Lee launches Redlegs into finals

IT was a second half performance that had to be seen to be believed, but Norwood tall Kiana Lee produced a crucial few moments to deliver the Redlegs a place in the 2024 SANFL Women’s finals series. Needing to defeat West Adelaide in order to book their place in the post-season series, the Redlegs found themselves trailing by two points at half-time, before Lee slotted back-to-back goals to given the Redlegs what turned out to be an unassailable lead.

Norwood went on to win by a goal with West Adelaide converting an early major in the fourth term, but a win was all the visitors needed to finally safe keep fourth spot, a position that had been so close, yet so far for three weeks. By the time the final siren sounded with the ball down West Adelaide’s forward end, Norwood players could finally rejoice and enjoy the 4.6 (30) to 4.0 (24) victory.

It should come as no surprise that the battle between fourth fifth had nothing in it, and both sides were up for the fight. In the end it came down to the team in front at the final siren, with the Norwood defence holding a strong line and the Bloods were unable to penetrate it late in the final term.

The match was an armwrestle from start to finish, with the first term drought broken by a classy finish from Candice Belbin out of the forward stoppage. West Adelaide had plenty of chances itself, but it took until a couple of forgettable decisions from Norwood players to hand and equaliser back to the home side.

Molly Peterson was knocked over as she kicked inside 50 in the last minute for a downfield free kick to Lucy Waye. In her only real mistake of the game, Lee kicked the ball off the deck in a mind blank moment handing Way a shot from the goalline as the siren sounds. The West Adelaide forward slotted the major and the Bloods had cut the quarter time deficit to two points.

Peterson would soon play a key role on the scoreboard herself, slotting a remarkable goal from 40m out with a penetrating low kick in the eighth minute of the second term. As would be the case for the majority of the match, Norwood found an answer and it came off a West Adelaide turnover.

As the Bloods were kicking deep in defence, a pass missed its internded target for dangereou Redlegs forward Adrienne Davies to swoop and run in and kick the goal. Norwood had been pressing through the work of Jade Halfpenny and Tahlita Buethke and finally got one back.

No sooner had they done that, and West Adelaide conquered up a second goal moments before the siren. Just as they had in on quarter time, the Bloods rushed it forward anad Jemma Ellis collected a critical one-on-one ball and threw it on the boot haphazardly in a snap knowing the siren could sound at any second. Headed for the post, it got a kind bounce and went in to give West the lead at half-time with a straight kicking 3.0 to Norwood’s 2.4.

At the main break on the live ladder, Sturt was in fourth spot as it was crushing North Adelaide, while overtaking West Adelaide’s percentage in the process. However to best exmplify how tight the race was, it soon turned on its head. Lee bobbed up to produce some incredible contested marks, missing her first chance from the set shot, but then clunked two consecutive grabs and booted both goals to rac out to a 29-18 lead.

Her efforts – often in a pack or against multiple opponents – were significant as her velcro hands clutched the ball safely and her last two shots never looked like missing. She has become the difference in the game, and would remain the difference.

Late in the match, Lee clunked a couple of strong marks in the defensive zone. They came in the dying moments and she used all of her allotted time after the mark to chew more seconds off the clock. Earlier in the final quarter, Norwood had responded through Nicole Hooper after a great kick in from Emma Kilpatrick.

A draw would have been enough for Norwood with its superior percentage to Sturt, but taking no chances, the Redlegs desperately defended with West Adelaide trying to throw caution to the wind. The Bloods were restricted to slower ball movement at times due to Norwood’s structure, and in the end, fell short of finals.

Lee would finish as best on ground, clunking nine marks and a remarkable six of those were contested. She would also record 17 disposals and boot 2.2, while having two clearances, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s and lay two tackles. Halfpenny (18 disposals, five marks – four contested – and five clearances), Belbin (13 disposals, 13 tackles, six clearances and a goal) and Georgina Birchall (12 disposals, six tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s) were all prominent around the ball.

For West Adelaide, the experience of Iilish Ross proved to be important racking up 24 disposals, six clearances and laying nine tackles, while fellow midfielders Asha Dufour and Zoe Venning were also productive. Skipper Madi Russell did her best in the back 50, while top-ager Emma Kilpatrick had some nice touches on the wing.

WEST ADELAIDE 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 (24)
NORWOOD 1.2 | 2.4 | 4.5 | 4.6 (30)

West Adelaide:
J. Ellis, N. Hooper, M. Peterson, L. Waye
Norwood: K. Lee 2, A. Davies, C. Belbin

West Adelaide:
I. Ross, M. Russell, A. Dufour, Z. Venning, E. Kilpatrick
Norwood: K. Lee, J. Halfpenny, C. Belbin, G. Birchall, T. Buethke

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