Norwood has won the SANFL U18 Torrens University Cup with a 50-point win over Sturt in the 2020 grand final at Thebarton Oval on Saturday.
After an extremely close first half, the Redlegs ran all over the Double Blues with 10 second-half goals to four to secure their first U18 title since 2015.
After thanking the League, Norwood coach Chris O’Connor kept his on-field post-match address pretty short, but it was clear that he couldn’t be happier with his troops.
“Gentlemen, well done,” he said.
Norwood’s leading performers were as expected Henry Nelligan, Nathan Hearing, Finn Heard and Michael Cavallaro.
Big man Hearing was named best on ground and awarded the Alan Stewart Medal with a 21-disposal, 11-clearance and 10-hitout performance.
Sturt’s Aiden Holland got the scoring underway with a wayward set shot 70 seconds into the game, before the Redlegs took it end-to-end from the kick out and into the hands of James Higgins who marked and goaled.
The Double Blues managed the next two goals through Jacob Ferrari and Blake Higgins, before Norwood closed out the quarter with three unanswered goals to lead by 13 points at the first break.
Redlegs midfielders Nelligan and Cooper Murley found late goals in the opening term which proved important against the talented Sturt midfield, led by McCallum Tomkins Medal early draft prospect Tom Powell who has averaged nearly 35 disposals this year.
The minor premier Double Blues were under pressure and the second quarter proved crucial as the likes of Powell and James Borlase started to find the ball.
Only three goals were kicked in the second term, with two coming through Sturt’s AFL Academy SA Hub midfielders Powell and Mani Liddy.
The margin sat at just nine points at half time in what was a low scoring 5.7-37 to 4.4-28 score line.
It was a highly competitive game and both sides engaged in a little half-time tussle before breaking up into their separate groups.
Norwood’s second-half dominance started straight away as Xavier Tranfa marked the Nelligan centre clearance and goaled from the paint of 50m just 30 seconds into the half.
Almost every player got around him and the Redlegs could sniff a boil over when they booted the next three goals to lead by 35 points midway through the third term.
Zabien Parker-Boers stopped the avalanche with a settling goal for Sturt at the 16-minute mark, but it didn’t stem the flow too much as Norwood finished the third term with two late goals to hold a 41-point lead and all the momentum at three-quarter time.
Like in the first term James Higgins got the goal scoring underway once again to start the fourth quarter with a strong contested mark 20m out, kicking truly for Norwood.
After a two-goal third term, tall forward Heard kicked his third goal five minutes later, followed up by Ethan Schwerdt’s second goal and it was well and truly party time for the Redlegs who held a 60-point lead.
Sturt finished with a flurry with late goals to Jacob Ferrari, tall forward Morgan Ferres and Bradley Jefferies but it was a matter of too little, too late.
The Double Blues were dominated after half-time and Sturt captain Ned Walter said it was a missed opportunity.
“I am really proud of all the lads, we tried really hard all year and maybe we deserved more than what we got, but there’s always next year,” he said post-match.
“Well done to the Norwood Football Club, they cracked in hard all year.”
Norwood won the disposals 302-277, but it seems the game was won in the all-important clearance battle, 32-17, as well as in the inside 50s, 50-33.
Sturt’s leading possession winners were Powell with 25, Borlase, 22 and Malachy Carruthers and Jefferies, 21.