By ZAC MILBANK
North Adelaide can finally celebrate.
The Roosters had been the hard luck story throughout the opening three years of the Statewide Super Women’s League, losing two Grand Finals and a Preliminary Final.
But now it is time for Prospect girls to enjoy their time in the spotlight after completing a rare feat in any sport, at any level – progressing through a season undefeated.
”To our girls – it’s about bloody time,” jubilant North Adelaide captain Leah Tynan said after accepting her premiership medallion.
Edging out South Adelaide by just seven points in Sunday’s title-decider at Thebarton Oval, Krissie Steen’s charges held their nerve to finish their campaign with a flawless 12-0 win-loss record.
Steen, who coached South to its inaugural premiership in 2018, was the mastermind behind North’s breakthrough SANFLW flag win as star midfielder Anne Hatchard claimed the medal for best afield.
”SANFL and Statewide Super stood by our competition,” Steen said during the premiership presentation.
”So many people said they would give up on us. So many people said it would just be the League boys who would come back (after the Covid shutdown) but they gave us our whole competition and all of our finals.
”They have done an awesome job and what actually happens is that these girls are living out their dreams. I get phone calls from younger players’ families all the time about how it (football) is helping their development as a person and that’s what Statewide Super and Kia are doing when they fund a competition like this.”
It was the third occasion – all by less than 10 points – North had beaten the brave Panthers this year, ensuring Rick Watts’ outfit wouldn’t secure a hat-trick of premierships in its first three years in the competition.
And it wasn’t quite the fairytale finish for South premiership captain Lauren Buchanan, who was fittingly chaired off by her teammates after her final match.
”What a game from both teams,” Buchanan said after defending valiantly for her side to finish with 11 disposals and four marks.
”Thank you to SANFL for letting us resume this competition. We sat dormant for a couple of months not really knowing if we would resume but we were very happy to comeback so a big thank you to Statewide Super for making that happen as well.
”North, you were the team to beat all season, you played well today and deserved the win, so congratulations.
”Krissie it was a credit to you to get the girls up for a magnificent season.
”To our girls, I’m not sure what more to say, I’m super proud each week to take the field with you. We brought it every week and had a great contest every game.”
Like all three of its encounters with North this season, South had its chances to win but were unable to put significant scoreboard pressure on the Roosters at critical junctures.
It was an entertaining title-decider in the first term as South’s Teah Charlton and Gypsy Schirmer hit the scoreboard only to have their goals cancelled out by North’s Hannah Ewings and Britt Perry.
After the first change, North made its move with Perry starting proceedings with a 30m set shot finish after marking a pass from former Panther Mollie McKendrick on the lead.
South trimmed the lead back to a point though, as Indy Tahau nailed her 15m set shot having marked a flat punt pass from the boundary line courtesy of Czenya Cavouras.
But then the most pivotal piece of play for the game unfolded as North’s Charlotte Taylor passed laterally to Cristie Castle, who was paid a mark low to the ground with less than 20 seconds left on the clock in the second term.
As the half-time siren sounded, Castle calmly went back to convert her 25m set shot directly in front, giving the Roosters momentum and a handy seven-point break at the main change.
Nearly seven minutes into the third quarter, Castle extended the lead to 12 points when she marked a deep ball inside 50m from Hatchard before putting through her 15m set shot on a slight angle.
Even though North wouldn’t score in the final quarter as it kicked into the wind, it would prove to be enough of an advantage despite Nikki Gore’ s 25m set shot goal giving the Panthers faint hope with four minutes to play.
But Gore’s major would be the last score for the game as North pushed the ball to the outer wing where it soaked up precious seconds en route to enjoying its long-awaited victory.
Hatchard was a standout in the most important game of the season, finishing with 35 disposals seven marks, seven tackles and nine clearances to be a significant difference-maker.
Perry and Castle were also incredibly influential with their two goals for the Roosters as experienced pair Lauren Daniel (16 disposals) and Tynan (12 disposals) contributed strongly.
Impressive youngsters Katelyn Pope and Kate Case also found plenty of the ball for North while former Panthers McKendrick and Kristi Harvey were important in the aerial duels.
South recruit Tahlia Meyer earned the most disposals for her team with 18 while Gore never gave in after passing a fitness test earlier in the week to finish with 15 touches, five marks, eight tackles and a goal.
AFL-experienced trio Lisa Whiteley, Nicole Campbell and Cheyenne Hammond had their moments while Buchanan and Lucy Northcott defended well for the Panthers with little respite.