By ZAC MILBANK
South Australia’s Country team has been edged out by WA Country by just nine points in a hard-fought contest at Optus Stadium in Perth on Saturday.
Looking to hold off the Sandgropers like they managed at Adelaide Oval in last year’s thrilling encounter, the Croweaters were forced to play catch-up football after a slow start in the opening term.
As hard as they tried, the visitors only found themselves further behind by the main change as WA slammed on five goals to SA’s two in the second stanza.
But with North Adelaide great Leigh Rsywyk hitting the scoreboard for three goals, the Croweaters slowly clawed back into the contest to trail by just eight points at three-quarter time.
As both sides kicked three goals each in the final quarter, this was to be close to the final margin as SA paid the ultimate price for its tardy start.
Penola’s Scott Merrett was a deserved winner of the Barry Stringer Medal as SA’s best player while Rsywyk and his fellow former Roosters in Todd Miles and Will Combe were also among the strong performers.
Former Port Magpies defender Sid Masters – who was the leading goal kicker at the SA Country Championships – continued to show off the attacking side to his game by matching Ryswyk with three goals.
WA COUNTRY 4.1 9.1 10.2 13.5 (83)
SA COUNTRY 2.1 4.4 8.6 11.8 (74)
BEST – SA Country: S. Merrett, L. Ryswyk, T. Miles, S. Pfeiffer, W. Combe, S. Masters.
GOALS – SA Country: S. Masters, L. Ryswyk 3, W. Combe, T. Irlam 2, S. Merrett.
Barry Stringer Medal – Scott Merrett (Penola – Murray South East)
Selectors have finalised a 22-man squad to represent the South Australian Country team against Western Australia Country on Saturday July 27.
To be coached by south-east stalwart Adam Merrett, the Croweaters will tackle the Sandgropers at the new Optus Stadium in Perth as the curtain-raiser to the West Coast v North Melbourne AFL match.
SANFL 200 Club Member Leigh Ryswyk – who helped guide Central Zone to the 2019 SA Country Championship – headlines the talented group which will depart for the flight across the Nullarbor on Friday July 26.
Ryswyk will also be joined by fellow former North Adelaide players Todd Miles (pictured above), Justin Schahinger and Will Combe, the younger brother of current North Adelaide midfielder Campbell Combe.
Former Port Magpies Sid Masters and Xavier Watson are among a strong Eyre Peninsula contingent set to don the cherished red guernsey.
SA Country will be hoping to win back-to back interstate titles, having defeated WA Country in 2018 by a 5-point margin at Adelaide Oval.
The match – which begins at 1.20pm SA time – will be live streamed on the SANFL website.
Tyson Irlam – Willaston (Barossa Light & Gawler)
Leigh Ryswyk – Barossa District (Barossa Light & Gawler)
Andrew Wright – Gawler Central (Barossa Light & Gawler)
Todd Miles – Barossa District (Barossa Light & Gawler)
Giles Ellis – Kadina (Yorke Peninsula)
Justin Schahinger – RSMU (North Eastern)
Jackson Murphy – Tumby Bay (Great Flinders)
Jaxen Norton – United Yeelanna (Great Flinders)
Xavier Watson – United Yeelanna (Great Flinders)
Jordan Hind – Tumby Bay (Great Flinders)
Ryley Maitland – Kimba Districts (Eastern Eyre)
Sid Masters – Ports (Eastern Eyre)
Dylan Hewett – Broughton Mundoora (Northern Areas)
Lukas Kangur – Booleroo Melrose Wilmington (Northern Areas)
Brad Eagle – Crystal Brook (Northern Areas)
William Combe – Crystal Brook (Northern Areas)
Jordan Fuller – Proprietary Risdon (Spencer Gulf)
Murray South East Zone
Jayden Eldridge – East Gambier (Western Border)
Scott Merrett – Penola (Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara)
Sam Pfieffer – Ramblers (River Murray)
Damon Arnold – Reynella (Southern)
Tyson Hoffmann – Willunga (Great Southern)
Adam Merrett (Murray South East Zone)
Scott Feltus (Western Zone)
Michael Curtis (Western Zone)