SANFL season opener – Norwood v Port Adelaide

Season 2014 starts much as any other – a night game against the old rival at the Parade. We do the rounds of the family members’ houses and lodge the trusty Corolla at St Bart’s church, just behind the ground (saying a silent prayer of thanks that my parents are parishioners, giving us moral right to use its car park). I am worried – afraid the SANFL has been too kind in the concessions it has given to the Power in establishing its reserves structure and that we might be about to see damage done to the integrity of the league. The bookies seem to agree, with Port starting the warm favourites.

We set up in our usual night spot, amongst a larger than usual crowd, next to the baseball scoreboard on the South Eastern flank. The sun sets over the Western stand, a testament to the ongoing farce that is daylight savings in autumn. As both teams warm up on the ground the 2013 premiership flag is raised to muted applause, so small is the makeshift flagpole on the ground and so little effort did they make to draw the crowd’s attention to the ‘ceremony’. The sponsor’s product has been procured for the group, but sadly our elder statesman is in need of a red wine from the other sponsor which can’t easily be met from our position at the ground.

The umpire eventually gets the message from the wildly flashing lights of the new commercial TV provider and we are underway. The Redlegs are only fielding eight players from the 2013 premiership side and have a new coach but this is still the same team – fierce tackling, an asphyxiating forward press and efficient ball movement. They put the clamps on early and regularly force the Magpies into skill errors. Callum Bartlett, an off season recruit from Brisbane, takes the ball on the run and curls one back from the boundary from 45 out with his first kick for the club, proving over the evening to possess a beautiful left foot. Matthew Panos, a local lad who spent a few years on the Western Bulldogs’ list, is playing as a 191cm midfielder and looks at home out of the forward line. The Redlegs force a turnover soon after and 17 year old Peter Bampton kicks one with a crude but effective left foot. Somewhat surprisingly this appears to be business as usual for Norwood.

Port get their first through Mitch Harvey who looks a likely type and a stalemate ensues as Norwood prevents the ball from getting in the open on Port’s terms. Debutant Stephen Baldasso kicks a point for the Redlegs and in a classic local footy moment the bloke behind me says ‘who is that number 29?’ The bloke behind him says ‘that’s my son’ and much hand shaking ensues. More acts of extreme pressure by Norwood – Kane Murphy (son of David) makes nine tackles during the game including four holding the ball decisions (the first leading directly to a goal) and they are out to 20 points at quarter time.

Despite never being able to reel that deficit in, Port always look like they’re about to become dangerous. Although it is some of the non-AFL players, such as Steven Summerton, that are standing out. They get it back to 14 points late in the second through a Summerton goal and have kept the Redlegs scoreless for 15 minutes. The crowd is noticeably tensing up until O’Shea comically kicks the ball lace out to Michael Newton at centre half forward, the siren going as he prepares to take his kick. You never quite know what you’ll get from Newton – any time spent at the Demons seems to have that effect on players. But he is a real physical presence tonight and kicks truly as Norwood fans exhale again.

Half time leads to more sponsor’s product and the fulfilment of the elder statesman’s desire for coffee but the red wine will have to wait until the next time we are at the northern end of the ground. Norwood is the more composed team in the third quarter, stretching the lead out to 38 points as Port burns its opportunities. Bruggemann looks dangerous up forward and on average is a good kick (putting one out on the full on each side of the goals). Jake Neade (who is so small they only gave him a single page poster in the footy budget) finally chooses the simple option and kicks a goal to bring the margin back to 31 points at three quarter time. Still, the job is almost done for the Redlegs.

The last quarter sees Port narrow the margin – they are getting the ball out in the open and the superior fitness of the 13 full-time professionals at Port Adelaide is telling. Whether it is a lack of composure on one side or a surplus of courage on the other, Norwood are able to do just enough to stop Port from scoring heavily. Simon Phillips, in as baffling form as ever, refuses to take another beautifully weighted forward fifty entry from Bartlett, instead choosing to drop it and twist and turn before slotting the sealer. The siren confirms a 19 point victory to the home side and faith in the world is restored. A stroll across the ground to pass comment on the state of the turf and our evening is done other than ponder whether a win over Port Adelaide circa 2014 still means the same thing.

About Dave Brown

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


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good summary Dave on reflection like you I was pleasantly surprised at how well
    Norwood played but I felt if winning was Ports sole objective they would have used Logan on the ball far more . Yes happy we won but it did have a different feel about it
    Thanks Dave

  2. Dave Brown says

    Yes, there was some debate about the extent to which Port was attempting to beat us as opposed to attempting to play like the Power. Will always be the case when the AFL reserves teams lose now.

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