SANFL Round 8 – Norwood v Woodville West Torrens: the drone war and around the grounds

It is Friday night once again and just for a change here we are at the Parade. Night games get bigger crowds and a night game featuring Norwood is generally bigger again. As a result this is Norwood’s eighth game of the season and sixth under lights. While I understand the logic I am disappointed that I have only been able to take my kids to one game this season (unlike many hardy souls here with their children tonight, I have no desire to sacrifice the whole weekend to a grumpy six-year-old who went to bed at 11pm on Friday night).

Tonight we get a visit from the Woodville West Torrens Eagles. On current form they are shaping as the side most likely to challenge Port Adelaide in the finals (although like pretty much every other SANFL supporter if my team doesn’t get there this year I’ll be cheering on South Adelaide). The recent history between the two clubs has been very competitive. Norwood beat the Eagles in the 2010 prelim, with Nick Duigan slotting the winning goal in the dying seconds after a very young Jared Polec had unnecessarily turned the ball over on the wing with a shanked kick (perhaps should have been a warning sign to Brisbane recruiters). Eagles beat us in the 2011 prelim on their way to the premiership and they were one of three teams to beat the dominant Redlegs last year.

For all of their competitiveness since their merger in 1991 the Eagles do not draw big crowds and tonight’s 3500 is no exception as the brothers of the Brown order start evening vespers in their usual Friday night spot with their usual Friday night tipple. After setting the little man up in front of Camp Lakebottom (a kids show that seems to comprise entirely of cartoon characters insulting each other with combinations of the words ‘butt’, ‘snot’ and ‘fart’ – perfect for 6 year olds) while my partner was putting the youngest to bed, I rush down to Norwood and get there just as Baulderstone kicks the Redlegs’ first. Eagles get the ball out and score efficiently before Norwood creates more of a contest and takes control of the clearances. All is square at quarter time.

The banter from the terraces can often make a game of football. It can be passionate and funny – vigorous and combative but with tongue firmly in cheek and in good spirit. Sadly, this is not the case this evening with two annoying Eagles supporters right behind us – the game could only be viewed through the prism of their inane and repetitive shouting. Throughout what is a tight and enthralling contest, the morons behind us bang on repeatedly about how the umpires are gifting Norwood all of their goals (despite the fact that frees went 3/2 in the Eagles’ favour all night) and how the home supporters shout ‘ball’ whenever someone gets tackled. Fairly standard visiting supporter fare but it is the frequency and vigour of the whinging that is grating the nerves of all around.

Quarter time entertainment is provided by a drunk fat bloke right in front of us who spectacularly fails to get over the fence. It’s difficult to look dignified when lying at the base of a slightly bent boundary fence and he fails in his attempt at that too. A couple of years back a bloke broke his leg attempting to jump over the fence – getting him off he ground in an ambulance delayed the commencement of the game by 20 minutes but trying to convince boozed up blokes that they should use one of the many gates appears to be a lost cause.

The second quarter is much like the first – neither team can break away as Norwood creates more opportunities but lacks the class to finish them. More droning from behind us and spot fires of indirect arguments start breaking out all over the place. That thing peculiar to football where opposing fans will argue with each other without making eye contact or directly addressing each other. Redlegs up by a point at half time.

The ‘legs threaten to get away early in the third getting out by two and a half goals but are unable to capitalise on a period of dominance. They are made to pay as the Eagles take control in the clearances and on the deck, putting on five including two in the last two minutes of the quarter to lead by 14 at the last break. Tensions escalate further off the ground during the quarter as the Eagles score a few goals, directly or indirectly, from frees (those 50/50s in one-on-one contests that are probably there but the umps rarely pay, so it is frustrating when they do) and the drone gains a new nuance – Redlegs’ frees are home ground gifts while Eagles’ frees were clearly there. Smart phones showing the free kick count are proffered along with suggestions that it might be time to shut up about the umpires and the crowd – to no effect.

The last quarter is thrilling and the contest is fierce. The Redlegs grab the first two goals including an exhilarating run through congestion and goal by Roocke, who is improving with every game. Goals are traded but the Redlegs cannot bridge the gap. Off the field tensions reach boiling point as the droning continues unabated. Brown the elder finally snaps and turns around and suggests to the drones that their point has been well and truly made so perhaps it might be time to focus their attentions elsewhere. Despite objecting on freedom of speech grounds, the intervention has the desired effect and they are finally relatively quiet. That is until, right in front of us, Luke Jarrad slides into a contest and takes out Josh Donohue’s legs. The umpire correctly pays the free to the ‘legs and the droners go ballistic – ‘he was going for the ball’ they wail repeatedly. Finally I can take no more and turn around to politely, but forcefully inform them that it doesn’t matter if he was going for the ball and that if the gentlemen would like to acquaint themselves with the rules of the game I would happily provide a copy. They do not take up my kind offer.

Newton and Murphy miss two opportunities to steal the lead with scrappy snaps in the last few minutes and Powell misses two of his own opportunities to ice the game for the Eagles. But it is enough and the Eagles hold on to win by three points. A really good game of football between an improving Norwood and an Eagles side that is a ruckman away from being a real premiership threat (although once Grocke is back from his 7 game suspension for ending Brad Symes’ career, I might even support the Magpies against them). Norwood ruckman Baulderstone (37 hit outs, 9 clearances) the most influential player on the ground but the Eagles’ old firm of Jarrad, Powell and Lewis, with strong support from Powell and Goldsworthy, were the difference for just long enough. A bit more composure going forward (and Simon Phillips doing the easy things well) would have seen the Redlegs get over the line.

It is possible for opposing fans to peacefully coexist. Even some good-natured banter designed to question each others’ grasp on the rules. I know I annoy people at games, tilting at the windmills of umpires who do not penalise players for improperly disposing of the football (particularly those who, once tackled, place the ball on the ground and then roll off the maul as if they were playing rugby). But these gentlemen were ruining the game for everyone within five metres of them. Hopefully they find somewhere else to stand next time the Eagles visit the Parade.

Around the grounds

The Ponderosa – Central Districts v Sturt
Elizabeth Oval is no longer a fortress for the Bulldogs as the Double Blues comfortably accounted for them 14.7 to 4.15, despite Centrals having the lion’s share of the ruck and clearances. Sturt’s 7 goals to none third quarter sealed the deal. Three goals to Duldig, Krause and Evans for the winners. Sturt in a three-way tussle for top spot while Centrals, remarkably, is still in the six way competition for fifth.

Prospect Oval – North Adelaide v Port Adelaide
North fought hard but were outclassed by a Summerton led Magpies side with 16 AFL listed players – 12.17 to 9.9. Summerton and Shannon the two best midfielders on the ground while Butcher kicked 5.2 for the winners. As per previous match as to the relative position of the two clubs.

Richmond Oval – West Adelaide v Glenelg
The Bloods thrash the Bays by 98 points – 21.23 to 8.3. Not a single one of those 23 behinds was rushed – imagine if they’d kicked straight. 34 disposals for Macreadie, 4 goals for Beech and 3 for Stevens. Bloods have an eye on fifth while Glenelg drops to the foot of the ladder.

Noarlunga Oval – South Adelaide v Adelaide Crows
Big upset as the Crows twos beat the resurgent Panthers 17.8 to 13.11. A 9 goals to nothing third quarter gave the Crows the game. Their taggers kept Cross and Liddle relatively quiet while Ellis-Yolmen impresses with 22 disposals, 8 clearances and 3 goals. Jake Veide with four goals for Souths who now slip between the top three and the log jam from 5-10. The Crows consign Glenelg to an all too familiar place at the bottom of the ladder and are, amazingly, only one game out of the five.

About Dave Brown

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

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