Round 13 Review – Students stay top
Article by Michael Shillito
It was a cold but sunny Saturday afternoon for Round 13 of the AFL Sydney Premier Division. A round in which the top four teams all recorded wins sees the ladder remain in essentially the same order in which it started. The gap between the top four and the rest, however, has widened, although the race for the minor premiership and the double-chance are still open.
Sydney University vs. Western Suburbs
Sydney Uni remains top of the ladder after prevailing over Wests by 46 points. The high-scoring shootout at Sydney Uni No. 1 Oval on Saturday afternoon saw University threaten a massive win before the Magpies pegged them back.
The Students went into the game as favourites, and there was nothing in the first quarter to suggest any deviation from the form. The Students were having the run of the centre square and a lopsided count of inside 50s began to take its toll as the scoreboard pressure began to mount. It was an opening term that yielded seven goals to two, with the Students leading by 32 points at quarter time.
A remarkable second quarter would follow, a marathon quarter that would see the ball constantly being brought back to the centre. On the small Sydney Uni No 1 ground, it’s only a kick from the centre square to deep in the forward 50. Often games see the ball sucked into the wings, but not in this quarter; which was constant centre to end stuff.
The goal umpires waved their twin flags to exhaustion as the Students accumulated 11 goals for the quarter. Trying their best to keep up but being beaten to the clearances time and again, the Magpies would manage four goals against the run of play. When the half time siren finally sounded, the Students had a whopping 112 points on the board and a 75-point lead.
The first half had been a mismatch. It would have been easy for the Magpies to throw in the towel and the Students to cruise to the double-century. But that didn’t happen. The Magpies kept fighting and finally, a few things around the ground started running their way.
The Magpies were never going to win coming from that far behind, but by working hard they managed to salvage some percentage and plenty of respectability. Fighting for every contest and not making life easy for the Students, the Magpies won the third quarter by five goals to three, reducing the margin to 66 points at three-quarter time.
Sydney Uni had their cue in the rack during the last quarter; but the Magpies kept working, despite the odds stacked against them. Against all expectations, the Magpies kept the Students under 150 and brought up their own century. The Magpies would win the final quarter by five goals to two; and despite what was still a heavy loss, had at least won two quarters against the ladder leaders.
The final margin was 46 points. Matt Vicic scored five goals for the Students and Will Stratford four to spearhead the charge. Around the ground, Sam Ryan, Nick Bowen and Daragh Mullen were standout contributors for the Students.
A devastating first half was enough to get the first half, and despite releasing some pressure in the second half the job was already done. The Students retain top spot on the ladder, with a better percentage than the Bulldogs.
Nick Salter again performed well on the forward line for the Magpies to finish with five goals; while Cam McEvoy-Gray, Dan O’Connell and Peter Maxwell showed the way for the Magpies as they never gave up, even during the horrors of the second quarter.
The Magpies had shown plenty of fight in the second half, but they remain two games outside the five and their percentage has slipped below that of UTS. It’s still mathematically possible for the Magpies to make the finals, but time is running out and they will need to not only win all their remaining games but be depending on other results.
Sydney University 7.3 18.4 21.9 23.11 (149)
Western Suburbs 2.1 6.1 11.3 16.7 (103)
Goals: Sydney Uni – M Vicic 5, W Stratford 4, B Hawtin 3, T Stewart 2, M Powys 2, O Osborne 2, S Ryan, J Cole, B Fitzpatrick, D Mullen, D Johnson. Wests – N Salter 5, B Zoppo 3, B Mumme, J O’Neil, J Newbury, D O’Connell, C Ford, J Zoppo, R Haupt, C McEvoy-Gray.
Best: Sydney Uni – S Ryan, N Bowen, D Mullen, W Gowers, M Vicic, B Fitzpatrick. Wests – C McEvoy-Gray, D O’Connell, P Maxwell, L Davis, R Haupt, B Zoppo.
UNSW-ES Bulldogs vs. East Coast Eagles
Hot on Sydney Uni’s heels are UNSW-ES and the Bulldogs ensured that only percentage was keeping them from the top spot as they won their seventh game on the trot. They did it in style too as they cruised to a 71-point victory over the East Coast Eagles at Henson Park on Saturday afternoon.
As they had last week, the Bulldogs burst out of the blocks as they sought to make an early impression. Throwing everything they had into the contest from the start, it was a dominant Bulldog display in the first quarter.
Stunned by the ferocity of the Bulldog opening, the Eagles were unable to make any meaningful impact on the game during the early exchanges as the Bulldogs dictated terms. The scoreboard would reflect what was happening around the ground, as the Bulldogs kicked five goals to one in the first quarter to lead by 22 points at the first change.
The second quarter told a similar story to the first. The Eagles found themselves out-gunned and second to the ball nearly every time. The Bulldogs were enthusiastically embracing what they were achieving, getting around their team-mates to acknowledge and celebrate the good passages of play and inspiring each other to better things. They were turning on some impressive footy as they added six goals to their tally in the second term while conceding one, extending the lead to 54 points at the long break.
When they returned to the field for the third term, the Bulldogs were just as dominant around the ground; but in front of the big sticks, their radar deserted them. Shot after shot sailed wide for behinds, many of them being kickable. The Bulldogs would return an inaccurate 2.10 for the quarter. Easily enough to pull further ahead of the Eagles, who were held to a solitary point. Even with an inaccurate third term, the Bulldogs were still 75 points to the good at the last change.
The game was safely won, and the Bulldogs knew all they had to do was play out time in the last quarter. The Eagles were able to salvage something from the last quarter, as they kicked five goals to three to win the quarter and prevent any further damage to their percentage. But this was another successful day for UNSW-ES, with the Bulldog juggernaut claiming another victim.
The final winning margin for the Bulldogs was 61 points. Steven Pollock spearheaded the charge up forward with four goals; while Jack McAnespie, Jerry Vunitabua and Jack Buckley were ball magnets around the ground. The Bulldogs remain in second place, just percentage behind Sydney Uni and well clear of third.
Andrew Browning, Damon Steer and Bailey Stewart were best for the Eagles, but for much of the day they looked unconvincing; well behind the lofty standards they have set for themselves in recent seasons. The Eagles remain in fifth place but have fallen two games behind fourth. They have a six-point lead over sixth-placed Pennant Hills, although the Demons have a game in hand.
Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs 5.0 11.5 13.15 16.17 (113)
East Coast Eagles 1.2 2.5 2.6 7.10 (52)
Goals: UNSW-ES – S Pollock 4, M Lower 3, J Hardman 2, J Buckley 2, J McLean, B Pattison, L Irvine, J McKinlay, S Wilson. East Coast – P Vlatko 2, M Weekes 2, D Visser, B Stewart, B Clark.
Best: UNSW-ES – J McAnespie, J Vunitabua, J Buckley, J Hardman, L Essenstam, M Lower. East Coast – A Browning, D Steer, B Stewart, R Fitton, B Clark, B Bourke.
Pennant Hills Demons vs. North Shore Bombers
Pennant Hills hosted their annual Back to Ern Holmes Oval day when they took on North Shore on Saturday afternoon at their old home ground. When the two sides met at Mortgage Choice Oval a few weeks ago it ended in a draw. This one wasn’t quite as close, but it was still tight for most of the afternoon, with multiple momentum swings before in the end, it was North Shore who would take the points.
It was a curious game throughout. Both sides had periods of play in which they threatened to run away with the contest only to hand the momentum and run of play over to their opponent. The first quarter was typical of this, as the Bombers controlled the play early to score the first three goals; before the Demons fought back late in the quarter with three goals of their own to take a two-point lead into the first break.
North Shore took the upper hand in the second quarter. Not much separated the two sides around the ground for much of the term, and there was plenty of scrappy football and some shocking turnovers from both sides. As the quarter drew on, the Bombers took the advantage, and with four goals to one for the term, it was North Shore by 16 points at half time.
The Bombers had threatened to build a match-winning lead, but the Demons came storming back. The Bombers held the lead throughout the quarter, but as the term drew on the gap was narrowing and the Demons were getting a greater share of possession. The third term would yield five goals to three in favour of the Demons, as the Bombers’ lead was cut to six points at the last change.
The shadows were lengthening and the light fading, the growing tension only escalated by a delay as an injured boundary umpire was treated. The Demon crowd found their voice as the home side took the lead early in the last quarter. The Demons had their tails up and were pumping the ball into their forward line, forcing the Bombers into desperate defence.
Then the tide turned and the Bombers rallied. It was a nervous final term, one that would produce plenty of lead changes and desperation stakes moments. In the end, it was North Shore who would prevail, kicking five goals to four for the quarter including the last three goals of the game after the 30-minute mark.
North Shore took the game by 14 points. Luke Smailes and Michael Manteit stood tall on the forward line to produce four goals apiece for the Bombers; with Manteit, Selby Lee-Steere and James Cubis being the Bombers’ best. The win keeps the Bombers in third, half a game ahead of St George; although the Dragons have a game in hand.
Jonathan Gourlay, in his first Premier Division game for the season, rose to the occasion to be Pennant Hills’ best; while Tom Edmonds and Luke Skrivanic also featured prominently for the Demons. They had taken the fight up to the Bombers but fallen agonisingly short. It’s been 14 years since the Demons have missed the finals, but they remain in sixth place, six points behind East Coast, having not had a win since May; and the risk of missing out this year is real.
North Shore 3.2 7.5 10.8 15.12 (102)
Pennant Hills 3.4 4.7 9.8 13.10 (88)
Goals: North Shore – L Smailes 4, M Manteit 4, K Latham 2, A McConnell 2, J Campbell, H Carr, J McKenzie. Pennant Hills – M Preen 3, T Moraitis 2, P Witt, J Stern, J Gourlay, N Hey, S Wray, N Mace, C Luscombe, L Skrivanic.
Best: North Shore – M Manteit, S Lee-Steere, J Cubis, E Sertbas, K Latham. Pennant Hills – J Gourlay, T Edmonds, L Skrivanic, D Preen, M Preen, R Lepore.
St. George Dragons vs. Manly-Warringah Wolves
Meanwhile, at Olds Park, St George kept going on their winning ways with their third straight victory when they took their match against Manly by 34 points. It wasn’t a game that reached any great heights, but the Dragons got the job done.
It was a scrappy first quarter and not always pretty to watch. Both sides went in hard physically, but there was little opportunity for the skilful running players to display their wares. The Dragons were showing themselves to be the better team and had more of the ball, but both sides struggled to do anything constructive when they were in possession. It was a quarter that would result in the Dragons scoring three goals to the Wolves’ one, and a 12-point lead to the home side at quarter-time.
Goals were hard to come by in the second term. The Wolves especially were barely able to penetrate the forward 50-metre line for long periods during the quarter and struggled to have any meaningful input into the contest. Even the Dragons, although clearly the better side, were breaking down up forward and put under pressure by some determined Manly defence.
It wasn’t a quarter that will go down in history as one of the classics, but the Dragons had the better of it to score the only three goals of the quarter and lead by 31 points at half time.
After being well down in the first half, the Wolves suddenly sprung to life in the third term. Manly players who were barely sighted before half time began to get more of the ball and suddenly there was a contest. After looking like they were cruising through a lacklustre first half, the Dragons suddenly had some defensive work to do to hold the Wolves out. Manly would win the quarter by four goals to two, cutting the margin to 18 points at the last change.
The Wolves had a spring in their step as they walked towards the three quarter time huddle. The break gave the Dragons a chance to regroup, and the home side steadied the ship in the last quarter. The final term would yield five goals to two in favour of the Dragons, enough to steer them to a 32-point win.
It hadn’t been a particularly convincing performance, but after the Wolves had upset the Dragons at Weldon this season, it was enough to ensure there would be no repeat.
Earl Shaw, Justin Maldigri and Kuiam Anu stood out for St George. The Dragons remain in fourth spot, half a game behind North Shore but with a game in hand; and now two games clear of fifth-placed East Coast. It’s likely St George will battle it out with North Shore for the double-chance in the finals, and every game is critical.
Ryan Wearne, Lachlan Kilpatrick and Jarrod Osborne were best for Manly; but this was another disappointing result for the Wolves. Other than their third quarter burst, they struggled to have any influence on the game. With three wins and a poor percentage, the Wolves remain on the bottom of the ladder. They can still mathematically make the finals, but they’ll need to win all their remaining games and depend on other results.
St George 3.3 6.5 8.7 13.8 (86)
Manly-Warringah 1.3 1.4 5.7 7.10 (52)
Goals: St George – K McKellar 3, B Jones 2, L Maze, N Ryan, N Kenny, E Shaw, S Nabacki, C Flanagan, B McParland, D Lycakis. Manly – H Washington 3, C Gallo 2, J Douglas, C D’Souza.
Best: St George – E Shaw, J Maldigri, K Anu, A Wynn, B Jones, K McKellar. Manly – R Wearne, L Kilpatrick, J Osborne, L Behagg, M Rogers, H Washington.
Next week sees a full round in Premier Division, with catch-up matches in other divisions to be played. We start with a Friday night game, with Sydney Uni hosting UTS in a game where the Bats will be desperate to upset the Students to keep themselves in the finals race.
On Saturday afternoon, Wests play St George at Picken Oval, with the Magpies desperate for a win to stay in the finals race while the Dragons will want the points to keep in touch with the double-chance.
It’s the Last Chance Saloon at Weldon Oval when Manly plays host to Pennant Hills.
At Kanebridge Oval, East Coast takes on North Shore; an East Coast win would make it difficult for the teams currently outside the top five to make their way in, while North Shore will need a win to stay ahead of St George.
UNSW-ES have the bye next week and will remain second next week whatever happens.