XBlades AFL Sydney Round 6 Preview
By Michael Shillito
Round 6 is upon us, with four Premier Division games on Saturday afternoon. By now everyone’s had at least one win and at least one loss; and there’s some very tight battles for ladder positions. Wins and margins are all-important, and even if a game looks safely won by three-quarter time, the percentage implications will mean the last quarter could still be important.
St George are celebrating Past Players Day at Olds Park, with Dragon legends of seasons gone by returning to the club. Amid tales of past glory, anecdotes of a golden history, they’ll be watching the present-day Dragons; and they’ve got plenty of work to do.
Last week the Dragons went down to Pennant Hills in a high-scoring shootout. The loss leaves them on two wins for the season, and without a win since the Easter break. They had their moments last week. Veteran Declan Donohue had a great day up forward to kick five goals, and with former team-mates watching on will be keen to replicate those heroics this week. And Matt Jones has been in good form for the Dragons, and will be another one to watch this time round.
The Dragons’ opponents on the day will be Wests, one of their traditional rivals. The Magpies will be going into this match with confidence after breaking through for their first win last week. Nick Salter has been a revelation this season, but much of the credit for Wests’ form has come from the development of players who have been round for a while. The likes of Ben Zoppo and Cameron Gordon have been around for a few years; but have really stepped up this year.
The Dragons will be keen to make an impression in this match; but it won’t be easy for them. The Magpies have had the taste of victory, and will be looking for a repeat dose.
The picturesque Waverley Oval will be a Premier Division venue for the first time in 2017 when UTS play Pennant Hills in a high-stakes contest.
The Bats have had two wins from their first five games, and last week were never in the hunt against a dominant Sydney Uni side. The Bats will be all too aware of the need to step up this time round; and they have the firepower to get it done. The likes of Scott Jansen and Brad Hunt have been playing some good footy, and they’ll again be players to watch.
The Demons are also on two wins, albeit they have a game in hand. Last week they pulled out the big guns in a high-scoring shootout against St George at Mike Kenny Oval and came away with the win. Theo Moraitis was the standout, and the Bats will need to keep an eye on him if they’re to get back on the winning list. Also notable for the Demons was Matt “King” Carey playing his best game of 2017; and he’ll be keen to maintain that touch this week.
The Bats have a good record against the Demons in recent seasons, and they’ll fancy their chances this time round. But the stakes are high. The loser of this game is at risk of falling well behind the top five; so both teams will be desperate for an all-out effort to prevent that.
Meanwhile at Mortgage Choice Oval, a battle between two teams that find themselves well-placed on the ladder will battle it out as North Shore host UNSW-ES.
North Shore claimed the scalp of East Coast Eagles last week, moving up to second on the ladder with their third win on the trot. The Bombers brought in a new forward with Max Thomas making an impressive debut. And when the game was in the balance, Shaun Crane and Brodie Tebbutt put their hand up. They’ll be players to watch again this week.
UNSW-ES had a shock loss to Wests last week; but the Bulldogs remain in the top five, with three wins and two losses. They’ve got some good making their way through, with the likes of Tom Banuelos, Jack Buckley and Justin Cann establishing themselves as regular senior players this season. This is a Bulldogs side that will be keen to make a statement, and this is a big opportunity for them.
The Bombers have home ground advantage and will be keen to once again establish Mortgage Choice Oval as an imposing fortress. But the Bulldogs will be undaunted; and if they can pull off a result here it will establish their credentials as finals contenders for 2017.
Two teams that have enjoyed premiership success in recent seasons will battle it out at Kanebridge Oval with East Coast Eagles at home to Manly. But both teams go into this clash with plenty to do if they’re going to lift up some more silverware in 2017.
East Coast slumped to their third loss of the season last week. It had been a see-sawing contest against North Shore, the lead changing hands several times during the day; but when it was time for the final push for victory they were unable to get it done against North Shore. There were Eagles who put their hand up, with Aaron Drinkwater getting plenty of touches and Andrew Browning having a good day in the ruck. But the Eagles will need more around the ground to get back to their premiership form.
Manly go into this game rested after last week’s bye; but also come in determined to put things right after being well beaten by Sydney Uni at their last start. And they have the firepower to lift their game, with former Phelan Medallist Tyrone Armitage returning to the Wolves after a stint in Melbourne and midfielders Eric Burke and Connor Pettersson ready to step up their game.
Both clubs have had plenty of success in recent years, but are out of the five at the moment. For the winner, this is the chance to build some momentum and prepare a move up the ladder. But desperation will be felt by both sides; and neither will want to give their opponent even the slightest sniff. Expect a hard-fought contest in this match.
While this weekend’s games are played out, Sydney Uni have the bye. But the Students will no doubt be training hard, not wanting to disturb the momentum they’ve built up in the last week that has taken them to top spot on the ladder.
With the rep weekend coming up and no Premier Division matches next week, coaches from all teams will be urging their charges to go all-out and leave nothing in the tank. With the exception of the rep players in their ranks, the rest of them will have a fortnight to recover before they next take the field.