Men’s Premier Division Mid-Season Review
Ahead of Round 9 – the half-way point of the 2017 XBlades AFL Sydney season – we take a look at how the Premier Division teams are tracking as we start to think about the finals series.
Ladder position: 1st
Leading Goal Scorers: Xavier Richards (17 goals), William Stratford (13 goals)
Best players (times in best): Kane Murphy, Allister Clarke, Harry Morrison
Sydney University have been strong this year with some formidable fire power rolling through their side.
With the students doing well at NEAFL level, the Premier Division side has seen some big names including Xavier Richards (2 games), Jarrod Irving (4 games) and Tim Barrett (2 games) named in the side on their return from injury.
The students run into the finals will depend largely on their injuries, form and availability of the Sydney University NEAFL side, with players expected to be pushed up in the latter stages of the year.
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs
Ladder position: 2nd
Leading Goal Scorers: Marc Dragicevic (11 goals), Jack Buckley (9 goals)
Best players (times in best): Jack Buckley, Alexander Foote, Darcy Cordell
The talk around the Bulldogs before the season began was that they were expected to be a young but competitive side.
After finishing ninth in 2015 and eighth in 2016, the Bulldogs were cautiously optimistic heading into the new season. Eight rounds later, we have one of the feel good stories of the year.
The young dogs have proven they can take it to the best in the competition and sit second on the ladder at the half way point of the season.
Their outstanding young talent have led the way so far this year, and with the promising debut of another young star, Nicholas Blakey in Round 8, we look forward to seeing if the dogs can bring their best in the second half of the year.
North Shore Bombers
Ladder position: 3rd
Leading Goal Scorers: Wayd Blackburne (29 goals), Matthew Wilson (8 goals)
Best players (times in best): Shaun Crane, Christopher Murphy, Jonathan Marsh
Big things were expected of the North Shore Bombers heading into season 2016 and they are so far delivering.
Last year’s fourth placed side are again up at the pointy end of the ladder heading into the half way point of the season.
The Bombers have recruited well, adding some good talent into to their side. Wayd Blackburne has been dominant up forward and currently leads the competition’s goal kicking, and Erol Sertbas has been in good form after moving back to North Shore from Sydney University.
In the run home to finals we expect the Bombers to show some of the trademark footy, which has made them one of the competitions most formidable sides.
St George Dragons
Ladder position: 4th
Leading Goal Scorers: Nick Ryan (13 goals), Nathan Kenny (10 goals)
Best players (times in best): Alexander Wynn, Ben Jones, Declan Donohue
After last year’s Grand Final appearance the Dragons were always expected to return strongly in 2017.
This year we have seen the Dragons hover around the upper end of the ladder however, they have perhaps not played their best football yet this season.
Bolstered by the leadership of Declan Donohue and the goal kicking ability of Nick Ryan and Nathan Kenny, the Dragons certainly don’t lack firepower up front.
Can the Dragons bring their best football in the last half of the year to propel themselves into back-to-back Grand Finals?
Pennant Hills Demons
Ladder position: 5th
Leading Goal Scorers: Theo Moraitis (13 goals), Matthew Carey (12 goals)
Best players (times in best): Jesse Hare, Ranga Ediriwickrama, Aaron Crisfield
Pennant Hills enter Round 9 in fifth position after a solid beginning to the season.
The Demons have played some good football this year and are deserving of the last spot in the top five.
The seasoned Pennant Hills regulars have again been strong with Ediriwickrama and Crisfield playing some good football.
We all know what Pennant Hills can do in finals games, so we wait with anticipation to see what they can bring to the table in the back end of the season.
East Coast Eagles
Ladder position: 6th
Leading Goal Scorers: Mark Weekes (26 goals), Jamie Vlatko (14 goals)
Best players (times in best): Stuart Turner, Mark Weekes, Aaron Drinkwater
The reigning Premiers have been a bit off the pace this year with their Premiership form so far eluding them.
The Eagles were dominant in 2016, only dropping one game on their way to Premiership glory however, this year the Eagles have at times, struggled to bring their best football.
In one of the best recruitment moves of 2017, the Eagles brought back an old club favourite with Mark Weekes re-joining the club. He has been a standout this year booting 26 goals to date.
The Eagles are not done-for yet and are only one spot out from a finals place. Can 2017 still be the year of the Eagle?
Manly Warringah Wolves
Ladder position: 7th
Leading Goal Scorers: Lachlan Behagg (13 goals), Hayden Washington (8 goals)
Best players (times in best): Anthony Robertson, Connor Pettersson, Cal D’Souza
The Manly Warringah Wolves have had an inconsistent start to their season.
The boys from the Northern Beaches have put on some marvellous displays of football this year, which have shocked some of the competition’s best teams, however, they have struggled to bring that game every week.
The competition all know what the Wolves can do, and with plenty of football left in 2017, we are sure they have plenty left to give in the second half of the season.
Western Suburbs Magpies
Ladder position: 8th
Leading Goal Scorers: Nick Salter (28 goals), Ben Zoppo (22 goals)
Best players (times in best): Dan O’Connell, Charles Ford, Nick Salter
The Magpies have perhaps been the most unlucky of all Premier Division sides this season, losing a number of close games where – if the result had fallen the other way – we would have been telling a different story in this review.
This year the Magpies have brought in two key players in Nick Salter and Dan O’Connell, and both have been standouts so far.
The Magpies have the talent, however the question for them is whether they can close out the close games, which could make a huge difference at the end of the season.
Ladder position: 9th
Leading Goal Scorers: James Caica (11 goals), Tom Larby (8 goals)
Best players (times in best): Scott Jansen, Brad Hunt, Daniel Crouch
In what is the shock of the 2017 season so far, the UTS Bats enter Round 9 in last place on the Premier Division ladder.
Last year’s third placed team has struggled to find their mojo so far this year and enter the half way point with just two wins.
The Bats have had some big losses in the off season with players like Jai Lyons heading to Queensland and last year’s leading goal scorer, Daniel Breese retiring.
With that said, the Bats are just a win and some percentage away from fifth spot and still have their finals dreams alive.