By Sam Canavan
After trailing by just eight points at half-time, a gallant NEAFL northern side was overrun by 82 points by SANFL at West Adelaide Football club on Saturday afternoon.
The best of South Australia’s state league kicked 14 second-half goals to three to run out 21.14.140 to 9.4.58 winners, and underline the widely-accepted notion that the SANFL is the second best football competition in the country, behind only the AFL.
While they were outgunned in the last hour, there were plenty of positives to take out of the game for the side comprised of the best of QLD and NT.
Brisbane Lions rookie Sam Michael followed up his Andrew Ireland Medal in last year’s Grand Final with the Zane Taylor Medal as the NEAFL’s best player, with Andrew Boston and Scott Clarke other youngsters to stand out.
Ryan Davey was best on ground up to half-time and finished with 22 touches and goal, while fellow veterans Paul Shelton, Daniel Dzufer, and Cheynee Stiller were outstanding all day.
Morningside’s Shelton amassed 30 classy disposals and kicked a booming goal from outside 50 in the final term, while Dzufer and Stiller played their defensive rebounding roles with aplomb, collecting 26 touches each.
Skipper Cam Ilett tried hard all day, Brisbane Lions rookie Nick Hayes did some good things, and NT spearhead Chris Dunne took nine marks and kicked two goals.
After the NEAFL under 22s upset SANFL under 20s in the curtain-raiser, the main game started evenly, with neither side able to get on top.
But the home side gradually asserted its authority, breaking to the flanks and running the ball to devastating effect, and jumping out to a three goal lead.
After a period of sustained pressure late in the first quarter, Hadyn Kiel snapped the NEAFL’s first major of the day, to cut the margin to 20 points at the first break.
NEAFL coach Jason Cotter implored his troops to maintain possession of the football in order to restrict the opposition’s run and carry, and that’s exactly what the NEAFL did.
The NEAFL was far more composed with the ball in hand, and slowed the game right down, and it proved very effective, as they wrested back the second quarter ascendancy.
Brisbane Lions rookie Michael was swung forward, and had a big influence, creating contests, taking several contested marks, and kicking two goals, while reigning Grogan Medallist Davey, and skipper Ilett began to dominate through the middle of the ground.
Majors to NT pair Dunne and Brad Vassal, as well as Rory Walton and Davey, pulled the NEAFL back in to the game, and they trailed by just eight points at the main change.
Rain started falling, as it had been threatening to all afternoon in the second half, and the South Australian’s busted the game wide open, kicking seven third quarter goals to hold sway comfortably at the final change.
With the result decided, the intensity went out of the contest in the last quarter, but the Richmond Oval crowd was still treated to a raft of highlights, including Shelton’s long-range six-pointer, and a brace of classy goals from Leigh Ryswyk.
West Adelaide’s Ryan Ferguson won the Fos Williams medal as best afield for his sterling effort across half-back, while former Brisbane Lion Ryswyk bagged a game-high six goals, but the SANFL had contributors across the board.
The winners will now look to next year’s blockbuster against the VFL, while the NEAFL will no doubt learn from this years’ experience, with Ilett adamant his side will “build on the result going forward”