Match Preview

Round 6 Statewide Super League Previews

Central's Justin Hoskin strides away with the ball in Round 5. Picture - Cory Sutton


A week ago these sides appeared to be motoring along pretty comfortably.

But, as we all know, a week is a long time in politics and footy. South, unbeaten on top of the table, was ambushed by a Norwood side we all knew was much better than the form it had been displaying.

And the reigning premiers, the Eagles, were stunned by a Port Adelaide side we also were sure would start winning sooner rather than later. So where does that leave the Eagles and the Panthers?

This mouth-watering clash will tell us plenty. Both teams will be keen to show last week’s reversals were just a hiccup and both will be determined not to slip to successive defeats. Who is out on the park is crucial.

The Eags were caught short in attack with injuries to influential Jack Hayes, talented Daniel Menzel and former Gold Coast Sun Clay Cameron.

And South missed the cool head of Matthew Broadbent and the opportunistic sharpshooting of Liam Fitt. Riley Knight in no way could be held responsible for the Eagles’ 10-goal loss, racking up another 33 touches.

Knight, disappointed with the way his time ended at the Crows after 55 games after last season, leads the way in the SANFL in disposals, clearances and Dream Team points.

He and another ex-Crow who seems determined to prove a point, Panther Bryce Gibbs, should have a lot to say about how this match pans out.

Eagles midfielder James Tsitas racked up 39 disposals in Round 5. Picture – Hannah Howard

Redlegs boss Jade Rawlings showed when it comes to picking a side that’s best for his club, name and reputation doesn’t count for much when he dropped Dom Barry after the Round 3 drubbing against North.

But few would have expected dual Magarey Medallist Mitch Grigg would also end up in the reserves after a second successive defeat, at the hands of West. But Rawlings’ determination to back the young talent at the club was rewarded with a big turnaround that saw the Legs knock off previously unbeaten South.

Still, it was the experienced heads of classy ball-users Richard Douglas and Brad McKenzie who did most damage, while the fierce tackling of skipper Matthew Nunn and Jacob Kennerley clearly put the Panthers off their game.

Can Paul Thomas’s men turn it around in the same way and come up with a consistent four quarters of footy? The Dogs were in front for the first two-and-a-half quarters against West but kicking six successive behinds to start the third quarter proved critical, the Bloods kicking away to inflict a fourth successive loss on Central.

Both sides had 11 scoring shots in the second half, Central kicking 0.11 to West’s 7.4 and the Dogs had more inside-50s (48-46). With Travis Schiller setting them on their way with his grunt from the bottom of packs and Kyle Presbury again getting plenty of the ball and using it well, they aren’t far off.

The pre-Showdown showdown might just be the better contest of a big day – and night – at Adelaide Oval.

Meeting for the first time at the home of SA footy, these sides made the top three in their previous SANFL season in 2019 and look like being around the mark again.

Any thoughts Port’s one win from the first four rounds was a long-term concern were blown out of the water by a seven-goal second-quarter blitz that led to a 60-point smashing of premiers the Eagles at Alberton.

Skipper Cam Sutcliffe crashed in to lead the way with a goal after only a minute and his team-mates followed his example. Experience counted for plenty with the Crows but they were unlucky to fall one point short against Sturt.

Port coach Matthew Lokan won’t want Matthew Wright getting his hands on the ball too often near the goals – he’s kicked 8.0 in the past three rounds.

The Crows skipper bagged four goals against the Blues, while 35-year-old leadership development manager Daniel Jackson, whose AFL career ended seven years ago after 156 games with Richmond, booted two goals – one from in the centre square – and earned 21 disposals. And if the siren had sounded a second or two later, his last-gasp snap at goal would have forced a draw.

Port’s Sam Hayes flies high in the ruck against Eagle Jarrad Redden. Picture – Hannah Howard

Skippers clearly still fill an important role in footy clubs, especially ones with plenty of youngsters.

And hard-at-it Bloods captain Tom Keough helps the players around him walk taller. Since being moved from defence into attack he has helped spark back-to-back wins at West for the first time since rounds 13 and 14 in 2018, beating Norwood and Central.

Keough kicked four goals and that’s exactly the margin the Bloods beat the Bulldogs by. Apart from one poor outing at Unley, Brad Gotch’s men have been highly competitive with two losses by less than two goals to go with the two wins, showing plenty of heart to hit back from a 17-point deficit to overcome Central.

Few would have predicted North would have been behind last year’s wooden spooner West on the ladder after Round 5.

Last season’s grand finalist had been, like Westies, on the wrong end of some close losses but when it counted against Glenelg they weren’t that close, conceding five goals in a row in the second half.

Magarey Medallist Campbell Combe and Aaron Young had plenty of the ball but coach Jacob Surjan will want more from most of his men. Otherwise, the Bloods will make it a hat-trick of wins for the first time since their 2015 premiership season.

It seemed like a bold experiment and there were questions asked. How could new Tigers coach Brett Hand make his side function with four tall forwards?

Wonderfully well, that’s how. North couldn’t come up with any answers for Liam McBean, Toby Pink, Lachie Hosie and Luke Reynolds as they ran rampant at Prospect. They all add something different to a Glenelg line-up that is looking the goods in its centenary league season.

Every time the unbeaten Tigers headed into attack there were plenty of marking and goalscoring options. Ken Farmer Medallist McBean bagged five goals, as opportunist Hosie had done the previous week against Port. Deadly left-footer Reynolds booted three against the Roosters while Pink’s pressure and second efforts complement his marking power.

There’s no doubt Blues coach Martin Mattner will have spent some time trying to work out plans and match-ups to try to contain the Bays’ attacking force.

But with great supply coming from Luke Partington, Matthew Snook and Brett Turner he will know he needs a huge effort in the midfield for starters. And skipper James Battersby and dynamo Tom Lewis have been up to it this year – just as well considering premiership star Patrick Wilson has been ruled out for the season requiring a shoulder reconstruction.

Lewis could hardly be more tenacious and to catch two Crows holding-the-ball with two tackles within a minute to set up a goal for Josh Patullo would have impressed Mattner, a renowned tackler as a Swans premiership defender.

“If it’s not tough and hard, he’s not interested,” said commentator Tim Ginever, who loved all that stuff. But the thing that would have delighted Mattner most against Adelaide was the fight and belief his men showed in coming from six points behind at the 23-minute-mark of the final quarter to snatch a one-point win for the ages.

Ash Johnson’s stunning drop punt goal from a difficult angle, followed by a few minutes of desperate scrambling defending just about put to bed talk of Sturt’s last-quarter fadeouts.

Sturt’s Tom Lewis looks to hunt down Crow Tariek Newchurch for another inspiring tackle. Picture – David Mariuz

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