By ZAC MILBANK
Central District has put a major dent in Norwood’s top-three ambition, producing a stunning 19-point upset at The Parade on Friday night.
In a stirring performance for coach Roy Laird’s penultimate match, the baby Bulldogs answered every question of the finals-bound Redlegs to give Laird’s replacement plenty of heart for the future.
Led by the crafty forward tandem of Troy Menzel and Corey Durdin – who booted seven goals between them – the visitors held Norwood to just two behinds in the second term as they began to take control of the contest.
While the hosts pegged the margin back to just three points at the final change, the Dogs more than doubled their opponent’s scoring shots in the fourth term to take the premiership points in arguably their best effort for 2019.
The unexpected result will now almost certainly ensure Jarrod Cotton’s charges begin their major round campaign from the Elimination Final.
To scrape into the top three, Norwood will need to defeat West Adelaide comfortably in Round 18 while also hoping third-placed Port Adelaide loses its final two matches to Sturt and Central on foreign soil.
And even if all of those factors fall into place, the Redlegs will also need to make up the four percent they currently trail the Magpies by on the premiership table.
Central barely had a passenger as the ever-industrious Travis Schiller – with a game-high 33 disposals – found plenty of assistance from veteran pair Trent Goodrem and Luke Habel.
Even with Jarrod Schiller (pictured above) and Justin Hoskin being well down on their usual output this season, the Bulldogs’ second-tier stepped up in encouraging fashion.
Nick Gillard, Jydon Neagle, Wyatt Patterson and Marcus Barreau were among those to shine, with the latter kicking an eye-catching, soccer-style bicycle kick goal to seal the game late in the final stanza.
Former Redlegs Ryan Llewellyn and Darcy Pisani also had their moments against their old club but it was Menzel and Durdin who were the genuine difference-makers inside the Dogs’ attacking 50m arc.
The clever pair had 15 shots on goal, with former Crow Menzel threatening to tear the game apart with his 4.6 to go with his 20 disposals and six marks.
Durdin, who is eligible for the 2020 AFL Draft, showed off his talent in fine style when he used his speed and game sense for maximum impact.
An underage member of the Torrens University SA U18 team this year, Durdin produced one for the highlight reel in the third quarter when he gave the more experienced Cam Shenton a ”Don’t Argue” before speeding into goal with a snap from 10m out.
In the final term, the 17-year-old placed himself beautifully to crumb at the front of the pack before finishing nicely with a clever checkside goal from 25m out.
It restored Central’s lead to 11 points, just 65 seconds after Norwood’s Dom Barry had trimmed it to a dangerous five-point margin after running into an open goal.
While the positives were plentiful for Central, there were far fewer for the Legs, who had Matthew Nunn continue his rich form with 31 disposals, nine clearances, seven tackles and three goals.
Nunn used his speed from stoppage on several occasions as well as hitting the scoreboard, evading three would-be tacklers on the verge of three-quarter time before snapping truly tight in the pocket.
Barry’s run-and-carry was equally important for the Redlegs, with the former Power wingman kicking three majors to go with his 25 possessions.
Ruckman Sam Baulderstone put in a huge effort in the absence of premiership team-mate Brady Dawe, who was a late withdrawal with a quad complaint.
Baulderstone, who played a virtual lone hand in the ruck, finished with 19 disposals, nine clearances and a massive 48 hit outs in what was a frustrating night for his Redlegs, who will quickly turn their attention to the Bloods next Friday night.
CENTRAL 2.4 5.9 9.9 13.16 (94)
NORWOOD 4.0 4.2 9.6 11.9 (75)
LEADING DISPOSALS – Central: T. Schiller 33, Goodrem 23, Habel 21, Menzel, J. Schiller 20, Gillard, Jydon Neagle, Patterson 16.
Norwood: Nunn 31, Barry, Gerloff 25, Panos 24, L. Johnston 23, Baulderstone 19, Grigg 16.
GOALS – Central: Menzel 4, Durdin 3, East 2, Barreau, Gillard, Hoskin, Jenner.
Norwood: Barry, Nunn 3, Bampton 2, Panos, Smart, A. Wilson.