GRAND FINAL PREVIEW AND PREDICTION: Mens Division Three
Written by Michael Shillito
Mens Division Three Grand Final
North Shore Bombers vs. UNSW / Eastern Suburbs – Sunday, 15 September at 11.10am at Blacktown ISP Oval 1
Mens Division Three was the largest division within the AFL Sydney system this season, with 12 teams taking part. Just two remain, as North Shore Bombers take on Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs in the Grand Final; on Sunday at 11:10am at Blacktown International Sportspark.
So strong have North Shore’s numbers been in 2019 that they fielded two teams in this division. This team, the Bombers, finished second after the home and away season; winning 15 of their 17 games with a percentage of 289.52%. They then got up in a thriller against Southern Power by six points in the Qualifying Final before recording a 31-point win over Camden in the Major Semi-Final. They’ve had a week off to rest and prepare ahead of this clash.
Gordon Smith has spearheaded the charge for the Bombers in 2019, scoring 33 goals for the season to date. Sam Bagot has finished the season strongly to get his tally up to 17, while Tristan Mears has scored 14 for the season; although Mears hasn’t played since mid-season.
It’s been a great season for North Shore Smiths in this division. Laurence and Gordon Smith have each been named eight times among the Bombers’ best; while Jack Bateman has featured six times. The Bombers will again be looking for a big performance from them to get through this upcoming test and take the title.
UNSW-ES were fourth after the home and away season, with wins in 12 out of 17 games and a percentage of 165.55%. They’ve had to come through three sudden death finals to make it to the big one. They began in the Elimination Final, defeating Macquarie Uni by 19 points. Amazingly, in the last two finals they haven’t conceded a goal; in defeating Southern Power by 65 points in the Minor Semi-Final and then knocking off minor premiers Camden by 65 points in last week’s Elimination Final.
While it’s been miserly defence that has got them through the finals, the ability to kick a winning score has also been a feature of their team this season. Troy Nicholl has led the way with 29 goals for the season, while Robert Nguyen has landed 26 and Lachlan Hatty 13.
Brendon Clendenning has been a standout week after week, and has been listed among the Bulldogs’ best 14 times this season. Henry Longmire has been named 10 times; and Thomas Kaldor, Oliver Bruer, Cameron Elphick and Dean Zinn six times apiece.
The two teams have previously faced off twice this season, in back to back meetings late July. The first game in round 14 saw the Bombers get up by a point in a thriller at Gore Hill. It was an easier win for the Bombers the next week, taking out a 21-point win at the Village Green in round 15.
The Bulldogs come into this game in top form, having not conceded a goal in their last two matches. But the Bombers will be tough opponents; and the week off to get over any little niggles will go a long way and helping them last the distance in what is sure to be a physically taxing contest. There won’t be much in it, but the Bombers have got over the Bulldogs twice already this season and have what it takes to do it again and take the silverware back to Gore Hill.
Prediction – North Shore by 10 points.