By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide will play in its first Preliminary Final since 2014 after a slick 25-point win against reigning premier Glenelg in Sunday’s First Semi Final at Adelaide Oval.
Leading at every change, the Panthers shrugged off the Bays with their superior leg speed and polished ball movement through the corridor to earn their first finals win in six years.
”We had some good momentum thae last few weeks but it was really good to play a good brand of footy in a final today – we were able to execute on game day,” South midfielder Ben Heaslip told Channel 7 after the game.
The efficiency of Jarrad Wright’s side was a feature in the first half, engineering 33 inside 50s to Glenelg’s 15 despite having two less disposals heading into the main change.
Even with captain Joel Cross and star veteran Matthew Broadbent relatively subdued with just eight kicks between them in the opening two quarters, South’s even performance reduced the reliance on them as its second-tier contributors made a difference.
Exciting teenager Jason Horne, late-season recruit Daly Andrews and home-grown trio Hayden Sampson, Eamon Wilkinson and Luke Bogle all reached double-figure disposals in the first half as the Panthers built a handy 23-point lead at half-time.
As did the ever-creative Malcolm Karpany, who booted two of his four goals in the opening half while constantly making things happen to the advantage of his side with his 18 possessions and five clearances after being rested in Round 14.
Playing just his fourth League game for the season due to calf issues, Karpany was simply a class act in setting up his teammates while also producing some magic inside 50m.
This was highlighted by his instinctive intercept of a defensive Glenelg handball before snapping quickly on his non-preferred right foot to extend the margin to 33 points midway through the third quarter.
In contrast, Glenelg had as many as eight players with five disposals or less in the opening hour as premiership captain Chris Curran, Magarey Medallist Luke Partington and Jack Oatey Medallist Matt Snook battled hard against the tide.
Despite the Tigers making multiple mini-charges to erode the deficit, South was able to maintain its buffer of between 3-4 goals throughout the afternoon en route to ending the Bays’ title defence.
Fighting for their survival, Mark Stone’s men got within 19 points 19 minutes into the final term before Horne, tipped to be taken high in the 2021 AFL Draft, broke a tackle, showed great poise before snapping truly from 15m.
It was certainly worth celebrating for the Panthers, as was their previous major when Bogle read the drop of the ball nicely to crumb, take two bounces and goal on the run from tight on the boundary early in the fourth quarter.
Speedy Hayden Sampson burst from the clearance to put the ball long inside 50m to Sam Overall, who marked running back with the flight before converting much to the delight of the Panthers’ faithful.
Overall appeared to be the only significant concern for the Panthers on the injury front when he copped a heavy accidental knock from teammate Tom Whittlesea in the second term.
Despite a bruised nose and eye socket, the key forward able to play out the rest of the game in an encouraging sign ahead of next Sunday’s Preliminary Final.
Bogle and Broadbent finished with a team-high 20 disposals each while Karpany and Sampson continually carried the ball across lines with pace with their 18 possessions.
Local products Beau McCreery and Eamon Wilkinson were particularly prominent early in the contest with their speed and finishing in front of goals, booting two goals each for the Panthers.
And in another positive sign for South, significant contributions from Cross, defender Joseph Haines and ruck Paul Hunter weren’t required as they all played their roles in the team performance.
Glenelg bowed out of the finals race to place fourth in the wake of the club breaking its 33-year premiership drought in 2019.
Partington worked hard all game to tally a game-high 22 disposals, five tackles and five clearances while experienced pair Curran and Snook had 19 possessions each for the Bays, who were without defender Andrew Bradley (cheekbone).
Hard-tackling Brad Agnew tried hard at the stoppages for his 16 touches and nine tackles while Darcy Bailey continued to relish playing further up the field at times to have 15 disposals with his three goals.
Classy Marlon Motlop produced another fine finals goal in the second term when he gathered the ball near the boundary, shimmied around an opponent and kicked truly on the run but it was one of the few passages of play for Glenelg fans to enjoy on a forgettable afternoon.