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2000-2009

2000 Sturt qualifies for the finals for the fourth successive year and for the first time since 1973 to 1976. After winning just 2 of their first 8 games they come back to play superb football to challenge for a Premiership in their one hundredth year. The Blues beat Port Adelaide at Alberton for the first time since 1983 and Norwood at The Parade for the first time since 1986. Sturt beat Port Adelaide three times – at Unley, Alberton and Football Park – and enjoy knocking out both Norwood and Port Adelaide in successive weeks in the finals. Sturt wins the inaugural R.O. Shearman Testimonial Trophy by beating the Eagles, but ultimately lose to them in the Preliminary Final to finish third for the season. Damian Squire wins his second successive Magarey Medal, Bruce Lennon collects his second P.T. Morton Medal and Julian Burton and Tim Weatherald play their 100th games. Centenary Ball and Team of the Century dinners are big hits during the season, with Jack Oatey being named as coach of the Team of the Century.

2001 Birthday time for the Double Blues, but unfortunately they are pipped out by Norwood in the Centenary rematch at The Parade before 13,745 fans. Captain Chris Thredgold, Brodie Atkinson and Bruce Lennon play their 200th league games as the Blues play some good football after a slow start to the season, a 55 point hammering of Port Adelaide at Alberton an unforgettable highlight. An inconsistent Sturt is left stranded in sixth spot in its Centenary season, but a few youngsters including Paul Magarey, Adam Klun, Michael Curtis, Martin Mattner, Rhyse Schulz and Jade Sheedy are really making their mark. Seamus Maloney wins the P.T. Morton Medal and Sturt embarks on an exciting new era as North Adelaide’s 1993 Magarey Medallist Brenton Phillips is appointed the new Coach, replacing Phil Carman who took over from Haydn Bunton Junior in 1995 and turned the club around from being the perennial wooden spooners into genuine finals contenders.

The team celebrating the 2002 Premiership, from left to right, Ben Nelson, Matthew Powell, Brenton Phillips, Toby Thurstans, Brodie Atkinson, Xavier Campbell and Barnaby French

2002 It had been 26 years since the club had won a Premiership, Simon Feast and Matthew Dent returned to the club after playing in the AFL, Cameron Roberts moved from North Adelaide and Matthew Cooper decided to have a go at SANFL level. Ben Nelson joined the Adelaide Crows from Carlton, which allowed him to play for Sturt when not playing for the them. Everything focused on the first game, Norwood had been installed as the early flag favourites along with reigning Premiers Central District and on a balmy March night at Norwood Oval the new look Double Blues, playing in a new guernsey, as the SANFL had outlawed the famous lace-up, showed us what was to come, Brenton Phillips style of football was quick and skillful and there was something exciting about the team. The Advertiser ran a headline “BLUES SLAUGHTER”, with a 55 point win, season 2002 was underway. During the season we defeated all comers with the exception of Central District, however, the season took its toll with a number of serious injuries that did not allow us to field our best team at any stage. Magarey Medals are not unknown to the club, but what a sensation when Jade Sheedy and Tim Weatherald became joint winners of the League’s most prestigious award, this would mean that Sturt would boast a total of five Magarey Medallists sharing six medals (including the Coach) representing the club in the finals. The club finished third at the end of the Minor round and entered the finals knowing that it had beaten every other team and that we had not met Central District with a full strength side. A win in the Qualifying Final over arch enemies Norwood set up a Second Semi-Final clash against Central District in which we just fell short of a win, however, history may record this as one of the best losses in SANFL history, as a Preliminary Final at Adelaide Oval against Norwood was our next assignment, a comfortable 49 point win sent us to the Grand Final for the first time since 1998 full of confidence and ready to write a new chapter in the history of our proud club. Grand Final day will live long in the hearts of Sturt supporters, we were simply too good and after 26 long years the T.S. Hill trophy was finally back at Unley for the first time since 1976. 35 players represented the club at senior level during 2002 and for all time these 35 players will be known as the “2002 Legends” , the club celebrated long and hard, but no one could imagine the tragedy that was only days away. A terrorist bomb in Bali turned what was the club’s greatest moment into one of absolute despair and sorrow. We lost two members of our family, Bob Marshall and Josh Deegan never returned from what was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime. In the midst of the tragedy the club found new strength, our club has enjoyed the heights of success and suffered the depths of despair during 2002, but through it all we have shown great dignity and courage and 2002 will forever be remembered in the history of our great club, not only for our success, but also for the strength shown in the face of adversity.

Past Coach and Captain Seamus Maloney in action at Unley

2003 Captain Chris Thredgold, who was appointed in 1995, retires at the end of the 2002 season, he played 223 games for Sturt, mostly at full back and is equal with Paul Bagshaw (1973-1980) at 8 years as the club’s longest serving Captain. Seamus Maloney is appointed the new skipper and the Blues open the 2003 season with 3 brilliant victories, including a 93 point thrashing of South Adelaide at Encounter Bay. Despite losing the next two matches, the Blues remained in third place after beating North Adelaide at Unley by 60 points in front of 3100 fans. Three losses followed, but a return to the early season form mid-season saw the Blues win 9 of their next 11 matches to finish the Minor round in third place. Finishing third in season 2003 did not give the club the double chance as in previous seasons, as the final five had been changed to a final four and although many in Adelaide believed at the start of the season that the Blues would play off in the Grand Final the season came to a disappointing end when the club was beaten by the Eagles in the First Semi-Final by 25 points. Despite the loss, the season contained many highlights including the Under 17’s Premiership victory, the club topping the SANFL attendances with an average of 4016 spectators during the home and away games – 434 more per game than second placed Norwood, Damian Squire captaining the State team to a 60 point victory over Western Australia, while Ben Nelson won the P.T. Morton Medal and finished second in the Magarey Medal. At the end of season 2003, the club farewelled new Captain Seamus Maloney who went to Mildura for work, while Mark Conway and Matthew Dent retired.

P.T. Morton Medallist and former Captain Ben Nelson

2004 Ben Nelson is appointed Captain and Sturt open the season in style thrashing Norwood at the Parade by 57 points in front of 6207 spectators. One victory became two at the Bay where the Blues recorded a 35 point victory. Three losses followed before the ‘winning touch’ returned and Sturt won 9 of their next 10 games. Among those brilliant victories was the thrashing of the Bulldogs by 41 points on Friday June 4, a crowd of 4229 braved the cold conditions to witness one of the club’s best victories in a Minor round match in the first decade of this century. Despite losing the next three matches, the Blues finished the Minor round by thrashing South Adelaide at Noarlunga by 70 points, but unfortunately the Eagles again ended Sturt’s season in the Preliminary Final by 55 points. At the end of the season the club says goodbye to Jack Oatey Medallist Matthew Powell and big Stephen White, while Jade Sheedy wins the first of his four P.T. Morton Medal’s.

Club Champion Jade Sheedy in action against South Adelaide

2005 The Blues got off to a flying start winning 6 of their first 8 games, however serious injuries to Jade Sheedy, James Begley and Matthew Smith plus indifferent form, saw only 5 victories from the next 12 matches. Finishing a disappointing fifth, the Blues then lost the Elimination Final to North Adelaide by 7 points. Despite losing this close encounter there were numerous highlights during the winter, dual Magarey Medallist Damian Squire won his second P.T. Morton Medal, new recruits to Unley included Michael Bratton, Ben Colreavy, Evan Hurse and Luke Jarjoura, while youngsters Jace Bode and Martin Wilson make their debuts. A number of senior players achieved game milestones Tim Weatherald 200 games, Simon Feast 150 games, while Andrew Whiteman, Brant Chambers and Michael Curtis played their 100th games for the club and another to reach an important milestone was the brilliant Damian Squire who played his 250th SANFL game.

Magarey Medalllist Tim Weatherald about to kick the Blues into attack

2006 Towards the end of the season, after five years at Unley, Brenton Phillips farewelled the Blues as Coach, Phillips will always be remembered as he led the club to the 2002 premiership and in his time the Blues played in four final series. Replacing him for the last four games of the winter was former Premiership player Brodie Atkinson. Former Central District Premiership player Rick Macgowan is appointed Coach for the 2007 season and along with Macgowan come assistant coaches Luke Norman and Donald Dickie who played 4 league games for the club in 1993. The end of 2006 also saw the retirement of dual Magarey Medallist Damian Squire (145 Sturt games), Michael Curtis (129) and Andrew Beveridge (49). Seventeen players – Tom Anderson, Greg Bentley, Luke Button, Shaun Childs, Leigh Davies, Craig Evans, Ryan Herring, Tom Hurley, Joel Kay, Angus Kurtze, Sam Miles, Sean O’Keefe, Wil Paley, Tom Rischbieth, Nicholas Smith, Craig Taylor and Nicholas Wark make their debuts. Jade Sheedy wins the P.T. Morton Medal, but the club finish eighth with only 3 wins for the season. Brant Chambers, who was named in The Advertiser – SANFL Team of the Year wins the Rick Davies Medal kicking 69 goals for the season and passing the 300 goal mark for the club. Of all the functions held during the winter, the biggest was at AAMI Stadium in July when the club celebrated the Premierships of 1926, 1966 and 1976 at a special reunion dinner, many Champions of the club were on hand, autographs were collected and stories were told as the club celebrated its glorious history.

Magarey Medallist Luke Crane breaks a tackle against Norwood at Unley

2007 Coach Rick Macgowan names Jade Sheedy and Ben Nelson as joint Captains and returns Sturt to finals action after a one year absence, the club plays Glenelg in the Elimination Final and loses by a solitary point in a nailbiter to finish the season fifth. New players to debut for the club include Luke Crane, Tristan Gum, Matthew Jaensch, George Thring, Jeremy Johncock, Patrick Fittock and Charlie Sharples. Luke Crane wins the P.T. Morton Medal after a great first year at the club, full forward Brant Chambers kicks 106 goals to become the fifth Sturt player to kick 100 goals in a season and Captain Ben Nelson at the age of 30 comes equal runner up in the 2007 Magarey Medal.

2008 The club surprised the competition in 2008 being entrenched in the top three for most of the Minor round and in the last game at Elizabeth against Central District had the opportunity of finishing Minor Premiers for the first time since 1998, unfortunately this was not to be, as even though the game was up for grabs going into the last quarter, the Bulldogs proved to strong and ran out winners. After finishing the Minor round second, the club made it through to the Preliminary Final against Glenelg, but were convincingly beaten to finish the season third. Even though the league side finished third, 2008 was a very successful year for the club with all three lower grade sides making it to the Grand Final, with the Reserves and Under 17’s winning the Premiership, as well as Brant Chambers once again kicking over 100 goals, finishing with 109 for the season and Luke Crane winning the Magarey Medal after a brilliant season. The club said goodbye to Simon Feast, Andrew Whiteman and Daniel Wicks who all retired at the end of the 2008 season.

2009 Rick Macgowan leaves the club to go to a coaching position at Hawthorn in the AFL and assistant coach Luke Norman is named his successor. The club continues on in the same form as in the previous year and finishes the Minor round in the top three and again make it through to the Preliminary Final to face Minor Premiers and red hot favourites Glenelg, who hold a nine game winning streak over Sturt. In one of the most exciting finals matches the club has played in recent times, Sturt moved into their first Grand Final since 2002 with a gutsy come from behind 5 point victory. Going into the Grand Final against Central District, Sturt were once again the underdogs and supporters were wondering if 2002 could be repeated again, it wasn’t to be, after being competitive in the first quarter Central District took control of the match and ran out comfortable winners by 38 points. Jade Sheedy wins his fourth P.T. Morton Medal in his first season as stand alone captain and young gun Jack Trengove just misses out on being drafted number one at the AFL National Draft, being picked second by Melbourne.