Southern District women finish runner up at inaugural football country championship

MY BALL: Southern District key position player Bree Leibhardt is owning the football during the country championships at Renmark. Photo: Peter Argent.
MY BALL: Southern District key position player Bree Leibhardt is owning the football during the country championships at Renmark. Photo: Peter Argent.

A squad of 24 Women plus a couple of emergencies headed to Berri on Friday afternoon to represent the Southern District in the inaugural South Australian Country Championships held in Renmark.

COME AND GET IT: Southern District star Emma Gryczewski shows the football, but there is no way she is going to give it up. Photo: Peter Argent.

COME AND GET IT: Southern District star Emma Gryczewski shows the football, but there is no way she is going to give it up. Photo: Peter Argent.

The girls, from the Great Southern and Southern Football Leagues Association teams were selected under the watchful eye of Great Southern and Strathalbyn coach Darcy Springhall.

The championships were held alongside the men’s competition, with five state country zones, which included Eastern, Northern, Central and South East, representing the best country women footballers.

The Southern team contested in four games on Saturday, one against each of the other zones represented.

The first match was against Northern was played in very windy conditions, as the Southern team, led by joint captains Bree Leibhardt (Strathalbyn) and GSFLW medal winner Natalie Gibbs (Victor Harbor), played some good passages during the two 15 minute halves, to run out winners by two goals.

Gibbs with her turn of speed and clearance from the back lines was best for Southern with Jamie Norup, Bree Leibhardt and Sam Franson also featuring. Tasja Batzavalis along with Sally Fuller and Felicity Oliver all scored a goal each.

The second game, against South East, was a scrappy affair due to the wind. Southern won the game by two points – which, coincidentally, was the total score for the game.

Best players were Lisa Millard, Norup, Fuller and best afield Caitlin Radbone.

As the day unfolded, it was appearing that Eastern would be the team to beat and so it proved to be.

Southern pumped the ball forward often enough, but Eastern made the most of their opportunities and a couple of quick snaps saw them finish the better on the scoreboard. Eastern ended with 3-2 to Southern Districts 1-2.

OVER THE BALL: Morgan Tucker protects her space so she can win the football on the weekend at the country championships. Photo: Andrew Batten.

OVER THE BALL: Morgan Tucker protects her space so she can win the football on the weekend at the country championships. Photo: Andrew Batten.

Fuller continued her good form up front with the loan gaol and the best players were Tiffany Copley,  Radbone, Emma Gryczewski and Annabelle Thomas.

The last game for the day and the spectator crowd swelled as the Southern men’s team – who had finished for the day, came to watch and support their female counterparts.

It was against Central and it was a torrid tight affair for both teams. With only two goals kicked for the whole game, it was the Southern defence who stood firm and at the final hooter, the margin was just one point.

Final score 1-2 to 1-1, in favour of the girls from the South.

Natile Dixon was among the best players, being the lone goal scorer for Southern, with Franson,  Radbone and Norup.

With Eastern going through the carnival undefeated and that team being the only squad to beat Southern District, battle lines were drawn for the final on Sunday morning.

FREE BALL: Tessa Grant is tackled to the ground, but with the ball spilling, Southern team mates Natalie Gibbs and Elly Fry seize the opportunity. Photo: Andrew Batten.

FREE BALL: Tessa Grant is tackled to the ground, but with the ball spilling, Southern team mates Natalie Gibbs and Elly Fry seize the opportunity. Photo: Andrew Batten.

It was Southern versus Eastern for the inaugural women’s title.

With the championship on the line both teams lifted to the occasion with some great footy being played.

Southern took the ascendancy and led at the first break by a couple of points, but failed to capitalise during the second as Eastern held them scoreless to lead by a goal at half time.

The third quarter saw both teams kick two goals each, but three points to Eastern was the difference at the last break. In the last term Eastern once again held the Southern team scoreless to win comfortably in the end, 5-12 to 3-3.

Goals to Morgan Tucker, Ellie Fry and Copley. Best players in the final were Millard, Oliva Bendt,  Batzavalis and Fry.

The whole squad and support staff along with family and friends were chuffed when seven Southern District women, Sally Fuller (McLaren), Emma Gryczewski (McLaren), Natlalie Gibbs (Victor Harbor), Caitlin Radbone (Willunga), Lisa Millard (Strathalbyn), Tess Grant (Strathalbyn), Samantha Franson (Cove) were all named in the inaugural Team of the Championships.

The presentation ceremony was held in the Renmark Football Club and attended by the who’s who of SA Country Football and was the closing highlight of the weekend.

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