Premier Divisions Preliminary Finals Match Previews
Written by Michael Shillito
We’re only a week away from the pinnacle of Sydney footy, Grand Final day. Already one of our Grand Final teams in each division is known.
North Shore in the Men’s and East Coast in the Womens have this weekend off. An extra week to prepare, to recover from any niggles. It’s their reward for winning last week. And while they wait, they’ll be watching with interest to see who their Grand Final opponent will be.
So far we’ve had finals at Blacktown and Henson; and this Saturday we’re at Kanebridge for Preliminary Final day. The penultimate day of the Premier Division season; and the stakes are high. The winners will play Grand Finals, the losers will not.
In the Men’s, UNSW-ES and Pennant Hills will face off this weekend. It’s their second clash in this finals series after a Qualifying Final thriller. Meanwhile in the Womens, Minor Premiers UTS will meet Macquarie Uni, who have come up from the Elimination Final.
To have made it to a Preliminary Final is a mark of a good season. You’re in the top three. You’ve achieved plenty this year. Lots to be proud of.
But you haven’t come this far to only come this far. The job’s not done yet.
There’s a spot in Sydney footy’s showcase game up for grabs; but you have to be good enough, in this high-pressure situation, to get it done. Get it done and you’re off to the big dance.
For those who are heading out to the finals, don’t forget that you’ll need a ticket. Head over to (link – https://www.eventbrite.com/d/australia–sydney/afl-sydney/ ) and get that sorted. And if you can’t get out there, you can catch all the action from both finals live on Kayo Sports and the AFL Sydney Facebook page.
MENS PREMIER DIVISION
UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Pennant Hills Demons
Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 3:30pm
Qualifying Final : UNSW-ES 9.10 (64) def Pennant Hills 9.4 (58)
Major Semi-Final : UNSW-ES 8.7 (55) lost to North Shore 8.9 (57)
Pennant Hills –
Qualifying Final : Pennant Hills 9.4 (58) lost to UNSW-ES 9.10 (64)
Minor Semi-Final : Pennant Hills 11.9 (75) def Sydney Uni 7.14 (56)
While North Shore watch and wait, two determined challengers face off for their place in the Grand Final. They’ve already met once these finals, and now they meet again; a game that could be another thriller to determine the fate of the season.
The Bulldogs are going for their fifth Grand Final appearance in a row; but this is the first time they’ve had to come through the Preliminary Final. On Saturday they came so close to five straight Major Semi-Final wins, as they came from behind and pushed North Shore all the way; but in the end the Bombers just held them out by two points. Jack Bambrick, Ned Hawkins and Jasper Hardy were magnificent for the Bulldogs as they kept coming in the last quarter and came so close to pulling off the comeback win. It was a tight loss for the Bulldogs, but now they must regroup and get themselves up for another challenge.
Meanwhile Pennant Hills are alive and with a spring in their step after their win over Sydney Uni in last Sunday’s Minor Semi-Final. The Demons looked gone for all money at half time, and even at the last change they were still behind on the scoreboard; before racing away with the game in the final term. Brandon Clark, Nick Sparks and Maine Vidler were prominent for the Demons; as they showed the never-say-die spirit that has taken them so far in 2023. The Demons have prepared themselves for this moment, and they’re ready.
In round 7, the Bulldogs got up against the Demons by 30 points; before the Demons turned the tables with a 45-point win over the Bulldogs at Henson Park in round 14. They met again in the Qualifying Final, and it was a thriller, with the Bulldogs getting up by just six points. And now they meet again. The Bulldogs with their impressive lineup that went so close to upsetting North Shore last week, against a Demons side with momentum behind them. There’s no certainties here; it’s all about getting it done on the day. Whoever wants to be in the Grand Final is going to have to fight hard and earn it.
WOMENS PREMIER DIVISION
UTS Bats v Macquarie University Goannas
Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 1:30pm
Major Semi-Final : UTS 3.4 (22) lost to East Coast 7.5 (47)
Macquarie Uni –
Elimination Final : Macquarie Uni 5.12 (42) def Sydney Uni 4.3 (27)
Minor Semi-Final : Macquarie Uni 7.6 (48) def Manly 4.4 (28)
UTS have had a great season, taking out the minor premiership. But now they are under the pump, and need a win against a resurgent Macquarie Uni side to take part in this year’s Grand Final. It’s a high-pressure game and there shouldn’t be much separating the two sides in this encounter.
The Bats have had plenty of success in 2023, dropping just the one game in the regular season as they took out the minor premiership. But finals are a whole new ball game, and the Bats didn’t have the big game experience to match it with an East Coast side who’s been there before; and in the Major Semi-Final the Eagles were 25 points too good for the Bats. Hannah Cerezo, Taylah Canobie and Gabbie Stanwix worked hard all day for the Bats, but it wasn’t their day. But it’s a learning process, and they’ll have taken some lessons from last Saturday’s game. Lessons to apply here, as they strive to get back on track. They earned the double chance, and now it’s time to make it count.
Meanwhile Macquarie Uni Goannas, in their first season as a joint-venture team, have built up some handy momentum in the finals. Last Sunday’s Minor Semi-Final saw them get out to an early lead against Manly, which they were able to maintain for the rest of the afternoon to win their second final on the trot and find themselves only one game away from the big dance. Caitlin Fletcher, Paige Pirotta and Charlotte Latsombath played pivotal roles for the Goannas; who grew in confidence as the afternoon went on. With two straight finals wins under their belts, the Goannas have the form and momentum to launch a serious challenge here.
The Bats won both games between these clubs during the regular season; by 32 points at Gipps Road in round 2 and by eight points in a close contest at Trumper Park in round 10. It’s been a great season for the Bats, and they’ve worked too hard to throw it away with back to back finals losses. But they’ll be made to work hard here against another quality line-up with some good form behind them. With their destiny being either a Grand Final berth or elimination, you can expect to see plenty of desperation on display in this contest. There shouldn’t be much separating the two sides when the final siren blows.