By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide debutant Beau McCreery proved to be the hero as his side clung on for a six-point win against Woodville-West Torrens in the second contest at Adelaide Oval.
The 19-year-old from Hallett Cove showed tremendous maturity to score his brace during time-on in the fourth quarter, giving his side a 12-point buffer after scores were previously locked together when teammate Liam Fitt snapped truly in the 22nd minute.
The former Glenelg junior got to work initially by catching returning Eagle Jimmy Toumpas holding-the-ball at half-forward.
From just inside the 50m arc, McCreery’s set shot just cleared the line after despite Eagles skipper Luke Thompson’s best efforts to fist it through for a behind.
Just 62 seconds later, McCreery timed his run to perfection as he showed off his speed to beat his opponents to the loose ball before converting on the run in the goal square.
Eagle Angus Poole managed to claw a goal back on the run from 30m nearly 28 minutes into the entertaining final term but it was too late as the Panthers held on to bank the premiership points.
After just nine goals were kicked between the two sides in the opening three quarters, the match sprung to life after the last change with as many as 12 majors booted, seven to the Eagles who were guided by Magarey Medallist Jade Sheedy for the first time.
And it was the Hayes brothers – Jack and Nick – who proved the catalysts in the comeback as they kicked two goals each in the final 32 minutes, along with clever James Rowe.
Rowe, who had been quiet for the majority of the match, brought himself into the contest with an early contender for Channel 7 Goal of the Year when he snapped from an extremely tight angle near the boundary line.
He then put his side in front by a goal when he received an intelligent handball from Nick Hayes in the goal square on the verge of time-on.
It was a staggering turn of events given the Eagles waited from 11 minutes in the first term until the second minute of the fourth quarter to conjure up their fourth goal of the game.
But this sparked Fitt’s quick reply and the two majors to McCreery as South ensured it would hold on for a well-earned win to start the season.
South co-captain Joel Cross was a huge influence on the result, finishing with a game high 34 disposals, four tackles and 12 clearances.
The 33-year-old showed tremendous courageous when he went back with flight of the ball before being crunched in first contest of third term.
And even in the rare event when he miskicked, Cross threw his body into the next contest to ensure a ball up ensued.
The Magarey Medallist was also clean when he took an intercept mark before lacing out teammate Sam Overall, who then kicked his first goal of the game in the second stanza.
Former Eagle Matt Broadbent spent the majority of his time starting in the centre square before finishing with 26 disposals and seven tackles while Reece Milsom and Ben Heaslip were also strong contributors for the Panthers.
Canberra recruit Tom Highmore showed excellent poise across half-back for South in his first game, tallying 24 disposals and 13 marks as he worked well in tandem with Joe Haines, who snared 11 marks with his 23 possessions.
Toumpas, Jordan Foote and Sam Rowland each cracked the 20-possession barrier for the Eagles while Jack Hayes finished with 17 disposals, seven marks and eight tackles to go with his two goals in a valiant effort.
By ZAC MILBANK
An efficient Sturt outfit got its season off to a promising start with a hard-fought 15-point win against Central District at Adelaide Oval.
Without premiership pair Sam Colquhoun (hamstring) and Jake Sutcliffe (illness) who were late withdrawals, the Double Blues’ accurate kicking and slicker ball movement proved decisive in the opening game of the Statewide Super League season.
Nathan Grima’s charges had a staggering 61 fewer kicks and 68 fewer marks than the Dogs, who were were scrappy under pressure early in coach Jeff Andrews’ first game in charge.
The Double Blues had the first five goals of the game on the board without a blemish, three of them to exciting forward recruit Ash Johnson, who proved that he has some genuine X-factor inside 50m.
The brother of former Sturt goalsneak and current Crows player Shane McAdam, Johnson displayed great athleticism as he crashed the packs for seven marks while also finishing with 12 disposals and 3.2 in a fine debut.
Recruited from Scotch Old Collegians, the 22-year-old even managed an eye-catching checkside set shot goal from in front of the old scoreboard at the home of SA footy.
The Dogs – with star recruit Daniel Menzel starting in the centre square – began to settle into the contest during the middle quarters but they struggled to translate this onto the scoreboard.
Playing his first League match for the Dogs, Daniel Menzel booted his team’s first major 14 minutes into the second term before finishing as Central’s only multiple goal kicker to go with 13 disposals, five marks and five tackles.
The margin was cut to as little as nine points when Central’s Kyle Presbury kicked a long snap from just inside 50m midway through the third term but Sturt managed to settle when Josh Hone crumbed beautifully before storming into an open goal.
Blond bombshell Nick Lange was a major positive for Central in his first game, tallying 21 disposals and 14 marks from his wing while also kicking a goal.
2010 premiership player James Boyd had 24 touches in his return for Central while last year’s best-and-fairest winner Jarrod Schiller had 22 and 11 tackles.
Sturt midfielder James Battersby relished his first game as captain to rack up a game high 25 disposals and 11 clearances while the man he replaced, Zane Kirkwood, had 21 possessions.
Casey Voss, in just his second game, showed positive signs to collect 16 disposals, seven tackles and six clearances for the Double Blues.
Colquhoun and Sutcliffe should be fit to return for Sturt in Round 2, along with premiership wingman Steven Slimming (ankle sprain) and Power recruit Aidyn Johnson, who was serving the second week of his suspension for striking Glenelg’s Chris Curran in last year’s Second Semi-Final.