By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide has defended its crown, earning back-to-back premierships with a hard fought 22-point win against North Adelaide in the Statewide Super Women’s League Grand Final at ACH Group Stadium on Sunday.
The Panthers, who won the title in their inaugural season last year, proved they are well and truly the dominant force in South Australian women’s football after producing their best at the business end of the season.
Despite losing a host of key players in the off-season – including experienced duo Courtney Gum and Kristi Harvey – Rick Watts’ charges stared their adversity in the face much to the delight of the first-year premiership mentor.
”Thank you to the playing group,” Watts said at the after-match presentation.
”You have been amazing. We lost half of our side at the start of the year but you embraced everything we tried to do. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.”
Experienced South captain Lauren Buchanan, who shrugged off her knee injury to take her place in the side, echoed Watts’ thoughts.
”To our girls, I don’t know what to say….I’m just so proud of you,” Buchanan said.
”We have such a young squad but we pulled together to get the win.”
Buchanan’s point about the youthful nature of South’s premiership line-up was poignant given it was first-year sensation Indy Tahau and Powerade Breakthrough Player Teah Charlton who played significant roles in the victory.
Tahau, who finished with 20 disposals and two goals, was a fitting winner of the Best on Ground Medal after proving to be a key difference-maker in the outcome of the match.
South’s No.41 booted two of her team’s four majors at critical junctures, just 36 seconds after the start to the second term and just 35 seconds before the half-time siren to ensure North’s winning streak wouldn’t extend to seven.
The first was a lovely finish on the run from 40m before she produced a stunning show of strength to boot her second after wrestling it out of the ruck before snapping truly 20m in front.
To cap off a memorable night, Tahau then laid the tackle of the evening when she stopped a charging Jess Eichner in her tracks on the Grandstand wing midway through the final term.
Charlton, who finished with 18 disposals and five tackles, showed off her clean touch regularly, before bullocking through a pack in the goal square to soccer through her goal just on the verge of the three-quarter time siren.
South midfielders Czenya Cavouras, Nikki Gore and Hannah Munyard worked tirelessly at ground level in the extremely wet conditions while ruck Montana McKinnon impacted outside of the centre square with six marks.
Winner of last year’s Best on Ground Medal, Cheyenne Hammond together with Jaslynne Smith, provided the run from defence while unheralded Emma Gryczewski blanketed North’s star spearhead Kelly Barltrop, who only managed one kick for the evening.
Gryczewski illustrated her desperation with an admirable lunge on the goal line which prevented a certain goal for North just 38 seconds into the third term.
North, which began the season with a 1-3 win-loss record, did an outstanding job to sneak into the title-decider considering it also lost a host of star power – including Jess Edwards and Katelyn Rosenzweig – through the AFLW Draft.
Co-captain Nadia Von Bertouch did everything she could to haul her Roosters over the line, racking up a game-high 23 disposals to the lead the way.
Advertiser Team of the Year Full Back Amber Ward battled valiantly in defence for 16 possessions and five tackles while hard-working midfielders Britt Perry and Lauren Daniel each chalked up 15.
Daniel, also a member of the Team of the Year, snapped North’s only goal of the encounter from close range five minutes into the second term.
The Roosters, who have now strung together three top-three finishes – including two losing Grand Finals – in succession, will now have their sights set on taking the final step under coach Matt Slade in 2020.
SOUTH 1.0 3.3 4.5 4.7 (31)
NORTH 0.0 1.0 1.2 1.3 (9)
LEADING DISPOSALS – South: Czenya Cavouras 22, Indy Tahau 20, Teah Charlton 18, Nikki Gore 16, Hannah Munyard 15, Cheyenne Hammond, Jaslynne Smith 12.
North: Nadia Von Bertouch 23, Kendall Howell 19, Sarah Ellis, Amber Ward 16, Lauren Daniel, Britt Perry 15.
GOALS – South: Indy Tahau 2, Teah Charlton, Tamara Page.
North: Lauren Daniel.
BEST ON GROUND MEDAL – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide)
AT ACH GROUP STADIUM