The Eagles celebrate after winning the premiership in 2020.

The Eagles celebrate after winning the premiership in 2020. (Image: Rush Media)

Woodville-West Torrens fans had gone through so much heartbreak since the last time their Eagles won a premiership in 2011. 

Woodville-West Torrens fans had gone through so much heartbreak since the last time their Eagles won a premiership in 2011.

But an eight goal second quarter against North Adelaide on grand final day last year was enough to exorcise the demons that had gone before. 

They were beaten as favourites in 2015 by West Adelaide and then again the following year at the hands of Sturt by 27 points.

The Double Blues got them again in the 2017 preliminary final, and then it was North Adelaide’s turn to do the same in the corresponding fixture 12 months later. 

Four years of “so close, yet so far” had taken its toll on the Eagles faithful, especially when their boys tumbled to seventh place in 2019.

But there was renewed hope for the following season at Oval Avenue, as former Sturt champion Jade Sheedy was announced as their new coach, replacing Sam Lonergan after his one year at the helm. 

“It was my first season coaching the SANFL so I was really excited,” Sheedy said.

“We felt like we prepared really well, had a massive pre-season and had a reasonably full list to choose from and then COVID hit.”

And hit it did, as all SANFL competitions delayed their starts to the season until June 27, when Central District and Sturt finally popped the champagne cork on the year at Adelaide Oval. 

There were no Adelaide Crows or Port Adelaide to feature, which meant the minor round would run just 14 weeks, with each side playing each other twice. 

Eagles premiership coach Jade Sheedy holds the Thomas Seymour Hill trophy aloft after the 2020 grand final.
Eagles premiership coach Jade Sheedy is the life of the party following the 2020 grand final. (Image: SANFL)

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As Sheedy alludes to, it was a strange time to be in the business of man-management, as he is. 

“The year was hard to navigate for sure, we had to get them in small groups, we had leaders driving the groups and I’d catch up with them on Zoom,” he said. 

“It was around making sure when we could get them back to training and making sure they had programs to manage. We just encouraged them to keep themselves in really good condition and we didn’t want to lose all the work they’d put in.”

They lost the first game of the year against South Adelaide but put eight wins together on the bounce thereafter, to be set up beautifully in the back end of the year. 

“We finished minor premiers and then finals hit again and I think people started to get a bit nervous around the club, I won’t lie about that,” Sheedy said. 

“I had to address that and we talked about how when you get to finals, you’re playing to win and I introduced what that looked like.”

The Roosters had won eight of their first nine games for the minor round season, but were beaten by Jade Sheedy’s men the two times they had met.

“We’d played them twice throughout the home and away season and then they beat us in the second semi final to go straight in,” he said.

“Looking back, it was good preparation for us because they showed our footy club what it was to win tough finals.” 

The Eagles’ James Rowe celebrates a goal in the 2020 SANFL Grand Final. (Image: Rush Media)

The semi final Sheedy talks about featured two quarters of game time where the Eagles failed to register a goal. On reflection however, they never felt out of the contest.

“They got the ball going forward, it was a very one-on-one game and we took a lot out of that, followed by a really good game against South Adelaide in the preliminary final,” he said.

South Adelaide had beaten Glenelg a week earlier but were no match for the Eagles, as Ken Farmer Medallist James Rowe kicked five goals and James Tsitas picked up 30 possessions.

The title decider started in North Adelaide’s’ favour, as the Roosters took a fifteen point lead into quarter time. Despite that, Sheedy had faith in his side.

“Early in the first quarter we kept in touch and I knew that if we could do that then we’d be right in the game,” he said.

“We were aware that they were a fast starting team.”

But as the second quarter began, the momentum shift was immense as the eventual premiers went goal after goal to all but sink North Adelaide.

Jack Oatey Medallist Jordan Foote kicked three of his four goals in the quarter, but everyone was getting in on the act.

It went, Goldsworthy, Foote, Poole, Poole, McNeil, Foote, Von Bertouch, Foote, Rowe; all majors.

There was a Kym Lebois goal for North Adelaide in there too, but it really wasn’t much help, as by half time a 35-point lead had been established.

“I guess it was that one quarter, wasn’t it?” Sheedy said.

“The second quarter clicked, we kicked nine goals and the game was almost half done at half time. We talked about keeping the foot down, in the end it was probably pretty close to that margin at the end.”

The last two quarters saw just six goals kicked between the two sides. In front of 17,038 people Woodville-West Torrens won the hardest SANFL premiership to win in a long time.

Keep up to date with the 2021 SANFL grand final week right here, as The Inner Sanctum has every angle covered. Tomorrow: umpire Corey Bowen ahead of his sixth grand final and our comprehensive grand final preview.

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