MATCH REVIEWS: Women’s Premier Division Week Two Finals
Written by Michael Shillito
MAJOR SEMI FINAL
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Sydney University – Blacktown ISP on Saturday 31st August
After a week off, the Women’s Premier Division teams were refreshed and ready to go. Their finals series got under way on Saturday morning under overcast skies at Blacktown. It’s been a tight battle between the top two sides this year and another exciting contest was expected as East Coast Eagles took on Macquarie Uni Warriors.
The Eagles have surpassed all expectations in their debut season at Premier Division level. Dropping just one game, finishing minor premiers and recording big wins against the Warriors in both the meetings during the regular season.
Macquarie Uni finished second after the home and away season losing only twice, both times against the Eagles. They finished the season with an enormous percentage as they demolished most opposition along the way. With one of the strongest lineups they’ve fielded all season, they were ready to take the contest up to the Eagles.
Finals is a whole new ball game, and this was a new experience for the Eagles and it took them some time to adjust. The Warriors, experienced campaigners with a host of long-time players in their lineup, knew what to expect. And in the first quarter, the pressure dished out was extreme and the Eagles found themselves shell-shocked at the intensity of the contest. Injuries didn’t help their cause, as a couple of key playmakers found themselves being treated on the sidelines. But the first quarter was all Macquarie Uni; as the Warriors added three goals and held the Eagles scoreless to lead by 20 points at the first change.
The Eagles had to steady, and they did. They had to calm their nerves, and they did. They had the wind in the second term, and needed to do something with it. They had a big deficit to make up, but the Warriors weren’t letting them in. The second side became a defensive struggle, as the Eagles weren’t prepared to let the deficit blow out any further. They still found themselves unable to make any serious dent in the margin they had to make up as the Warrior defence held firm against numerous forward thrusts. The Eagles would manage one unanswered goal for the quarter; but the Warriors still found themselves 16 points to the good as the teams returned to the rooms at the long break.
The Warriors had been the stronger side, but the Eagles were still within striking distance. The Warriors extinguished any hopes of an Eagle comeback in the third term as they assumed complete control of the contest. Led by experienced campaigners who have done it all before, the Warriors showed their class around the ground and put the game out of the Eagles’ reach with three unanswered goals. Leading by 37 points at three quarter time, it was clear the Warriors had the game won.
The Eagles did manage three goals with the wind in the last quarter, but it wasn’t enough to place the Warriors under any threat. And the Warriors would counter with the only goal to be scored into the wind all day. It had been a comprehensive performance, a 22-point victory that ensured their place in this year’s Grand Final.
Lisa Steane, Meagan Kiely and Amanda Farrugia were ball magnets all day for the Warriors. Motivated all season by a desire to right the wrong of last year’s Grand Final defeat, the Warriors controlled the contest all day. And with the win, they are through to the Grand Final and have another week off to recover and prepare.
It wasn’t a great morning for the Eagles. Haneen Zreika, Chloe Arndt and Courtney Torpy kept working hard all day. But a poor start would cost them dearly and playing catch-up footy was never going to work against the Warriors.
It’s not over for the Eagles. They get another shot on Saturday. One more chance to turn their debut season into a Grand Final. And if they can get up next week, the dream of a first-up premiership is still very much alive.
Macquarie University – 3.2 | 3.4 | 6.7 | 7.7 (49)
East Coast Eagles – 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 4.3 (27)
Macquarie Uni Goals – M Brydon 3, S Kaukiono 2, L Russell, G Stanwix
East Coast Goals – R McGartland 2, G Garnett, H Zreika.
Macquarie Uni Best – L Steane, M Kiely, A Farrugia, G Stanwix, L Houghton, L Fassone
East Coast Best – H Zreika, C Arndt, C Torpy, G Garnett, R Tomkins, A Dallaway
MINOR SEMI FINAL
Sydney University Bombers vs. UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – Blacktown ISP on Sunday 1st September
Saturday had turned into Sunday. Winter had turned into spring. And the gloom had turned into blue skies and sunshine.
The Minor Semi-Final at Blacktown was a university derby, with Sydney Uni playing UNSW-ES. The Bombers’ place in the finals was secure weeks before the finals; but they were unable to keep up with the top two and found themselves in the sudden death semi-final. While the Bulldogs were struggling in their title defence, and it was only some heroics on the last day of the regular season that got them into playoff action.
The Bombers were the hottest of favourites, and there was nothing in the early exchanges that suggested there was going to be any deviation from the form lines. The Bombers hit the ground running, keeping the ball on their forward line for much of the opening term and denying the Bulldogs any easy use of the ball. Three unanswered goals in the first term to set up an 18-point lead was an accurate reflection of the contest; as the Bombers had all the answers and the Bulldogs were struggling to create any form of coherence.
Two more unanswered goals to the Bombers in the second term further underlined their superiority in the contest. The Bombers were in complete control, emerging from virtually every contest in possession of the ball and leaving the Bulldogs chasing them. With a 31-point lead at the long break, the game was looking comfortable.
But when the teams returned for the second half, for a few fleeting moments it seemed the teams had swapped jumpers. The Bulldogs, barely sighted in the first half, suddenly swung into action. Two goals in the first few minutes, and suddenly it looked to be a contest. The Bulldogs had momentum, and looked every chance of reeling in the enormous deficit. But as soon as Bulldog hopes were raised, they were dashed. The Bombers steadied, and the half time margin was quickly restored. The quarter would yield three goals apiece as the big-name players began to exert greater influence over the contest. But the Bulldog challenge would come to naught, with the Bombers holding a 32-point advantage at the last change.
The Bulldogs were never a chance to launch another fightback, and their season was coming to an end. But the Bombers were just warming up, and continued on their merry way in the final quarter, adding a further four goals to one to run out comfortable 49-point winners. Adding to the Bulldog misery was a serious-looking leg injury to Tait Mackrill in the final minutes of the game.
Mackrill had been the Bulldogs’ best, while Jodie Hicks and Rebecca Privitelli also featured prominently. But it wasn’t enough for the Bulldogs, who were always going to struggle after suffering a slow start. The dream of back to back premiership glory was not to be.
But the Bombers live to fight another day. Meg Haynes, Kristen Hay and Andrea Roditis were prominent performers for the Bombers; but it had been a solid team effort with plenty of their number making valuable contributions to the cause.
Next up for the Bombers is the Preliminary Final, against minor premiers East Coast. The Eagles, after their loss on Saturday, will have learned their lesson about finals pressure and be ready to bounce back. But the Bombers have momentum and winning form behind them.
Saturday’s Preliminary Final promises to be a cracker. And for the winner, Macquarie Uni and a shot at premiership glory awaits.
Sydney University – 3.1 | 5.2 | 8.4 | 12.4 (76)
UNSW-ES Bulldogs – 0.1 | 0.1 | 3.2 | 4.3 (27)
Sydney Uni Goals – A Laven 3, C Palazzo 3, K Hay, M Haynes, S Gillon, G Mann, R Mitchell, A Wood
UNSW-ES Goals – J Smith 2, J Hicks, R Privitelli
Sydney Uni Best – M Haynes, K Hay, A Roditis, C Palazzo, L Stephenson, M Asquith
UNSW-ES Best – T Mackrill, J Hicks, R Privitelli, I Nielsen, J Smith, A Parkin