience vs non-experience, but for us the takeaway is our girls don’t get overawed and understand what we did in the last final, just settle into the game early and play it like we’re setting up a game.”
Back in Round 4 at the Ponderosa, Central District raced out to a 20-point lead at the first break. While South was able to contain the Bulldogs after that, it was an uphill climb as another four goals to two in the second half sealed the result.
The most recent clash saw the Panthers kick the only goal of the first term, and keep the Bulldogs goalless in three of the four terms to run out 11-point winners, 4.4 (28) to 2.5 (17) down in Noarlunga.
With the sides battling it out on a neutral deck at Prospect Oval, Watts said he believed the style of the game dictated the previous results more than the venue and hoped the North Adelaide home ground would not provide a particular advantage for either side.
“I think they jumped us a bit and probably wouldn’t have mattered early days where we would have played them even if it was at our home ground, they would have beaten us there,” Watts said.
“We’re undefeated at our home ground this year so obviously we have an advantage there, but we’re hoping that neutral ground doesn’t change too much with us.”
Remaining undefeated at Flinders University Stadium, and boasting a pretty handy 4-2 away record, Watts said his charges were “certainly comfortable” playing away from home.
However, the premiership coach was quick to point out that Central District had a lot of stars in its lineup as evidenced by the league-high five players in the SANFLW Team of the Year.
“They’re a quality side and we know they’ve got quality individuals like we saw on Tuesday night with having five representatives in the Team of the Year and we only had three,” Watts said.
“We’re under no illusions how dangerous they can be, it doesn’t matter where we play them, at what grounds. If we’re not switched on especially early in the game, they could tear us to pieces.”
The only game the Panthers played at Prospect this year was against North Adelaide, and Watts put that surprise 22-point defeat to the Roosters down to coaching. He said while premiership coach Krissie Steen and her team got the better of him and his team that day, he believes his team could win on any deck.
“The size or shape of the ground is a huge factor because to look at our record at home it’s really good, but for example when we play at Norwood, I think we’re 10-2 when we play on the smallest oval on the competition,” Watts said. “For us I don’t think Prospect does change anything, the style of play or anything, it’s going to be the same for both teams.”
Watts credited his depth with the success for the yaer, and said a host of players outside final 21 for the decider were “amazing players”.
“Our depth has been huge and we did a lot of work in the preseason in getting girls to our club,” he said. “That is a big part of it. Not only senior players, but also those depth players who have played in our development that have really strengthened that list.”
That depth allowed the Panthers to win the Development League flag with players such as captain Brianna Cleggett and reigning co-best and fairest winner Gypsy Schirmer returning through the side after injury.
At the start of the year, Watts said he believed his side was a “top two side” and though that has eventuated, the South Adelaide coach admitted that he was “fairly ambitious” with the call and that his side “far exceeded” the expectations.
“We’re probably a year early from where we thought we’d be in making a grand final,” Watts said. “A lot has gone right, it’s probably healthiest list we’ve ever had for an entire year and we put that down to a lot of our strength and conditioning training and the guys who support us with that, so credit goes to them. We’re a lot further ahead than we thought we’d be at this stage of the year.”
After a week’s break which just an included an extra session last Sunday in lieu of a match, Watts said his team is raring to go.
“We discussed it that we’ve got small advantages coming into this game, we’ve had the week off,” he said. “We’ve probably got an extra midfielder come in because Caitlin Couch was injured last time we played them.
“We’ve got that advantage of that experience, so we talked about those little advantages that we want to use and utilise on the day. All in all I think the biggest advantage of having that finals experience is our ability to relax and not get overawed by the situation because we’ve experienced it before.”
The 2019 SANFL Women’s premiership coach said leading into his second grand final, he definitely noticed the difference in professionalism and coverage of the league.
“The amount of media that I’ve done in the last three or four days and will do on the day has just ramped up,” Watts said. “Being live on Channel 7 adds another element to it.
“For me, it’s just more professional, a lot more for us to do as coaches and they’re only little things, but it’s my responsibility to make sure that our players are ready to go on that day and don’t get overawed by the situation.
“That’s where my mindset is at the moment, and that’s what we’ll be reinforcing as coaches. We feel pretty good about the game, it’s just making sure again we don’t get ahead of ourselves and play our game our run our race before we start.”
South Adelaide takes on Central District at Prospect Oval from 2:15pm local time, with the game televised live on Channel 7 and through SANFL Now.