Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Dragons breath fire in Round 8
Written by Michael Shillito
St George Dragons vs. UTS Australian Football Club – Olds Park on Saturday 1 June
Autumn has turned into winter and the temperatures have taken a drop, but the grounds remained dry and hard as another weekend of Premier Division footy came around. And for the players in the match of the week at Olds Park, there was a hint of desperation in the air. It was now or never to make an impact on the 2019 season.
It was St George Dragons at home to UTS AFC Bats. Neither team had won a game in the first four weeks of the season. The Dragons had broken their duck with a win over Inner West and followed it up with a comeback win over Camden at Fairfax. While the Bats, after seven losses on the trot, were desperately searching for the spark that would kick-start their season.
The first quarter was an arm-wrestle, as both sides landed blows onto the fall victim with the counter-punch. There were lead changes and momentum shifts, with not much separating the two sides around the ground. Three goals apiece, with the Dragons leading by three points at the first change. It was looking like a closely-contested struggle, but no clear winner emerged in the early exchanges.
But when the teams changed ends for the second quarter, a different story began to take shape. It was the Dragons who stepped up, and they would take full advantage in the second term. While two teams had scrapped in the first term, the Dragons were emerging with clean possessions and the Bats struggled to exert any control over the board. The run of play was running with the Dragons, and the scoreboard told the tale loud and clear. A 38-point half time lead to the Dragons after landing seven goals for the quarter and holding the Bats to only two. The Olds Park clubhouse was buzzing with satisfaction at the long break as the chance of victory was scented.
UTS won the third quarter, but not by enough to get back into the contest. It was a free-flowing quarter of footy, with both sides getting plenty of the ball. There were enough trick shots and individual highlights which kept the crowd entertained. The Bats kicked four goals to three for the quarter, but the Dragons were still sitting on a 30-point advantage at three quarter time; and were looking comfortable.
St George weren’t going to slow down there as they still had plenty more work to do. A poor start to the season not only left the Dragons with a shortage of wins but a low percentage. And in their efforts to salvage the season, here was an opportunity to do something about their percentage deficit. They put the foot down in the last quarter, compounding the UTS misery with another massive quarter of footy. Seven unanswered goals would go to the home team in the last quarter, as they dominated possession around the ground and created no shortage of opportunities. This was the quarter of footy that the Dragons’ faithful had been waiting for, and finally it came as the Bats were put to the sword.
The Dragons were breathing fire as they raced to a 73-point win. Noah Casalini starred up forward with four goals, as well as a contender for mark of the season as he soared over his opponent and took the grab with ease. Taylor Preece, Matthew Saunders and Jacob Dol also featured prominently for the Dragons. It was an all-round solid team effort by a St George line-up that is starting to find their best form.
Tim Breadmore, Adam Tarrant and Daniel Crouch were best for UTS who remain winless in 2019. It’s been a disappointing start to the season for the Bats as they already sit two games clear at the bottom of the ladder and we’re not halfway through yet. Although still mathematically possible, it would take something extraordinary for the Bats to make the finals from here.
In other matches, Sydney Uni returned to the winning list with a comfortable 42 point win over an inaccurate Pennant Hills at Mike Kenny Oval. North Shore were in control throughout with an easy 59-point win over Camden at Fairfax Reserve. Manly had their second win on the trot as they defeated Inner West by 37 points at Weldon Oval. And UNSW-ES maintained their hold on second place with a 28-point result against East Coast Eagles at Kanebridge Oval.
The competition takes a week off over the long weekend. North Shore and UNSW-ES go into the long weekend with the ladder leadership and seven wins from eight starts. Sydney Uni and East Coast are a game behind and there’s a two-game break to Pennant Hills in fifth.
The Demons stay comfortably in the five, a game plus plenty of percentage ahead of Manly and St George. Inner West and Camden are a further game behind and UTS sit two games behind them at the bottom.
St George Dragons – 3.5 | 10.8 | 13.11 | 20.13 (133)
UTS Australian Football Club – 3.2 | 5.3 | 9.5 | 9.6 (60)
St George Goals – N Casalini 4, W Mudge 3, B Jones 2, L Bognar 2, M Bridgland 2, M Saunders 2, E Maher, N McKenzie-Hicks, D Michalak, P Tegg, J Dol
St George Best – T Preece, M Saunders, J Dol, C Flanagan, N Casalini, W Mudge
UTS AFC Goals – A Tarrant 3, j Harrison 2, D Smith 2, J Moyle, L Borrillo
UTS AFC Best – T Breadmore, A Tarrant, D Crouch, M Swift, A McKenzie, T Nixon