Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Resurgent Magpies defy odds
Written by Michael Shillito.
Inner West Magpies vs. Pennant Hills Demons – Picken Oval on Thursday, April 25.
After a week off over Easter, AFL Sydney returned with a full round of matches. It was an early start to Round 3 with Inner West Magpies hosting Pennant Hills at Picken Oval in what has become an ANZAC Day tradition.
A moving ANZAC ceremony took place before the match. The oath was read, wreathes were laid, and the Last Post sounded out in honour of those who have fought for our country. Many of them were footballers. Lest we forget.
After the commemorations, there was a game of footy to be played. It put the Magpies up against the Demons. The Magpies, after a heavy loss in the opening round, put up a credible performance against UNSW-ES in Round 2 but had fallen short. The Demons had gone down to UNSW-ES in the opening round but hit back to defeat UTS in their second game.
The Demons went into the game as favourites, but the Magpies were looking determined in the first term and took the fight up to their rivals. Matching it with the Demons around the ground and coming up with the answering goals that prevented the Demons from establishing an advantage, the first term produced three goals apiece and scores were level at quarter time.
The Magpies have struggled in recent years, collecting the wooden spoon in the last two seasons and winless in the first two rounds this season. But as the second quarter got under way, it soon became apparent that there was a new spirit in the Magpies. Attacking the footy, backing themselves in tight contests and finding a way through the Demon defence. The scoreboard began to tick over, as the resurgent Magpies found a new lease of life. Suddenly the Demons were under pressure, a string of turnovers testament to the Magpie surge that would yield six goals to two for the quarter and set up a 28-point lead at the long break.
There would be no way back into the contest for the Demons. They were feeling the pressure, and cracking against a red-hot Magpie side showing the best football seen in the black and white colours for a few years. The third term was lower scoring, as the Demons attempted to regain their position only to be thwarted time and again by the resolute Magpie defence. Three unanswered goals to the Magpies saw the lead extended to 46 points at the last change. A rousing reception from the larger than normal crowd and no shortage of vocal support around the Magpie huddle as the three quarter time address took place.
The Magpies had a sniff, and they weren’t letting go. They had outplayed the Demons since quarter time, and were running on the energy that a winning feeling gives. They would go on with the job in the final term, adding four goals to two to complete a resounding 58-point win. There was plenty of noise from the players as they returned to the room, and plenty of passion as the team song rang out. Written off by many, they had risen to the occasion and showed the Magpie faithful and the Sydney footy community that this is a Magpie side with spirit, and they’re ready to shock a few teams this year.
Ben Zoppo was a tower of strength up forward for the Magpies, kicking five goals to spearhead the charge, and along with Tyler Blake and Callan Dell was among the Magpies’ best. It was a win that produced more than just four points, but also a massive boost to the Magpies’ morale.
It wasn’t a great day for Pennant Hills. Theo Moraitis scored four goals, while Jesse Hare and Stephen Wray also featured prominently. But too many Demons struggled to get their game going on a day when they played well below their best. Like the Magpies, the Demons are one win from three starts, although the Demons’ superior percentage keeps them in the top five.
The round continued on Saturday. At Kanebridge Oval; after an even first half, a strong third quarter was enough to get East Coast home against Camden. Manly broke through for their first win of the season with a comprehensive 74-point win over St George at Weldon Oval. At Mahoney Park, after three tight quarters of footy, Sydney University pulled away in the last quarter to get up by 45 points.
Completing the round on Sunday, North Shore maintained top spot on the ladder when they held on for a 16-point win over reigning premiers UNSW-ES at Henson Park.
Inner West Magpies – 3.1 9.6 12.7 16.10 (106)
Pennant Hills Demons – 3.1 5.2 5.3 7.6 (48)
Inner West goals – B Zoppo 5, D O’Connell 2, C Dell 2, C Newton 2, A Eurell, J Nieser, C Bateman, R Forrester, J Zoppo.
Pennant Hills goals – T Moraitis 4, S Wray, A Crisfield, J Boag
Inner West best – T Blake, B Zoppo, C Dell, J Robinson, P Milmot, A Eurell
Pennant Hills best – j Hare, S Wray, T Moraitis, O Williams, J Preedy, R Ediriwickrama