(Glenelg vs Sturt, Unley Oval, 26 September 2020)
To Unley Oval for the final minor round game of the year. A ‘dead rubber’, as Glenelg would finish in the final four and Sturt would miss out, though not by much, irrespective of this or any other result. Torn between the desire to ‘manage’ many leading players yet take some winning form into the finals, the Tigers rested their captain, Max Proud, Magarey Medallist Luke Partington, and leading goal-sneak Luke Reynolds. Sturt wanted a big finish to farewell some club stalwarts in Midfielder Sam Colquhoun, defender Tom Harms and utility Byron Sumner.
But first, P’s friend Adrian dragged him along to what turned out to be a pretty good lunch at the clubhouse, where Sturt celebrated its win over Glenelg in the 1970 Grand Final.
That day, on a wet and wintry afternoon in the badly drained slush of old Adelaide Oval, Sturt won 12.13 to 9.10, its 4 goal to one third quarter making the difference. Bay fans can read about it in that superb reference work Pride of the Bay (but really, why bother reading about yet another so-near-yet-so-far story of the Bays?) Anyway, that had been Sturt’s triumph and it has the champion’s right to indulge, and whilst the overbearing, intrusive, fatuous, overly enthusiastic chatter of panel interviewer Keith Conlon (more groupie than interviewer, your correspondent thought) makes him selectors’ choice to bore for Australia, he did manage to wring some insights and interesting facts from the Sturt players taking part in the game. Of these, the most value came from a chap whose name I have forgotten, but there were musings, or perhaps wanderings, or maybe more accurately ramblings, by a bunch of great men long past their prime. Paul Bagshaw, Malcolm Greenslade and Sandy Nelson were 3 of the best players I’ve seen, and its nice to see them still not only alive, but alive and kicking.
And that includes Sturt greats in the stand once the game started, including Peter Motley and (former Glenelg coach) John Halbert. Mind you, none of these Sturt players would be as brazen as the 1915 Premiership team, who included the umpires in their team photo (their defeated opponents would perhaps look on knowingly):
Anyway, to the game. Sturt began strongly but Glenelg countered in a scrappy first half that saw the Tigers up by 2 points at the main break (Sturt kicking 5.9 didn’t help them). But the home side really got going in the 3rd quarter, kicking 4 goals to 1. Some had the impression the visitors were ‘tanking’ ahead of the finals, but that would have been wrong. Sturt deserved their lead at three-quarter time, and in a final 4 where every game for us will be an elimination final, you need to take some winning form. The Bays did: a 5 goal to nil blitz in the last term saw them eke out a 13 point win, and Liam McBean again will wear the Ken Farmer medal (shared with James Rowe from the Eagles) by posting 4 goals for the day. Glenelg 12.8 (80) defeated Sturt 9.13 (67) (almost a mirror image of the 1970 GF scores).
All in all, that was not a bad way to finish off the minor round. The Tigers have to win three tough games in a row against formidable opposition: South, North and the Eagles (probably in that order). Time will tell but this Glenelg side has the strength skill and smarts to do it, with a bit of luck.