SANFL Round 17 – Norwood v North Adelaide: far from the maddening crowds

Thursday evening on a school night – interesting time to be at the Parade for footy. Clearly not that many agree with me as I fairly easily get a park and make my way through the unusually dry back streets of Norwood. The street lights of Adelaide’s leafy inner Eastern suburbs are as pointless as a plebiscite when you already know what 70% of people think. Their pale luminescence lost amongst the evergreens’ foliage as the footpath remains in darkness. Suburban dog turds steam in wait.

Into the ground and I fail to see Brother Brown despite the terraces not exactly being overrun with spectators. Perhaps his chiko roll gave an air of otherness not immediately recognisable. Tonight is a gathering of the die-hards; mostly middle aged and older men. Those that remember better days, glory dimming. We are not wrong, there’s just fewer of us. Glory fades, truth remains.

There has been much talk about SANFL crowds this year. They have been noticeably sparser in recent times. Theories abound: the Antarctic vortex; the AFL reserves teams having undermined the competition; poor scheduling; another dip in a slow but inevitable decline. Rant to follow, but brief match report first.

We pre-empt this rant with a brief match report

As expected, the game reaches no great heights. The presence of Michael Newton in the kids’ area and Matthew Panos not making it onto the ground mean Norwood are, again, far from full strength. The Redlegs would be taking no risks with important matches against West and the Eagles coming up before the finals. Meanwhile North just wants the season done. They are spending the last few rounds blooding youngsters and trying to contain losses as the wooden spoon goes into the third drawer down.

Norwood’s kicking keeps North in the game early. Skills are not great as the ground is incredibly heavy without having become a mire. The ball rarely travels more than 40 metres and the Redlegs are pulling all their shots to the east. Jace Bode is influential as a Dawe goal after the quarter time siren gives the ‘legs a 15 point lead.

The general intensity lifts in the second quarter but sadly not the major kicking. Time for some corporal punishment, perhaps. In his last game Alan Obst provides a contest at the other end. Norwood eventually starts kicking straight and with Persinos’s monster goal, 50 out from the boundary, late in the quarter the contest is effectively over. The Redlegs are now looking for percentage with a 33 point half time lead.

As if to highlight the aweful weather this winter, the rain staggers down just to make its presence felt early in the third – nothing sensible clothing or a seat in the grandstand can’t handle. Due to the lack of opposition supporters the only banter is one way and directed against the worst performed of the umpires. Some baffling decisions reach a crescendo when the boundary umpire spots a back heel out on the full from a North player and the fieldy attempts to pay a free to North, then orders a throw in. Some vintage abuse is hurled and, no doubt, heard given the crowd.

The best moment of the quarter comes from Luke Rander’s first goal, on debut. He has shown a bit as a lead up forward and may get further opportunities this season. Norwood by 54 as the ground announcer again reminds us not to take alcohol out on the ground. Does he fear an empty can pyramid in the centre square?

The last quarter sees more goals and more misses as Norwood banks a 76 point win that should have cracked the century. As handy as the percentage would have been, winning is the key. Suckling, Allan and Baulderstone good in the stoppages. Roocke noticeable around the ground and Levicki again in defence (AFL interest possibly?). Donohue showed a couple of things that suggest he might be handy off a half back flank – something to ponder.

Right, back to the rant.

Rant: What is the value proposition of the AFL reserves teams?

Let’s bust a myth first: SANFL crowds may be down, but Norwood’s are not. Despite the Anzac Day crowd being diminished by the rain and the game not actually being on Anzac Day (5,000 in 2015 compared to 10,000 in 2014), Norwood’s crowds are level pegging with the same fixtures last year. Norwood brings as many paying fans to SANFL games as the AFL sides bring in for free.

The real crowd culprits this year have been the AFL reserves sides. To date, the Crows have attracted 38,200 supporters to their SANFL games. In the same fixtures last year that total was 56,420. A similar, but not as extreme story down Alberton way, crowds having dropped from 52,449 to 40,096 across equivalent fixtures. Despite getting in for free, interest from fans of the AFL teams has substantially diminished. This is far from the 4,000 fans per game the Crows suggested they would bring when their entrance was being negotiated.

It seems fairly clear that the SANFL should be at the renegotiation table (the one next to the negotiation table) come season’s end. Paying Channel 7 $1 million per year to show mostly the AFL reserves sides does little for the SANFL. The league should pocket the cash and invest in live streaming the matches itself, given the AFL requires them all to be filmed anyway. This, then, creates the potential for the SANFL to generate extra revenue through selling advertising and embraces the internet streaming future from which the AFL is backing away. It also gives expat South Aussies the chance to watch so potentially grows the viewership.

The participation of the AFL reserves sides also requires renegotiation. The Power and the Crows need to tell us exactly what they are doing for the league. Currently they enable a 10 team competition, which is nice. Other than that, given in theory this has nothing to do with the SANFL’s role in the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority, it is the SANFL that is doing all the giving. The league no longer owns the two clubs’ AFL licences so the SANFL now owes the two teams nothing, absolutely nothing.

Last year, it was only an exceptional Norwood side which saved the finals series. A Port Adelaide premiership based on being able to play ineligible players due to its AFL finals participation may have been the last straw for many local fans. This year we are faced with the opposite. Port Adelaide which is likely to finish in the top three because it has been able to consistently field 17-18 AFL listed players, will possibly only have 15 qualified for SANFL finals. Given the Power will not make the AFL finals they will have to drop 4 or 5 AFL listed players for the twos and may very well go out in straight sets as a result. Either way the competition seems unreasonably compromised.

This would be fine if the competition was nothing more than a confection to suit the AFL’s purposes. But it is not and nor should it be. The SANFL is over 100 years older than the AFL and older than the VFL – it is one of the oldest sporting leagues in the world and deserves not to be unreasonably compromised by the AFL without some sort of return. It is time for the AFL to dip into its cash bulging pockets and fund an AFL reserves competition. The SANFL will get along just fine as an eight team competition, just as it was for many years.

That notwithstanding, at least get the fixture right. Presuming my wise and sensible suggestions are not taken up, at a minimum ensure in 2016 that:
– Crows reserves and Magpies are never playing at or near the same time as their AFL teams
– Thursday night games only when Friday is a school / public holiday
– As many Friday night games as possible in Autumn
– As many Sunday afternoon games as possible in Winter

Righto, world’s problems sorted. Back to the footy

Around the grounds

Glenelg 14.10 – 94 def by Port Adelaide 14.11 – 95

The Magpies ran over the top of a fast starting Glenelg outfit to get the two points by the narrowest of winning margins. A massive game for West Whyalla academy player Ben Sawford with 40 disposals, 14 clearances and four goals. Sawford left Aaron Young in his shade, the latter only collecting 30 disposals, 11 clearances and 2 goals. Matt Lobbe with a lazy 62 hit outs. Milera catching eyes for the Bays with 22 disposals and two goals while Clint Alleway kicked six straight and finished his season early with a two week suspension for misconduct (subsequently overturned on appeal).

Brett Eddy would need to kick eight goals in his last two games to take the Ken Farmer Medal from Alleway. Then again, winning the Ken Farmer with 43 goals – Ken would have considered that a couple of good weeks out. Glenelg still a chance to finish eighth while Port remains in the best position to play in the qualifying final.

South Adelaide 13.9 – 87 def West Adelaide 9.10 – 64

Xavier Gotch no doubt made his dad happy with a 30 possession linking game in the deep South as the Panthers beat the Bloods. Adam Gulden provided plenty of run out of defence while Brett Eddy bagged five of the big ones. With the black stripe, West Adelaide dominated the clearances through the agency of Willits, Stevens and Porplyzia but could not convert its inside 50 dominance on the board. Five goals to Aaron Fielke, Grantley’s second cousin, keeps him theoretically in the race for the Farmer, just one behind Eddy.

South one win away from confirming their place in the five while still holding double chance ambitions while West face a vital match against the Redlegs for third spot.

Woodville West Torrens 10.7 – 67 def Adelaide 10.3 – 63

An absolute stonker of a game on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in front of the biggest Woodville Oval crowd in 15 years saw the Eagles grab the minor premiership and the Baby Crows drop out of finals mathematicality by four wonky kicks. An interesting free kick count saw Allmond get six free kicks with his 28 disposals and Rowntree get six of his own with his 24 disposals and 12 clearances. Nicholas Hayes with three goals the only Eagles multi kicker. Kerridge, Wright, Grigg and Cheney prominent for the Baby Crows, while O’Brien needs to get more of it around the ground before he gets a shot in ruck at the higher level.

A couple of tense weeks of minor round footy coming up but definitely looking forward to getting back to the Adelaide Oval in September.

About Dave Brown

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


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Dave to say I agree with every word I’d this article is a massive understatement thank you

  2. Rant 10/10. Grand Dave.
    Is my boy Alex Georgiou back from his leg injury? How is he travelling?

  3. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Rulebook, PB. Alex is back and played well against North. Pat Levicki has given him some much needed key support down back and they’ll be looking to settle the line-up over the next couple of weeks. Without being inside the club it’s difficult to tell how a new captain is going as a captain.

  4. The parade is always a good night out. No doubt 7 mate coverage impacted the Crowd but is good for exposure

  5. Bill Drodge says

    Spot on with the match report Malcolm.

    And you’re right on the money with the rant. There is a minority of disaffected SANFL Supporters no longer going becuase of the AFL Reserves Teams. They are not adversely affecting SANFL Crowds.

    But, there is also a minority of AFL Supporters going to SANFL Matches. They are adversely affecting SANFL Crowds. The supporters of the AFL Clubs, want their Reserves to be in the SANFL competition. How about they start going to support it.

    People need to realise that a third of SANFL minor round games involve AFL Reserves Teams. They are the biggest single factor affecting the drop in crowds.

  6. Great article as usual. It seems having both clubs in hasn’t accomplished anything. With the fans not turning up ,the traditional fans walking away. The small pittance that they get from power or crows wouldn’t make up for the lost fans or members = losing money.
    Onto Norwood, well they looked like their back at their best. Even in the past when we’ve had no injuries we have had close games against North so to finish them off and play 4 great qtrs was great to see.
    I still can’t believe our poor kicking,let’s hope it improves against west this week.
    Buckle up enjoy the build up because I’m sure the Redlegs will be delivering us something special this year which no living person has seen. 4 in a row. Legs4life

  7. Rick Neagle says

    Thank you to the SANFL, the WAFL, the Norwood football club, Macquarie Bank and Autism SA for their support to launch the Count Me In round in the SANFL at the Norwood v North Adelaide game. If you wish to lobby the AFL for the same round on the 2017 AFL calendar click below in the next post. RN48

  8. Rick Neagle says
  9. DB – one of the comment writers just called you Malcolm. Should I get Harms to phone the Almanac lawyers?

  10. Dave Brown says

    Do the lawyers worry about compliments, PB?

  11. As someone who admittedly writes from a very Vic-centric point of view this was very illuminating Dave as to the state of play in SA.

    You had me at ‘suburban dog turds steam in wait’.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Give you that 1 PB and thanks,Dave.The important thing about this game was it was the count me in game promoting autism and the disability sector in general.Rick Neagles amazing passion for the cause is to be acknowledged and thanked by us all,you are a star number,48

  13. Mark Duffett says

    “also gives expat South Aussies the chance to watch so potentially grows the viewership”

    Amen to that. I still reckon 7mate would do much better telecasting the SANFL game nationally than the dross that is invariably on in its stead. But given that’s not going to happen, internet streaming can’t come soon enough. Oh, and the rest of the rant is on the money too, and thanks for the round the grounds round up.

  14. Mickey Randall says

    Good job Dave. We are part of a small group who knows that AFL is not the sport.

  15. Dave Brown says

    Thanks JD and thanks Rick and Malcolm, glad the Count Me In match went well – will click on the link. No Centrals game to cover last week Mark – they need to beat Glenelg this week and hope that Port beat South. That would then set up a last round playoff for 5th at Noarlunga. Indeed Mickey – pedants of the world unite!

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