By ZAC MILBANK
Why is it Game of the Week?
It’s always a fierce rivalry between the south-eastern rivals, ensuring a big crowd and exciting atmosphere is always present regardless of the venue. But with good weather forecast for Friday night’s blockbuster, there’s no reason to suggest a crowd in excess of 5,000 won’t roll into The Parade to see the Redlegs host the Double Blues. On the field, Norwood is yet to hit its straps but like all good sides do, it has managed to still bank the premiership points from both of its encounters. Two of its stars in Matt Panos and Lewis Johnston will be celebrating their 100-game milestones so there will be plenty of incentive to make it three in a row. The Double Blues are coming off what coach Nathan Grima described as a character-building win, having fought their way back against an ominous Woodville-West Torrens outfit. They will be without consistent defender Guy Page for the first time in 124 matches but there’s still plenty of experience in the back half with Jack Stephens racking up 22 disposals against the Eagles. It promises to be a beauty.
For the Record
At The Parade
The Last Three
Round 14 2018 – Norwood 20.12 (132) d Sturt 11.12 (78) at Peter Motley Oval
Round 1 2018 – Sturt 9.15 (69) d Norwood 7.15 (57) at The Parade
Round 18 2017 – Norwood 11.10 (76) drew with Sturt 10.16 (76) at The Parade
Mitch Grigg (Norwood) v Zane Kirkwood (Sturt)
It’s not often you get to see two dual Magarey Medallists go head-to-head in the centre square, and for this reason alone, it is worth the admission price on Friday night. Grigg, who was surprisingly overlooked by AFL clubs during the off-season, is at the top of his game using his booming left-foot kick to positive effect. After two games, he is already averaging 29 disposals this year. Sturt captain Kirkwood hasn’t been as productive in terms of numbers but that hasn’t diminished his intent as he ferociously throws himself into endless contests. The triple Fos Williams Medallist is also getting more help in the midfield with a fit and firing Aidan Riley, together with James Battersby, which looms as a tough unit for Norwood to quell.
With Izak Rankine now a Gold Coast Sun, Wilson assumes the mantle of the fastest player in the competition. Rabs is averaging just 10 disposals a game after the opening two rounds but the speed machine doesn’t need a huge amount of the ball to create plenty of damage, as evidenced by last year’s Second Semi-Final. On the big stage of Friday night lights, expect the former Crows rookie to produce something special for the Norwood faithful.
The Double Blues key forward was hampered by an Achilles problem during pre-season which caused him to start the season in the Reserves. But he made up for the delay with a strong start at League level in Round 2, with his second goal being the sealer in the 29th minute of the fourth quarter against the Eagles. Strong overhead in the air, Sutcliffe is also very adept at cleaning up his work at ground level should the ball hit the ground.
Norwood by 25 points
Norwood has been far from its best in the opening two rounds which suggests there is plenty of room for improvement. This is a frightening thought for opposition teams, starting with Sturt on Friday night. Once Jarrod Cotton’s men eradicate the lapses, their scoring output should increase significantly given the tremendous supply from the Redlegs’ star-studded midfield which was was without Matthew Nunn (illness) last round. The Double Blues responded positively in Round 2 and will be looking to take this momentum with them to Woods Street, where they scratched out an unflattering win in Round 1 last year. Without solid premiership defender Guy Page, it might be a bit too much for the visitors to overcome