Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Red hot Dragons scorch the Cats
Written by Michael Shillito
St George Dragons vs. Camden Cats – Olds Park on Saturday 6th July
It’s only Camden’s second season in Premier Division, but already they’re building a rivalry with St George. There’s no love lost when the two teams lock horns especially after the Dragons have twice come from nowhere to knock off the Cats in previous encounters.
Heavy rain during the week had seen several grounds around Sydney closed, but Olds Park remained open and the latest installment of the M5 Derby went ahead as scheduled. After the rain came the sunshine, and conditions were good as the match got under way. Both teams sit well outside the top five and with time running out, claiming this win was critical for either to make a late charge for the finals.
The stakes were high as the match got under way and so was the desperation. It was hard to split the two sides around the ground, as both put their bodies on the line and gave everything they had for the cause. Though not always pretty to watch, there was still plenty of intensity in the early exchanges. It was the Dragons who were able to establish the slightest of edges, as they scored two goals to one to lead by nine points after a tight first quarter.
After an arm-wrestle in the first term, the Dragons took the upper hand in the second. As the game opened up, the opportunity was there to make the decisive move. It was the Dragons who stood up and were counted as they lifted their work rate around the ground and began to find some space to run the ball forward and hit their targets. Four goals to one in the second quarter saw the Dragons extend their lead to 24 points at the long break.
It was always going to be hard for the Cats to come back from the half-time deficit. They tried hard in the third quarter, and the ball spent some time camped in the Cats’ forward line. Despite all their efforts, they went backwards as they were only able to manage a solitary goal during the premiership quarter. At the other end, the Dragons were able to better convert their opportunities, landing three major scores and stretching the lead to a comfortable 37 points at the last change.
The Dragons had the sniff of victory in their nostrils and they weren’t letting go. It’s been a rebuilding season for the home side, and wins have been hard to come by. But confidence was returning, and the Dragons had a spring in their step as they went on with the job in the final term. Meanwhile, the Cats’ heads were dropping as the reality of another loss was setting in. The Dragons would add another four goals to two in the final term, as the final margin blew out to 49 points. There was no shortage of passion in the rooms after the game as the Dragons’ players enjoyed a precious opportunity to sing the song.
Tim Coenen, Dom Michalak and Riley Waters were best for the Dragons as they got to enjoy the spoils of victory. The win propels the Dragons to sixth place on the ladder, still three games and plenty of percentage to catch up to fifth-placed Pennant Hills. The Dragons will need to claim some major scalps in the next few weeks if they are to launch a late bid for the finals.
Lachlan Maples, William Gamble and Josiah Ayling kept putting in all day for the Cats. But it wasn’t enough to stop another heavy defeat. The Cats sit in eighth place with three wins and will be hoping to pick up at least three more in the rest of the season to improve on their opening season record.
Around the grounds on Saturday, UNSW-ES got off to a flying start against Pennant Hills and sat on that lead for the rest of the game to record a 31-point win at Mike Kenny Oval. Sydney Uni dominated all day to defeat East Coast by 76 points at Kanebridge Oval. North Shore returned to the winning list with a 76-point win over Inner West at Gore Hill Oval. And UTS AFC broke through for their first win of the season and did it in style with a 55-point win over Manly in a twilight encounter at Mahoney Park.
Two-thirds of the way through the regular season, and last year’s Grand Finalists UNSW-ES and Sydney Uni have mathematically guaranteed their finals place. North Shore’s win and East Coast’s loss strengthens the Bombers’ hold on the double-chance; while Pennant Hills in fifth enjoy a three-game lead over sixth-placed St George.
St George Dragons – 2.4 | 6.4 | 9.8 | 13.9 (87)
Camden Cats – 1.1 | 2.4 | 3.7 | 5.8 (38)
St George Goals – N Casalini 3, P Tegg 3, M Saunders 2, B Jones 2, T Tegg, D Widders, L Bognar
Camden Goals – J Ayling 2, H Bagot, D Thomas, M Maher
St George Best – T Coenen, D Michalak, R Waters, B Jones, T Tegg, M Gray
Camden Best – L Maples, W Gamble, J Ayling, F Fielding, K Veerhuis, D Thomas.