By ZAC MILBANK
Adelaide’s new SANFL captain Matthew Wright didn’t take long to prove he will be a difference-maker in 2019 as he guided the Crows to a 32-point win against Sturt at Peter Motley Oval on Saturday.
Making the surprising call to retire from Carlton despite having a solid season at AFL level in 2018, Wright will be an exceptional addition for the SANFL Crows with his leadership and on-field coaching this year.
With his side having just one victory last year, Wright was quick to inject new life into his team by setting up Myles Poholke (25 disposals) for the first of his three majors in the first quarter.
Then the 29-year-old kicked the first of his four goals for the game, and while he only had a total of 12 disposals, he made sure each one was damaging to the opposition while also taking six marks.
Richmond recruit Tyson Stengle pushed the margin out to 24 points in favour of the Crows at half-time when he booted one of his four goals but Sturt continued to cling on in the third term by whittling the lead down to 13 points at the final change.
But it was that man Wright who ensured his side wouldn’t be overcome by putting them 26 points up four minutes into the fourth term, just two minutes after Poholke converted a free kick from 45m.
Former Double Blue Pat Wilson continued his great form from last year into Round 1 with 28 disposals while Crows officials will be pleased with the polish Andrew McPherson provided in defence with 22 possessions.
Playing their first match under new coach Nathan Grima, the Double Blues appeared to lack spirit in the final term as they conceded five goals in front of their home faithful.
Veteran recruit Danyle Pearce kicked a contender for Goal of the Year with his ripper from the boundary line which was Sturt’s first of the afternoon, the former Docker finishing with 22 disposals.
Sturt defender Sam Colquhoun racked up 34 touches setting up the play from the back half while Steven Slimming enjoyed a particularly strong first half to post 22 possessions and seven marks.
Milestone man Tom Harms wasn’t his side’s worst player, booting a trademark long bomb goal from outside 50m during the second term in his 100th match.
Strathmore signing Tom Condon displayed encouraging signs in his first Statewide Super League match to finish with a team-high three goals for the hosts.
Sturt will now turn its attention to facing the Eagles in Round 2 while the Crows will tackle Glenelg next Friday night at the Bay.
ADELAIDE 2.2 7.4 9.4 14.9 (93)
STURT 1.1 3.4 6.9 8.13 (61)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Adelaide: Wilson 28, Poholke 25, McPherson 22, Ellis-Yolmen 21, McHenry 20, Butts, Sholl 19, Fogarty 18.
Sturt: Colquhoun 34, Battersby 27, Kirkwood 24, Pearce, Slimming 22, F. Evans, Riley 20, Harms 19.
GOALS – Adelaide: Wright, Stengle 4, Poholke 3, Greenwood, Himmelberg, Latchford.
Sturt: Condon 3, M. Evans, Greenslade, Harms, Pearce, Penfold.
South Adelaide opened its account in fine style, overwhelming Central District by 59 points at Flinders University Stadium.
Setting up the victory by booting 4.2 into the wind while holding the visitors’ to 1.2 in the opening term, the Panthers looked in exceptional touch as they worked to a different structure in personnel.
With co-captain Joel Cross at his superb best racking up 37 disposals to go with his three goals, the hosts used regular defender Alex Cailotto in attack with usual forward Ben Haren spending large portions of the game in the backline.
The move worked well, as the back six completely shut the Bulldogs down for the majority of the contest with Haren teaming well with former skipper Brad Crabb, Tyson Brown and the much-improved Joe Haines, who had 23 disposals.
The return of Emmanuel Irra (27 disposals) ensured there was plenty of dash off the half-back line while ex-Box Hill ruckman Michael Knoll had 13 disposals, seven marks and 23 hitouts in an encouraging SANFL debut.
But the heartening aspect was the masterclass from Cross, who after enduring a challenging season last year for his lofty standards, returned to his brilliant best as evidenced by one of his three majors being a ripping checkside from the pocket after shrugging a tackle.
The win came without star recruit Malcolm Karpany, who was a late withdrawal due to the birth of his child early on Saturday morning.
After starting sluggishly, Central closed to within five points 15 minutes into the third term after Fraser Fort quickly followed former Redleg Darcy Pisani’s first major for his new club.
It was all downhill from there for the Dogs though, with the Panthers piling on 10 of the next 11 goals to cruise to an eye-catching opening round victory.
As usual, Central ball magnet Travis Schiller worked hard for his 33 touches, six tackles and nine clearances while Pisani had an encouraging start with 23 possessions to go with his third term major.
But the Bulldogs will need to find answers in a hurry given they host Norwood in Round 2 next Saturday while the Panthers will travel to Alberton to face Port Adelaide.
SOUTH 4.2 5.3 8.5 16.6 (102)
CENTRAL 1.2 1.4 5.6 6.7 (43)
LEADING DISPOSALS – South: Cross 37, Irra 27, Liddle 26, Haines 23, Noble 22, Davis 21, Rose, Schwarz 20, Sampson, Whittlesea 19.
Central: T. Schiller 33, Presbury 25, Pisani 23, J. Schiller 21, Habel 20, Dew, Furnell 16.
GOALS – South: Cross 3, Noble, Whittlesea, Schwarz 2, Brown, Cailotto, Davis, Fitt, Liddle, Overall.
Central: Stephenson 2, Fort, Menzel, Jydon Neagle, Pisani.
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