Grand Final Preview – Men’s Premier Division
Written by Michael Shillito
The marquee game of the season, the Men’s Premier Division Grand Final, will complete the 2020 season at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday. For the third year in a row, it will be a university derby, as Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs take on Sydney Uni.
The Bulldogs have won the last two premierships, but for a little while their quest for a three-peat was looking shaky when they lost back to back home games to North Shore and Sydney Uni. But the Bulldogs then hit some form to finish third at the end of the regular season. A thrilling two-point win over Sydney Uni in the Qualifying Final was followed up with a nine-point come from behind win against North Shore in the Major Semi-Final to make it through to the big dance and get a week off to recover and prepare.
In looking for an avenue to goal, the Bulldogs have been well served by the efforts of Tom Banuelos up forward; and they will be looking to him to add to his 22 goals so far this season in their quest to get a winning score on the board. Errol Gulden in the midfield has plenty of class and will be sure to pick up plenty of possessions. And for an x-factor, watch out for Charlie Burgess-Hoar, who turned the fate of the Major Semi-Final with a spectacular high-flying mark and goal when the game was up for grabs; and will surely have another trick up his sleeve this time round.
The Students started the season with eight wins before going down to North Shore in the last round of the regular season to finish in second place. A narrow two-point loss to UNSW-ES in the Qualifying Final forced the Students into sudden-death; but they hit back strongly with a 43-point win over St George in the Minor Semi-Final before overcoming North Shore by 15 points in the Preliminary Final. It’s the fourth Grand Final in a row for the Students; who went down to Pennant Hills in 2017 and the Bulldogs in the last two, all by narrow margins and having more scoring shots than their opponents in all three of them.
The Students have been bolstered with some NEAFL level talent. Watch for Jack Hiscox up forward, one who has had plenty of NEAFL experience and has been a dangerous target for the Students to score 21 goals already this season. Around the ground, Jake Bartholomaeus has dominated; which was recognised during the week as he took out the Phelan Medal. Also keep an eye out for Will Gowers, who has been a consistent performer every week, and the Bulldogs will have to work hard to keep him quiet.
The two sides have faced off twice this season, both going down to the wire. The Students held out to win by a point at Henson Park in round 5; but the Bulldogs turned the tables in the Qualifying Final to take a two-point win.
There shouldn’t be much in this one, and both sides look evenly matched in most areas around the ground. The Bulldogs have got it done the last two years. But three years of pain in going so close should galvanise the Students, they just can’t let themselves fall at the last hurdle four years in a row. And they have enough ability on the park to finally break the 28-year hoodoo and salute at this level.
Prediction – Sydney Uni by four points.
Covid-19 Protocols and Ticketing
To enable AFL Sydney to effectively implement and operate a COVID safety plan, Grand Final days will be ticketed to ensure crowd numbers stay at or under 500 at any time. Tickets are not available to the general public and will not be issued on the gate. The only tickets available have been allocated to each competing team which they will share among players, officials and spectators. Entry into the venue will only be permitted to ticket holders. Contact your club for more information on how to secure a ticket, otherwise you can stream all the action live on our Facebook page.