Round 5 Men’s and Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

Now is the month of May. Time marches on, and we have another big weekend of footy coming up. Looking at the weather forecast, it’s going to be one for the mudlarks; so good luck to whoever gets the job of washing the guernseys.

For the Men, we have a full round of matches scheduled, with all ten teams in action. Starting under lights on Friday with an Inner West derby. There’ll be some desperation stakes in the wet conditions; especially at Olds Park where one of the teams in action will get their breakthrough first win of the season.

There’s four games for the Women this week, with St George having the bye. It’s been a tough induction to Premier Division for the Dragons, and they’ll be using this break to regroup and prepare to step up their efforts in upcoming games.

Conditions at most grounds won’t be favourable. The rewards will come to the teams that put in the effort, contest around the ball and prevent their opposition from gaining easy possessions. But to be genuine contenders, you have to get it done in all sorts of conditions. This round will be a test.


Sydney University v Inner West Magpies

Picken Oval, Friday 7:30pm

Sydney Uni – 4th. Won 2, Lost 1, 130.93%. Streak – W1

Inner West – 5th. Won 2, Lost 1, 117.39%. Streak – L1

Our round of footy begins with a rivalry clash between the Students and the Magpies, under lights at Picken Oval. Two teams from the Inner West in what is sure to be a hard-fought local derby; and there’ll be no love lost in this contest. There’s sure to be plenty of interest, and for those who can’t get to the ground, make sure you catch the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

Last week at the same venue, the Students returned to the winning list with a 40-point win over St George. It was a flying start by Sydney Uni that got it done, as they slammed through seven goals to one in the first term to lead by 39 points at the first change. From there, the Students were unable to dramatically increase their lead; but the game was safely won. Nik Dale spearheaded the charge with five goals, and along with Noah Mitchell and Monty Krochmal was among the Students’ best. Noah Mitchell’s efforts were recognised this week as he picked up a Rising Star nomination. The Students will be keen to hit the ground running again this week, and the Magpies can’t afford to let them get away to a big lead early.

After two wins to open the season, the Magpies were swiftly deposed from their unbeaten status on ANZAC Day at Picken Oval when they were never in the hunt against Pennant Hills; unable to score a goal in the first half and going down by 49 points. Ben Zoppo, Dan Hillam and Ben Klemke worked hard for the Magpies; but they were outclassed by a superbly-drilled Pennant Hills side that had come to play. But now is the time to hit back, lift a gear and get the season back on track against an opponent they’ve fought some inspiring battles against in the past.

Both these teams go into this game with a 2-1 record and go into this game in the top five. But it will be hard for both of them to stay there. The winner will find themselves well placed for a move up the ladder and be among the leading contenders. The loser risks dropping back to the chasing pack. In recent years the Magpies have taken the fight up to the Students on several occasions; and the Students can’t afford to take them lightly this time.

St George Dragons v South-West Sydney Blues

Olds Park, Saturday 2:00pm

St George –9th. Lost 3, 45.82%. Streak – L3

South-West Sydney – 10th. Lost 3, 36.24%. Streak – L3

The two teams that are yet to sing the song in 2024 meet at Olds Park on Saturday afternoon. It’s a high-stakes game. The winner will finally enjoy that euphoric feeling of victory; while the loser will be left to lick their wounds and rue another chance that got away.

The Dragons were blown away at the start by Sydney Uni last week, and trailed by 39 points at the first change. They played better after quarter time, but the damage was done. Jonathan Pearson, Lachlan Querzoll and Josh Nicholls put in plenty of work; but the deficit was too much ground to make up. A positive start is all-important for the Dragons in this clash, and if they can get out to a lead, they’ll feel the old confidence returning.

The Blues also had a slow start in their game last week, taking on UTS at Rosedale and conceding eight goals to one in the first quarter. But as the game went on, the Blues came storming home with a wet sail and went so close to pulling off an unlikely win; ultimately going down by just 11 points. The experienced hands of Kyle Devlin and Aaron Savage spearheaded the charge with four goals apiece; while Khy Gibbs, Finbar Delbridge and Josh Duncan were in the thick of the action around the ground. They were too far behind to snatch the win, and they can’t afford to let the Dragons get away from them; but the Blues surely must feel that they’re a chance to take their first win in Premier Division.

After three losses to open the season, both teams are looking for a circuit-breaker; and for one of these teams, this is it. Both have been jumped at the start in recent weeks; and a good start is important this time. Once you hit the lead, you’ll feel the mood lift and the scent of victory in the nostrils feels so good. But the team that falls behind will have that all-too-familiar feeling. It’s so important to hit the ground running this week.

East Coast Eagles v Pennant Hills Demons

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 2:10pm

East Coast – 8th. Won 1, Lost 2, 50.61%. Streak – L2

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Won 2, Lost 1, 142.51%. Streak – W2

The North-Western derby always has plenty of passion and thrills; and the Hills will be alive with the sound of football on Saturday as the Eagles hit Kanebridge Oval for the first time in 2024 to take on the Demons. It’s a game that promises plenty; but if a ride on the Metro to Rouse Hill isn’t for you, you can catch the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

It’s been three weeks on the road to open the season for the Eagles, but finally this week they return to their familiar home at Kanebridge. And they’ll be hoping that being back at home will be kind to them after they were never in the hunt against Manly at Weldon last week, going down by 95 points. Jacob Jones, Adrian Chapman and Baylee Jones never stopped putting the effort in, but the Eagles didn’t have the firepower to match it with a very strong Manly side and never looked like getting back into the contest. After such a good start to the year, knocking off the Bulldogs, the Eagles have had two heavy losses and need to find a way to get back to what they put in at Henson just a few weeks ago.

The Demons have worked their way up to third, winning their last two matches. Last week they played on ANZAC Day at Picken Oval, and it was one-way traffic in the first half as the Demons ran out to a 51-point lead at the long break. The Eagles actually won the second half, but by then the game had been put out of their reach; and the Demons were counting down to victory. Wilson Mudge, Josh Boag and Cooper Lee were pivotal to the Demons’ flying start and again will be called on to stand and deliver for the Demons in this clash.

After the surprise win over the defending champions in the opening round, the Eagles have copped a couple of big losses; and stand at the crossroads. If they can get back on the winning list this week, they remain well and truly in contention. But a loss here, and after such a promising start, this season could get away from them. And the Demons come into this clash in form and ready to go through their paces again. The Eagles will need to find something here.

Manly-Warringah Wolves v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Blacktown International SportsPark Oval 2, Saturday 2:40pm

Manly – 1st. Won 3, 368.42%. Streak – W3

UNSW-ES – 6th. Won 1, Lost 2, 89.22%. Streak – L1

A game with plenty of potential to be a cracker will be fought out at BISP Oval 2 as the Wolves play the Bulldogs. The Wolves have got off to a flyer in 2024 to sit on top of the ladder; while the defending champions have dropped two of their first three, but can never be discounted.

Three big wins for Manly so far in 2024, the most recent coming last week when they dominated proceedings against East Coast to complete a 95-point win. Zac Youlten helped himself to five goals, and along with Lachlan Cameron and Jono Marsh was among Manly’s best. The Wolves had plenty of contributors as they again put in a dominant effort. Confidence is high, the Wolves are playing some great footy; and they’ll fancy their chances against the defending champions.

Meanwhile, defending champions UNSW-ES find themselves under the pump after their second defeat of the season, against North Shore at Gore Hill last week. In a defensive, low-scoring clash, the Bulldogs levelled the scores in the last quarter; but when the Bombers stepped up a gear in the final minutes, the Bulldogs were unable to go with them. Tom Longmire, William Foster and Hamish Morrison played strong games for the Bulldogs; but that was a clash they would have been disappointed to lose. And this will be another tough test against a high-flying Manly side; and the Bulldogs will need to lift for a four-quarter effort here.

The Wolves have put on some strong efforts so far this season, and sit top of the table with an imposing percentage. If they can replicate that form again this week, they’ve got what it takes to trouble the Bulldogs. But there’s still plenty of quality on the Bulldogs’ list, and they can’t afford to let their premiership defence slip to a 1-3 record. The Bulldogs will scrap and defend, like they did against the Bombers last week This will be a test for Manly, and if they can get through this one and take the points, they’ll leave us in no doubt that the Wolves are the real deal in 2024.

North Shore Bombers v UTS Bats

Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 3:30pm

North Shore – 2nd. Won 3, 234.62%. Streak – W3

UTS – 7th. Won 1, Lost 2, 75.79%. Streak – W1

North Shore have got off to a flying start this season, but this week their unbeaten status is on the line on the Gore Hill synthetic as they take on a UTS side that has finally got some winning form on the board.

The Bombes remain undefeated after last week avenging their Grand Final defeat with a 31-point win over UNSW-ES. In a low-scoring game in which the Bombers only scored a single goal in the first half; when the game was there to be won in the last quarter, the Bombers stood and delivered and slammed home five quick goals to get it done. Christian Loone, Tom Meacham and Harry Walker were magnificent for the Bombers. Three wins from three starts, and when they were tested last week they rose to the challenge. So far so good for North Shore; but there’s plenty more work to be done.

For UTS, their first win of the season came last week, when they hit the ground running but had to hang on for dear life before finally claiming the points against South-West Sydney. Hugo Birks snagged six goals in a best-on-ground performance and Ollie Rinder landed five; while Koby Grass and Harrison Dyson picked up plenty of the ball. It was a close finish, but the Bats will finally have the confidence that comes with singing the song. This will be a test for them against a very strong North Shore side, but it’s a challenge they’re ready to embrace.

Flying high, with the home conditions; the Bombers will be hot favourites here. But they can’t afford to take the Bats lightly. The Bats will be confident and fired up, and having had a taste of victory, they’ll be hungry for more and ready to make a move up the ladder. To claim a major scalp would do wonders for the morale at the Bats; and this is their opportunity.


Sydney University v Parramatta Goannas

Gipps Road Oval, Saturday 9:00am

Sydney Uni – 4th. Won 2, Lost 1, 156.47%. Streak – W2

Parramatta – 2nd. Won 2, Lost 1, 229.41%. Streak – W1

The Students and the Goannas lock horns at Gipps Road Oval. Both teams have recorded promising starts to the season, with a 2-1 record so far; and the winner will find themselves well-placed to take their place among this season’s front-runners in the top few places on the ladder.

The Students got here in style after dominating from start to finish to record an 84-point win over St George last week. Such was their dominance that the Dragons were unable to score until the last quarter. Jasmine Smith was the target up forward to finish with four goals; and along with Emma Walsh and Saskia Johnson was among the Students’ best. Two in a row for Sydney Uni builds up some decent momentum for them; but this will be a game to test them.

Parramatta also go into this game with a 2-1 record, but were made to fight for their last result when they were given a test by Pennant Hills at Gipps Road last week. The Demons had a shock half-time lead before the Goannas took control in the third term to complete a narrow seven-point win. Paige Pirotta, Lauren O’Sullivan and the evergreen Amanda Farrugia played key roles in getting the Goannas over the line. You’re not going to dominate every game, but the quality sides will find a way to win even when things aren’t going their way.

Both of these teams have plenty of reason for optimism about how this season has gone so far. But one of them will face a reality check here. Expect a tight and tough contest between two teams that are looking to make a statement about their prospects for 2024. There shouldn’t be much separating these teams when the final siren sounds.

Manly-Warringah Wolves v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Blacktown International Sports Park Oval 2, Saturday 12:40pm

Manly – 6th. Won 1, Lost 1, 206.25%. Streak – W1

UNSW-ES – 7th. Lost 3, 57.69%. Streak – L3

After hitting the winners’ list for the first time in 2024, the Wolves will host the Bulldogs who will be looking for their first win of the season.

Last week at Weldon was a triumph for the Wolves, as they took control from the start and went on to record a comfortable 37-point win over defending champions East Coast. Jayme Saggers, Zara Hamilton and Elise Wallace were prominent performers, but there were many Manly players who stood and delivered and played their roles to perfection on the day. This was Manly hitting their straps and playing the footy they knew they’re capable of; and having achieved that last week, they’ll be hungry to replicate that again this time.

Meanwhile at Gore Hill, the Bulldogs got out to an early lead against North Shore, but were unable to last the four quarters against North Shore and went down by nine points. Emily Conlan managed two goals, while Shelby Koh and Maddy Kohlrusch never stopped trying; but it wasn’t enough to prevent a third straight loss for the Bulldogs. But against the competition’s early leader, they showed that they can be competitive; and if they can stretch that ability over four quarters, that would be enough to worry the top sides.

There’s plenty of quality in the Manly lineup, and last week was a signal of the footy that they’ve got in them. But this time they’ll be facing a desperate opponent, one with nothing to lose and everything to gain. If the Bulldogs are going to be contenders, they need more than they’ve been able to produce so far; and there’s some hard work to be done on a heavy track in this game. But if the Bulldogs can blunt the Manly juggernaut, they’re well on the way to that breakthrough win.

North Shore Bombers v UTS Bats

Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 1:50pm

North Shore – 1st. Won 3, 273.33%. Streak – W3

UTS – 3rd. Won 2, 188.48%. Streak – W2

Two unbeaten teams face off on the Gore Hill astroturf as the Bombers play host to the Bats. Both teams have recorded impressive starts to the season, but there’s still plenty more work to be done.

North Shore are three from three so far; and maintained that unbeaten run with a hard-fought nine point win over UNSW-ES last week. Emily Cleghorn earned herself a Rising Star nomination with a best-on-ground performance, while Sophie de Montemas and Nadja Squires were also impressive for the Bombers. It’s been a good start to the season, but they are yet to face a team that made the finals last year. This is a game that will test them.

The Bats return to action after last week’s bye, and arrive to Gore Hill refreshed and ready to keep their unbeaten record intact. Their last start in round 3 at Trumper Park saw UNSW-ES ask them some hard questions but they came up with the answers to record an eight-point win. Charlotte Owens, Emelye Blades and Serina Baukes came up with the key plays when they were needed to get the Bats home. Now after a week off to recover from any niggles, they’re ready to tackle this challenge and get another big result on the board.

So far both these teams have achieved everything that’s been asked of them. North Shore have made their way to the top, while the Bats are in hot pursuit. But the true test comes when up against a top opponent; and here’s when the contenders and the pretenders are sorted out. It’s show time, and whoever gets the job done here will show the footy world that they mean business in 2024.

East Coast Eagles v Pennant Hills Demons

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 4:30pm

East Coast – 5th. Won 2, Lost 1, 95.70%. Streak – L1

Pennant Hills – 8th. Lost 2, 57.14%. Streak – L2

The Hills derby completes the round, with a twilight encounter between the Eagles and the Demons. After the season started with three games on the road, finally the Eagles get a home game and the opportunity to unfurl their 2023 premiership flag. But they’ve then got a tough game to play in their title defence. And if you’re not able to get up to Kanebridge to take in the action, the next best thing is to catch the match live on Streamer. [link – ]

Last week wasn’t a good one for the Eagles, as they travelled to Weldon and were never in the contest against a Manly side that had turned on their best game plan for the occasion. Michelle Foscarini, Chloe Arndt and Renee Tomkins kept working hard; but the Eagles were never able to get their best game going and never looked like getting back into the game. But, putting that game behind them, they return home and the pre-match unfurling of the flag will remind them of where they were not so long ago; giving them all the more motivation to get back there.

The Demons are yet to record a win this season, but they lost no respect in their fighting effort against the Goannas last week. Putting plenty of pressure on, they held a shock seven-point lead at the long break; but were unable to maintain that lead in the second half. Elly Rudd, Kaitlin Noble and Amy Court put in plenty of effort for the Demons; and they’ll need to replicate that fighting spirit again this week if they are to get over the line here.

Two flags in a row for the Eagles; but last week reminded them that they can’t afford to dwell on past glories, and that there’s plenty of work to be done this season. This time they’re up against a Pennant Hills team that showed plenty of fight last time and are up for the challenge. The Eagles can’t afford to take the Demons lightly here, and this should be a hard-fought contest between two sides for whom victory would be worth its weight in gold.