Dogs do it again in high-scoring final term

CENTRAL District just finds a way to win the close ones. The reigning premiers have the belief they can run down any opponent at any point, and it showed in the Bulldogs’ footy by coming from as much as 11 points down late in the third term to kick four of the next five goals and eventually seal a seven-point win over Sturt.

The Double Blues were terrific and are far better than their 3-6 win-loss record suggests, going toe-for-toe with one of the title contenders throughout most of the four quarters of action. Even when the margin was out to 14 points in the final couple of minutes, Sturt kept fighting and cut it back to seven points by the final siren.

Inaccuracy in the opening term was the coach killer for the home side, as the Double Blues missed gettable chances on the Unley Oval deck. Even star midfielder/forward India Rasheed – who was easily best-on in the match despite the loss – was not immune to the missed opportunities, sending two set shots either side of the big posts.

They were crucial misses considering Central District has raced out of the blocks to kick two goals in three and a half minutes through 50th gamer Lauren Breguet and young gun Jasmine Evans. Sturt peppered the goals for the rest of the first term as Rasheed was simply dominant across the field. Ironically the hardest shot she attempted in the first term – a flying chance on the run under pressure – sailed straight through the middle and helped Sturt cut the quarter time deficit to two points.

Central District has been the best offensive side, but worst defensive side this season, and the last time these sides faced off, it was the highest scoring match in SANFLW history. That did not look to be the case again when at half-time, only Georgia Swan‘s first of three majors added to the total score in the second term.

That was enough for the Double Blues to go ahead by four points, and from then, the teams would trade blows in an entertaining second half. There was something about the left-footers on the day as Bulldogs midfielder Caitlin Wendland was slicing and dicing her way through traffic with her foot skills and the clear best-on for the Dogs.

The pair of Wendland and Rasheed looked a class above, but it was Sturt’s blue collar brigade of Isobel Kuiper and Alisha Gepp who combined for 40 disposals, 28 tackles and 13 clearances in the win, getting their hands dirty and getting the better of their highly decorated Central District opponents.

Meanwhile on the Scoreboard, Sturt continued to keep its nose in front with goals to Rasheed ad Swan countering that of Evans’ early in the third term to lead by as much as 11 points at one stage. Ticking into the final few minutes of the premiership quarter and just as it looked like the Double Blues were on the verge of kicking away to a win, Charlotte Riggs stepped up.

The top-ager played forward and ruck through the contest, and while on-ball took a stoppage inside 50 and snapped around her body to give the Dogs a glimmer of hope on the edge of three quarter time, cutting it back to under a kick.

Two and a half minutes into the fourth term, Riggs did it again after a set shot from Breguet just fell short on the goalline but Riggs had the smarts to control it, and in a one-on-one booted it home. The Dogs had hit the front, but when Wendland sailed home another at the six and a half minute mark, the Dogs increased their lead out to a couple of kicks.

Now in front by eight points, Central District looked the one most comfortable to close out the match. However the Double Blues came yet again, with a nice play on the overlap leaving full-forward Amy Brooks-Birve all alone in the goalsquare to mark and kick the easiest of majors. It was game on and back to two points.

Then came the Katelyn Rosenzweig era. Kept to one handball by half-time, the talented goalkicker showed why she is so dangerous. A week after winning the game with a goal late in the game against Woodville-West Torrens, Rosenzweig lived up to the moniker ‘it might not be your game, but it can be your moment’ with a settling goal to counter the Brooks-Birve moment.

She was not done though, kicking another ripping major in the 18th minute to essentially ice the game with a 14-point margin. Sturt refused to throw in the towel though and kept pressing to the final siren with an almost-goal two minutes later before Swan kicked a consolation major – her third of the contest – in red time to reduce the final margin to just seven points,.

Sturt had 13 scoring shots to 10, but the first term of 1.5 (11) hurt the Double Blues despite dominating the inside 50 count. It was an odd game where Sturt had more of the ball and put it inside 50 14 more times (36-22), but the Dogs kicked 8.2 (50) from just 22 entries, running at almost 50 per cent forward efficiency.

The Double Blues did well to quell the Dogs’ stoppage game though, as Central District won the clearance count by seven (37-30) off the back of a jaw-dropping 69 hitouts to 27 in the match. While on paper the match was congested, it was far more entertaining than that with the stoppages often moving metres around the ground rather than repeat in one spot.

Wendland starred for the Dogs, doing it all. She amassed 26 disposals, 17 tackles, nine clearances and five inside 50s – all team-highs – as well as clunking four marks, two of which were contested, and kicking a goal. She took control of the midfield with Laitiah Huynh (13 disposals, five tackles, three clearances) and captain Shelby Smith (12 disposals, 13 tackles and four clearances) working hard.

The two 50th gamers in Breguet (10 disposals, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and 1.1) and Madison Lane (15 disposals, five marks, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were impressive, while the rebounding work of veteran Liz Wilson and double bottom-ager Miyu Endersby – with a two-decade age gap between them – help quell the Double Blues. Riggs dominated the ruck with 39 hitouts and kicking her two goals.

Rasheed was far and away the best-on, picking up 34 disposals, seven marks – one contested – nine tackles, eight clearances, nine inside 50s and 2.2. Kuiper and Gepp was also strong, while it was hard to look past the work of Swan inside 50, booting three goals from 15 touches and five marks. Claudia Edmonds and captain Kate Harris also did well, while Monique Bessen did not play in the second half after having some moments early.

The result meant Central District went a win clear in third spot, while Sturt remains four points outside the top four with five games to play. Had it gone the other way, Sturt would be just a win outside the top four, and Central District could have dropped as low as fifth, indicating just how tight the SANFLW is this year.

STURT 1.5 | 2.5 | 4.6 | 6.7 (43)
CENTRAL DISTRICT 2.1 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 8.2 (50)

G. Swan 3, I. Rasheed 2, A. Brooks-Birve
Central District: J. Evans 2, C. Riggs 2, K. Rosenzweig 2, L. Breguet, C. Wendland

I. Rasheed, G. Swan, I. Kuiper, A. Gepp, C. Edmonds
Central District: C. Wendland, M. Lane, L. Wilson, C. Riggs, L. Breguet

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