ANZAC Day AFL Sydney Round Preview

By Michael Shillito


After a week off over Easter, we’re back into it this weekend with a full round of Premier Division games coming up. Three Saturday afternoon games will be followed by an ANZAC Day blockbuster on Tuesday.


University pride will be on the line at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval on Saturday afternoon, as the Students play host to UNSW-ES.

The Students go into the game with one win and one loss. Their last start saw them go down to North Shore, but not without giving the Bombers a few anxious moments. Thanks to a relatively short injury list, the Students have a near full-strength NEAFL squad; and this flows down to their Premier Division side. Former Collingwood player Tom Young has featured prominently in Premier Division this season, and other NEAFL-listed players have also made an impact.

They’ll be up against a UNSW-ES side that found themselves top of the ladder going into the Easter break. A flying start against Manly set them up in their last game; and the Bulldogs will be very keen to continue the momentum they built up in the first two weeks. Marc Dragicevic is doing some great work up forward, while Harry Annear has looked good around the ground.

Expect a hard-fought battle. The stakes are high, and the winner will find themselves well-placed on the ladder and poised to make a serious impact in 2017.


Meanwhile at Weldon Oval, Manly will enjoy home ground advantage in a match against St George. The undefeated Dragons will be on the road to take on the winless Manly, but the Wolves will be keen to ensure the Dragons don’t have everything their own way.

Two losses in the first two rounds isn’t the way the Wolves would have wanted to open the season. A strong third quarter against UNSW-ES in their last start saw them get within striking distance, but they weren’t able to go on with it in the final term. But the talent which took them to back to back premierships just a few years ago is still there; and the likes of former Phelan Medallist Connor Pettersson and big forward Hayden Washington will be key to them turning their fortunes around.

The Dragons have two wins on the board so far this year, and looked very impressive at their last start with a convincing win over UTS. Particularly after half-time, the Dragons were in control; turning on the sort of footy that they’ll be hoping will take them one win further than their runner-up place last year. Dylan Roos has justified the high wraps put on him with some great form to start the season, and he’ll again be one to watch on Saturday.

The Dragons have been in great form before the Easter break. But the stakes are high for the Wolves, who won’t want to slump to three losses on the trot; and the home side will be going all-out to cause the upset this time round.


Kanebridge Oval will be another Saturday afternoon venue, with East Coast Eagles playing host to the UTS Bats in what may well be a season-defining game. Both clubs go into the game with one win and one loss, not much in the way of percentage separating them.

The Eagles were forced to come from behind for their win against Pennant Hills at Mike Kenny Oval last time; and were far from the dominant force of recent seasons. But when the game was there to be won, they found a way to get the job done, with Aaron Drinkwater and the versatile Kieran Emery playing key roles to get the Eagles over the line.

After an opening-round win, the Bats were never in the hunt against St George in round 2. Kanebridge Oval is a tough venue to visit, and the Bats haven’t beaten East Coast since the Eagles’ seniors returned from the NEAFL. But there’s some quality in the UTS lineup, Daniel Crouch and Adam Tarrant starting the season off in sensational form.

The winner will go 2-1 and move into the top five, an incentive for a big performance with both sides having some critical games coming up. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if this game was to go down to the wire.


Finally on ANZAC Day, Wests will host Pennant Hills at Picken Oval.

It’s always a special occasion when the Magpies host ANZAC Day. A moving ceremony pre-game honours those who fought for our country. Lest we forget.

On the field, you couldn’t blame the Magpies if they had a few cobwebs in their system. Thanks to a round 2 bye, the Easter break and not playing till Tuesday, it will have been a whopping 24 days since they last took to the field. But what they’ll lack in recent match practice, they’ll more than make up for in determination and enthusiasm at finally getting stuck into the task at hand. Look for Nick Salter to lead from the front.

Pennant Hills are also only playing their second game, and looking for their first win of the season. In their first game, they led East Coast at three-quarter time but were unable to score a goal in the final term and narrowly went down. But the Demons still have plenty of tricks up their sleeve; and the experienced hands of Ranga Ediriwickrama and Aaron Crisfield have started the season strongly.

With a game in hand, having already had their first bye, there’s plenty of scope for either of these teams to make a move up the ladder if they can string some wins together. But the first win can often be the hardest to get; and there’ll no doubt be plenty of pressure applied in this high-stakes encounter.


This week is North Shore’s turn to have the bye, extending their Easter break by an extra week. While the Bombers watch on, the remaining Premier Division teams have plenty to play for this weekend. Winning form can be a confidence builder, and the chance is here for all of the clubs to give their season a kick-start and create some momentum for the rounds ahead.