Round 13 Preview – Six rounds to go

Article by Michael Shillito.

This weekend in Premier Division we have all four games played on Saturday afternoon. The weather forecast suggests conditions will be good, so there is no reason for players not to rise to the occasion. We are into the run-home to the finals, and the chase for those precious play-off spots is heating up.


Pennant Hills Demons vs. North Shore Bombers

It is a return to what was once a familiar haunt for Pennant Hills, as they go back to their old home at Ern Holmes Oval for a clash against traditional rivals, North Shore.

It’s ‘Past Players Day’ at Ern Holmes, and there will be greats who have worn the Pennant Hills guernsey in a bygone era, returning to the scene of some old triumphs.

They will be watching a Pennant Hills side of 2017 with plenty to play for. The Demons are six points out of the top five and desperately need to pick up the win here.

Last week was a frustrating day for the Demons, as some poor finishing in front of goals cost them an upset win against St George at Olds Park. They will have worked on that during the week, and will be ready for this game.

Keep an eye on the experienced Aaron Crisfield and Tom Angel, who will be keen to accumulate plenty of possessions this time round.

The Bombers took three quarters to shake off Manly-Warringah last week, but when the game was in the balance they stood up and got the job done. The win keeps the Bombers ahead of St George in third place, but still a long way behind the top two.

Shaun Crane continues to impress for the Bombers, and played an impressive game last week and Josh David-Wright enjoyed having the run of the forward line. They will be players to watch again in this game.

It was only a few weeks ago that the two teams clashed at Mortgage Choice Oval. That game ended in a thrilling draw. The Demons will be desperate for a win, and keen to put on a show to impress their Demon forefathers – North Shore will have something to say about that. Expect another close game this time.


UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. East Coast Eagles

Another battle that could have massive ramifications for the finals will be at Henson Park, with UNSW Eastern Suburbs taking on East Coast.

The Bulldogs were super-impressive last week, as they joined Sydney University on top of the ladder. Getting the early jump and setting up early what would be a match-winning lead. It was vintage UNSW Eastern Suburbs play and their best performance by the club since the 2012 Grand Final.

Jake Bartholomaeus earned himself a Rising Star nomination last week and will be determined to maintain his momentum. James Bell is another Bulldog on the rise, and with an impressive array of young talent at the club, the future is looking good for the Dogs.

East Coast are in fifth spot, but missed out on a big chance to consolidate their hold on a finals berth when they were stunned by UTS last week.

They certainly have the talent to bounce back this week. Keep a watchful eye over Aaron Drinkwater, who features prominently for the Eagles most weeks. Daniel Spiteri, a former Podbury Medallist, is another one who the Bulldogs will need to keep quiet.

After last week’s heroics, the Bulldogs have to make sure they keep coming up week after week. The Eagles will be desperate to open up a gap to keep themselves in position for the finals.

A loss here would let the teams behind them in with a chance of catching them. The Eagles will be keen to ensure that does not happen, so they’ll be taking it up to the Bulldogs.


St. George Dragons vs. Manly-Warringah Wolves

St George will host Manly-Warrinah at Olds Park in a game which, despite the relative ladder positions of the two teams, is no certainty.

The Dragons only just fell over the line against Pennant Hills last week, and had the Demons kicked straighter, it could so easily have ended in Dragon disaster. The Dragons remain in fourth spot – half a game behind North Shore – but they have a game in hand.

Nick Ryan is always a handy target for the Dragons, and will feature prominently up forward this time round. Justin Maldigri continues to impress every week, and the Dragons will look for a big contribution from him.

Manly last week put up a determined fight against North Shore, and there was nothing in it for three quarters, but were unable to keep that form going in the last quarter.

The loss sees them at the bottom of the ladder, but still only two games out of the five and can still get to the playoffs if they can string some wins together.

Keep an eye on Dean Meadows, who will be looking for another high possession count this time round, while the experienced hands of Ryan Wearne will again be kept busy if the Wolves are to get the points in this one.

When the two sides met at Weldon earlier this season, the Wolves pulled off an upset win. If the Wolves are to feature in this year’s finals, there is no time to lose. They must win here, and they will be going all out to make it happen. The Dragons must expect to have a fight on their hands in this game – this will not be an easy win for them.


Sydney University vs. Western Suburbs Magpies

The remaining game in this round sees top side, Sydney University host Western Suburbs at Sydney University Oval No 1.

The Sydney Uni side was stunned last week, as UNSW- Eastern Suburbs blew them off the park in quarter of football that, despite the Students’ best efforts in the remaining three quarters, was too much ground to make up.

The Students remain on top thanks to their superior percentage, but the Bulldogs showed they can be beaten.

The Students are still a hard team to beat. With the likes of Monty Krochmal and Mitch Mahady getting plenty of the ball every week, there is some class in the Sydney Uni team that other teams will need to do well to overcome.

Wests are coming off the bye last week, a much-needed chance for them to regroup after they were well beaten by UNSW Eastern Suburbs at their last start.

Keep an eye on Reuben Haupt, who kept putting in for the Magpies when all was going against them. Another to watch is Yannick Milligan-Saville, who injects some excitement into his game when he is on song.

The Students will be keen to bounce back from last week’s loss, and will go in as favourites with the home ground advantage. However, this is the time for the Magpies to hit back hard. Their finals hopes rest on it. They can still make it, but a loss here will make it very difficult for them.


UTS Bats

UTS have the bye this week. The Bats returned to the winners list after a long losing run, and thanks to their superior percentage compared to Manly-Warringah have climbed off the bottom. This bye is the Bats’ last chance to rest. There’s some hard work coming up in the remaining rounds for the Bats if they are to take part in this year’s finals.

It all adds up to another intriguing round of footy, and whatever permutations of results are thrown up this time has the potential to add another twist of uncertain fate into this year’s finals mix.