SANFLW MOTR: Kilpatrick match-winner breaks West’s drought

IF you could pick a dream scenario for your first goal, then after the siren to win your team the match is a pretty hard one to top. For West Adelaide top-ager Emma Kilpatrick, that was the reality as the 17-year-old had to convert from 35m on an angle with just about every player on the ground between her and the goals. When it left the boot there was a split second of silence before a roar as all the Bloods players mobbed her to celebrate the 7.7 (49) to 7.4 (46) victory over South Adelaide.

The three-point win at Thebarton Oval under lights meant everything for a club that had battled through plenty of obstacles last season. Against the same opponents almost to the day, the Bloods lost multiple key players to long-term injuries and they saw their season – which was a kick away from going to 3-0 and top of the ladder – sink to a wooden spoon.

But up and about again, the Bloods came into Round 1 against the Panthers confident following a solid off-season. South Adelaide loomed as one of the teams to beat in 2024, having come off a minor premiership last year, and being 30 seconds away from a flag.

It looked early as id South Adelaide would control tempo throughout the game as Jordann Hickey launched a long-range bomb to get the Panther fans up and about. Then Emily Brockhurst converted her first SANFLW goal after a mark in the goalsquare, and when bottom-ager Lily Baxter showed her class to tap it into the path of Mel Anderson, the forward made no mistake and the Panthers were up by 17 points.

South coach Rick Watts said in his preseason preview that goals in critical moments of quarters had hurt his team in last year’s grand final, so no doubt there would have been frustration when the lead the Panthers had built was quickly whittled down by goals to Jemma Ellis and Ella Maxwell in the final two minutes.

Still leading by four points at the first break, South would see their former young ruck Ellis transform into that marking forward and kick a second goal to put her new side in front. When the explosive Paige Allan slotted her first in her 50th game on the run, the Bloods had stolen the momentum.

The midfield battle was a fascinating one as Nikki Nield and Brooke Boileau were up against Zoe Venning, Keeley Kustermann and Hannah Button, with all five not afraid to get their hands dirty. In attack, Lauren Young was becoming a huge problem as she was getting ahold of Esther Schirmer. Though she had not kicked a goal just yet, that would come again on the eve of half-time again.

South was too good of a side to just roll over though, and lead by Hickey, Nield and Boileau – the latter kicked a goal – the trio got back on top and led by three points at the final change. When Brockhurst – the previous non goal-kicker – had slotted her third for the night, the margin was beyond a kick and went out to 10 points at the eight-minute mark.

Top-age midfielder Asha Dufour then kicked a ripping goal on the run inside 50, and almost had a second in the dying minutes when Kilpatrick found her with a clever kick across her body. But instead it narrowly missed and the Panthers had the ball in red time.

Just needing to hold onto possession for another minute, the Panthers seemed to be in a rush and wanted to play on when possible. Litonya Cockatoo-Motlap had the all in defence and won a 25m penalty for infringement. Instead of taking time she saw the experienced Jaslynne Smith running beside her and gave off a handball rather than kicking long down the line, but Maxwell – who was the player on the mark – was right onto that and tackled her, forcing a rushed handball.

Cockatoo-Motlap was pushed off the contest by Kilpatrick who won the ground ball and then was taken high as the South player attempted to tackle her. A free against was paid and then pushing her into the ground after earned a 25m penalty. Kilpatrick’s long kick went deep but was spoiled across with 30 seconds left.

As the second ticked down, there was enough time for one or two possessions. Jacinda Schunselaar desperately dove on the ball to keep it from opponents, and even though on replay the ball spilled out from the initial touch, the swarm of players who descended on the ruck meant the umpire did not see whether or not it was a South or West jumper who pulled the ball back in. As such, the player doing the tackling was rewarded, and that was Kilpatrick.

Moments after the free, she heard the the siren sound and knew she would have to do something she was yet to do in the SANFLW. Normally a defender, Kilpatrick had worked to play as a hybrid wing alongside her defensive role, and after a quieter start to the game finished off well with a big second half. But her last kick of the game would prove the most decisive, and never looked in doubt.

The kick sailed home and the Bloods celebrated their first win in 370 days, knocking off last year’s minor premiers in a huge win for Bruce Dawes and his players. Venning (25 disposals, eight clearances), Kustermann (20 disposals, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s) were superb through the middle, Young booted a goal from 21 disposals, five marks, three clearances and five inside 50s, while Dufour, Kilpatrick and Ruby Ballard were also among the more impressive players.

South had played well in patches, but again been hurt by red-time goals, though Brockhurst’s three majors was a highlight for the club. Nield laid a ridiculous 17 tackles to go with 21 disposals, five marks and five rebounds, while Boileau (24 disposals, three marks, six tackles, six clearances and a goal) was also busy. Hickey (13 disposals, two marks, five tackles and four clearances) kicked that first goal, and Smith was rock solid in defence once again.

WEST ADELAIDE 2.3 | 5.5 | 5.6 | 7.7 (49)
SOUTH ADELAIDE 3.1 | 4.1 | 6.3 | 7.4 (46)


West Adelaide: J. Ellis 2, L. Young, A. Dufour, E. Maxwell, P. Allan, E. Kilpatrick
South Adelaide: E. Brockhurst 3, M. Anderson, Laq. Cockatoo-Motlap, B. Boileau, J. Hickey


West Adelaide: L. Young, Z. Venning, K. Kustermann, A. Dufour, E. Kilpatrick
South Adelaide: N. Nield, E. Brockhurst, J. Smith, J. Hickey, B. Boileau

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