AFL Sydney Premier Division Men’s & Women’s- Round 16 Preview
Written by Michael Shillito
It’s the final countdown. (Roll the music).
Just three rounds remain in the Mens Premier Division. St George have the bye this week, and the Dragons will be anxiously watching on, comparing their static match ratio with the variations that will unfold around them.
For the women, this is the last round of the regular season. And the battle for the finals comes down to the last round. Six teams remain in the hunt, and there’ll be plenty of people and clubs waiting with keen anticipation to see how the results around the ground unfold.
MENS PREMIER DIVISION
Manly-Warringah Wolves v Inner West Magpies
Weldon Oval, Saturday 12:30pm
We begin with a lunchtime match-up between the Wolves and the Magpies at Weldon Oval. Manly can’t make the finals, but they’ll be looking to capitalise on last week’s result to generate some positive momentum to end the season. While it’s now do-or-die for the Magpies, with their finals hopes needing a big result here.
The Wolves have had their frustrations this year, and a 11-game losing streak was a tough test for them. But last week they sensed their opportunity, and on a heavy home track they got off to a flying start; and once they had the scent of victory, there was no letting go. A 50-point win over East Coast was a welcome relief for the Wolves, and there was plenty of passion when they returned to the rooms to sing the song. Ky McGrath and James Lugsdin were key contributors for the Wolves. And now the losing streak is over, do the Wolves have the form and confidence to claim some more scalps before the year is out?
Last week was a tough one for the Magpies, as they were unable to stop an impressive UNSW-ES juggernaut to go down by 75 points at Blacktown. Kel Evans and Michael Tuttle battled tirelessly, but they were unable to challenge for the points. It was the Magpies’ third loss in a row, and saw them fall out of the top five. Only by half a game, but they’ll need a win to keep themselves realistically in the finals race.
The two clubs met at Picken Oval in round six, and on that occasion the Magpies completed a 34-point win. The Wolves are at home this time, and they have some winning form behind them after last week’s result. The Magpies can’t afford to take them lightly. But the Magpies desperately need this win. They only have one more game after this, and then have the bye in the final round; and time is running out if they are to return to the finals in 2022.
UTS Bats v North Shore Bombers
Trumper Park, Saturday 12:50pm
UTS won’t be in the finals this season, but the Bats can do some damage and determine who does. And that challenge begins at Trumper Park on Saturday when they host the in-form North Shore.
The Bats had to set the alarm early last week for a morning game across the Bridge on the Gore Hill synthetic. But it wasn’t the result they were hoping for, as they were never in the hunt against Sydney Uni, going down by 59 points. Joshua Ralph and Mark Leddy never stopped putting the effort in, but the Bats didn’t have the firepower to match it with Sydney Uni on the day. It was a result that all but ends the Bats’ finals hopes.
North Shore are second on the ladder, and extended their winning streak to six games last week when they played St George at Gore Hill. Scores were level at three quarter time, but five unanswered goals in the final term set up a 33-point win. Liam Puncher and Jake Veale were prominent for the Bombers; who will be keen to wrap up the double-chance this week. They’re playing UNSW-ES and Sydney Uni in the last two rounds, who will both be a tough pre-finals hit-out for the Bombers.
When the two sides met at Gore Hill in round nine, the Bombers were 59 points too good. The Bombers will be keen to replicate that result, which would ensure they would avoid sudden death in the first week of the finals. But the Bats would love to spoil that. And you’d think that everyone from both clubs would want to stick around and support their club in the Womens match that follows. The stakes there couldn’t be higher.
Sydney University v East Coast Eagles
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 1:45pm
It’s a blue and gold derby at Sydney Uni No 1 as the Students host the Eagles. But it’s a battle between two sides in differing form, with the Students looking for the double-chance in the finals; while the Eagles have a fight on their hands to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Students sit in third spot on the ladder, and returned to form in style in torrential rain at Gore Hill last week, cruising to a 59-point win over UTS; fighting for victory like Riley Fitzroy, this week’s Rising Star nomination, and Jack Dimery. The result opened up enough of a gap to ensure the Students will be playing finals this season. But they’re not done yet; and will be keen for a top-three finish and the double-chance in the playoffs.
The Eagles have had a challenging season, and haven’t been able to achieve a win yet this year. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they let an opportunity pass when they travelled to Weldon but were unable to post a winning score against Manly. Bailey Stewart and Kyle Spencer kept putting the effort in, but it wasn’t enough to get the points. The Eagles have just three more opportunities to sing the song in 2022, and they will need to lift and claim a big scalp if they are to achieve that objective.
The two clubs met at Kanebridge in round nine, and on that occasion it was one-way traffic as the Students dominated from start to finish to win by 121 points. Any Sydney Uni win here will officially condemn the Eagles to the wooden spoon. If the Students can get up here, they have the opportunity to establish a break ahead of fourth and tighten their grip on the double-chance in the finals. With tough games against St George and North Shore to come, the Students will be keen to get the job done this week.
Pennant Hills Demons v UNSW-ES Bulldogs
Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 2:40pm
The Demons return to action after last week’s bye. But it’s a challenging match-up for them as they take on ladder leaders UNSW-ES at Mike Kenny Oval. It’s a game that has plenty of implications for how the finals could unfold, and you can see it all on Kayo Sports and the AFL Sydney Facebook page.
Pennant Hills are refreshed after the week off, and will go in with plenty of confidence. Their last start was a cracker, when the Demons came from behind to knock off Sydney Uni by a point. Theo Moraitis and Stephen Wray were particularly impressive for the Demons, but it was the never-say-die attitude and continuing to put the work in when they were behind that got it done for the Demons; and is the attitude they’ll need to put in this time round.
The Bulldogs are two games plus plenty of percentage on top of the ladder, and a win here will wrap up the minor premiership. Last week they were in impressive form as they cruised to a 75-point win against the Magpies at Blacktown; spearheaded by dominant performances from Mitch Conn and Joseph Burns. When they get their momentum going, the Bulldogs are hard to stop; and the Demons have some work to do to contain the Bulldog form.
The Bulldogs won by 29 points when these teams met at Henson Park in round nine. It was another of the impressive Bulldog performances that has taken them to their lofty heights on the ladder. But the Demons, with the home ground advantage, are going to have to dig deep and pull out a special performance here. Their finals berth is not secure yet.
WOMENS PREMIER DIVISION
Sydney University v East Coast Eagles
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 12:00pm
The Students host the Eagles, and it’s a blue and gold day at Sydney Uni No 1. Both these teams will be in the finals, and the Eagles have already wrapped up the minor premiership. But the Students’ double-chance is on the line, and both teams will be keen to bring some winning momentum into the finals.
Sydney Uni took on UTS at Mike Kenny Oval last week, but despite leading at every change, the Students went down to the Bats by two points. Maryanne Harley and Jennifer Lew battled hard for the Students, but in the end they fell agonisingly short. Back to back losses mean that the double-chance in the finals is not yet secure. They can wrap that up if they win here. Otherwise they’ll be looking over their shoulder. If the Students lose and the Magpies win by an aggregate margin of about four goals, the Magpies will leap-frog the Students into third. The Students could also drop below UTS if the Students lose and the Bats win, but that would need an aggregate margin close to ten goals.
East Coast already have the minor premiership wrapped up, but had a shocker at Weldon last week. With the pressure off, they were never in the hunt against Manly and went down by 37 points. Maddi Finch and Sophie Whitton kept working hard, but for much of the day it was far removed from the relentless Eagle juggernaut we’ve seen for most of the year. It matters little, they’re still top. But the Eagles will be keen to recover and get back to their best form before the finals.
The Eagles won by 11 points when the two teams met back in round nine. Now they’re guaranteed the minor premiership, but they’ll be wanting to take winning momentum into the finals. While Sydney Uni will be desperate to lift their form. They need the win to ensure the double-chance. And they won’t want to be going into finals on the back of a three-game losing streak.
Pennant Hills Demons v UNSW-ES Bulldogs
Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 12:30pm
The clash between the Demons and the Bulldogs at Mike Kenny Oval doesn’t have any bearing on the finals. But both sides have had their highlights this season, and will want to finish the season on a positive note and sing the song one more time.
Pennant Hills have had some impressive form in recent weeks, and continued on their winning ways last week when they held Macquarie Uni scoreless to complete a 70-point win. Alex and Brianna-Lee Wade were particularly impressive for the Demons, as they assumed complete control over proceedings. The Demons have won three of their last four, and in the other game they went so close to knocking off East Coast. Sadly for the Demons, they left their run too late; but the form they’ve shown in the last month is a platform they can build on for next year.
UNSW-ES took it up to the Magpies last week, but after leading at the last change they went down by just four points. Senna Gulden and Mattison Ball battled tirelessly for the Bulldogs, but it was heartbreak for them as they suffered another narrow loss. They’ve come close a few times against finals teams; and although they won’t be part of the finals action this year, there’s plenty to build on for 2023 and beyond.
The Bulldogs won the last clash between the two clubs, back in round nine, by seven points. This time round there again shouldn’t be much in it. Neither team will be playing finals, but both will want to sing the song one more time, and carry the winning feeling through the summer. It’s something to build on for 2023, when both clubs will be challenging to be part of the business end of the season.
Manly-Warringah Wolves v Inner West Magpies
Weldon Oval, Saturday 3:00pm
The Wolves and the Magpies, the two teams that faced off last time we had a Grand Final; back in 2020. And the stakes are high this time round, as both clubs fine-tune their preparation for the finals series to come.
Manly hosted top side East Coast on a heavy track at Weldon Oval last week, and it was a triumph for the Wolves, as they took control of the contest from the start to record a comfortable 37-point win. Roxy Beuzeville and Ash Carter were ball magnets all day, as the Wolves put in an impressive performance against the ladder leaders. The bottom line for the Wolves is that result ensures they will avoid sudden death in the finals; and they will be playing in the Qualifying Final.
For the Magpies, their fate is less clear. They currently sit in fourth place, getting over the line against UNSW-ES thanks to some heroics from Georgina McDonnell and Beth Martini. They can get to third and the double-chance if they win and Sydney Uni lose by an aggregate margin of about four goals. On the other hand, they could drop out of the finals completely if North Shore beats UTS and the Magpies lose by about seven goals more than the Bats lose by. More likely is they will be playing in the Elimination Final. But it’s not guaranteed; and the Magpies can best help their own cause by winning.
The Wolves are secure in second, the Magpies less so. If the Magpies win and other results go their way, they could earn themselves a rematch with the Wolves in the finals. But the worst-case scenario could end their season. The Wolves can’t risk it, they must win. And against a Manly side high on confidence and form, that won’t be easy.
UTS Bats v North Shore Bombers
Trumper Park, Saturday 3:20pm
The stakes don’t get any higher than what’s up for grabs at Trumper Park when the Bats take on the Bombers. It’s a playoff for the finals. The winner’s season continues, while it’s all over for the loser.
UTS have finished the season with a wet sail, winning their last five games on the trot. Last week was close, with the Bats trailing for most of the day against Sydney Uni at Mike Kenny Oval. But in the end they were able to fall over the line by two points; led by the efforts of Samantha Goldrick and Bethany Thom. A finals spot that looked unlikely at the half-way point of the season, comes down to this game. A win or a draw and they’re in. If they lose, they could get a wildcard if Inner West lose their game by about seven goals more; but in all probability a loss will end their season.
North Shore kept themselves in the running for a finals berth last week, a flying start against Southern Power at Gore Hill was enough to set up a 46-point win. Jemma Thorp and Tilly Eder were pivotal for the Bombers, as they quickly and efficiently did what they needed to in order to keep their hopes alive. The Bombers are a game behind UTS but with a better percentage. The maths are simple. A win, and the Bombers play finals. A draw or a loss and they don’t.
The two clubs last faced off in round nine at Gore Hill, and on that occasion the Bombers got up by 34 points. This time the Bats have the home ground advantage, and they’ll want to make it count. The bottom line is simple. The winner plays on in next week’s playoff action. For the loser, it’s over.
Macquarie University Warriors v Southern Power
Macquarie Uni Oval, Saturday 7:00pm
The final game of the regular season, under lights at Macquarie Uni Oval, sees the Warriors taking on the Power. It’s ninth v tenth, and nothing that happens on Saturday night will change that. But it’s a chance to finish a disappointing season on a positive note. And one more chance to impress on the streaming screen, as this match is shown live on Kayo Sports and AFL Sydney’s Facebook page.
Macquarie Uni have won twice this season, but weren’t able to add to that tally last week then they took on Pennant Hills. The Demons got the early jump and the Warriors were unable to trouble the goal umpires all night, going down by 70 points. Melissa Fountain and Caitlin Fletcher tried hard, but nothing was going the Warriors’ way. But they have one more chance to impress, one more chance to take something positive out of the season.
Southern Power have had their struggles this season. But last week at Gore Hill, well behind at half time, they didn’t throw in the towel; winning the third quarter and holding the Bombers to a single goal in the last. Dakota Mason and Kyla Tracey kept putting in the hard yards, and although the Power didn’t get the win they took plenty of encouragement out of the game. But after everything that has happened this year, an opportunity to finish with that breakthrough win is beckoning if they are good enough to take it.
Whatever happens in this game, Southern Power have the wooden spoon and Macquarie Uni finish ninth. A challenging season will end for both clubs when the final siren sounds. But for four more quarters on Saturday is a final opportunity to impress, a chance for a happy ending and to finish on a positive note. It’s an opportunity that only one club can take.