Match Preview

Round 14 Statewide Super League Previews

Norwood coach Jade Rawlings


When these sides kicked off the season it was fair to say the Redlegs’ ferocious tackling and pressure threw one of the pre-season premiership favourites off their game.

Norwood, under new coach Jade Rawlings, snared a highly impressive 45-point win. But now there seem to be as many questions as answers about where the Legs fit in the scheme of things.

They have beaten top-three rival South twice but kicked just two goals in losing to North by 92 points, were beaten by bottom side West, which has just two wins for the season, and last week managed just three goals at home when beaten by seventh-placed Sturt.

Lack of forward threats is obviously a major issue, especially since the loss of dangerous Jackson Callow in the AFL’s mid-season draft.

The Redlegs had 50 inside-50s to the Blues’ 37 but rarely looked a chance to win. You couldn’t question Norwood’s desire, or its pressure and tackling, but it needs to be able to kick more goals to close the gap between its best and worst.
Port is back in business, just 30-odd minutes after it looked like it was slipping out of the finals race.

The Magpies, having lost their previous three games, were trailing ninth-placed Central 3.3 to 4.11 late in the third quarter before a good old Port name popped up to courageously start turning it around.

Jackson Mead, back in action almost three months after suffering a lacerated spleen – and spending time in intensive care – marked and goaled and Port was within sniffing distance. Suddenly, it was a different game.

Zak Butters also was returning from injury and he stood up when it counted with two last-quarter goals and Port snared a crucial nine-point win, still just percentage behind fifth-placed North and only a win from the double-chance.

Premiership coach Jade Sheedy said after his Eagles were beaten by top side Glenelg a fortnight ago, “it’s a very tight competition and we don’t think we’re far away from them.”

There’s no doubt the Eagles are building and no-one will be taking them lightly, the way they kicked away from South at Noarlunga when it counted backing up his words.

The Eagles are about to be boosted by the return of Troy Menzel, while Riley Knight and Matt Goldsworthy will be coming off the injury list as finals and the lure of historic back-to-back premierships beckon. Sheedy’s side has a great mix of offence and defence.

Excitement machine Tyson Stengle is a key attacking weapon as he showed with five goals against the Panthers and former Essendon midfielder Kobe Mutch’s effort in shutting down Bryce Gibbs adds another string to Sheedy’s bow.

It makes for a daunting trip to Woodville for Westies, who have lost their past seven games. The young Bloods remain a work in progress but there were some positives in their 44-point loss against North, Hamish Ellem bobbing up for three goals and Tom Murphy keeping dangerous Lewis Hender goalless while producing an impressive 11 rebound-50s.

Eagle Kobe Mutch did an admirable job of quelling South’s Bryce Gibbs in Round 13.

Talk about a dynamic duo. Campbell Combe and Harrison Wigg. 39 touches each, ripping the heart out of the Bloods.

Combe won nine clearances against West, while Wigg, with that lethal left foot of his, pumped the ball into North’s 50-metre arc 10 times. It’s hardly surprising the Roosters had a whopping 66 inside-50s – to just 28 from West – setting up plenty of chances for a forward line led by Keenan Ramsey’s 5.3.

But Jacob Surjan’s side hasn’t relied on just a few to get on a roll with four wins from five games after a stuttering 2-5 start. There are plenty of big names, there’s plenty of grunt in the midfield and the side is led from the front by Alex Spina, who displayed his impressive allround game with 11 marks, five rebound-50s and five inside-50s. Just a win from the top three, that’s where North is looking.

So near, yet so far. That’s what the Roosters were feeling when they lost four of their first seven games by less than two goals. Bulldogs coach Paul Thomas will know that feeling only too well after a possible win against Port slipped away.

The Doggies rued missed chances after leading 4.11 to 3.3. They conceded six of the last eight goals to be beaten by nine points, despite having six more scoring shots. They kicked 3.5 in the second half, compared with Port’s 7.0. Aiden Grace and Justin Hoskin each booted 4.1 when the Dogs beat North to kick off the season. If they can convert like that again, they’ll be right in it again.

There have been plenty of times over the years Sturt has been known as a good weather footy side, renowned for silky skills and speed in the dry.

But there’s no fear of wet weather with Martin Mattner’s 2021 side.

The Blues reigned supreme in torrential rain at The Parade, playing smart footy in shocking conditions.

The number of times they kicked the ball off the slippery deck and advanced by 20 or 30 metres, or knocked the ball on to advantage, made a mockery of the conditions, while their desperation in the clinches and strong spoiling in defence kept the Legs out of the contest.

When it comes to pressure acts, it’s hard to go past hard-working Tom Lewis. He had 20 disposals but, incredibly, even more tackles, with 21. The return of last year’s SANFL Team of the Year defender Sam Wundke from injury has added strength, height and calm at the back and the Blues have conceded an average of less than 40 points in three wins on the trot.

Sturt may be seventh but it has conceded less than runaway leader Glenelg (787 points against, compared to the Bays’ 801) but the Tigers have the most lethal attacking set-up in the league.

The Bays won’t need reminding how tough the Blues can be. It took a Luke Reynolds goal at the 26-minute-mark of the last quarter to snatch a four-point win in Round 6. This clash is a mouth-watering prospect, especially when you consider Glenelg is looking to improve.

It sounds surprising after 12 wins out of 12 but coach Brett Hand said, “we still have bits to work on” after his side stormed home for a 15-point win against a strong Crows line-up.

But there clearly was still plenty to like about a side that has been hit by injuries to its impressive backline. On top of the list was superstar midfielder Luke Partington, who always seems to have time, makes great decisions and uses the ball with precision whatever the conditions, bagging three key goals from his 31 touches.

Sturt’s Steven Slimming was influential against Norwood in Round 13.

This trip won’t be a holiday – to say the Panthers will be keen for a win down at Victor Harbor clearly is an understatement.

After three successive losses South will be aiming to soar like defender Joe Haines with his stunning mark-of-the-year contender against the Eagles.

This is one of the games star recruit Bryce Gibbs circled on his calendar to play at his best and, after a quiet one in the 36-point loss to the Eagles, he will be a key to the Panthers’ hopes against his former club.

But the Crows are around the mark. Brayden Cook was electrifying with four goals as they took the fight up to Glenelg.

Lachie Murphy shone in the midfield with 20 disposals and eight inside-50s, while forward Tom Lynch added a touch of class on his return from injury. And Kieran Strachan continues to tower above everyone in ruck, racking up 50 hit-outs. It won’t be a holiday by the sea for South.

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