Hostplus League

2022 Qualifying Final Preview

The battle between ruckmen Harry Boyd (Norwood - left) and Kieran Strachan (Adelaide) will be critical in the Qualifying Final. Picture - Cory Sutton


A fast-finishing Norwood will take on a consistent Crows outfit to decide who will face minor premier North Adelaide in the second semi-final.

With a 12-6 record, the Crows recorded their best home-and-away season since joining the competition, eclipsing their 11-6-1 effort which saw them place third in 2019. Despite a number of promising attempts, Mick Godden’s men have never made it to the big dance. Adelaide advanced to the club’s second preliminary final in 2019 by knocking off the Redlegs by 62 points when the rivals last met at in a final. But Norwood has had the ascendancy over the Crows of late, winning their past four encounters. This season, the two clashes between the clubs have proven close contests, with the Redlegs winning by five points in round eight and more recently by 12 points in round 16.


An indifferent start to the season saw the Redlegs sit two games outside of the five with a 4-5 record, but Norwood came home with a wet sail, winning eight on the trot before dropping points to West Adelaide in the final minor round. Norwood has been SANFL’s most consistent finalists in recent memory, qualifying for the the major round in 11 of the past 13 seasons. Despite this, the triple premiers from 2012-2014 have lost their past three finals. Coach Jade Rawlings has installed great belief amongst the group that his men can beat anyone, a theory proven when the Redlegs finished as the only team to defeat all others in 2022.


Despite being a key pillar of the Crows’ midfield for the back-end of the season, Matt Crouch did not meet the criteria to be eligible for finals. However, promising young defender Josh Worrell and key forward Elliott Himmelberg both qualified in a significant boost to the Crows’ chances. Norwood are a chance of regaining skipper Matthew Nunn for the all-important clash. The star midfielder hasn’t played since round 12 following an ankle injury. Nik Rokahr and Matthew Panos have both been listed as tests for Sunday’s match.


The qualifying final shapes as a classic battle between SANFL’s best offensive and defensive teams. Boasting forward weapons such as Tariek Newchurch, Matthew Wright, Lachlan Gollant and the aforementioned Himmelberg, it was no surprise to see Adelaide finish as the competition’s clear leading scorers. They averaged 23.1 more points per game than fourth-placed Norwood, but the Redlegs were the league’s stingiest side, offering up just 61.2 points against per game. Norwood were also the envy of the league through the minor rounds when it came to defensive efficiency (41.4%) and scoring shots allowed (17.3). Adelaide, on the other hand, averaged the most scoring shots (25.7) and had the best forward efficiency (49.9%).


Adelaide’s strong midfield line-up helped them conclude the minor rounds with the most average possessions per game (344.6), whilst Norwood sat 7th in the competition averaging 317.6. Generally aiming for tight, low-possession and heavily defensive games, the Redlegs conceded the least number of disposals per game (285.4). Whereas Adelaide have clearly been happy to play with a more possession-friendly and high-scoring game style. The contrast between the two sides is also particularly noticeable when it comes to opposition disposal efficiency, where Norwood finished first (71.4%) and the Crows last (78.4%).

Key Match-Ups

Kieran Strachan (Adelaide) v Harry Boyd (Norwood)

The qualifying final will see the two best ruckman in the competition go head-to-head. Despite being recruited to the club as a key defender, Norwood’s Harry Boyd has been a revelation through the midfield. The competitions leading hit-out winner, Boyd has provided his on-ballers with first use more than anyone in the league and at-times has even looked like an extra midfielder who is able to use his big frame to advantage. This week he’ll come up against fellow Country Victorian Kieran Strachan – the SANFL’s second best hit-out winner. Strachan edged Boyd in terms of pure hit-out numbers on both occasions this season, with Norwood opting to pair Boyd with fellow ruckman Luke Surman later in the year.

Both Boyd and Strachan offer far more to their respective teams than just taps, with the big men able to get around the ground to involve themselves in the play and take a mark down the line. Strachan finished the minor rounds as the league’s best contested marker with 40, but Boyd wasn’t too far behind, taking 28 contested marks. The pair have averaged similar disposal figures over the course of the season, but the Crow will have Norwood’s ruckman covered by 4cm when they meet again at the home of South Australian football. Boyd, however, averages 3.2 more clearances than Strachan this year – highlighting his ability to win the hard ball. This battle of the big boys is set to shape the qualifying final.


Billy Frampton (Adelaide) v Connor McLean (Norwood)

The ruck battle looms crucial, but once the ball heads into Norwood’s forward-50, the duel between Crows forward-turned-defender Billy Frampton and Norwood attacking revelation Connor McLean will be pivotal. Frampton’s ability to not only lock down his direct opponent but peel off to take intercept marks has been outstanding. He can inflict damage on the opposition with ball in-hand and is not afraid to pick off difficult targets by foot. His average of 21.8 disposals at 88% efficiency, 7.9 marks and 7.6 rebounds in 12 matches is elite for a key defender.

However, he’ll have his hands full containing Norwood big man Connor McLean, who also boasts terrific marking strength in the air. The Crows were one of only three sides to keep McLean goal-less this season, however he still managed to boot four goals on three occasions during the minor rounds. Whilst he isn’t a big possession winner, McLean has turned into one of the SANFL’s most dominant goal-kickers since making the move from Elizabeth for the 2022 season. His battle with Frampton and the Crows key defenders will be intriguing.

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