South Adelaide has won the 2018 SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League premiership, edging out a desperate Norwood by just five points in a thrilling Grand Final at Peter Motley Oval on Anzac Day.
Finishing in top spot as minor premier, the Panthers were widely tipped to win the flag in their inaugural season and while they achieved that memorable feat, it wasn’t without one almighty fight from a spirited Redlegs outfit.
The Panthers appeared set to streak to the predicted victory in comfortable fashion when they opened up a 17-point lead after Cat Williams soccered off the ground in the goal square 13 minutes into the second term.
But Norwood – playing with tremendous spirit in the wake of former team-mate Ellen Maple’s passing – refused to adhere to the script.
Goalsneak Alana Browne made the most of a play-on call from the umpire to run into an open goal just six seconds before the half-time siren, giving the Redlegs’ great belief.
Despite having fearless skipper Bek McMahon hobbling into the changerooms on crutches at the main change, Norwood’s Rhianna Peate kicked a nice set shot from a tricky angle 15m out to put her side within five points early in the third quarter.
The healthy crowd was pumping when Redleg Sally Riley tied up the scores after earning a free kick for holding the ball, only to have her effort cancelled out almost immediately when South co-captain Kristi Harvey converted her contested mark in the goal square.
It did nothing to ward off Norwood though, as it wrestled with its more-fancied opponents for the first ten minutes of the fourth term before McMahon, who had defiantly returned to the field, made her presence felt.
After finding herself in open space running inside attacking 50m arc, McMahon was treated to a nice pass from consistent team-mate Monqiue Hollick before goaling nicely on the run from 30m to tie up the scores 11 minutes in.
Just 70 seconds later, South star Courtney Gum answered with a 35m set shot after marking inside attacking 50m.
A rushed behind to Norwood in the 15th minute of the last term gave it a chance of pulling off a remarkable victory but it wasn’t to be as South clung on for an historic premiership in its first foray into the SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League.
”What an absolute honour and pleasure it is to be the coach of such an amazing club,” South coach Krissie Steen said.
”What a bunch of girls, they were outstanding. Norwood absolutely gave it to us, my voice is hoarse from yelling on the boundary.”
South co-captain Kristi Harvey praised her team-mates for coming together so quickly in their opening campaign.
”We started in in October and there were girls who had never kicked a footy before,” Harvey said.
”We worked so hard and I have never been so proud to be involved in such a great club.
”To everyone at South, thanks for taking us in and backing us, I don’t think we would find that level of support at another club. I’m so proud of everyone.”
An equally proud Norwood skipper McMahon declared everyone at The Parade to be ”family” and they certainly played that way.
”Together, we are family,” McMahon said.
”Whether we are players, trainers or coaches and everyone in between, there are also some people out there who are diehards and they are the ones who get us through. I’m so proud of everything we achieved in the past two weeks. We are family.”
Promising South defender Cheyenne Hammond claimed the medal as best afield, racking up 22 touches after making an early impression on the game with her speed in repelling the ball out of the backline.
Ruck Anne Hatchard influenced the contest with her strong play around the ground and at the stoppages to finish with 21 disposals and a goal while Gum and Nikki Gore showed their classy disposal by foot on several occasions for the Panthers.
Hollick provided plenty of run and determination for the Redlegs, who were also well served by Riley and ball magnet Rhianna Peate while Nicola Burns’ third quarter played a significant role in hauling her team back into the game.
SOUTH 0.3 2.5 3.6 4.6 (30)
NORWOOD 0.0 1.0 3.0 4.1 (25)
LEADING DISPOSALS – South: Cheyenne Hammond 22, Nikki Gore, Anne Hatchard 21, Courtney Gum 20, Lisa Whiteley, Hannah Munyard 13.
Norwood: Monique Hollick, Rhiannon Busch 20, Sally Riley 16, Cassie Tsoumbris 13, Whitney Benson 11.
GOALS – South: Courtney Gum, Cat Williams, Anne Hatchard, Kristi Harvey
Norwood: Bek McMahon, Alana Browne, Sally Riley, Rhianna Peate
BEST ON GROUND MEDAL – Cheyenne Hammond (South Adelaide)
CHIEF SANFL WRITER