Dominant Panthers will be too good for struggling Blues
By Kym Kelly

South Adelaide last week showed fans why they should be excited this year come finals time. After a fast first quarter against Centrals, kicking 5.7 to 2 goals South looked unbeatable. To the Bulldogs credit they came out in the second and took the challenge up to the Panthers dominating the first half of the quarter with 4 straight themselves with the wind down at Noarlunga. South then kicked a steadier before half time to go into the main break 6 points up. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs that’s where it ended. South took control of the rest of the game with 4 more with the wind in the third and with two guys down in the second half Panthers coach Jarrad Wright, smartly played an extra behind the ball in the last against the wind to control the game and kicking the first in the last quarter gave the boys the confidence to go on with the job and run out convincing victors by 37 points. This left Centrals with a few things to think about this week.

Sturt also notched up its fourth win for the season. Narrowly getting over the Bloods in a tight tussle that saw Westies lead for much of the game. They dominated the second quarter keeping Sturt goalless and then kicking the first 2 for the second half. West fans were looking forward to just their second win for the season. Not to be the case unfortunately for Bloods fans. The Double Blues went on to kick the next 7 out of 8 goals for the match taking victory by 7 points. Amongst the best for the Double Blues, were James Battersby with 24 disposals, Sam Colquhoun and ex Panther Abe Davis, winning a lot of the ball. Veteran Mark Evans booted home 3 goals.

Its hard to imagine after winning both the reserves and league Premierships in 2017 and making the finals in the past two seasons. Sturt are really struggling to find some consistent form with its only wins coming against the bottom sides. Undoubtedly losing head coach Marty Mattner has has been difficult for the club. New head coach Nathan Grima certainly has some work to do with his group. 

Another great loss to the club was reserves premiership coach Gianni Petrucci in 2018 who left the club to take charge of McLaren Vale. Many in football circles rate Petrucci as one of the great teachers of the game, and he’s had good success at local level with the Reynella Wine Flies before Sturt. Petrucci has transformed the McLaren Eagles. Taking them from bottom, to be one of the most consistent teams over the past three seasons in the Great Southern Football League.

Sturt are such a proud club with passionate supporters, they will be looking for much improvement to finish off the season and go into the off season with some sort of form. Hopefully to re-group and come back in 2021 the force that we have come to know over the last two decades.

The last time these two teams met was round 4 with South accounting for the Double Blues by 23 points. Its really hard to see Sturt being able to compete with the strength of the Panthers this week. How ever they do have a considerable injury list at the moment, with a good 15 players from the seniors all on the sidelines, really shows the depth of the Panthers list. On the return of 3 or 4 of these over the next few weeks just in time for finals will have the Panthers in good shape to contest for the Premiership.

Sturt could really take their chances this week at Unley Oval and as Centrals showed last week in the second quarter. If you can catch the Panthers on the back foot there may be some holes in their defence. Perhaps being a little undersized across half back is one such flaw. No doubt ex Panther Abe Davis will be looking to get the win against his old club. I think South’s midfield will be too strong around the ball and in the ruck they should be dominant. The Panthers goal kicking small forwards will be a handful for Sturts defence.

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