WEEK THREE REVIEW – Men’s Premier Division
Pennant Hills – 1.3 4.7 6.10 12.13 (85)
North Shore – 3.3 4.6 9.7 9.10 (64)
Goals : Pennant Hills – J Stern 3, R Ediriwickrama 2, M Carey, T Angel, C Luscombe, L Skrivanic, T Edmonds, J Peatling, N Hey. North Shore – L Smailes 2, W Blackburne 2, H Carr, W Bradley, S Crane, S Lee-Steere, M Manteit.
Best : Pennant Hills – T Angel, R Ediriwickrama, L Shepherd, J Stern, D Dell’Aquila, A Crisfield. North Shore – S Lee-Steere, J McKenzie, W Bradley, J Campbell, H MacDonald, D Schacher.
While Sydney University watched and waited with their Grand Final spot already booked, North Shore and Pennant Hills took to Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday afternoon to battle it out for the remaining spot in Sydney footy’s biggest day.
North Shore was kicking to what would be the scoring end in the first quarter. It was a tight opening to the game, but the Bombers would win the quarter by three goals to one, leading by 12 points at the first change.
The Demons lifted their intensity in the second quarter and it did not take long for the shape of the game to change.
Just a few minutes into the second term, the Demons had added two goals and were in front. But this was not a game where building a big lead would be easy, with both teams struggling for much of the quarter to get the ball into their forward-50. Despite this, there were plenty of highlights, the best of them being a screamer by Tom Angel as he flew high over an opponent’s shoulders.
The Bombers got one back late in the term and the Demons went into the rooms at half-time with a one-point lead.
The game opened up in the third quarter and scoring became easier. The Bombers regained the lead, but the Demons kept themselves within striking distance and only a kick separated the two sides as the clock ticked into time-on.
In the latter stages of the third quarter, the Bombers took the upper-hand with two late goals establishing a handy break. Then in the dying seconds of the quarter, a sensational snap over his shoulder by Selby Lee-Steere established a 15-point lead. Lee-Steere raised his arms in celebration, as the Bombers took a useful lead into three-quarter time.
But the celebrations were premature as the Demons were not done yet. For 13 minutes, the ball traveled end-to-end without a goal. Time looked to be running down, and the Bombers were hanging on. But Josh Stern broke the deadlock, and suddenly the margin was down to eight points. A long, bouncing goal evaded everyone’s fingertips. and a 50-metre penalty moments later saw the Demons take the lead.
As the quarter went on and the game was there to be won, too many Bombers went missing in action. The Demons were able to find the men to make a difference when they were needed. Players who had been kept quiet were able to make key contributions when it came to the crunch. With the clock in time-on, the Demons had the advantage.
North Shore heads dropped, the sinking feeling of a Preliminary Final defeat all too real. For everything the Bombers have achieved in 2017, at this critical moment they had nothing more to give. While the Demons kept running until the end, adding three more goals in the dying minutes for a total of six unanswered goals for the quarter. In the end, the winning margin for the Demons was 21 points.
It has been a remarkable season for the Demons. For much of the year, their finals hopes were looking slim, but they managed to scrape into the finals. With three finals won, suddenly they are in the Grand Final – their fourth in five years.
The Demons have plenty of experienced hands who have been through these big moments before. The knowledge and expertise of Tom Angel, Ranga Ediriwickrama and Lloyd Shepherd were critical in getting the Demons over the line.
North Shore will be disappointed in their final quarter, after leading at the last change. For the second year in a row, they were overrun in the last term of the Preliminary Final and were unable to score a goal.
Selby Lee-Steere, Jimmy McKenzie and Will Bradley worked tirelessly all day for the Bombers. North Shore have achieved plenty this year, and have played some good footy. But for the tenth season in a row, the Bombers will not be playing in the Premier Division Grand Final. To have come so close but miss out on a spot in the Grand Final will hurt, and this hurt will motivate them to climb the mountain in 2018.
Sydney University await – rested and ready. Pennant Hills know all too well the challenge that awaits. In the Demon rooms after the game, the team song was sung, but it was a subdued song, and celebrations were muted. The toughest test for Pennant Hills, the one that will truly define this season, is yet to come.