By ZAC MILBANK
Sturt slogged its way into its first Hostplus SANFL League Grand Final since 2017 with a blue-collar 17-point win against Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.
The Double Blues booted the only three goals of the opening term and from there, rarely looked threatened as they condemned Adelaide to its fourth Preliminary Final loss, and second in succession after the Crows succumbed to Norwood last year.
Leading at every change, it was a typical Marty Mattner-coached performance which was full of discipline whilst being in total control of the game’s tempo by maintaining possession for as long as possible.
Sturt’s tackling pressure was supreme as it forced Adelaide into uncustomary skill errors by hand and foot as Blues star Tom Lewis put on a midfield masterclass.
The strongly-built left-footer had a huge influence on the match at the stoppages with his sheer strength as he laid 14 tackles to go with seven clearances and 23 disposals.
And to top it off, he booted a vital goal from 45m after the half-time siren to give Sturt handy momentum heading into the main break.
Sturt captain James Battersby was also significantly influential, racking up a game-high 26 disposals, eight marks, eight tackles and four clearances.
Casey Voss was superb in defence with his ability to intercept mark as he racked up 21 disposals while lesser-lights Henry Carey (17 disposals), Joel Thiele (19 disposals) and Jared Dakin (16 disposals, one goal) were also important.
Connor McFadyen booted 2.2 in his forward role for Sturt while Will Coomblas returned from suspension to curtail dangerous Crow Lachlan Gollant, who managed just two goals from six kicks.
Mattner will now consider who to bring in for the title-decider against minor premier Glenelg, with dual premiership backman Guy Page (hamstring) not risked for the contest against the Crows.
Adelaide welcomed back ruckman Kieran Strachan (wrist) and Andrew McPherson (quad) from injury to bolster their line-up, as well as skipper Matthew Wright from a one-match suspension.
McPherson got through the encounter unscathed but Strachan appeared to struggle while opting to often use his uninjured left hand to palm the ball down.
Wright was his team’s most dangerous player in attack as he booted three of the Crows’ six goals, in what finished as his final Hostplus SANFL League game.
Patrick Parnell registered a game-high 21 possessions and six marks while Jackson Hately added 20 touches for Adelaide.
Crows midfielder Sam Berry laid 13 tackles to go with his 18 possessions while veteran development player Louis Sharrad displayed his fierce intent from the first bounce before tallying 18 disposals and seven marks.