WAFL vs. SANFL 2019 -- State Match Wrap-Up

raboyle

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Hi Footy fans...

State football has copped some knocks as of late. After the inception of the Australian Football League, representative football at State League level was kept pretty much between the WAFL and the SANFL. Both leagues went through their period of unrest, mainly due to the entry of their respective first teams into the national competition and it also took a couple of years for some of the other states to make their forays into representative footy. Fast forward to now, the Victorians have walked away, Tasmania has called time on "the Map" and the NEAFL have cancelled out their participation. So for now it looks as though State football is the sole domain of the last two competitions not under the direct control of the AFL. The fight for the Haydn Bunton Junior Trophy will continue.

Welcome to this special edition of the SANFL Wrap-Up... State Football 2019.

The Western Australians have been on a roll. After dropping the Bunton Cup to the Croweaters seven years ago at Glenelg, the Sandgropers would win the next six outings. The WAFL outran a determined VFL outfit at Northam in 2013, a high-scoring and high-quality match which they won by 17 points. In 2014 they travelled to Sydney and hammered the NEAFL by 85 points at the Blacktown ISP Oval, then followed that up with a 45-point hiding over South Australia at Lathlain Park in 2015. Huge victories in consecutive years against Tasmania at Bassendean and Victoria away with minimum margins of 10 goals signalled to everyone else that the WAFL was back, the final rubber stamp being their retention of the Bunton Cup at Adelaide Oval last year which was their first win in SA since 1994. That team, much like the 2015 team, could be put down to the hard-running players used to bolting across wide-open arenas rather than some of the narrower grounds SANFL players play on. They ran in packs as well, more efficient and not suffering from the indecision that scuttled the South Australians last year.

Despite the shift in the balance of the "power rankings" of the leagues, South Australia still considers itself as the standout competition. But where it mattered perhaps the most, on the field of State football, said reputation was definitely dented from their last two encounters with the Sandgropers. The SANFL were once the mighty rulers of the domain perhaps up until that 2009 game where they lost by a point. Other than the 2012 win, the WAFL have been all over them during the 2010's. Only victories against the likes of the NEAFL Northern Conference in 2013 and consecutive wins against the Vics in 2014 and 2016 have helped them stay on target. Only the Sandgropers have remained consistent and in the last few years they started to have real credible claims on the unofficial title of Champion of the State Leagues. After being outran on the field last year, the shape of this year's SA team had to change.

The WAFL side would boast four Sandover Medal winners, including Claremont duo Kane Mitchell and Jye Bolton, South Fremantle's Haiden Schloithe who ripped the Eagles reserves apart the previous weekend and West Perth's Aaron Black. A notable withdrawal from the side was Bulldogs big man Brock Higgins, so it was down to Subiaco's Lachlan Delahunty and Swan District's Corey Gault to get things going for WA in the middle. In the youth brigade, South Freo defender Chad Pearson was the youngest member of the team at 21. Also handed opportunities were fellow Bulldog Jacob Dragovich and Perth's Corey Byrne. Like last season, mid-fielders were in big demand with Lions duo Kyal Horsley and Josh Deluca amongst the 11 selected. In attack, Peel Thunder pair Gerard Ugle and Blair Bell along with Perth's Michael Bennell, who was a late inclusion for a spot of excitement up forward. For the hard running factor, they had Bailey Rogers (Claremont), Hayden Kennedy (Subiaco), Jackson Ramsay (East Perth) and Michael Sinclair (Perth). Leading the charge for WA under coach Michael Broadbridge, Horsley was once again put in the captain's position, adding to his WAFL honours list along with his four premierships with the Lions.

In the SANFL camp, as mentioned earlier there was change needed in the state side after last year's drop off. In place of the bigger bodies and ample veterans came runners and shakers. Not that some previous experience wasn't given a look in, with previous representatives such as Central District's Justin Hoskin and North Adelaide's Jarred Allmond bringing in the know-how. Making his return to the state arena was Norwood's Anthony Wilson, as well as fellow Redleg and first-timer Dom Barry, providing the much needed hard running power. Adding to that pace, out on the was Sturt's Danyle Pearce and West Adelaide's John Noble. In the middle was Panthers tall Michael Knoll to provide the knockdown for Bloods' 2015 premiership duo Will Snelling and Kaine Stevens. Back in the defensive zone was the tall timber of Glenelg duo Chris Curran and Max Proud along with South Adelaide's Joe Haines. Westies' Jono Beech, Rooster Lewis Hender and Bulldog Troy Menzel made up some of the forward firepower. With Martin Mattner vacating the coaches box, it was North Adelaide premiership coach and ex-Sandgroper Josh Carr who filled the void. He would name Sturt's Jack Stephens as skipper, with Pearce and South's Matt Rose named joint vice-captains.

The match would be played on the brand new surrounds of the 60,000 seat Optus Stadium on the opposite side of the Swan River as a curtain raiser to the Fremantle vs. Richmond AFL fixture later that afternoon. It was the Sandgropers that took first blood after three minutes, Ugle pouncing on an errant pass from Aidan Tropiano to kick the first major. A couple of minutes later, SA burned a chance for their first and the Sandgropers escaped their defensive zone and through Schloithe found the exciting Demons product in Bennell who bagged WA's second. The Croweaters would go from coast to coast for their opening goal just short of nine minutes, Beech fending off Rogers from a Noble pass and kicking truly. The opening term was definitely an arm-wrestle, WA burnt a few chances to be up by just three points at quarter-time with the board reading 4.4 to 4.1. Not helping the cause was a call of a deliberate rushed behind, which saw Hoskin kick his first goal of the game at 17 minutes.

Only 90 seconds elapsed in the second term before WA bagged their next goal, Schloithe gathering the loose ball from an attempted SA clearance inside their defensive 50, Sokol kicked his second goal another 90 seconds later. The pack mentality from WA would result in another Bennell goal a little later, he would then add his third goal at 11 minutes. By this time, the margin was out to 22 points. South Australia had a little period of fumbling around with the ball, passes missing the mark or into pressure situations. But soon the Croweaters found some rhythm and through the likes of Foote, Menzel and Beech would be back to within a kick of the lead going into the half-time break with the scoreboard reading 8.5 to 8.1 in favour of the Sandgropers. The third quarter saw perhaps the decisive shift in momentum as South Australia returned to the field running. The influence of Bennell was brought to an end from here onwards, although the Sandgropers did get the first goal on the board from Deluca by the fourth minute.

The SA machine stirred to life from the eighth minute onwards, the Croweaters hitting the front for the first time of the day thanks to goals from Stevens, Menzel, Hender and Beech. Sokol fluffed his on-the-siren chance so at three quarter-time, South Australia were three goals ahead, a six-goal to two effort putting the cup firmly within reach. Things looked a little shaky for SA in the final quarter as the West Australians mounted a last-ditch effort to retain the trophy. But the continued burning of prime opportunities would cruel their assault. They opened the final term with a goal to Sokol to bring it back to 12 points within the first minute, but Snelling would restore their three-goal advantage shortly after. From here, the inaccuracy bug started taking hold in the WA camp. Aside from Sokol and Horsley kicking goals, they kicked 3.7 while Hender's goal among SA's 2.2 would put the result out of reach of the home side. South Australia clinched victory by seven points in a nail-biting thriller to regain control of the Haydn Bunton Cup and their first win in the west since their match at Fremantle in 2003.

In the stats department, Jono Beech and Ben Sokol both scored four goals each, Sokol also led the marks stats with 11 while Max Proud finished with nine. Kyal Horsley had the highest disposal count with 32, Aidan Tropiano amassed 28 and got 11 tackles. Michael Bennell laid the most tackles for WA with nine. In the best on ground honours, Michael Knoll would win the Fos Williams Medal with his 15 disposals and 31 hit-outs in ruck, while Josh Deluca's 29 possessions and seven tackles landed him the Simpson Medal. The official crowd according to The West Australian was 11,310, but I dare say that was a figure taken from about three quarter-time when people started arriving for the AFL main event.

FINAL SCORES IN STATE FOOTBALL 2019...

Sunday May 12
THE HAYDN BUNTON JUNIOR CUP

South Australia 16.4 (100)
Western Australia 13.15 (93)
Optus Stadium, Perth WA


Next weekend in your state...

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Friday May 17 @ 7:20pm

West Adelaide vs. Sturt; City Mazda Stadium, Richmond

Saturday May 18
Port Adelaide vs. Adelaide; Alberton Oval @ 1:40pm
Woodville-West Torrens vs. Norwood; Maughan Thiem Kia Oval, Woodville @ 2:10pm
Central District vs. Glenelg; X-Convenience Oval, Elizabeth @ 2:10pm
North Adelaide vs. South Adelaide; Prospect Oval @ 2:10pm


WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Thursday May 16 @ 7:10pm
East Perth vs. West Coast; Leederville Oval

Saturday May 18
Claremont vs. Peel; Claremont Oval @ 2:10pm
Perth vs. West Perth; Mineral Resources Park, Lathlain @ 2:15pm
Subiaco vs. South Fremantle; Leederville Oval @ 2:15pm
Swan Districts vs. East Fremantle; Steel Blue Oval, Bassendean @ 2:15pm

So until next week, or next year... see you at the Footy!
 
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