Local ladies’ SANFL curtain-raiser

Female footballers from across the Fleurieu had the opportunity to play on the hallowed turf of Unley Oval as a curtain-raiser to the SANFL’s Sturt v Crows clash.

Strathalbyn’s Sheena McMullen, Clayton Bay’s Britt Jackson, Goolwa’s Meg Chaplin, Gemmells’ Eliza Grantham, and Victor Harbor’s Dani Brown were all part of the Mount Barker side which took to the field against Mount Lofty on Sunday, April 9.

For some of the Barkeroos’ players, this was the first time they had played football, while others had been part of last year’s SA Women’s Football League division two premiership side.

Weather conditions weren’t the best, with a strong wind and showers causing chaos on the field at times.

Coach AJ Clarke knew there was a big task ahead for the ladies as they went head-to-head with their Hills rivals, the team they beat in the grand final last year.

In the end, the Barkeroos team went down by the slimmest of margins – one point.

Clarke said there were great performances from across the field of players.

She said Jackson showed admirable strength and tenacity in contests.

“I have rarely seen any opposition player take this woman down and Sunday was no exception,” she said. 

“She is a players’ player and continues to show experience and skill beyond her years.”

McMullen, who was co-captain, helped build a tough structure up forward.

“Also carrying an injury, she was able to focus on other skills in the forward line as she usually plays ruck. She will be an excellent mentor for new rucks coming up,” Clarke said.

Chaplin, the other co-captain, went down with a knee injury early in the game, and her leadership on the field was missed.

“Without her voice of experience and calm presence, younger players struggled to hold their position in the structure and as a result made some costly mistakes,” Clarke said.

Brown played both in attack and defence, showing hardness especially in the last quarter.

“Dani played some strong backline work and kept on pushing herself despite the hits she received. Without the structure in place her kicks out were absorbed by the opposition,” Clarke said.

Grantham, who plays in the Barkeroos under 18s side, was selected to play but suffered a concussion early in the game.

“She bravely wanted to continue, however this was not an option for her to continue without medical clearance especially given her junior status. That being said we will enjoy seeing Eliza playing again with opens because she showed strong positioning and great skill,” Clarke said.