GRAND FINAL PREVIEW AND PREDICTION: Men’s Premier Division
Premier Division Grand Final
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Sydney University – Saturday, September 15 at 3.00pm at Blacktown International Sportspark
This is it! The climax of the season. Everything that’s happened until now has been building up to this moment, when the Men’s Premier Division Premiership is on the line.
It’s not a Grand Final match-up that most people in Sydney footy would have been expecting this year. But it’s one that should be closely contested and will likely be in the balance until the end – it’s UNSW Eastern Suburbs versus Sydney University.
The two sides finished second and third after the regular season, and faced off in the Qualifying Final. That was a game of fluctuating fortunes, but in the end the Bulldogs prevailed.
The Bulldogs then knocked off Minor Premiers North Shore by 10 points in the Major Semi-Final, and in the process earned themselves a week off. They will be refreshed and had plenty of time to get over any niggles, and they’ll be primed for action.
James Pascoe will be doing much of the heavy lifting up forward, and will draw the best Student defender. Coach Steven Pollock will also feature prominently, leading by example and will look to make a contribution with his boot as well as inspirational addresses at the quarter time breaks.
But much of the Bulldogs’ success is pinned on the team effort rather than the individual. Harry Annear was the only Bulldog player in the top 10 in the Phelan Medal count. The likes of Darren Pfeiffer and Justin Cann have the potential to make a significant impact, while Brandon Jack has only played a handful of games for the Bulldogs but has an x-factor about him.
After going down in the Qualifying Final, the Students came from nowhere to pip Manly at the post in the Minor Semi-Final, and then turned on a devastating burst in the second quarter of the Preliminary Final, which was enough to send North Shore out of the finals in straight sets, and get the Students into the Grand Final.
Much of the Students’ hopes of Premiership glory rest on the boot of Tristan Davies. He was unstoppable last week, as the ball stuck to his hands in the marking contest and he finished with a six-goal haul. The top vote-getter for the Students in the Phelan Medal count on Monday, Davies has already kicked 57 this year and will be keen to add to that tally. Will Stratford is also capable of producing plenty of goals for the Students when they need them.
There’s no shortage of talent around the ground. The Krochmal brothers, Monty and Spencer, have been in sensational form through the finals and are ready to rise to the occasion. Also watch out for Tom Ayton and Allister Clarke, who have proven themselves capable of producing the goods when it matters most.
Last year the Students were nearly unbackable favourites but went down by a kick in the Grand Final to Pennant Hills. This year, without the yoke of favouritism tying them down, is this their time?
It’ll be the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season, and the first three were all close. The Bulldogs won by a point at Henson Park in Round 6, before the Students turned the tables with a five-point margin in the return game at Sydney University No. 1 Oval in Round 13. It was then the Qualifying Final, where fortunes turned all day before the Bulldogs kicked a few late to win by 14 points.
And now the season comes down to this. Will the Premiers like to be beside the seaside, or will they have a hot time in the old town tonight?
Expect an absolute thriller. It’s hard to separate these two teams, the previous meetings between them have shown that. You could almost toss a coin to determine your tip.
Prediction – UNSW Eastern Suburbs by 2 points.