Written by Michael Shillito

Men’s Premier Division Grand Final

UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs vs. Sydney University – Saturday, 14 September at 3.50pm at Blacktown ISP Oval 1

Sydney footy’s showpiece match takes place on Saturday at Blacktown International Sportspark, with the first bounce at 3:50pm. For the second year in a row it will be a university derby, with UNSW Eastern Suburbs taking on Sydney Uni.

Ten teams played in Men’s Premier Division in 2019, with the top five making it through to the finals.

UNSW-ES were the dominant force for much of the year. They suffered a loss in round 3, back in April, but haven’t lost since. Winning 17 of their 18 games during the regular season with a percentage of 213.36%, the Bulldogs’ premiership defence has gone nicely to plan. After a week off in the first week of the finals, they were then untroubled in recording a 45-point win over Sydney Uni in the Major Semi-Final, earning themselves another week off to be rested and over any niggling injuries ahead of this match.

Jesse Aish has been an unstoppable force for the Bulldogs on the forward line this season. After kicking the goal that broke Student hearts in last year’s Grand Final, Aish has gone on with the job in 2019, taking out the Stan Milton Trophy with 70 goals so far this season. James Pascoe has put in 43 goals and Charlie Burgess-Hoar with 21; giving the Bulldogs plenty of scoring firepower.

Hayden Nichols has been a standout contributor around the ground this season, and has featured in the Bulldogs’ best player list 11 times. Jesse Aish has been listed nine times and Matt Rawlinson eight. These are players the Bulldogs will be looking to for another strong performance to get over the line one more time. It’s been a great season for the Bulldogs; but there is one more mountain to climb.

The Students finished third after the regular season, winning 14 of their 18 games with a percentage of 179.72%. They were 32 points too good for North Shore in the Qualifying Final before going down in the Major Semi-Final. And in the Preliminary Final, they just hung on against a fast-finishing Pennant Hills to take the game by four points and progress to their third Grand Final in a row.

Attacking flair will be critical to the Students putting the highly-fancied Bulldogs under pressure; and the Students have attacking options that can get that job done. Tim Cordner has led the way up forward with 41 goals this season, while Will Stratford has chipped in with 30 and Daniel Smith with 27.

Around the ground, there’s plenty of talented ball-winners with the skills to get and use the ball to advantage. Allister Clarke has been listed among the Students’ best players 12 times this year, while Aaron Day has appeared in the list 11 times and Spencer Krochmal nine times. The Students will need them to stand up and be counted if they are to prevail this time.

The Bulldogs won the first meeting between the two clubs this season, hanging on by two points in a thriller at Henson Park in round 5. It was a much easier win for the Bulldogs in round 17 when they got up by 43 points at Sydney Uni No 1. And the Bulldogs again got the job done in the Major Semi-Final.

On form and reputation, and on the head to head record, it’s hard to go past the Bulldogs. But the Students will be desperate. After being pipped at the post in the last two Grand Finals, they’ll be determined to make sure they don’t let another one slip. They’ll fight it out all the way, and will get close. But the Bulldogs look too strong around the park, and after such an impressive season they look to have the firepower to go back to back.

Prediction – UNSW-ES by 11 points


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