By ZAC MILBANK
South Australia has finished third – with a strong victory against Victoria Country – at the 2023 Toyota Wheelchair AFL National Championships in Melbourne.
The Croweaters got their campaign off to a flying start with victory against last year’s title-winners Victoria Metro, the first of seven wins during the Lightning Carnival phase of the tournament.
SA’s only loss during the Lightning Carnival was to Victoria Country as it finished top with a superior percentage, ensuring it would be ranked in Division One with Victoria Metro, Victoria Country, Western Australia and Queensland.
Guided by experienced playing coach Giang Danh and captain courageous Grant Leonard, SA suffered a heart-breaking defeat in the final minute of its opening encounter as it scored 9.10 (64) to WA’s 11.3 (69).
The Croweaters then responded with encouraging victories against Victoria Country and Queensland before inaccuracy proved costly against eventual champion Victoria Metro, as they succumbed 3.8 (26) to 5.6 (36).
Finishing third at the end of the minor round of Division One competition, SA then finished strongly with its final scoreline of 20.8 (128) to 11.8 (74) in the third-place playoff.
Dominant centre Mat Gregory and team leading goal kicker Jamie Smyth, were SA’s two players selected in the 2023 All-Australian line-up. Smyth, from Central District, was the Croweaters’ MVP of the tournament.
South Australia will be aiming to wrestle back its crown when it heads to Melbourne for the 2023 Toyota Wheelchair AFL National Championships from November 1 to 5.
Having dominated the national scene for four consecutive years from 2016 to 2019, the Croweaters were edged out by Victoria at last year’s titles after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But with experienced Giang Danh hopping back into the chair as playing coach, coupled with three changes to the line-up, SA will be confident it can turn the tables next month.
Danh, who coached from the sidelines last year, is one of four players selected from Novita SANFL Wheelchair Football League premier Sturt, together with Double Blues premiership captain Steven Avery.
Sturt’s Mathew Gregory is one of a trio of fresh faces, along with Woodville-West Torrens pair Adam Roocke and Chris Simpson.
Two players, Grant Leonard and Richard Davis, have been chosen from Norwood while Central District’s Jamie Smyth is the Bulldogs’ sole representative.
As many as 10 teams will compete in the 2023 Toyota Wheelchair AFL National Championships, with a Lightning Carnival format of matches to be held across Thursday November 2 and Friday November 3.
All finals matches will be live-streamed via the AFL website and Kayo Freebies.
|Grant Leonard (Captain)
|Sturt (Player Coach)
|Michael Neroni (Emergency)
|Steve Edge (Emergency)
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