AFL Sydney Men’s Premier Division – Round 17 Preview
Written by Michael Shillito
With each passing week the action is heating up. And we’ve made it to August; the finish line is in sight.
There’s two rounds to go for the Men. UNSW-ES have wrapped up the minor premiership, and North Shore have avoided sudden death in the first week of the finals. But it’ll be a tight battle for the last two finals positions, and every game is critical.
MENS PREMIER DIVISION
North Shore Bombers v UNSW-ES Bulldogs
Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 1:30pm
This game has the makings of a cracker, an early taste of finals footy. It’s second v first, both going into this game with winning form on the board. Whatever happens from here, the Bulldogs will be minor premiers. North Shore are second, the lowest they can finish is third; so whatever happens they will start the playoffs in the Qualifying Final and avoid sudden death in the first week.
The Bombers are on a roll, with seven wins on the trot. And last Saturday at Trumper Park it was one-way traffic as they dominated from start to finish to record a 106-point win over UTS. The Bombers had winners all over the ground, with Ned Campbell and Jake Veale the best of them on a day when they underlined their premiership credentials. But the true test for North Shore, and they know it only too well, is to get it done in finals.
UNSW-ES are also coming into this game on the back of a seven game winning streak; but they were given a run for their money by Pennant Hills at Mike Kenny Oval last week. The Demons led for most of the afternoon, but when the game was there to be won it was the likes of Joseph Burns and Cooper Kilpatrick who stood up and got the job done. You’re not going to dominate every week, but the quality sides will still find a way to win when the game is tight.
When the two sides met in round six at Henson Park, a powerful eight-goal final quarter propelled the Bulldogs to a convincing 57-point win. The Bombers will be keen to make a better impression this time, and not to hand another psychological advantage to a team they may well face again during the finals. And both sides, fine-tuning their finals preparation, will be keen to maintain their winning momentum. Once you lose that momentum, it’s hard to get it back.
Inner West Magpies v UTS Bats
Wagener Oval, Saturday 1:30pm
Inner West Magpies take to the field on Saturday for what will be their last game of the regular season. With the bye in the final round, and their spot in the finals still very much up for grabs, the Magpies have to make this week count. You can catch this match on Kayo Sports and the AFL Sydney Facebook page.
The Magpies had to win at Weldon Oval last week to keep themselves in the contest, but they were given a scare by Manly and only just fell over the line by two points. There was never much in it all day, and in the end it took some heroics from Luke Jamieson and Daniel O’Connell when the game was there to be won. But in the end they got the points; far from convincing, but they did what they needed to. And so their season comes down to this, one last chance and the Magpies know there’s no room for a slip-up.
The season has unravelled for the Bats in recent weeks, copping some heavy defeats that have ended their finals hopes. Last week against North Shore at Trumper Park they were never in the contest as they went down by 106 points. Jack Rogers and Tim Campbell kept trying hard, but the Bats couldn’t find a way to regain their mojo. With just two weeks to go, the finals dream is over; and now it’s a matter of trying to find a way to finish the 2022 season on a positive note.
The two sides met at Gore Hill in the opening round of the season, and on that occasion the Bats controlled proceedings to take out an 85-point win. But the stakes are very different now. If the Magpies drop this one, the season is over and Mad Monday comes early. If they get a win, it’ll be a nervous waiting game next week. When their rivals for spots in the Elimination Final, St George and Pennant Hills, play each other.
St George Dragons v Sydney University
Olds Park, Saturday 2:30pm
A pivotal game for the finals will be fought out at Olds Park when the Dragons take on Sydney Uni. The Dragons are playing for the finals hopes, while the Students need a win here to wrap up the double-chance in the finals.
The Dragons are coming into this game off the bye last week. Their last start was a credible performance against North Shore, when scores were level at the last change before the Dragons ran out of legs and the Bombers kicked five unanswered goals in the final term. Matt Kannan and Kyle McKellar kept their work-rate up for four quarters, and the Dragons will be looking for another big effort from them this time. On a ladder that will be determined by match ratio, the Dragons hold onto fourth place; but with the Magpies and the Demons breathing down their neck, the finals spot is not yet wrapped up.
Sydney Uni kept their form going in style at Sydney Uni No 1 last week, when they efficiently knocked off the winless East Coast by 85 points. Austin Lucy and Jack Hiscox were in the thick of the action for the Students, as they made short work of the Eagles to maintain their grip on third place.
The two sides met in round two at Gore Hill, which saw the Students get up by 39 points. But with so much on the line, you can expect to see plenty of desperation and a closer encounter this time.
St George could work their way into the double-chance for the finals if they win this game then beat Pennant Hills in the last round and Sydney Uni go down to North Shore. But that’s to worry about next week. Their finals spot isn’t guaranteed yet; and this is a tough opponent. And for the Students, a win here will be enough to guarantee them a Qualifying Final spot and avoid sudden death in the first week of the finals.
Manly-Warringah Wolves v Pennant Hills Demons
Weldon Oval, Saturday 2:30pm
The last game at Weldon for the year sees Manly take on Pennant Hills. The Wolves can’t make the finals, but will want to give their home town support something to hang their hopes on for next season. While for the Demons, they absolutely must win to stay in the finals hunt.
The Wolves weren’t able to get the points against the Magpies last week, but came so agonisingly close. A closely-contested match saw seven goals from Kale Gabila and plenty of the ball from Hayden Washington; but the Wolves fell just two points short. But there was plenty to be encouraged about for the Wolves; and they’ll be looking to carry some momentum to the end of the season and lay the foundations for a rise up the ladder next year.
Pennant Hills are sixth, their finals ambitions still alive but time is running out. Last week the Demons gave a good account of themselves against the ladder-leading Bulldogs, leading for much of the afternoon but going down by 11 points. Mitch Blow and Ben Matthews were magnificent for the Demons in a good fighting effort. But it was a win that got away; and leaves their finals hopes hanging by a thread. They must win both their last two games.
The two sides met at Mike Kenny in round eight, and the Demons dominated proceedings to record a 93-point win. This time round, the Wolves have nothing to lose. But for the Demons, a win here is a must. If they drop this one, a finals appearance is unlikely; and it’s a rare occurrence for the Demons not to be there at the business end of the season. If the Demons can get the win, their finals hopes will come down to a clash against St George in the final round.