By ZAC MILBANK
Central District’s breakthrough campaign has been reflected in the 2023 The Advertiser SANFLW Team of the Year, with five Bulldogs and coach Ben Hunt selected in the elite line-up.
Qualifying for their inaugural Hostplus SANFLW League finals campaign, the Bulldogs lead the way for the class of 2023 with fellow finalists South Adelaide, Norwood and Sturt each having three players chosen.
All eight clubs have at least one representative in this year’s best-of-the-best as second-year mentor Hunt is rewarded for steering Central into second place as the SANFLW’s highest-scoring side throughout the minor round.
The girls from Elizabeth have three players chosen inside the attacking 50m arc, including the competition’s leading goal kicker in Katelyn Rosenzweig.
Speedy goalsneaks Caitlin Wendland and Elaine Grigg were also rewarded for their consistency while unheralded Georgia Madigan starts in defence with Bulldogs captain Shelby Smith returning to the line-up, this time on the interchange.
Minor premier South Adelaide has ruck Soriah Moon and consistent midfielder Brooke Boileau starting in the centre square with 16-year-old Esther Schirmer at full back.
Star Norwood recruit Tahlita Buethke lines up on one wing while teammates Tesharna Maher (half-forward flank) and Lana Schwerdt (interchange) have also played roles in earning a top-three finish this year.
Sturt skipper Kate Harris (centre) is not surprisingly the captain of the side thanks to her inspirational leadership at Unley while teammates Georgia Swan (half-back flank) and Isobel Kuiper (interchange) had influences in getting the Double Blues into the major round.
Kuiper, Rosenzweig and West Adelaide playmaker Lauren Young all recovered from serious knee injuries to gain selection, with the latter lining up at centre half-forward and her Bloods teammate Zoe Venning on the interchange.
Woodville-West Torrens skipper Annie Falkenberg is the team’s vice-captain while Glenelg gamebreaker Piper Window (ruck rover) is joined by emerging teammate Poppy Scholz (half-back flank).
In a rare absence from the major round this season, North Adelaide still had wing Katelyn Pope and ruck Isabelle Starmer (interchange) fly the red-and-white flag.
Based on performance across the minor round, the 2023 The Advertiser SANFLW Team of the Year was selected by SANFL Female Talent Manager Robbie Neill, SANFL Competitions Specialist -State Leagues Daniel Joyce, SANFL Head of Football Operations Sean Toohey, SANFL Football Operations Administrator Lucy Herde and SANFL Media Producer Zac Milbank.
FORWARD POCKET – Caitlin Wendland (Central)
Making her debut in The Advertiser SANFLW Team of the Year, Wendland has enjoyed an exceptional season with the Bulldogs, averaging 15 disposals and seven tackles. Nominated for the Powerade Breakthrough Player award in Round 3, the 19-year-old is one of three triplets to have donned the Central guernsey with sisters Kasey and Jessica previously lining up at Elizabeth.
FULL FORWARD – Kaitlyn Rosenzweig (Central)
SANFLW’s leading goal kicker is a natural fit at full forward after tallying an impressive 21 majors across the minor round. Returning from a knee reconstruction in 2023, ”Rosey” also previously won the competition’s leading goal kicker award with North Adelaide in 2018.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – Elaine Grigg (Central)
The third Central player chosen to start in attack for the 2023 SANFLW Team of the Year, Grigg thrived in her first season wearing the red, white and blue. Boasting great speed and evasive skills, the Powerade Breakthrough Player nominee booted six goals for the season as well as placing seventh in the competition for total handballs.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – Lauren Young (West)
Returning from a knee reconstruction this season, the Bloods’ superstar certainly didn’t disappoint as she racked up 209 disposals to rank sixth in the competition at 19 per game. The 2021 SANFLW Best and Fairest also hit the scoreboard with nine goals for the season.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – Tesharna Maher (Norwood)
Celebrating her 50th Hostplus SANFLW League game in Sunday’s Preliminary Final, Maher averaged 14 disposals and four tackles a game in 2023 to be a consistent force for the finals-bound Redlegs.
WING – Tahlita Buethke (Norwood)
Making the switch to The Parade in 2023, Buethke displayed exactly why coach Brad Snell was so delighted to land her signature in the off-season. The hard-running midfielder averaged over 115 Ranking Points per game as she regularly carried the ball across lines in damaging fashion.
CENTRE – Kate Harris (Sturt)
The highly-respected Sturt skipper is a popular choice as captain of the 2023 The Advertiser SANFLW Team of the Year. Providing a significant presence through the centre square, ”Bubba” racked up an incredible average of 145 ranking points while averaging nine tackles a game.
WING – Katelyn Pope (North)
A natural fit for the wing with her penchant for using her leg speed and kicking the ball long with her left foot, Pope averaged more than 20 possessions per game in an impressive campaign with the Roosters.
HALF-BACK FLANK – Georgia Swan (Sturt)
A consistent force for the Double Blues wherever she was asked to play this season, Swan took the equal third most marks in the competition. While spending most of the year in defence, the 19-year-old kicked a career-high bag of three goals in Round 6.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – Poppy Scholz (Glenelg)
A member of the SA U18 Girls team in 2023, the 16-year-old broke through to be a reliable presence in the back half for Glenelg in just her second season of senior SANFLW football.
HALF-BACK FLANK – Annie Falkenberg (Eagles)
The sole Woodville-West Torrens representative this year, the Eagles skipper is selected as vice-captain of the 2023 SANFLW Team of the Year. Averaged more than 12 kicks per game while continually repelling opposition attacks this season.
BACK POCKET – Georgia Madigan (Central)
One of the prime movers behind Central making its inaugural finals appearance this year, Madigan averaged an impactful 12 disposals per game while also racking up 28 rebound 50s throughout the minor round.
FULL BACK – Esther Schirmer (South)
In just her second season of senior SANFLW football, Schirmer quickly became an integral cog in the Panthers’ defence despite being just 16 years of age. The SA U18 team member enjoyed a breakthrough effort in Round 7, racking up 21 disposals and six tackles.
RUCK – Soriah Moon (South)
Moon continually got things moving the Panthers’ way in 2023 while averaging a competition-best 24 hit out per game. The mobile ruck also moved around the ground in effective fashion to also average 14 disposals, four clearances and four tackles.
RUCK ROVER – Piper Window (Glenelg)
Posting a career-best campaign in 2023, Glenelg’s tenacious onballer averaged more than 20 disposals and an incredible 158 ranking points across 11 outings this season. The granddaughter of Magarey Medallist Gary Window, Piper Window set the tone for her season with a Powerade Breakthrough Player nomination in Round 1.
ROVER – Brooke Boileau (South)
A major reason behind the Panthers’ push toward the minor premiership Boileau kept on finding the footy in 2023, averaging 18 disposals per game. Her 14 kicks per match placed in her seventh the competition this year.
INTERCHANGE – Isobel Kuiper (Sturt)
Landing on the interchange for the second year in succession, Kuiper’s allround game is reflected in her 2023 numbers after posting an average of 167 ranking points from her eight appearances. The 22-year-old’s performance was exceptional after a delayed start to the season due to a knee injury.
INTERCHANGE – Lana Schwerdt (Norwood)
Week-in, week-out Schwerdt goes about her business with minimum fuss while dictating the tone for Norwood in the centre square. The daughter of former Central wingman Stephen Schwerdt registered impressive averages of 17 disposals, five tackles and five clearances.
INTERCHANGE – Zoe Venning (West)
Venning is a ball magnet in every sense of the word, as no player touched the ball more in the Hostplus SANFLW League this season. The Bloods midfielder averaged 23 possessions while racking up her 276 disposals for 2023.
INTERCHANGE – Isabelle Starmer (North)
Last year’s ruck in the SANFLW Team of the Year makes a return in 2023, this time starting from the interchange. Having an impact in her first season with the Roosters, Starmer ranked third in the competition for hit outs while also averaging more than 140 ranking points in 12 games.
INTERCHANGE – Shelby Smith (Central)
Central’s tough-tackling captain is another player backing up her SANFLW Team of the Year selection last year after an influential campaign in the midfield. Across her nine minor round games, Smith averaged just under 10 tackles a game, as well as 22 disposals.
COACH – Ben Hunt (Central)
In just his second season in charge at Central District, Hunt has guided the Bulldogs to their inaugural finals series on the back of finishing second across the minor round. Registering a club record nine wins in 2023, the Bulldogs are playing an entertaining brand of football under Hunt’s tutelage as the competition’s highest-scoring team this year.