Round 16 Preview – Upsets causing chaos

Article by Michael Shillito

A round of upsets last week has made the chase for finals positions even tighter, and this week’s matches could thicken the plot even further.

UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. UTS Bats

It will be a high-stakes contest at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday afternoon as UNSW Eastern Suburbs host UTS. A battle of the East, played in the West, with implications for the ladder all over our city.

UNSW Eastern Suburbs remain in the race for the minor premiership. They are a game behind Sydney University, but but they did not look like a top team last week – never in the contest against Pennant Hills.

For most of this season however, they have been a much stronger side than that, and they will be keen to bounce back this week. Keep an eye on young guns Tom Heath and Jake McLean who will be looking to lead the Bulldog fightback.

UTS kept themselves in the finals race last week when they got up against Western Suburbs in a high-scoring shootout at Waverley Oval. After struggling for much of the season, the Bats kept the scoreboard ticking over last week.

When they are on their game, the Bats have some great attacking options. Tom Larby is always a dangerous player and one that keeps opposition defenders on their toes, while Rawson Kirkhope is hitting some good form late in the regular season.

The Bulldogs will be looking to restore their winning momentum and stay in the race for the minor premiership. They will be a tough team to beat, but if the Bats are to have any hope of playing finals, they must win this one.


Manly-Warringah Wolves vs. East Coast Eagles

Manly-Warringah and East Coast have both had premiership success in recent seasons and it will be a hard-fought contest between the two clubs when they meet at Weldon Oval on Saturday afternoon.

After the bye last week, Manly return to action sitting in an unfamiliar position at the bottom of the ladder, knowing they won’t be playing in this year’s finals. At their last start, they looked good for a half against Pennant Hills but were not able to go on with it in the second.

There are some solid performers in the Manly side, and the marking power of Hayden Washington is again a factor to watch out for. Keep an eye on some young talent coming through with the likes of Mitch Rogers keen to make the most of their taste of senior footy.

The Eagles returned to form in convincing style last week, when they pulled away before half time against Sydney Uni and then hung on for dear life to get up in a thriller.

Kieran Emery has been in impressive form for the Eagles in recent weeks, and they will be looking for another big performance from him this time round. Eugene Kruger is another to watch. He will want to maintain the form he showed last week when his performance went a long way towards getting the Eagles over the line.

The Eagles are hanging on to fifth spot but will need a win in this clash to stay there.

Despite the fact Manly will not be playing finals this year, if they can step up when the pressure is on, there are some much-needed premiership points there to be won.


Pennant Hills Demons vs. Western Suburbs Magpies

When Pennant Hills host Western Suburbs at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday afternoon, it will be a Demons side that has not had everything go their way this season. The Demons are however finally starting to show some of their better form as we approach the business end of the season.

Last week the Demons were impressive as they claimed the scalp of second-placed UNSW Eastern Suburbs by a big margin. The victory was their second win on the trot and it leaves them just half a game behind fifth-placed East Coast.

Theo Moraitis was in devastating form and he will again be a target in the Demons forward line this week. Also watch for the ever-reliable Tom Angel, who will no doubt pick up another big stack of possessions this week.

Wests were left disappointed after going down to UTS last week in a game which was the last chance for both teams to stay in the hunt for the finals.

They had some good attacking power last week in Nick Salter and Ben Zoppo, but the Magpies need more players to step up and present themselves as scoring options. When that happens, as it has at times this season, the Magpies have shown themselves to be competitive against the top sides.

There are veterans in the Sydney footy scene who have never known Pennant Hills not being in the Premier Division finals. For that record to be maintained, the Demons will need to take the points against Wests. There wasn’t much in it when the two sides met on Anzac Day, and although the Magpies won’t be playing finals this year, they would love to shape the finals by taking a high-profile scalp before the season is out.


St. George Dragons vs. Sydney University

The round finishes with a Sunday afternoon clash at Olds Park when St George take on Sydney University in a game that could have massive ramifications for the order of the top five.

St George were playing for a spot in the top three last week but were never in the hunt against North Shore at Blacktown. The loss sees them fall six points behind North Shore on the ladder.

There is some good quality coming through the ranks at St George. Keep an eye on Jake Brown and Connor Flanagan who have both stood up when the pressure has been on.

Sydney University are clinging to top spot on the ladder, but suffered a shock loss last week when they found themselves a long way behind against East Coast.

There are plenty of strong performers in the Sydney University team, and they will be on show in this clash. This week’s Rising Star nominee, Harry Morrison, will look to back up his strong form, while the ever-reliable Monty Krochmal can again be expected to perform when the pressure is on.

Back-to-back losses is not the form either team will want under their belt with the finals within sight, but that will be the fate for one of the sides in this match. A Sydney University loss could see them knocked off top spot, while a Dragons defeat would see them looking down the barrel of a sudden death final. With so much on the line, this game is sure to be tightly contested.


Bye – North Shore Bombers

North Shore has the bye this week. On the back of a five-game winning streak, the Bombers have ensured they will be playing finals and are in the box seat for the double-chance. They will appreciate a rest now to get over any niggling injuries, but it can’t be too much of a rest as there is some hard work coming up.

It all adds up to another massive week of footy!