For the Central Zone – runner up in the 2018 South Australian Country Football Championships held at Renmark Rovers Football Club last weekend – Indigenous Mintaro-Manoora midfielder Steve Rusca was among six of his team who received selection in the team of the championships.
Rusca was picked as the first rover after having a consistent tournament, while the other five members were all out of the Barossa Light and Gawler competition.
Central Zone also included the BSR trio of Matt Longbottom, Will Hennessy and Alex Morgan, the SANFL experienced Dominic Costanzo and Matt Allen from South Clare, plus RSMU pair of Mitchell Sandery and Damian Hynes
Team captain Todd Miles, originally of Hamley Bridge and a premiership player with Mintaro-Manoora, was captain of the side and the Central Zone player of the Carnival.
Coach Steve Lubcke suggested the zone lost the championship with one poor quarter of football, the third term of the Grand Final.
“In the term, Eyre Peninsula got right on top of us,” Lubcke said.
“They were clean around the ball; won the stoppages and number of 50/50 contests.
“The final result was naturally disappointing that we had two strong wins on Saturday and hopefully this is a good Springboard for our 2019 campaign.”
Winning team of the carnival accolade means Rusca is in the SA Country state squad for the annual clash with WA on Saturday, July 28.
NORTHERN FINISH FIFTH
After being goal-less in both matches on Saturday, the Northern Zone regrouped and won its Sunday morning game against Eastern by nine points.
“After Saturday's performance we as coaches and the players were left quite flat and disappointed in the missed opportunities,” coach Scott Brand said.
“We had plenty of footy and matched the opposition in contested footy in both games, but could not execute our skills by foot, to a level I know and the players know they can do, even with the difficult wind conditions.
“We kept turning the footy over in dangerous positions on the field, which hurt us on the score board and at the other end.
“Sunday, in much better condition, our boys were able to mentally get over the demons which hunted us the previous day, which took plenty of character to do.
“We were very good at the contested ball as we were the previous day.
“The only difference was, we were able to hit targets by footy, transition the ball with pace off half back and deliver the ball to our forward a lot better and took scoring opportunities.
“I was very happy to see them stick at it, not throw in the white flag and get rewarded with a good win in Sunday's game.”
Southern Flinders athletic and undersized ruckman Shane Ballantyne collected the Barrie Robran Medal as the Northern Zones best player at the tournament.
Perennial SA country representative Joel Palmer, back in Northern Areas footy this year, won team of the championship honours on a half back flank.
“Shane was expected to play half forward and wing, but with a few forced positional changes, had to go in Ruck and delivered in spades with an awesome effort,” Brand said.
“He controlled the aerial game by taking a lot of contested marks and his decisions making was best I seen from him.
“You just know what’s going to get each and every game Joel Palmer plays. His leadership with ‘Kappy’ (Luke Kapitola) over the weekend to get the boys up and going after all being disappointed in Saturday's performance was outstanding.
“He led from the front in Sunday's game and continues to put his body on the line for team.
“Kappy’s leadership is like having a coach on field, directing players to be in best positions for team which make the coaches job so much easier.
“He was our best midfielder over the three games and in our top three performers for the weekend.”