Men’s Premier Division MOTW: Bulldogs clinch minor premiership with commanding win over Students
Written by Michael Shillito
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Sydney University – Sydney Uni No 1 Oval on Saturday 10th August
For much of this season, it looked like the finalists and the match-ups for the first weekend of the finals were set in stone. Some recent results saw those seemingly certain permutations thrown into doubt. But the penultimate round of the season ended all doubt, and our final five are now locked in and ready to go.
It’s been a tight battle at the top, with last year’s Grand Finalists, UNSW Eastern Suburbs and Sydney Uni battling it out. The Bulldogs went into Saturday’s clash with only one defeat so far this season, while the Students had only lowered their colours twice. Last year’s Grand Final was a thriller, and the meeting earlier this year between the two sides had also gone down to the wire. This match had the potential to be another close encounter, but in the end it was a one-sided display.
Winter has come late this year, and although the sun was shining, a cold wind was blowing at Sydney Uni No 1. The conditions made it difficult to control the footy as the inconsistent, blustery breeze saw the ball move unpredictably in the air.
The Bulldogs were kicking with the wind in the first quarter, and used the conditions to their advantage as they set up a break which ensured they would hold the lead for the rest of the day. Despite conceding an early goal to the Students, the Bulldogs were winning the ball out of the centre most of the time, and creating plenty of opportunities up forward. Four of those chances went through the big sticks, and the Bulldogs were looking in control as they led by 17 points at the first change.
When the Students had the wind in the second term, they found themselves struggling to establish the same control over the conditions, and were frustrated by a resolute Bulldog defence that consistently cleared the ball out of the danger zone. The Students were only able to penetrate the big sticks twice, while the Bulldogs got one at the other end. The Bulldogs returned to the rooms at half time holding a 13-point advantage, and feeling they had the opportunity to put the game beyond the Students’ reach when the premiership quarter came around.
It wasn’t always easy for the Bulldogs in the third term, and despite creating numerous chances up forward they were only able to convert three into goals. But that was more than enough, as the Students struggled to get the ball anywhere near their forward 50; and the home side was unable to conjure up a major score for the quarter. The Bulldogs had a spring in their step as the quarter progressed, and when the three-quarter time siren sounded, they led by 32 points and the contest was beyond doubt.
They would go on with the job in the final quarter, kicking two goals into the wind while holding the Students goal-less. The final margin of 53 points was a comprehensive result, a far cry from recent close contests between the two sides. It was a result that not only secured the points on this occasion, but one that sets up a key psychological edge ahead of a potential finals clash between the two sides.
Jesse Aish, hero of last year’s Grand Final, again showed his value against the Students with a four-goal haul. Around the grounds, Hayden Nichols, Liam Hoy and Darren Pfeiffer featured prominently for the Bulldogs. The result wraps up the minor premiership, with the Bulldogs having not lost since April. After next week’s final round, the Bulldogs will have the first week of the finals off before being seeded straight into the Second Semi-Final.
Alister Clarke, Aaron Day and Spencer Krochmal were key performers for the Students. But this was a disappointing result for them against a likely finals opponent, being held to just three goals. The Students’ season is far from over. There’s one more round to go in the regular season and then they will face North Shore in the Qualifying Final.
Inner West Magpies needed a big win against Manly at Picken Oval to have any hope of playing off in the finals. This wasn’t the case as the Magpies’ chances came to an end when they went down to the Wolves by three points. This result ensured that East Coast Eagles and Pennant Hills will play in the Elimination Final; and those two teams faced off at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday, with the Eagles landing a key blow ahead of the finals with a 33-point win.
North Shore had a tight contest against Camden at Gore Hill, with the Cats pushing the Bombers all the way and the Bombers only just falling over the line by eight points. In a game that had no bearing on this year’s finals UTS AFC Bats took out a 12-point win over St George at Waverley Oval.
And so the final five and their order on the ladder is locked in. Just one round remains. For Inner West, St George, Camden, Manly and UTS, a chance to finish the season on a positive note. And for UNSW-ES, Sydney Uni, North Shore, East Coast and Pennant Hills; next Saturday will be the time to fine-tune their finals preparations. The true test of the season is yet to come.
UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs – 4.3 | 5.6 | 8.6 | 10.10 (70)
Sydney University – 1.4 | 3.5 | 3.6 | 3.9 (27)
UNSW-ES Goals – J Aish 4, H Annear 2, J Brown, J Pawle, H Nichols, M Rawlinson
Sydney University Goals – D Bonney, A Clarke, M Picken
UNSW-ES Best – H Nichols, L Hoy, D Pfeiffer, M Rawlinson, H Annear, B Jack
Sydney Uni – A Clarke, A Day, S Krochmal, T Ayton, M Powys, R Kennedy