By ZAC MILBANK
The stage is set as South Adelaide prepares to defend its crown against a surprise opponent in Sunday’s Statewide Super Women’s League Grand Final at ACH Group Stadium.
Earning a direct path through to the title-decider after toppling minor premier Norwood in the Second Semi-Final, the Panthers watched on as North Adelaide edged the Redlegs out in straight sets with a dramatic two-point win in Friday’s Preliminary Final.
Can the Roosters, who began the season with a concerning 1-3 win-loss record, continue their stunning run by winning their ninth consecutive match in the most important encounter for the season?
North’s last loss – which was to the Panthers in Round 4 – seemed to stir Matthew Slade’s charges into action.
On that occasion in March, the only time the two Grand Final combatants have met this year, the Roosters burst out of the blocks to kick the first four goals of the game.
But the Panthers, spurred on by their Navy Blue faithful at Flinders University Stadium, produced a remarkable comeback which finished with Nicole Campbell booting the winning goal with less than 10 seconds left on the clock in the final term.
Campbell, Czenya Cavouras and Crows-listed Nikki Gore provide plenty of ball-winning ability for South, which had mentor Rick Watts named as the Coach in The Advertiser SANFL Women’s Team of the Year.
Sweating on the availability of captain Lauren Buchanan, who has been sidelined since Round 8 with a knee injury, the Panthers will also get plenty of drive from fleet-footed youngsters Hannah Munyard, Teah Charlton and last year’s Best Afield Medallist Cheyenne Hammond.
But can South stop the competition’s leading goal kicker, Kelly Barltrop, from being the difference-maker?
North’s spearhead has been near unstoppable at full forward en route to kicking 26 goals throughout the minor round.
The Roosters have plenty of other weapons, with speedy wingers Paige Allan and Erica Greet vitally important to matching South on the outside while Lauren Daniel, Kat Reynolds and co-captain Leah Tynan will do plenty of work on the inside of the contest.
Coach Slade also boasts one of the wildcards of the competition in co-skipper Nadia Von Bertouch, who can play a variety of roles – even in the ruck – depending on the game’s situation.
Throw into the mix the older generation in Jane Altschwager (North) tackling the younger generation in Montana McKinnon (South) in the ruck and this contest looms as a salivating one to conclude the Statewide Super Women’s League in 2019.
Sunday May 26
South Adelaide v North Adelaide| ACH Group Stadium| 4:00pm
F: (33) Brooklyn Kraft, (40) Sarah Wright, (18) Madison Bennett
HF: (2) Nikki Gore, (14) Tiffany Copley, (7) Jess Kirk
C: (25) Teah Charlton, (6) Hannah Munyard, (9) Nicole Campbell
HB: (41) Indy Tahau, (29) Cheyenne Hammond, (39) Emily Brockhurst
B: (22) Samantha Pratt, (35) Jaslynne Smith, (44) Elke Jarvis
R: (19) Montana McKinnon, (11) Czenya Cavouras, (8) Elyse Haussen
INT: (1) Emily Woods, (4) Lauren Buchanan, (20) Tamara Page, (21) Alana Browne, (24) Danielle Goding, (30) Emma Gryczewski, (34) Nat Gibbs, (45) Emogen Johnson
IN: Woods, Buchanan, Bennett, Goding
F: (1) Cristie Castle, (15) Kelly Barltrop, (4) Leah Tynan
HF: (8) Nadia Von Bertouch, (29) Emma Sampson, (6) Adrienne Davies
C: (25) Erica Greet, (9) Lauren Daniel, (10) Paige Allan
HB: (17) Sarah Ellis, (24) Amber Ward, (30) Kendall Howell
B: (14) Olivia Gallio, (7) Jess Eichner, (31) Nicole Collie
R: (12) Jane Altschwager, (3) Kat Reynolds, (19) Brittany Perry
INT: (33) Julia Clark, (2) Alex Fitridge, (34) Danielle Nunns, (20) Elysha Willis