By PETER ARGENT
Henley is endeavoring achieve an historic three-peat in the National Pharmacies SANFL Juniors Under 17.5 Girls Division 1 competition this Sunday.
The Sharks now need get past Glenunga Blue to achieve their ultimate glory at Strararama Stadium, Glenelg.
They had delivered a dominant, undefeated season to this point and now take on their second semi-final foe Glenunga Blue, coached by Crows AFLW premiership player, Talia Radan.
Henley earned a handy 25-point win against Glenunga back in round eight and stamped their authority on the game in the semi-final, leading from the outset to enjoy a 68-point win.
Henley will definitely start as favourites, but this is the season-decider so anything can unfold.
If Glenunga can keep in touch during the opening three quarters, the pressure of the ultimate game of the season could become a factor.
“We’ve had some good results across the course of the year, receiving rewards for the work rate and work ethic of the girls,” Henley Coach Matthew Robran, who enjoyed the 22 season off, explained.
“Grand Finals are a completely different day, and you start the game with the same score.
“My message is pretty simple, it’s about playing to our strengths; we have three or four basic principles, but it’s about letting them play.
“In finals you need to be super competitive and defending well.
“It’s been a complete team effort all season.”
For the Sharks, Georgie Blades through the middle is strong and consistent, while the versatile Zoe Guo gets the job done at either end of the ground.
Unheralded Sienna Owers has proved to be an important focal point up forward and hits the scoreboard.
Mia Smith, Aleesha Robran, Owers and Guo have been among a strong spread of goal kickers for the Sharks, all having double figure seasons.
Glenunga’s Sophie Thredgold, in a combined midfield/high half-forward role, and a part of the Sturt development program, is the leading goal kicker across the competition in 2023.
Along with Thredgold, Bute girl Imogen Trengove and intercept marking half-back/midfielder, Lucy Weatherald, have produced consistent years for the Rams.
Katie Weatherald, Lucy’s older sister, is a lock-down defender for the Rams.
“We certainly have to be at our best to test Henley,” Glenunga coach, Talia Radan told SANFL.com.au.
“Henley are favourites going into the game, but this is a Grand Final and anything can happen.
“The group were really able to focus, gather themselves and go to another level against a talented Modbury side last weekend and we got this opportunity with an exciting three-point win.”
Goodwood is aiming for back-to-back triumphs in the Division 1 U17.5 Boys competition.
Winners against Henley in 2022, they now need to defeat Port District to collect the flag at Maughan Thiem Kia Oval on Sunday.
The Saints have been clutch at the business end of the year, again in 2023.
“Compared to last year we had a pretty strong season – and with a larger list, finishing third at the end of the minor round,” Goodwood coach Sean Crook confirmed.
“We were beaten by Golden Grove in the last minor round game and then came back last Sunday at Payneham Oval to beat them by four goals in the preliminary final.
“We had a good win against (Port) Districts at their venue in round two, but were soundly beaten in the second round.
“There is a strong rivalry between both clubs at the minute.
“I’d expect it to be a ripping contest between two evenly-matched outfits.”
Among the key personnel in the Saints’ quest for a second successive flag at this level are skipper Daniel Mclaren, Kishna Mittal and Oliver French.
Districts dispatched minor premier Golden Grove in the second semi-final, getting up in a high-quality affair by nine points, after defeating this week’s opponent, Goodwood in a qualifying final by 13 points on home turf.
For Port Districts, Kayne Hodges has been a strong avenue to goal with 42 majors, while Charlie Scolyer has proved to be a handy ally with 27 goals, including five against Goodwood back in round two.
Captain Logan Rose, fellow inside midfielder and excellent overhead mark Josh Thompson, along with Boston Hodges and Hudson Angove will be keys around the contest.
Smooth-mover Roy Sinclair is pivotal through the middle and across half-back as well.
“We are very evenly matched, especially through the middle,” Damien Angove the former Port Adelaide Magpie and District’s Under 17.5 coach, explained.
“After Goodwood led early, we got over the line by about 20-odd points in the qualifying final.
“Both teams played a simple game style and it should come down to who performs on Sunday.”
Sign up to see all the news from around the SANFL each week – directly in your inbox!