Finals Week One Premier Divisions Match Previews

Written by Michael Shillito

After 18 rounds of the home and away season, we’re now at the business end of the year. Five teams remain in each competition. And over the next four weeks, we’ll be knocking one out every week until only our premiership winners remain.

For the team that finishes top, the reward is a week off this week. North Shore in the Mens and UTS in the Womens have earned that reward. A chance for a breather and to get over any niggles they may be feeling. There’s still work to be done. They’re only one win away from being in the Grand Final, but they still have to get that win.

For second and third, the double-chance. A loss this week won’t end their season. But they’ll need to win two games to make the Grand Final; and the team that can get one of those wins here finds themselves playing for a spot in the big game next week.

For fourth and fifth, it’s sudden death. Lose and the season is over. They need to win three in a row to make it through to the Grand Final. It’s been done before, they’re still a chance. But everything needs to go right from here.

Don’t forget, you’ll need to get a ticket if you’re going to games this weekend. Head over to (link–sydney/afl-sydney/ ) and get that sorted.

And if you can’t get to Blacktown, all Mens & Womens Premier Division finals will be shown live on Kayo Sports and the AFL Sydney Facebook page.


Qualifying Final

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Pennant Hills Demons

Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 1:00pm

UNSW (2nd) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 12, Lost 4, 177.83%

Pennant Hills (3rd) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 11, Lost 5, 129.68%

Two teams that you can usually expect to be there at the pointy end of the season face off to kick off our finals series as the Bulldogs take on the Demons at Blacktown. UNSW-ES are the reigning premiers, looking for their fifth consecutive Grand Final appearance; while Pennant Hills return to playoff action after a rare absence last year.

The Bulldogs made their way to second spot when they were 13 points too good for Sydney Uni away in the final round of the regular season. After an evenly-contested first half, the Bulldogs established a break in the third term and got themselves 20 points clear at the last change; enough of a buffer that the Students were unable to find a way back. Brandon Jack delivered the scores when they were needed to finish with four goals, while Jasper Hardy and Oscar Peter were also in the thick of the action for the Bulldogs. It was a strong finish to the regular season for the Bulldogs, but now we’re at the business end and they will need to lift another gear.

Pennant Hills will also need to lift another gear now that we’re into the finals. A strong four-game winning streak, including wins over North Shore and UNSW-ES, came to an end in the last round of the home and away season when the Demons went down to Manly by 33 points at Weldon Oval. Brandon Clark, Stephen Wray and Michael Carroll worked hard for the Demons; but it wasn’t enough to get them over the line. But the Demons had done enough during their winning streak to ensure the double-chance. After missing out on the finals last year, they’re ready for action; and now is the time to make it count.

The clubs have split their meetings so far in 2023. In round 7 at Mike Kenny Oval, the Bulldogs controlled proceedings to record a 30-point win. But the Demons turned the tables in round 14, holding the defending premiers to just three goals as they recorded a 45-point win. This time round the stakes are higher. The winner will find themselves just one win from the Grand Final and will face off against North Shore next week. The loser gets another chance, but will need to win their next two if they are to be in the Grand Final. There’s plenty to like about this contest, and with so much at stake this one could go down to the wire.

Elimination Final

Sydney University v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 1:00pm

Sydney Uni (4th) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 11, Lost 5, 116.85%

Manly (5th) – Home & away seson : Played 16, Won 8, Lost 8, 111.96%

It’s sudden death at Blacktown on Sunday as Sydney Uni takes on Manly. The winner will see their season continue for at least one more week; while for the loser, their season comes to an end. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and there’ll be plenty of desperation in this contest.

Sydney Uni found themselves in the sudden death zone after losing their last two games in the home and away season. Last week at Sydney Uni No 1 they fell behind against UNSW-ES, and despite attempting a surge in the last quarter were unable to make up the deficit. Monty Velthuis, Nick Lees and Spencer Krochmal kept putting the effort in; but it wasn’t Sydney Uni’s day, and the loss saw them miss out on the double-chance. Losing two in a row before the finals isn’t the ideal buildup for Sydney Uni; but finals are a new ball game and they’ll have worked hard on the training track ready to lift for the new challenge.

Meanwhile, Manly lifted their game ahead of the finals when they recorded a 33-point win over Pennant Hills at Weldon in the last round of the regular season. The Wolves took control with a seven goal second quarter, establishing a gap that the Demons never looked likely to bridge in the second half. Mark Dignam, Lachlan Behagg and Nick Marsh were pivotal for the Wolves; as they showed against a higher-ranked opponent that they’re not just in the five to make up the numbers, but they’re capable of matching it with the opposition. The Wolves are coming to play, and despite finishing three games behind the Students on the ladder, they won’t be easybeats.

During the regular season, Sydney Uni beat Manly in round 4 by 16 points at Weldon Oval; and by 16 points at Sydney Uni No 1 in round 14. Both games were reasonably close, and the Wolves have found their best form in the last few weeks. Sydney Uni will have to work hard to hold them out. But despite going down in their last two games, the Students have plenty of quality in their lineup; and they will step up now that we’re into the finals. No-one wants to end their season just yet, and this will be a tight tussle between two teams desperate to deny their opposition a break and keep their season alive. There shouldn’t be much separating the teams in this one.


Qualifying Final

East Coast Eagles v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 11:00am

East Coast (2nd) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 14, Lost 1, Drawn 1, 447.30%

Manly (3rd) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 11, Lost 5, 184.56%

We have a cracker of a Qualifying Final, as East Coast take on Manly. These teams played last year’s Grand Final, and they’re both keen to be in this year’s deciding match. There’s no shortage of big name star power on display in this clash; and the reward for the winner is a match against UTS for the first spot in the Grand Final.

East Coast only lost one game during the regular season, and with such a strong return were unlucky not to get the minor premiership; but such was the strength of UTS’s winning run that the Eagles found themselves second. But they maintained their solid run of form, and last week in the final regular season game the Eagles were 21 points too good for Macquarie Uni at Kanebridge Oval; taking the lead from the start and never letting the Goannas back in the game. Shiarna Tarasenko, Annaleise Barton and Caitlin Reid were standouts for the Eagles; showing the form that they’ll need to replicate to get ahead of Manly this time round.

Manly also go into this clash with winning form on the board, and last week demolished Pennant Hills by 54 points at Weldon Oval. Andrea Roditis, Olivia Cameron and Caitlin Johnson were outstanding for the Wolves as they got an early break against the Demons and never allowed their opposition back into the contest. Manly’s season has hit a couple of road-blocks along the way, but they seem to be hitting their best form now as we hit the business end of the season; and they’re pumped and ready to go.

The Eagles beat Manly by 15 points at Kanebridge in the season opener; and repeated the dose with a 19-point win over the Wolves at Weldon Oval in round 12. But the Wolves have every reason to be optimistic that it will be third time lucky against the Eagles. These are two teams that have done it before, in form, confident and ready to go. Getting it done on the day is of critical importance; and both sides have the personnel to get the job done. In their relatively short period in Womens Premier Division, these teams have already developed a healthy rivalry; and another chapter in the tale will be written in this clash.

Elimination Final

Macquarie University Goannas v Sydney University

Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 11:00am

Macquarie Uni (4th) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 10, Lost 5, Drawn 1, 212.03%

Sydney Uni (5th) – Home & away season : Played 16, Won 8, Lost 8, 108.00%

There’s no tomorrow for the loser of this clash between Macquarie Uni and Sydney Uni at Blacktown on Sunday. Only one team’s season will continue after this clash, so the stakes are high and any mis-step could cost a team their chance of staying alive.

Macquarie Uni’s first season as a joint venture with the Goannas has been a remarkable success, as they came from second last in 2022 to making the finals this season. But their quest for the double-chance fell at the last hurdle when they went down to East Coast by 21 points at Kanebridge last week. Lauren Easton, Amanda Farrugia and Sera Kaukiono kept putting the work in, but the rewards did not come for the Goannas. The loss saw them fall behind Manly into fourth; and now they’re in the sudden death zone. It’s been quite a ride for the Goannas this season, and they’re not ready to finish up just yet; but they have to get it done this time.

Meanwhile, Sydney Uni have had the most extraordinary season. It wasn’t looking too good for them early in the year; and when they went into their first bye in round 7 they had lost five games and their only win was a not-particularly-convincing result against the struggling Southern Power. But after that bye, they began to hit their straps and worked their way up the ladder, only dropping three more games as they slowly moved their way into the top five. With their finals spot assured last week, their 11-point win over UNSW-ES was enough to keep their momentum going; helped along by the efforts of Yasmin Sayer, Natalie Murray and Sarah Tutt.

These teams met at Gipps Road in the opening round, and on that occasion the Goannas got up by eight points. But Sydney Uni turned that result around in round 11 at Sydney Uni No 1 to record a 12-point win. Both games were close, but both teams have shown they can beat the other. Now it comes down to this. Both teams want the win against the other, need the win against the other. And the winner won’t be sad, because two out of three ain’t bad.