By PETER CORNWALL
The waiting game is over. Suddenly it’s all on the line for the Bays.
It’s been a while since Glenelg has played a game of any major significance but all that will change in a hurry when it runs out under lights at Adelaide Oval to face reigning premiers the Eagles.
It’s been stop-start for Brett Hand’s Tigers with just four games in the past eight weeks, beginning with the fortnight break because of the Covid lockdown. Incredibly, it’s six weeks since they sealed the minor premiership and secured their spot in the second semi-final.
In that time Jade Sheedy’s Eagles have been building pretty good credentials to show they’re a real shot at winning back-to-back premierships for the first time in their history. They have won seven of their past eight games and while Glenelg had another week off, they were becoming as match hardened as you could imagine in a torrid seven-point qualifying final win in tough conditions against Norwood.
Now it’s time for the mouthwatering match-up between the premiers of the past two seasons. The best attacking side in the comp against the team with the best defence. Two sides with sensational midfields – although the hamstring injury to Glenelg Magarey Medallist Luke Partington could hardly have come at a worse time.
Glenelg trailed the Eagles at half-time – marginally – in both clashes this season before winning by 29 points at the Bay and 19 points at Woodville. The Tigers won with crucial bursts, booting five goals in 12 minutes to kick away in the third quarter at home and booting the last three goals of the game to slip clear at Oval Ave. So there’s not a big difference here. Adding to that, Partington had 31 touches, then 27, in the wins.
The Eagles have the top possession-winner in the SANFL in classy James Tsitas, who averages 29 a game. But the Bays have the leading clearance winner in gutsy Matthew Snook, who also averages a league-best 15.6 handballs. Glenelg averages 37 clearances a game, four more than the Eagles, and impressive Brett Turner has added plenty of midfield grunt since joining from West Adelaide.
Also playing a key role has been wingman Matt Allen, who runs hard all day and does plenty of damage with his 21 touches a game.
Liam McBean looms as a key danger in attack, as you would expect from a triple Ken Farmer Medallist. He has booted 51.22 this season but he’s not the only one who can put on the scoreboard pressure. Luke Reynolds, Lachie Hosie, Marlon Motlop and Darcy Bailey all are dangerous around the big sticks.
But the Eagles have a livewire forward who can change a game in an instant by making the most of any unlikely half-chance. Tyson Stengle is second on the goalkicking list with 38 and his three in the qualifying final against Norwood were critical. And Daniel Menzel, who can play tall or small, is third in the SANFL with 36 goals.
Then there’s big Jack Hayes. What an inspiration the State skipper is, with his strong contested marking the epitome of leading by example. But then, can’t the same thing be said about Glenelg’s premiership skipper Chris Curran?
Matthew Snook (Glenelg) v James Tsitas (Eagles)
What Matthew Snook and James Tsitas lack in size, they make up for with their tenacity at the clearances in winning the contested ball. Snook will be itching to start his finals campaign strongly in the centre square while Tsitas is coming off an exceptional Qualifying Final performance which started with an eye-catching goal from the boundary.
Liam McBean (Glenelg) v Luke Thompson (Eagles)
The triple Ken Farmer Medallist will be looking to build on his highest season haul of 51 goals in the minor round when he lines up in attack for the Bays. By his side will likely be Eagles skipper Luke Thompson, who is one of the best in the business in terms of timing his spoils to ensure his direct opponent has little freedom in the air.
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