In a great showcase of country football, hosts SA Country defeated their Western Australian counterparts by just five points at Adelaide Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The match was tight and close across the length of the contest with the Croweaters taking a 13-point lead into the final break, only to surrender it during the opening five minutes of the last term.
This game ebbed and flowed with South Australia holding on to win, 10.12 (72) to WA’s 10.7 (67).
Darren Shillabeer’s second goal proved to be the match sealer.
“It was a fantastic game of football and the result could have gone either way,” second year SA country coach Luke Duncan explained.
“I felt we controlled the centre bounces but WA’s first touch and ball use around the ground, especially at the clearances was outstanding.
“There would have been at least four lead changes in the last quarter and eight to 10 across the game.
“Our half back line with ‘Bobby’ and ‘Magic’ (Raikiwasa) along with fellow defenders Scott Merrett and Sam Pfeiffer was outstanding all day.
“Darren Shillabeer gave us a real presence up forward and we had a good spread of goal kickers.
“Naturally ‘Berke’ (Simon Berkefeld), Xavier Watson, who would have won a dozen clearances himself, and ruckman Todd Miles were our best three players on the day.
“Our dominant third quarter where we had 17 inside 50s set up the win.”
Supremely balanced Penola footballer Berkefeld collected the Barry Stringer Medal as South Australia’s best player for his work through the midfield and on a wing.
West Coast left-footer Watson was cool and calculated in traffic while team captain Miles from Barossa District was lionhearted in ruck all day.
In his first game at this level Tom Hutchesson gave plenty of run and creativity from his wing while Aisea ‘Magic’ Raikiwasa was an important component of the defence, delivering run and carry.
Versatile utility Billy Laurie from Keith also had a telling impact on the game.
Along with Shillabeer who was South Australia’s only multiple goal kicker, Jessie Kemp (before being injured), Ben Davis, Ben Simounds, Steve Rusca, Berkefeld, Laurie, Jesse Stringer and Brett Ellis all had an impact on the scoreboard.
WA small man Rory O’Brien collected the House Medal as the Sandgropers’ best player.
Matthew Outridge, Jesse Crichton, Mitch Andrews along with Andrew Hayden and Guy Langdon were also among the visitors’ best.
Along with O’Brien’s three goals, Bradley Holmes and Leigh Kohlmann both kicked a pair.
The returned fixture next year is expected to be at the new Optus Stadium in Perth.