Women’s Premier Division MOTW: Bulldogs break the shackles to keep finals hopes alive
Written by Michael Shillito
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Newtown Breakaways – Mahoney Park on Saturday 3 August
As the business end of the season draws closer, the battle for the last spot in the finals is getting tight. The top three have well and truly wrapped up their spot in the play-offs, but fourth spot is up for grabs, and it’s going to be tight between Southern Power and UNSW Eastern Suburbs.
For the Bulldogs, a clash against bottom side Newtown was one they couldn’t afford to drop. Now was the time they had to make their move, and were looking for a big win against the winless Breakaways to lift their percentage.
In the early exchanges, there was plenty for the Bulldogs to be concerned about. The Breakaways had come to play, and relishing their underdog status were taking the fight up to their highly-fancied rivals. Newtown were tackling hard, piling on the pressure and finding opportunity to move the ball forward. Some long faces could be seen on the Bulldogs’ bench as the Breakaways managed to slot two goals through the big sticks. The Bulldogs managed two goals of their own and led by a point at quarter time. This was not the runaway start that they were looking for against the bottom team.
It didn’t get any better in the second term, as the Breakaway defenders were equal to the task in front of them. A hard, physical term of footy saw no shortage of pressure being applied. There was no room to move for the runners who could clear the ball away from the numerous packs that formed around the ball. Just one scoring shot would be recorded for the quarter, a Bulldogs goal. The percentage-booster the Bulldogs were hoping for had been denied during the first half by a tenacious Newtown side who showed plenty of courage and determination.
The Bulldogs had the lead, but they needed to do more. They needed to lift their percentage, but were held back by the grim defence of the Breakaways. The same pattern of play continued in the third term. It was tight, and the desperation was there for all to see. The Breakaways refused to allow the Bulldogs any advantage and frustration was setting in. Neither team could score a goal in the third term, and just nine points separated the two sides as they moved into the huddles at three quarter time.
The Breakaways had been magnificent. Winless all year and up against a finals contender, they had proved themselves to be worthy opponents. For three quarters they had fought and scrapped which had kept them within striking distance. But when the last quarter came, and the game was there to be won, they had nothing more to give. They had given their all for three quarters and were unable to maintain that intensity for one more quarter.
Finally the shackles were off the Bulldogs and the finals contenders found their groove. Players who had minimal impact for three quarters began to pick up more of the ball. The Bulldogs powered away in the last quarter, adding four unanswered goals. For three quarters it had been tight, but in the end the Bulldogs pulled away. The final margin was 36 points, after a game that for much of the day looked set to be considerably closer.
Senna Gulden, Rebecca Mount and Rebecca Privitelli were influential all afternoon for the Bulldogs. They had been tested, but passed with flying colours, an explosive final quarter giving them the boost they desired. Enough to re-enter the top four. With just two rounds to go, they’re in a finals position and it’ll be up to the Power to knock them off.
Eilish Sheerin, Te Rina Taite and Chavvauhn Calver battled gamely all afternoon for the Breakaways. Winless all season, for three quarters they gave themselves every chance of recording the breakaway victory. But in the end, they were unable to seal the deal and have just two more chances to avoid the dreaded winless season.
The other results on Saturday saw East Coast Eagles stay on top with a 63-point win over Southern Power at Kanebridge Oval. Macquarie Uni remain second, defeating Inner West at Macquarie Uni Oval by 69 points. And Sydney Uni kept their chances of a top-two finish alive with a 21-point win over UTS AFC at Trumper Park.
With just two rounds remaining this is how the finals picture is unfolding.
East Coast Eagles are top, having dropped just one game so far in their debut season in Premier Division. They finish with UTS away and Inner West at home. If they win either, their double-chance in the finals is mathematically guaranteed. Win both and the minor premiership is theirs.
Macquarie Uni are a game behind the Eagles, but with a better percentage. They have a tougher schedule to finish the season, taking on UNSW-ES away and then Sydney Uni at home. They would need to win both their last two and hope the Eagles drop one to win the minor premiership. A win in either of their last two should be enough for the double-chance in the finals unless Sydney Uni were to win their last two by astronomical margins.
Sydney Uni are a game behind the Warriors but with a percentage nowhere near as good. Their finals spot is guaranteed, but they’ll be playing sudden-death in the playoffs unless they win their last two games and Macquarie Uni lose both of theirs. They have Newtown at home and Macquarie Uni away. Mathematically they could make the double-chance if they win both theirs and the Warriors drop one, but the margins in those games would be breaking records.
Five games separate third and fourth. The top three are safe. But just percentage separates UNSW-ES and Southern Power in fourth and fifth, and only one of them will make the finals.
UNSW-ES are ahead on percentage, but they have Macquarie Uni away; while Southern Power are away to Inner West. Then in the last round, the Bulldogs and Power play each other at Henson Park. It’s looking likely that game will decide who makes the finals.
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – 2.2 | 3.2 | 3.7 | 7.11 (53)
Newtown Breakaways – 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.4 | 2.5 (17)
UNSW-ES Goals – R Privitelli 2, S Koh, C Monforte, A arkin, J Smith, E Ross
Newtown Goals – R.J Dennis 2
UNSW-ES Best – S Gulden, R Mount, R Privitelli, M Kohlrusch, T Bool, A Parkin
Newtown Best – E Sheerin, T Taite, C Calver, E Bova, S Pittman