Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Alpha leads the hungry pack to victory
Written by Michael Shillito.
Manly Warringah Wolves vs. UTS AFC Bats – Weldon Oval on Saturday, May 25.
The early part of 2019 has had its frustrations and tribulations for both the Manly Warringah Wolves and UTS AFC Bats. The Wolves had won one game in the first six rounds, while the Bats were yet to sing the song this season. So as the players made their way to Weldon Oval, there was no shortage of hunger, and a keen sense of anticipation as the opportunity to snag four important competition points was scented.
There was also another reason to look forward to this match – Stevie J was coming to town. It’s not often that someone of the calibre of Steven Johnson makes their way to Sydney footy. An AFL career spanning 293 games for Geelong and the GIANTS and three AFL Premierships. Not to mention a three time All-Australian and a Norm Smith Medallist and he was making a guest appearance for Manly.
There were far more people than normal positioning themselves behind the boundary line and taking in the action. Having a drawcard of Johnson’s calibre pulled the punters in to Weldon Oval. They watched two sides full of desperation searching for the spark that would restore their form in a tightly contested opening quarter. It was a dour opening, with two goals apiece in the first quarter. As the teams went into their quarter time huddles, the Bats were clinging to a narrow two-point lead.
When the teams switched ends for the second quarter, the game opened up. This was the footy that the masses had come to see, and Stevie J was in the thick of it. It was free-flowing and exciting footy to watch, as the midfielders got some run into their legs and kicks were finding their way with pinpoint accuracy into the arms of the leading forwards. The Wolves found the play was running to their advantage and stepped up the pace with an enterprising term of footy – their best quarter so far in 2019. Hitting the front early in the second term, the Wolves would run seven goals to three onto the scoreboard, and confidence was returning as they raced to a 24-point lead at the long break.
The Bats had fallen behind the pace in the second quarter, but they weren’t going to extend their winless run into another week without a fight. Lifting their work rate around the ground, they created chances in the third quarter, but some inaccurate finishing would prevent them getting back into the contest. Reward for effort would not come for the Bats, as they would score just five behinds for the quarter. The Wolves had limited use of the footy and not many shots on goal, but by converting one of them, they won the quarter. The Wolves were looking good and the finish line was in sight for their second win of the season, entering the final quarter with a 28-point lead.
But there was one more quarter of footy to be played, and the Wolves made it count. A return of five goals to one turned the win into a percentage-booster. The crowd was finding their voice, and the marquee man was rising to the occasion, landing some impressive goals and celebrating with the locals as an afternoon to remember was unfolding. The ball spent much of the quarter on the Wolves’ forward line, and although there were some shots missed that should have been kicked, there was no doubt that the Wolves were the stronger side and thoroughly deserving of the win.
In the end, the margin was 59 points. Steven Johnson’s guest appearance was a triumph as he finished with five goals. Reuben Laws kept the dream alive with four goals, and along with Lachlan Behagg and Aidan Butler was among the Wolves’ best. While Stevie J signed the autographs and posed for selfies after the match, his cameo in maroon and white delivered plenty of canteen takings, and delivered a confidence and momentum boost for the Wolves. There’s a long way to go to get back within striking distance of the top five, but just maybe the Wolves have taken the first step.
It wasn’t a great day for the Bats. Daniel Crouch, Josh Moyle and Adam Tarrant never gave up, but again the Bats left the ground without the points, and the search for the first win of the season will have to wait another week.
In other Round 7 matches, North Shore got off to a flying start against Pennant Hills and held the lead for the remainder of the match to defeat Pennant Hills by 21 points at Mike Kenny Oval and maintain top spot on the ladder. Inner West Magpies took the fight up to UNSW-ES at Henson Park, but the Bulldogs were able to come up with the goals when they were needed to run out 32-point winners. St George completed a memorable comeback as they fought back from 20 points down at the last change to pip Camden at the post by six points at Fairfax Reserve. In a game of see-sawing fortunes and numerous lead changes, East Coast Eagles edged out Sydney Uni in a thriller to take a three-point win.
Manly Warringah – 15.16 (106)
UTS AFC – 6.11 (47)
Manly Warringah Goals – S Johnson 5, R Laws 4, C D’Souza 2, J Field 2, C Wilson, L Behagg
UTS AFC Goals – J Harrison 3, J Watson, T McKenzie, T Garvey
Manly Warringah Best – L Behagg, R Laws, A Butler, M Rogers, J Field, T Sheldrick
UTS AFC Best – D Crouch, J Moyle, A Tarrant, A McKenzie, S Jansen, J Harrison