By Peter Argent
The girl with wild red hair from County Tipperary in the middle of Ireland, who learnt our indigenous Australian national football code in Broken Hill, is now a SANFL Women’s premiership player, etching her name in “Silver City” folklore.
Widely regarded as the best State League competition across the country, Ryan played a key role in the Roosters’ 18-point triumph in the SANFL Women’s Grand Final.
Her one-on-one battle with Sturt’s teenage young gun Zoe Prowse was a pivotal match up in the contest and also reflected the ebb and flow of the game.
Prowse was dominant, especially early and would walk away with the Grand Final best on ground honour. Still, the never say die competitor Meg Ryan had a key battle against her younger and more athletic opponents, finishing with more possessions than any other player on the ground.
Underdogs going into the decider, Sturt kicked 3.4 to 1.1 in the first term and led by 21 points halfway through the second term.
North Adelaide fought back into the contest with a pair of major at the 11 and 14-minute mark of the second term, to be just eight points down at the long interval.
The third quarter was tight and tense, with North forward Jade De Melo kicking the only goal of the term to have two points separating the sides with 20 minutes to go in the season.
An early major just 45 seconds in the last term by Jaimi Tabb saw North hit the lead for the first time in the game.
The game was still up for grabs when Ryan kicked a point on the run in at the 13-minute mark. Then De Melo kicked two late goals to seal a brilliant come from behind victory.
When the final siren sounded, sparking riotous celebrations amongst the North players and support staff, the scoreboard at Norwood Oval read North Adelaide 7.6 (48) to Sturt 4.6 (30).
It was interesting to analyse the statistics of the two rucks, Prowse from Sturt and Ryan for North.
SANFLW Grand Final BOG Medalist Prowse gathered 20 disposals, including 15 kicks, took two marks, laid nine tackles, won eight clearances and was credited with a massive 33 hit outs.
Ryan finished with 22 possessions (12 kicks and 10 handballs), took three marks, two of them being contested, laid five tackles and won five clearances, as well as winning 10 hit outs.
She also had three scoring shots, kicking North’s first goal of the match after a contested mark at the Roger Woodcock end of the ground.
After converting the set shot, Ryan celebrated the major in a uniquely Irish style.
She also has two shots in the dramatic final term that went just the wrong side of the goal post.
Post-game, tears of joy flowed freely when Ryan spoke to her parents over the phone in Ireland.
Other Broken Hill exports who have enjoyed premiership success include Eloise Jones, who has two flags with the Adelaide Crows in AFLW.
In 2018 Mitch Clisby enjoyed a flag with the Roosters in the SANFL men’s competition when they defeated the Norwood Redlegs in a withering run when they came from the Elimination Final to lift the Thomas Seymour Hill trophy.
Last year Kobe Mutch enjoyed the euphoria of premiership success when the Woodville West Torrens Eagles defeated Glenelg in the Bays 100th season.
Another North Broken Hill Bulldogs football export Dean Solomon was a member of the outstanding Essendon team of 2000 that dominated the competition that season and lost one game in a premiership season.
Back in the 1980s, Chris Duthy from South Broken Hill played in a pair of flags for the Glenelg Tigers and Peter Meuret was a part of West Adelaide’s title in 1983.
Coming down to Sturt from West Broken Hill in 1971, Colin Casey was a key part of the Double Blues flags in 1974 and 1976 at Football Park, when they defeated Glenelg in the first and heavy favourites, Port in the ’76 decider, when their captain Paul Bagshaw called the win, “Sturt’s finest hour!”