By ZAC MILBANK
Forget your club allegiances. Take pride in your competition.
The message from West End State Coach Josh Carr – a native West Australian – couldn’t have been more clear.
And it’s fair to say it cut through to his playing group as they produced one of South Australia’s most memorable victories to win back the Haydn Bunton Junior Cup on foreign soil.
Facing a WAFL outfit gunning for its seventh win in succession, the Croweaters showed tremendous heart and spirit to win by seven points in a thrilling encounter at Optus Stadium.
It was SANFL’s first win in the West since the Alastair Clarkson-coached South Aussies defeated the Sandgropers in 2003, giving the class of 2019 plenty of reason to celebrate.
Without star quintet Mitch Grigg, Zane Kirkwood, Joel Cross, Nick Liddle and Matt Panos, the West End State Team was staring down the barrel of a third consecutive loss to the Black Swans after trailing by 22 points 10 minutes into the second term.
But the fleet-footed South Australians worked their way back into the contest by booting the final three majors of the term to trim the deficit to just four points at the main change.
West Adelaide’s Kaine Stevens and Norwood’s Dom Barry were prominent early, the latter booting his two goals in the opening half.
With Fos Williams Medallist Michael Knoll controlling the stoppages with his savvy hitouts, the rest of the side joined in after half-time as the Croweaters kicked six goals to two with a slick brand of football in the pristine conditions.
A clever intercept from Redleg Anthony Wilson created a walk-in goal for Bulldog Troy Menzel, to put SA in front 11 minutes into the third quarter, the visitors’ first lead of the match.
And by the time Bloods forward Jono Beech booted his fourth of the game, the margin had suddenly stretched to 17 points closing in on the final change.
WA surged in the final term to create several shots on goal but ultimately SA’s back six – led by West End State captain Jack Stephens – held firm in the dramatic closing stages.
Knoll – a former basketballer – finished with 15 disposals and 31 hit outs to be the first SA player other than Zane Kirkwood to be awarded the Fos Williams Medal since West’s Tom Keough in 2015.
Native Sandgroper Aidan Tropiano was SA’s leading disposal winner with 28 while Eagle Jordan Foote collected 24 and applied a crucial tackle late in the fourth quarter to stop a likely WA goal.
Together with West’s John Noble (24 disposals) and Barry (23 disposals) they were among the 14 debutants who played a major role in carrying their State to a memorable triumph.
SANFL 4.1 8.1 14.2 16.4 (100)
WAFL 4.4 8.5 10.8 13.15 (93)
LEADING DISPOSALS – SANFL: Tropiano 28, Foote, Noble 24, Barry 23, Stevens 22, Pearce 21, Allmond 20, Snelling 19, Rose 18, Proud 17.
WAFL: Horsley 32, Deluca 29, Botlon 28, Nelson 24, Mitchell 23, Delahunty 21, Gault 20.
GOALS – SANFL: Beech 4, Barry, Foote, Hender, Hoskin, Menzel 2, Snelling, Stevens.
WAFL: Sokol 4, Bennell 3, Horsley, Schloithe 2, Deluca, Ugle.
FOS WILLIAMS MEDAL – Michael Knoll (South Adelaide)
SIMPSON MEDAL – Josh Deluca
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