MATCH REVIEW: Men’s Premier Division Prelim

Image courtesy of Leigh Gazzard.


Written by Michael Shillito

North Shore vs. Sydney University – Saturday, September 8 at 4.10pm at Blacktown International Sportspark

After a long season, we have our Grand Finallists. It will be a University Grand Final, with UNSW Eastern Suburbs taking on Sydney University for the Premier Division title. The Bulldogs wrapped up their place in the semis, and on Saturday at Blacktown the Students took on North Shore for the other spot.

For much of the season, Sydney has been in drought and games have been played on dustbowls. But the heavens unleashed their fury on the night before the game, softening the ground and forcing a centre square biased towards the outer wing to be used.

The opening term was a slog. Not much happened, as players were unable to even think of taking a mark, and getting a clean possession from the ground was challenging. It was a tough and physical affair, with the bumps and crunching tackles making this no place for the faint-hearted. Neither side was able to score a goal in the first quarter, the Bombers leading by a point at the first change. But it had been a struggle for both sides.

In the overcast conditions, by the time the second quarter started, the floodlights had well and truly taken over as dark clouds hovered overhead. For North Shore, dominant for so much of the season, the second quarter would create a very real gloom.

After an early Bomber goal, the Bombers’ game imploded and the Students took control. A devastating burst of 15 minutes was enough to overturn six months of good work for North Shore.

The Students moved the ball quickly, leaving the Bombers in their wake as they ran through six goals in a row. Bursting out of the centre, finding loose runners everywhere and forwards presenting themselves on the lead to create chances. Tristan Davies was the standout, finding plenty of chances to mark under minimal pressure and finding the big sticks every time. It was vintage Sydney University football, and that 15 minutes was enough. Even with the Bombers scoring in the dying seconds of the quarter, the Students had established a 23-point lead at the long break.

A comeback looked unlikely, but if it was to happen, the Bombers needed to make every post a winner. But their goal-kicking radar deserted them, and shots that should have been converted sailed wide of the big sticks. Too often the ball would get to the forward-50, but be turned over before a shot could even be attempted.

The Minor Premiers had lifted their work-rate around the ground after a lacklustre showing in the first half, but were unable to generate any scoreboard pressure to show for it. The Bombers would win the third quarter, but only by three goals to two, and with the Students still 17 points to the good at three quarter time, the result looked all but locked in.

The Bombers needed to make up three goals in the last quarter, but were unable to penetrate the big sticks with four scoring shots all missing. Numerous inside 50s were repelled and cleared by the Student defence, who were rising to the occasion. The Students landed a single goal, a final dagger into the Bomber heart. Finally, the siren sounded and Sydney University had made it to the Grand Final – the Bombers were out.

Tristan Davies was outstanding, finishing with six goals. Allister Clarke, Nick Bertino and Marcus Valastro had made pivotal contributions around the ground. Most of the team had played their roles with distinction to get the team over the line.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Students. For much of the year it was touch-and-go whether they’d make the finals. They ended up qualifying for the double-chance but went down to UNSW Eastern Suburbs in the Qualifying Final. They were down for the count against Manly in the Semi-Final but somehow managed to get out of that one – and now they’re in the Grand Final.

The Bombers had more scoring shots, but 15 minutes in the second quarter undid six months of good work.

This loss is a bitter pill to swallow for North Shore. Runaway Minor Premiers, finishing four goals clear on top of the ladder. But out of the finals in straight sets, the third year in a row they have fallen in the Preliminary Final. It had been a strong home and away season, despite the adversity of having no home ground, but their fadeout in the finals is a pain that they will have to wait till 2019 to put right.

So now we come down to one final game. It wasn’t a Grand Final that many in Sydney footy were expecting, but it’s one that will be closely contested. Will the Premiers like to be beside the seaside, or will they have a hot time in the old town?

All will be revealed at Blacktown next Saturday, as the Bill Hart Cup goes on the line.



NORTH SHORE – 5.13 (43)

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