Panthers ready for final fortnight of “testing material”

AFTER starting the season with consecutive losses, South Adelaide has snatched top spot with a fortnight to play in the SANFL Women’s, but it is far from a minor premiership just yet as the Panthers prepare to play the other top three teams in the last two weeks.

South Adelaide coach Rick Watts is under no illusion the challenge ahead, and while Glenelg is missing a few key players due to the AFLW Academy and All-Stars match as well as injury, he knows it will still be a “huge challenge” and it will not get any easier against a full-strength Central District outfit in the last round.

Glenelg will be without young guns Poppy Scholz, Violet Patterson, Eloise Mackereth, league best and fairest winner Jess Bates and key ruck Shay’Lee Dayman for the top of the table clash.

“It doesn’t matter who you play, you can be lucky or unlucky depending on what sort of form you’re coming up against,” Watts said. “We’re a bit fortunate that we’ve got Glenelg this week with their form slump at the moment and some injuries that we’re hearing.

“But the following week we’re going to come up against Centrals who that last quarter of theirs (kicked seven goals against Glenelg) I’ve never seen a team do that to anyone. I think Glenelg’s always a challenging game and that’ll be a huge challenge for us and again Centrals last round. I think we’ll know whether we’re the testing material by the time we hit finals.”

Watts, whose side’s last loss came against Norwood back at The Parade in Round 8, has strung together four straight wins since then, but said the Redlegs are “really big contenders” and that the competition was so even that even the bottom sides were dangerous, citing wins to both North Adelaide and Eagles in recent weeks.

Though the Panthers have ascended to the top of the ladder, Watts said his side plays its best footy when it is the underdog and do not get too far ahead of the job at hand. That mantra carried into the clash against last placed North Adelaide which had won two on the trot prior to going down to South last weekend.

“We knew coming in it was a real danger game for us,” Watts said. “Obviously they’ve changed coaches and changed their style. We made sure that we weren’t complacent and we were on top of our game.

“I feel like we’ve been playing good footy without playing great footy and our defensive actions have been really good, but our offence and our connection offensively is where we’ve needed to improve. It’s been okay, but we’ve just been lacking that polish in that last third of the oval so it was good to finally get some reward for effort on the weekend.”

Emily Brockhurst has enjoyed a fantastic season up forward for the Panthers. Image credit: Nick Hook Photography

One player who has made a huge difference to the Panthers’ lineup this season is leading goalkicker Emily Brockhurst who returned from local football after originally being a junior Panther, but a defender.

“When she was playing back in 2018/19, she was probably a totally different player and was a total different person back then,” Watts said. “She was playing on the half-back flank and couldn’t really break into our side fully and we had some discussions about what she needs to work on and so on.

“Then she stepped away from footy … went back and played local and played as a forward and just changed her bodyshape and size and just became more agile and more mobile.”

Trialling her up forward over the preseason, Watts quickly found a potential star in the making and Brockhurst remained in the role this season. She has booted 20 goals in 12 games, including four bags of three goals, and a career-high four majors on the weekend against North Adelaide.

“We decided during preseason from the start we just smacked her up front and Lucy Northcott at that stage was in the army and hadn’t joined us so she filled that void,” Watts said. “We found that our defenders were finding that there wasn’t really a good matchup for her and we thought if we can’t defend her internally, there’s probably not going to be many teams that can.”

Though Brockhurst was perhaps a surprise omission from the State squad that faced the WAFLW last month, Watts said there had been AFLW club interest around the forward and he was considering it essentially like a debut season.

“We spoke about her just being 12 games into her career, so what she had previously wasn’t her,” Watts said. “She didn’t have the body shape and work ethic of a footballer, now she does. We’ve just looked at that way and she’s 12 games into her career.

“That’s what we’re looking at, but again the most exciting thing for her is we still see aspects of her footy that she’s not quite on top of, and she knows it and she works so hard. She’s the first there kicking goals and one of the last to leave. She’s an untapped resource or potential. It’s just really exciting. If she can keep working hard on her growth areas, I think she can go a long way.”


Esther Schirmer

“She’s had an incredible year thus far. We try and free her up and with such a versatile defence that we’ve got… we try and get her a bit of isolation and create her as the spare as much as possible just because of her marking prowess and ability to read the ball. She’s found herself on some jobs that take her high up the ground and that has allowed her to have a lot of entries inside our forward 50 which is fantastic.”

Shae Archbold

“Coming back from ACLs a lot of our girls can attest to, is always a challenge. You lose that speed, that explosiveness, it takes a while to get it back and the confidence in your sideways moment and it has taken her time to find her feet. The fight for spots is real … but I feel like her last three weeks she’s really built into that position and that footy she was playing two years ago before her ACL. We’re really excited to see what she can do over the next couple of weeks and hopefully finals.”

Lily Baxter

“[Baxter is] mercurial at scoring goals and the offensive side of things and her growth area is really her work rate and her defensive attributes and that’s something we’ve challenged her to work on this year and she’s been in and out of the side due to the strength of our list, and also some areas we’ve asked her to work on. We’ve seen the last four or five weeks some real big growth in her work rate and her off-ball work to get back and support our defence or even connect with our offence has been absolutely fantastic.”

Layla Vizgaudis is finding her feet at League level over the last few weeks. Image credit: Nick Hook Photography

Under 16s trio: Emma Charlton, Layla Vizgaudis and Taya Maxwell

“We’ve learnt a lot as coaches because Emma, Layla and even Taya have just been stronger, bigger, faster than the girls they’ve played against and they’ve never really learnt to defend, they’ve never really learnt to play on players, they’ve always been attacking and always been the ball winners. I think as coaches is we’re learning when we get these girls in, it’s not just all rainbows and chocolates, sometimes they’ve just got to learn to fail a bit and learn that resilience because they haven’t come across it too much.”


“I said on the weekend Emma we said she is now playing like a Charlton, like her sister (Teah). It was a penny drop moment on the weekend where she was able to fly for marks and really be explosive. Prior to that, she’d been working really hard without much reward and I think now she’s starting to see what it takes to work at this level.”


“Layla, early days I think it was Round 3 or 4 we gave her a tagging role on the wing. She learnt very quickly how to defend and what to do, and it’s not all offence and as we saw I think last week, she got the Breakthrough Player last week.”


“She’s had to wait in the wings and right now she’s keeping our captain out of the side which is fantastic.”

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