2017 Women’s Footy Almanac launch (& SANFL Elimination Final – Norwood v Central District): Making things

Red wine under the fingernails

So, we had the South Australian launch of the 2017 Women’s Footy Almanac in the Barossa last week. What a location! Much like their famed, spicy shirazes, a bit of age sits well on this part of the world. Noting the dot in time it represents compared to the tens of thousands of years of Indigenous culture or the millions of years of geography underneath its well tilled soil, the Barossa today is reflective of its long (170 years in this case) history of Germans industriously making things.

The old and the new sometimes seem worlds apart – Rockford Wines produces its vintages in stone buildings, with a hand cranked wooden basket press, some other machines running off a repurposed petrol engine defying its hundred years in operation. Elsewhere in the valley wine is made in cavernous steel sheds by automated machines that attempt to balance efficiency with the tender, red-stained hands required to produce a decent drop. There is no judgement attached to the latter, they are simply different ways of undertaking the same making processes.

On this particular turn of the season day there is plenty of green in the valley but little on the vines as we line up for a pre-launch round of golf. Tanunda Pines is a well-tended set of 18 that offers plenty of encouragement to those capable of composing a straightish round. For the rest of us it offers a long walk. One in every five of mine goes in the intended direction with some flight. The remainder, well, any art worth doing requires practice and perseverance. I suppose that applies to golf.

The company is three wordsmiths, Messrs Harms, Randall and Sexton: all demonstrating varying levels of proficiency with the dimpled ball. Conversation meanders through the last shot, the next hole, the next writing project, cricket in the 1970s, football in the now. Over a few well-earned ales, we chew the problems of local and state level footy. Conclusion: footy is so much more than elite level pathways – find a club that gives you and yours what best suits you.

Speaking of which, then it’s onto the launch. As Mickey’s tyres grind the around the ground gravel, some finals bound Magpies go through their paces within the fences. The Tanunda Footy Club clubrooms are a perfect Barossa design; built onto the back wall of its old stone grandstand, the clubrooms effortlessly blend the old and the new. The bar, offering Rockford Eden Valley Rieslings and Barossa Valley Grenache Mataro Shirazes recesses underneath the grandstand while large photos of premierships past inset what once were windows at the top of the stand. Various portraited Westhoffs and Steinberners can be found behind the bar in shades of teal and stripes of red, white and blue.

The Women’s Footy Almanac is all about making things. John Harms speaks of the astonishing drive of the players and the fans to make the first season of AFLW exceed expectations; the creative drive of Yvette Wroby and Stephanie O’Connell to document these moments, which will hopefully/likely have greater significance as the years roll on by. Holly Greatwich (of the aforementioned Rockfords) tells us of how she came around to women’s footy and the Almanac; how a Port supporter, visiting Norwood, ended up supporting the Crows and watched the Grand Final sitting next to Susan Alberti (yes, I know!).

Then, President of the Tanunda Footy Club, Dan Eggleton, tells us of making a culture of women’s footy at the club – creating a safe place to grow young people that is strengthened by inclusion. The large list of sponsors on the wall behind him (including three coopers) that would have suburban footy clubs drooling, a testament to the club’s importance to this community of makers.

Dinner follows – talking to people who make things and love what they do is a rare privilege. Hopefully they weren’t too offended by me treating them as something exotic as a unicorn but it’s fascinating and intoxicating (although that could also have been Rockford’s GMS). The usual conversation amongst my colleagues centres around the players, not the game, or about something else entirely. There is little juice to be extracted from the skins of what we do each do; plenty of tannins, mind.

Rockford’s famed basket press

The following day I am lucky enough to be given tours of Rockfords and Murray Street Vineyards – two exemplars of different ways of achieving a similar outcome. It’s all very Barossa (delightfully close): Holly at Rockford will soon be marrying winemaker Florian from MSV; Vicki in Rockford’s cellar door is already married to Andy at MSV’s. Tempting as it is to stay in this community for as long as possible, the highway calls visitors back to Adelaide Oval for SANFL finals.

The old and the new

Norwood have been making something this year. After parting ways with coach and CEO last season, Jarrod Cotton has brought something of the Phil Walsh approach to footy to the Parade. With enhanced midfield grunt through the return of Mitch Grigg from AFL ranks along with the outside run of Dean Terlich and Cam Shenton, the Redlegs have shown glimpses of something new this year. Attacking through the corridor, quick scoring, stifling opponents’ midfields with pressure. Injuries have taken their toll , however, and Norwood enter the elimination final missing captain Jace Bode, forward targets Lewis Johnston and Simon Phillips and midfield standards upholder Tim Webber.

Central District, however, with the Barossa in its country zone, have been making a similar product for years and hit the finals at full pace. Roy Laird is in his 15th season at the club, having taken over from another handy coach by the name of Alistair Clarkson (wonder where he is these days). Laird’s Centrals are a known quantity; accountable, tough footy that focusses on being harder at the contest than your opponent and working harder than them off the ball. It’s honest and brought seven premierships in his first eight years. 2010 was a while ago now, though, but Centrals have kept the faith, reappointing him for 2018. It’s admirable to see the old tools’ abilities to make the new product, but no judgement is attached.

Adelaide Oval doesn’t seem quite right with fewer than 10,000 people in it, though. But it’s loud enough as Centrals take early control. The passages fall the Dogs’ way as an extra number or two behind the ruck contest sees the ball in northern hands and they are able to lock the ball in their forward line. By comparison Norwood are the prey: moving the ball side to side, desperately trying to find a way out. There’s a reasonable question to be asked about the extent to which you roll the dice and trust your next teammate up the line or carefully seek a shorter semi-contested option. One Norwood has struggled to answer satisfactorily for a couple of years now. Purely on outcomes the Redlegs get it wrong as horrid turnovers lead the Bulldogs bang on three early goals and head into quarter time 17 points to the good.

A small change for the Redlegs, moving Andrew Kirwan, (in my opinion) Norwood’s key player, in front of the ruck contest and all of a sudden Norwood are finding their way straight out of, and through, the middle. Matt Nunn and Jimmy Olsen are having an influence around the ground and Anthony Wilson is starting to find space. Now, an Anthony Wilson running goal is a work of rarely surpassed beauty, certainly at this level. He gives us another cracker – four or five bounces through the centre of Adelaide Oval away from an opponent that started level with him, is an exquisite experience. Soon enough the rest of this game will be forgotten, this will last longer. By half time the Redlegs have drawn back to six points; the heart still beats true.

Such are the tactical ebbs and flows of a match that Centrals adjust to Norwood in the third quarter and an intriguing battle slowly reverts whence it came as Centrals get control once more. They start to set their structures before the Redlegs can get past them. Late goals to Hoskin and Habel frank the Doggie dominance with a 20 point three quarter time lead. Norwood on life support.

And the relatives don’t quibble over the respirator as Norwood kicks a goal but Centrals kick six in the next 20 minutes including a beautiful running goal by Josh Glenn. The Dogs’ tried and true has proved more robust than the Redlegs’ experimentations this time as the deliberately galling ‘UUUUDogs’ rings around Adelaide Oval. Central District win it by 48. In the end being good at footy remains simple but being excellent is much more elusive. But what a privilege it is to spend your time amongst people who make things.

Read more of the 2017 Women’s Footy Almanac here

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I love a happy ending. Thanks Dave.

  2. Dave- that’s a magnificent recount of a top Barossan outing. The sense of craft and pride and bonhomie in most wineries is almost as rewarding as the produce on offer.

    I take your point about ten thousand at Adelaide Oval, but reckon it’s superior than the same crowd at Footy Park. There’s a warmness and possibly even an intimacy that West Lakes couldn’t offer.

    We went to the footy Saturday and on the way home I wondered how my parenting had gone so awry when our eldest declared that both his teams had won: Port and Centrals.

  3. How did your eldest go walking home, Mickey?

  4. Mark Duffett says

    “footy is so much more than elite level pathways –”

    Never a truer word…

  5. Dave you are better than me re writing up the painful memory of last week to hard and compromising on my part sounds like you folk had a great time and Mickey I hope when you got home you washed out your child’s mouth with soap that would have fixed them

  6. bernard whimpress says

    Lovely piece Dave. Would have preferred to be at the Barossa golf and company there than the Redlegs end at the Oval with the tyranny of card only purchasing. Is this supposed to ease the pain of a 10 buck West End? At least I had the company of Roger Wills and Santo Caruso for company.

  7. Thanks for the read and the comment folks. Yeah, Mark I was really surprised doing the Level 1 coaching course how much focus was put on preparing kids for elite pathways, when that will be the reality for less than 1% of the kids that pull on a boot.

    It was the outcome I fully expected Rulebook so that softened the blow somewhat.

    Yes, in hindsight would happily have stayed in the Barossa, Bernard. Prefer paying $7 for a Coopers at the Parade

  8. Dave- should’ve sold the walk home as training for the City Bay.

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