AFL Sydney Round 2 Review
AFL Sydney Round 2 2017
Article by Michael Shillito
Only two teams remain undefeated after the second round of Premier Division; and one of them is a team that was nowhere near the finals last year. It’s early days, but this season already looks like one of intriguing possibilities. It could be some time until our top five takes shape.
Round 2 saw all games played on Saturday afternoon. A week of mostly decent weather saw all Premier Division grounds open, and no need to worry about last-minute ground closures.
The big improver so far this season is UNSW-ES. The Bulldogs took out their second win of the season, and did it in style, with a comfortable 50-point result against Manly at Henson Park.
As they did against the Eagles in the opening round, the Bulldogs got an early jump to ensure they would lead throughout the game. Full of running, enthusiastically contesting every possession and denying the Wolves and easy possession, the Bulldogs took the game by the scruff of the neck; and it wasn’t long till the scoreboard was reflecting the Bulldogs’ dominance. Five goals to one, and a 23-point lead at the first change, was an advantage that the Wolves would never be able to recover from.
The second term started similarly to how the first was played. The Bulldogs were high on confidence, and getting the run of play around the ground. The Wolves were left chasing the ball and chasing the game, and struggling to keep up with the momentum the Bulldogs were generating. The second term would yield four goals to one, and by half time the Bulldogs were 41 points to the good.
It was a stunned Manly dressing room at half time, and the Wolves knew they had plenty of work to do if they were salvage anything from this contest. But to their credit, they made a decent fist of it in the third quarter. The Wolves had lifted around the ground, and players who were barely sighted in the first half began to get more of the ball and exert greater influence over the contest. And as the Wolves began to get more of the ball, the scoreboard began to tick over. A high-scoring quarter of footy saw the Wolves wrest back the initiative, and a run of six goals to two reduced the margin to 17 points at three-quarter time. Suddenly the game was in doubt and the Wolves had a chance to pull off an improbable result.
But the three quarter time break was just what the Bulldogs needed. The six minute pause broke the Manly momentum, enabling the Bulldogs to steady; and the Wolves could get no closer. The Bulldogs held the Wolves out, and with the clock ticking down desperation began to kick in. And as the quarter drew on, it was the Bulldogs who finished full of running and the latter stages of the match saw a run of goals which put the issue beyond doubt. In the end, it was six goals to one in favour of the Bulldogs in the last quarter, stretching the final margin to 50 points.
Marc Dragicevic, in his second game in Bulldog colours, was influential up forward; the former Richmond player finishing with six goals. Around the ground, Harry Annear, Jerry Vunitabua and Max Lower picked up good possession numbers to keep the Bulldogs on top. Undefeated and in the top two, the Bulldogs will go into the Easter break full of confidence that their fortunes are on the way up in 2017.
It wasn’t a great day for Manly. Anthony Robertson, Jack Lumsden and Gabe Smith kept putting in all day. But the Wolves are winless after their first two games and will be using the Easter break to fine-tune their game plan to re-launch their season.
St George are the other undefeated team. The Dragons maintained their unblemished record, accounting for UTS by 40 points at Trumper Park.
From the start, the Dragons looked to have the game under control; and the goals were flowing comfortably through the first quarter as the St George lineup quickly established their superiority around the ground. With five goals to one in the opening term, and leading by 23 points at quarter time, the result of the game never looked to be in doubt.
The game was more closely contested in the second quarter. The Bats lifted their work-rate and stopped the easy possessions the Dragons had been getting in the first term. They were able to get some reward for their efforts, and won the second quarter. But the Dragons were able to come up with the answering goals whenever the Bats threatened to get back into the quarter, and in the end; although the Bats scored four goals to three, the Dragons were still 20 points ahead at the long break.
On the small and enclosed confines of Trumper Park, with the boundary line not far from the fence, players can easily come unstuck and crash; and there were instances of that happening on Saturday. But there are goals to be had; and the scoreboard was ticking over during a high-scoring and entertaining third term. The Bats were trying to edge closer and make up the deficit, but the Dragons had the quick reply to snuff out any challenge the Bats would mount. And as the quarter drew on, the Dragons went up another gear and established an imposing lead. With five goals to three for the quarter, the Dragons were 29 points ahead at three quarter time and victory was assured.
Despite missing some shots that should have been converted, the Dragons went on with the job in the last quarter. Four goals to three extended the final margin to 40 points. The Dragons had the game under control all day, and although the Bats had passages of play where they impressed, the Dragons never had cause to worry about how the game was going.
Dylan Roos was flying high for the Dragons, kicking four goals for the afternoon; and along with Ben Jones and Dominic Michalak was among St George’s best. The Dragons, looking to make the Grand Final for the second season in a row, are so far on track to achieve their aim; laying key blows both on the ladder and psychologically with two wins against teams who they beat in last year’s finals.
The Bats received good service from Daniel Crouch, Adam Tarrant and Tom Larby. But it wasn’t their day and they were never in the hunt. One win and one loss for the Bats as they go into the Easter break.
Defending champions East Coast Eagles broke through for their first win of the season. But the Eagles were made to fight all the way by Pennant Hills, in a game of fluctuation fortunes at Mike Kenny Oval.
It was looking like a shootout early, the lead frequently changing hands through an entertaining first quarter in which two sides with high hopes of being around at the business end of the season were vying for supremacy but coming up blank. The Eagles, with four goals to three, won the quarter to lead by six points at the first change. But around the ground, there wasn’t much in it and already the signs were there that this game would be up for grabs until the end.
The second quarter was tighter, as the more physical side of the game came into play more than was seen in the first term. But there wasn’t much separating the two teams, with some of the big name players who have played in premierships in the past two seasons featuring prominently around the ground. But again the Eagles were able to conjure up one more goal, three goals to two for the quarter, to extend their lead to 11 points at the long break.
If someone in the far future was to dig up the scores of this game, they’d conclude that a wild wind blew through at half time, making scoring at one end all but impossible. In truth, it was a calm day and the weather played little influence. It’s just that the momentum swung sharply one way and then the other in the second half.
The third quarter was Pennant Hills’ time to shine. The Demons would kick four goals to one in the third term, wasting little time in wiping out the half-time deficit to go into the lead. When they’re on song, the Demons are a good team to watch; and they were turning on their best footy in front of their home supporters. And with a ten-point lead at the last change, they were looking good.
But the fortunes would be reversed when the teams returned from their huddles, changing ends for the final quarter. This time it was the Eagles who would be first to the ball, and the weight of possession would go their way; the ball spending most of the quarter on the East Coast forward line. And the scoreboard results would come, the Eagles kicking the only three goals of the quarter to take a hard-fought seven-point win.
Aaron Drinkwater, Stuart Turner and Kieran Emery made key contributions for the Eagles, stepping up at critical moments to get their team over the line. After a shock loss in the first round, this was an important result for the Eagles; one that could well kick-start their premiership defence.
The Demons received solid service from Aaron Crisfield, Ranga Ediriwickrama and Harry Angel; but despite some big efforts all day they were unable to get the four points. The Demons, after an opening round bye, still have a game in hand; but they’ll have to wait until after the Easter break to taste victory in 2017.
Meanwhile North Shore had their first win and Sydney Uni their first loss when the Bombers took the game between the two sides by 20 points at Mortgage Choice Oval. The Bombers dedicated this result to former Under 18s premiership player Tom Aynsley, who passed away recently at just 24 years of age.
The first quarter was an arm-wrestle. The Students had a goal on the board in the opening minute, but it would be over 20 minutes before another goal would be scored; the ball finding itself confined to the wing and repeatedly dribbled over the boundary fence. Eventually two late goals would give the Bombers a four-point lead at the first change; but it hadn’t been a first quarter that would inspire anyone with a great deal of confidence.
But the pace of the game picked up in the second term, and it would be the Bombers who were best placed to take advantage as they opened up a handy lead. This was a more open quarter of footy, running players from both sides allowed to do more. But the Bombers had the firepower to capitalise on the better delivery to the forward line, and with six goals to three for the quarter the lead was out to 16 points at half time.
The premiership quarter was all North Shore, as the Bombers dominated around the ground with four goals to one; and possibly should have won the quarter by even more. The Students were well-held, and had been unable to replicate their winning form from the opening round. The North Shore engine room was firing, and playing some great footy to power their way to a 33-point lead at three-quarter time.
The game should have been safe for the Bombers, but the Students would fight back in the last term to send a few nervous moments into the Bomber camp. New time-on rules, with the clock stopped when the ball is out of bounds, led to a marathon final quarter which went for 34 minutes; enough time for the Students to threaten when they got the margin back to 13 points late in the game. But in the end, despite the Students winning the last quarter with five goals to three; the Bombers had enough of a buffer to take the game.
The final winning margin for North Shore was 20 points. Michael Manteit, in his first game in a North Shore guernsey, was in the thick of the action to kick five goals and be among North Shore’s best, despite copping a 15-minute stint in the sin bin. Wayd Blackburne contributed four goals for North Shore, while Pat Codling and Selby Lee-Steere also featured prominently for the Bombers. But their first win won’t be a momentum-builder. With the Easter break and the bye in the next round, it will be three weeks before their next game.
For Sydney Uni, Tom Young, Allister Clarke and Jacob Swarts were ball magnets all day. But the Students, although generally outgunned, kept hanging in there all day, and when at times the Bombers looked like running away with the game the Students prevented them from doing so. The Students, like the Bombers, East Coast and UTS, are on one win and one loss in a congested mid-table part of the ladder.
The competition takes a week’s break over Easter; but all sides will continue to train hard before and after the long Easter weekend. It’s still early days, but it’s looking like an even competition, and the next few weeks after the resumption could well be critical to how the season will develop.