The SA Country representative team was reborn on Saturday and some South East stars helped the Croweaters construct a special evening under lights at Adelaide Oval.
For the first time in three years the SA and WA Country sides faced off and put on a show for the fans ahead of the Adelaide v Carlton AFL game.
The Croweaters side – featuring South East Country Championships winners Tom Whittlesea, Matt Willson, Brad Bryant, Mark Marriott, Patrick Davies, Jacob Eats, Brayden Kain, Frazer Bradley and Todd Reid – was amped up for the contest, enjoying a flying start.
The home side left the Sandgropers for dust, limiting them to just a single goal, whilst blasting seven before half time.
The first half blitz put SA Country bound for glory and it finished the job by 27 points despite a late fightback from WA Country.
Bordertown’s Whittlesea performed as a big target up forward alongside Kain as Ben Edwards stole the show kicking four goals.
But leading the way was Naracoorte’s Willson, who was immense in the midfield and was named as the Barry Stringer Medallist as best on ground.
The honour of claiming such an award in a representative game was not lost on Willson, who was quick to credit his team mates.
“You do not go into it looking for these things and were all out there to play a role and get the win and I am proud with how the team performed with everyone standing up,” he said.
“The award could have gone to a number of blokes out there with Ben kicking four goals and an even spread across the midfield.
“I probably pride myself on stepping up when representative football comes around, so to play well with some of the best footballers in the state and against some of the best from another state is something I had set myself out to do.”
With the first SA Country squad in three years only being announced a week before the first bounce there was minimal preparation time, but Willson said the plans and bonds developed on matchday eve worked wonders.
“In the past it has been played on instinct, but this year we had a huge focus on relationship building on the Friday and Rick MacGowan as coach was outstanding in bringing the group together,” he said.
“We identified roles for specific players and had a great buy in by everyone which meant it was just a whole heap of fun.
“We tried to outnumber them at the stoppages and keep the forward half open because we had some really good one on one forwards.
“It paid dividends at the end and the good first half helped us get on top.
“All the South East boys played really well, Brayden Kain ended up with a goal, Todd Reid held down a key defensive position, Patrick Davis was great in the midfield, Mark Marriott was a monster in the ruck and Frazer Bradley was outstanding and some of them could be looked at by SANFL clubs in the future.”