Norwood will compete in next weekend’s SANFLW Preliminary Final after defeating Sturt by six points in a thrilling Semi Final in Noarlunga on Sunday.
Defying all odds just to make the finals (given the 0-3 start to the season), the Redlegs qualified in third place after the minor rounds, and took on the fourth placed Double Blues in an elimination final.
The Redlegs were behind on the scoreboard for the middle portion of the game, with Sturt dominating the disposal (224 to 182), inside 50m (33 to 19), mark (55 to 30), tackle (102 to 89) and scoring shot (11 to 7) numbers throughout the game, but Norwood went on to win 4.3-27 to 2.9-21.
Sturt led at half time by one point, and Norwood by one point at three quarter time, before last quarter goals to Tesharna Maher and Alana Lishmund helped the Redlegs steal the six-point win.
Molly Brooksby and Amelia Rusden were the other goal scorers for the Redlegs.
SA U18 representative Brooksby was dominant with 23 disposals and one of the goals of the season in the first term, while Stephanie Simmonds had 16 disposals, eight tackles and eight clearances, and Tahlita Buethke 16 disposals, six tackles and three clearances.
Lana Schwerdt had 15 disposals and matched it with 15 tackles and six clearances.
Coach Brad Snell was proud of his team, which will take on Central District in next Sunday’s Preliminary Final in Elizabeth, 12pm.
“It was a good win, they dug deep,” he said.
“We have experience in close games (this year) so that came through in the last quarter. The girls knew what to do, I was confident in that, and they followed the process perfectly.
“We hadn’t won a final in a number of seasons so to get that monkey off the back for us is important.”
It was a stalemate for the first five minutes of the contest as both sides scrapped the ball forward with out any conviction.
In one of the highlights of the season, Brooksby received a handball from Rosette Zerella and snapped the ball over her head for the first goal of the Semi Final.
The Double Blues dominated the field position, the inside 50m count (10-3) and clearances (9-6) in the first quarter, but kicked three behinds before eventually getting the replying goal through Monique Bessen before quarter time.
The score at quarter time was 1.4-10 to 1.1-7 in Sturt’s favour, with Norwood’s defence standing up under the pressure of repeated entries.
Simmonds had six disposals and three clearances in the first term, while Brooksby and Schwerdt each had five touches.
Sturt looked the stronger team, and again challenged Norwood’s defence to start the second term.
Again the backline managed to hold firm and repel the Redlegs forward, and it was Norwood which then enjoyed some time in attack.
On what was a soggy Flinders University Stadium surface, the ball was tough to handle and the Redlegs squandered a couple of opportunities in front of goal.
Despite Sturt’s dominance throughout the first half, the Redlegs were the only team to score in the second term (two behinds), and Norwood trailed by one point at the main break, 1.4-10 to 1.3-9.
Schwerdt had 11 disposals, nine tackles and four clearances and Simmonds 11 disposals, seven tackles and five clearances to half time, while Brooksby had seven and Norwood’s only goal.
In what had been a tough, physical game the tackle count sat at 55-52 in Norwood’s favour at half time, while Sturt continued to lead the inside 50m (15-12) and clearance (19-15) battle.
Like they had done in the first and second terms, the Double Blues again dominated the start of the third quarter with repeat inside 50m entries, but again to no avail as they could only manage three behinds on what was turning out to be a difficult day for goal kicking.
The next goal proved to be a vital one, and it came against the flow of play when Rusden nailed a set shot 20m out to make it a 2.3-15 to 1.7-13 Redlegs lead at the 12-minute mark of the third term.
Lauren Smith took two strong intercept marks in the final minute of the third term to ensure Norwood took a one point lead into the final break, 2.3-15 to 1.8-14.
The Redlegs once again did a fantastic job in defence, with Sturt having 11 inside 50m entries to three in the third term for a return of 0.4 to Norwood’s 1.0.
Norwood was measured to start the fourth term, slowing the play down and finding marks through the corridor.
Maher got out the back and ran into an open goalsquare to boot Norwood’s third goal and open up a seven-point lead at the four-minute mark.
Sturt responded a minute later with its second goal of the afternoon with a mark and set shot through Tessa Doumanis to return it to a one point game, 3.3-21 to 2.8-20.
Scores were level when a Sturt set shot was touched on the line with 10 minutes to go.
Lishmund was the hero for Norwood when she dribbled the next goal out of a congested pack with six minutes to go, making it a six-point ballgame.
The remaining minutes were tense as the ball lived in Sturt’s forward line.
The Double Blues were awarded several free kicks and took plenty of marks in their forward third but couldn’t get the goal to even the scores.
The final siren blew on a Norwood win, progressing the Redlegs through to a date with the Bulldogs next weekend in another knock-out final, with the winner to face South Adelaide in the 2023 SANFLW Grand Final.
Earlier in the afternoon minor premiers South Adelaide defeated Central District 4.4-28 to 2.5-17 to progress through to the Grand Final.
Norwood 1.1, 1.3, 2.3, 4.3 – 27
Sturt 1.4, 1.4, 1.8, 2.9 – 21
Goals: Brooksby, Rusden, Maher, Lishmund
Best: Brooksby, Schwerdt, Simmonds, Smith, Lee