Defender Murray Stephenson awaits First Semi Final clash this weekend.
By Ella Watson
Recruited from country NSW in the 2013/14 off season Murray Stephenson is a key defender for the Central District Football club.
Hard to miss with his bright red hair, Stephenson, a great defender often plays on the oppositions tall forward.
A key defender Stephenson has good awareness skills and attacks the ball hard.
A premiership player with the Coolamon Grasshoppers in the Riverina Football League, Stephenson played in three Grand Finals for the team and won a premiership in his final season before moving to South Australia to join Central District Football Club.
In his final season with Coolamon Stephenson also won the clubs best and fairest trophy.
“Back at my local club we had a pretty successful year in 2013 I was lucky enough I suppose, there was plenty of other blokes who could have won it.”
When Stephenson arrived at Centrals his first impressions of the SANFL was that it was lot quicker and cleaner than what he had experienced before.
“I was getting to the stage where I was 21 back home and was ready to try and play at a higher level.”
Stephenson says his skills and fitness have definitely improved since joining the SANFL.
“When I first came over here I thought I was reasonably fit, but turns out I could get through the run okay, but I couldn’t concentrate hard enough to get on the kicks or handballs.”
“I think as I got fitter I got better.”
Last weekend Centrals played in the Elimination Final against Norwood at Adelaide Oval.
It was Stephenson’s first time playing in a final for the club and his first time playing on Adelaide Oval.
“Running around Adelaide Oval was great, thinking back to when I was playing grass roots footy to running around on one of the best stadiums in Australia, was very exciting.”
“It brought a smile to my face before the game even started.”
Centrals defeated Norwood by 44 points in what was a hard fought and high energy game.
At the main break Centrals led Norwood by only 4 points, but were able to hold their composure and lay hard tackles to pull away in the second half.
“Centrals were the last side to win four in a row so when Norwood had the chance to do that this year we had the chance to stop them, it was good and to get a chance to progress to the next week was a good feeling.”
It was Centrals first Elimination Final win in five attempts.
“We’re going alright at the moment; I think it took us a while to get going.”
“We’ve had a decent amount of turnover of new players, it’s a young side as the guys are getting more games under their belt they are improving rapidly and I think towards the back end of this season it’s really starting to show.”
At the beginning of the season the young side lacked some confidence in their playing ability and look like they might be heading the same way as last season, but have really hit their strides in the second half of the season winning seven of their last nine games.
Centrals take on Port Adelaide Magpies in this season’s First Semi Final on Sunday.
“We have to approach the game similar to what we did last week, be ferocious in our approach to the contest; our midfield last week was terrific I think they won us the game.”
“If the midfield can perform like they did last week it gives the forwards and the backline a better opportunity to perform well as well.”
Stephenson says the key to playing competitive football against the Magpies this weekend is to man on and stop uncontested marks.
“They are fit and pretty well skilled, they like to take uncontested marks, so if we can stop that and be in their face it will go a long way to not let them play the way they want to play and put it more on our terms.”
“All around we need contributors to get the ball across the field, it’s going to be more of a pressure game I think.”
As a tall defender Stephenson’s role is to play on the oppositions tall forward and lock down central’s defensive zone.
“I try to play a role whether that’s locking someone down for the game or provide a bit of run and carry, I just try to do my job and do my bit for the team.”
“Our defenders are pretty handy they all try and do their bit and are a good bunch of blokes.”
Stephenson and the boys will take to Adelaide oval again this weekend on Sunday at 12.10pm in the First Semi Final against the Magpies.