Round 6 Men’s & Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

Round 6 has arrived, with a full round of Saturday fixtures. It’s been a wet week, another round where the grounds will be soft and the players who contest for possession around the ball will be rewarded. One for the mudlarks, and no doubt there’ll be some heavy tracks to play on.

By now we’re seeing some front-runners emerge, making their way to the top reaches of the ladder and setting the pace. But for those teams outside the top five, there’s still plenty of time to find the optimal game plan and start to string those wins together.

Five Saturday matches are scheduled for Mens Premier Division; with all ten teams in action. So far it’s been the teams from the North; the Wolves and the Bombers; who have set the pace. But there’s a tight pack of teams chasing them, and some clashes between those chasing teams will tell us plenty about where we’re going.

And we have four Womens matches to play out. Sydney Uni have the bye this week. They’ve built up some good form with three wins on the trot to move up to second. But it’s a long wait for them till they play again.

Because after this weekend, everyone gets a week off next week; as Rep Footy returns after a hiatus of several years. The cream of the crop will travel to the Capital for a clash against AFL Canberra; and all club matches will stop for a week.

But before that happens, there’s a big weekend here. Good luck everyone, get out there and play some great footy!!


UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Inner West Magpies

Henson Park, Saturday 1:20pm

UNSW-ES – 6th. Played 4, Won 1, Lost 3, 89.81%. Streak – L2

Inner West – 5th. Played 4, Won 2, Lost 2, 103.77%. Streak – L2

Two teams at the crossroads face off at Henson Park, with reigning premiers UNSW-ES taking on Inner West Magpies. Both have lost their last two, both are under the pump. The winner will get the feeling that they’re getting back on track. But, while it’s not terminal for the loser, they’ll be under pressure.

The premiership defence hasn’t gone to plan so far this season for the Bulldogs, and they have only saluted once so far this year. Last week at Blacktown they got out to a 16-point half time lead over Manly, but were pipped at the post and went down by four points. On a day when goals were hard to come by, Jed Robin scored four; while Owen Turner, Hamish Morrison and Sam Gaden worked hard. But it wasn’t enough for the Bulldogs to take the points, and now they’re in a spot of bother. Still plenty of time to turn things around, and there’s still some top quality players in their lineup. Even if they go down here, they can’t be written off yet. But they need a spark to kick-start the footy they’ve played in recent years.

Inner West Magpies also have some question marks around them, which only a win will erase. Last Friday night it was a bad second quarter against Sydney Uni that cost them dearly in a match which for the remaining three quarters they were more than competitive and only went down by 20 points. Ben Zoppo kicked all four of their goals, and along with Ben Klemke and Josh Croft was among their best. But against an opposition of this calibre, they will need to put in a four quarter effort. If they are able to do that, this game is winnable.

The stakes are high here, and so will be the desperation. The winner will get a confidence boost, and once the players have got their mojo back, there’ll be plenty of passion as the song is sung and they’ll go into the Rep break with a spring in their step. But the loser will find themselves on the wrong end of a 3-game losing streak and risks the season getting away from them. Neither side can afford another slip-up here.

East Coast Eagles v North Shore Bombers

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 2:10pm

East Coast – 9th. Played 4, Won 1, Lost 3, 50.31%. Streak – L3

North Shore – 2nd. Played 4, Won 4, Lost 0, 221.86%. Streak – W4

East Coast started the season as giant-killers with a big scalp under their belt. But three losses since than have put them under pressure. And to get back on track, they’ll have to be giant-killers again as they come up against the undefeated North Shore.

That inspiring win against the defending champions in the opening round felt a long way off when they played Pennant Hills last week. In a game that never reached any great heights, the Eagles stayed with the Demons for a half, but were blown away in the third quarter and went down by 39 points. Harry Elbourne, Ben Coxall and Jacob Jones kept putting the effort in, but the Eagles didn’t have the firepower to match it with the Demons. Against another strong opponent this week, they’ll need to re-discover the spirit of that opening round which took them to victory against the odds.

They’re up against a strong North Shore lineup that hasn’t dropped a game yet this season. Last week at Gore Hill they had little trouble in recording a 48-point win over UTS; a margin that could have been greater but for some wasteful inaccuracy in front of goals in a final score of 13.23. Young guns Angus Loebel, Pat Bolger and Ethan Grace were influential for the Bombers in their win. It was a dominant performance around the ground; and the Bombers will have worked on getting their goal-kicking accuracy back this week.

One win, even a win against the defending champions, doesn’t make a season. The Eagles need more, and it won’t be easy this time. North Shore come into this game undefeated and ready to extend their streak. The Bombers have a strong lineup that hasn’t done too much wrong so far this season; and would have to be favourites. But the Eagles, for all their struggles in the last three weeks, have shown they can claim a big scalp. The Bombers can’t take them lightly.

UTS Bats v Pennant Hills Demons

Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 1:40pm

UTS – 7th. Played 4, Won 1, Lost 3, 69.12%. Streak – L1

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 153.66%. Streak – W3

With just one win from their first four games, the Bats need something to kick-start their season and get them into contention. And it won’t be easy again this week as the Bats find themselves up against a Pennant Hills side that is hitting their straps nicely and building up some good form. It’s an important game for both clubs; and if you can’t get to Trumper for this clash, the next best thing is to see all the action live on Streamer. [link –  ]

It hasn’t been a great start to the season for UTS, and they’ve only got to sing the song once so far this year. Last week they recorded a bright start against North Shore at Gore Hill, but once the Bombers lifted in the second term the Bats were unable to go with them. Ash Bucklund, Josh Ralph and Louis Pribula never stopped putting the effort in; but once again it was a familiar story for the Bats as they found themselves unable to keep up with a top side. And the Demons will be another tough opponent this week.

The Demons last week took on East Coast in the Hills derby, and after a tight first half took control of the game in the third quarter with a six goal burst to set up a 39-point win. Harrison Pitt helped himself to four goals, while Mitch Blow, Cameron Mitchell and Luke Skrivanic were in the thick of the action around the ground. It wasn’t always pretty to watch, but the Demons had the answers to any questions that were asked of them. Three wins on the trot, and they’re playing some good footy; and the Bats will need to find some defensive heroics to keep them quiet.

For UTS, it’s now or never. They can’t afford to let another season get away from them, and another loss here sees them at risk of losing contact with the top five. On their home turf at Trumper, they need to make it count. But the Demons will be a tough test for them; and they’ve hit some good form in recent weeks. The Bats will need to find something extra this week, dig deep and put the Demons under plenty of pressure.

Manly-Warringah Wolves v St George Dragons

Weldon Oval, Saturday 2:30pm

St George – 10th. Played 4, Won 0, Lost 4, 40.56%. Streak – L4

Manly – 1st. Played 4, Won 4, Lost 0, 285.00%. Streak – W4

Times are tough for St George. After a heavy loss to South-West Sydney last week, it doesn’t get any easier for the Dragons as they head across the Spit Bridge to Weldon Oval this week to take on a rampant Manly side that have their confidence up. For the Manly and St George faithful from further afield who can’t get there, never fear. The action will be shown live on Streamer. [link –  ]

Manly are still on top of the ladder; but had to dig deep to stay there last week. UNSW-ES got out to a 16-point lead at half time, but the Wolves refused to concede and got the margin back within a kick at three quarter time before scoring the only goal of the last quarter to take out a narrow four-point win. Barry O’Connor, Lachlan Cameron and Ky McGrath played key roles in getting the Wolves across the line. It wasn’t always convincing; but a quality side will find a way to win even when things aren’t going their way, and the Wolves have shown that they can pull off those wins when it’s not easy.

The Dragons find themselves winless after four games, the most recent defeat being by 93 points to South-West Sydney last Saturday. The Dragons were unable to trouble the goal umpires in the first quarter, and it didn’t get any better as the game went on. Josh Nicholls, Harry Parker and Finnegan Ritchie tried hard all day, but it was one of those days when nothing was going right for the Dragons. But this week they can’t let that happen again. Quick off the blocks, make a statement early and put the Wolves under pressure.

Last v first, on paper this looks one-sided. But footy games aren’t won on paper; and the Dragons surely must come out swinging this week. They can’t afford another slow start, if they do that they let the Wolves off the hook. If the Dragons can put up a fight and put the Wolves under pressure, anything is possible. After such a bad loss last week, the Dragons must put in a bigger effort this time and deny their opposition any easy touches. If they don’t, the Wolves are well on their way to continuing their unbeaten streak and it would be a long afternoon for the Dragons.

South-West Sydney Blues v Sydney University

Blacktown International Sports Park Oval 1, Saturday 5:50pm

South-West Sydney – 8th. Played 4, Won 1, Lost 3, 65.90%. Streak – W1

Sydney Uni – 4th. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 135.56%. Streak – W2

It was a historic day for the Blues last week as they recorded their first win in their Premier Division history. But one win does not a season make; and as the Blues return home this week, they will be put under plenty of pressure by a Sydney Uni team that has won their last two and are building up their game week by week.

The Blues enjoyed their first win in style at Olds Park last week, taking the game by 93 points over St George. The writing was on the wall by quarter time, with the Dragons held scoreless in the opening term as the Blues led by 36 points; and they went on with the job from there. Khy Gibbs kicked four goals in a best-on-ground performance, while Bailey Stewart and Blake Jarvis also featured prominently. It was a pleasing result for the Blues, who now have success to show for their elevation to Premier Division. But they can’t rest on their laurels; there’s plenty more work to be done this week.

Sydney Uni are coming off a wet Friday night clash against the Magpies at Picken Oval; in which a five-goal burst in the second quarter was enough to get them home by 20 points. Max Kozlik, Max Bylsma and Jack Dimery were pivotal to the Uni success, and they’ll be asked to dig deep again to get the Students home this time. Two wins on the trot have put the Students up to fourth, but one gets the impression that there’s still plenty of improvement in this team and they’re ready to work their way up to be contenders.

With some tough games coming up, the Students will be keen to bank a win here. But the Blues won’t make it easy for them. After two tough weeks to start, the Blues have shown themselves to be competitive at this level, and have their first premiership points on the board. They’d love nothing more than to get some points in front of their home support at Rosedale; and they’ll see this as an opportunity. The Students will be a test as to how ready the Blues are to be a competitive force at this level. If the Blues can pass this test, they have truly arrived as a Premier Division force.


UTS Bats v Pennant Hills Demons

Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 12:00pm

UTS – 6th. Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1, 138.00%. Streak – L1

Pennant Hills – 8th. Played 3, Won 0, Lost 3, 49.62%. Streak – L1

A crunch game at Trumper Park on Saturday afternoon puts the Bats up against the Demons. The Bats are looking to get back on the winning list, while the Demons will be very keen to break their losing streak and sing the song for the first time in 2024. It’s an important match, and if you’re not able to get to Trumper Park, you can catch all the action live on Streamer. [link –   ]

Last week the Bats suffered their first loss of the season, when they went down at Gore Hill to North Shore by eight points. It was looking good for the Bats when they led by ten points at the last change, but they were unable to hold the Bombers out in the last term, despite big efforts from Beth Martini, Tilley Edwards-Hill and Charlotte Owen. It was one that got away for the Bats; but the only way to put things right is to hit back this time, and a big four-quarter effort will be required.

The Demons sit on a 0-4 record so far this season; and last week against East Coast, one goal per quarter wasn’t enough for them as they went down by 36 points. Hayley Lowe, Natalie Pajor and Elly Rudd tried hard, but the Demons never looked like getting into the contest against a very strong Eagles lineup. It hasn’t been a great start to the season for the Demons, but they’ll need to keep applying themselves and putting the effort in; and if they can do that, their time will come.

Expect a desperate encounter here. The Bats haven’t yet hit their best footy this season, but surely that will come at some point. But until then, they need to keep clocking up the wins any way they can. And for the Demons, yet to record a win this season, now is the time to step up the intensity. The Bats are a strong side and will be looking to get back into the winning list this time. But the Demons won’t be making it easy for them. Still a long way to go, but it will quickly turn into a difficult season for the Demons if they can’t start recording some wins soon.

Manly-Warringah Wolves v St George Dragons

Weldon Oval, Saturday 12:30pm

Manly – 4th. Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1, 196.83%. Streak – W2

St George – 9th. Played 3, Won 0, Lost 3, 6.73%. Streak – L3

A last-minute fixture change has seen the match between the Wolves and the Dragons shifted to Weldon Oval. It’s a match that puts an in-form Manly side against a St George team that needs to quickly find some form. An important clash; and if you’re not able to get to Curl Curl for this encounter, you can catch the action live on Streamer. [link –  ]

The Wolves have won two on the trot, the most recent being a 27-point win over UNSW-ES at Blacktown last week. The first half was evenly contested, but the Wolves took control in the premiership quarter and four unanswered goals set up a match-winning lead. Hannah Woolf, Zara Hamilton and Kenya Fahey were key contributors to the Wolves as they strengthened their grip on a spot in the top five. They’ve built some good momentum, and will be looking to continue that on their home turf this week.

St George return to action after a bye last week, a much-needed break to regroup and re-focus their efforts for the weeks ahead. They last start was against Sydney Uni, and wasn’t a great day for them as they were unable to score until the last quarter and went down by 84 points. Tahlia Robertson, Kaitlyn Eisenhuth and Caitlin Edmonds tried hard; but the elevation to Premier Division has been tough for the Dragons so far this season. But now they need to find a way to lift and put in some stronger performances at this level; and that starts here.

The Dragons’ first season in Premier Division hasn’t gone to plan so far; and they find themselves at the bottom of the ladder with a poor percentage. Manly away is a tough fixture for them; but even if the win is tough to get, they must at least do something about their percentage. The Dragons need to compete. And that won’t be easy against a well-drilled Manly side that is hitting their straps quite nicely. Manly have the home advantage, and they have every intention of making it count.

East Coast Eagles v North Shore Bombers

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 12:30pm

East Coast – 3rd. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 127.12%. Streak – W1

North Shore – 1st. Played 4, Won 4, Lost 0, 201.18%. Streak – W4

Last year’s premiers against this year’s ladder leaders. This is an attractive match, one that will tell us plenty about how the pecking order of the 2024 season will unfold and whether the Bombers are the real deal this season.

The Eagles returned to the winning list in style last weekend, when they led all the way against Pennant Hills to record a comfortable 36-point win. Rylee McGartland was unstoppable in front of goals to finish with a haul of five; while Caitlin Reid, Jess Whelan and Michelle Foscarini were in the thick of the action around the ground. When they’re on their game, like they were last week, the Eagles are hard to stop; and the Bombers will have to pull out some special efforts to slow the Eagles down this time.

Last Saturday saw the Bombers record their fourth win on the trot, coming from behind to beat UTS by eight points at Gore Hill Oval. Shannon Smit, Charlotte Tidemann and Kate Minchin were prominent performers for the Bombers as they claimed the scalp of one of last year’s Grand Finalists. This time they’re up against the other Grand Finalist, the defending champions. If the Bombers can get the job done here, they’ll leave the footy world in no doubt as to their capabilities for 2024.

If the Bombers can get the win here, they’ll show the AFL Sydney world that they are the real deal and genuine contenders for this year. But it won’t be easy. The Eagles still have a well-drilled lineup, plenty of talent on display; and they are still the benchmark for womens’ footy in this city. And on the Eagles’ home turf, they’ll be hard to knock off. If the Bombers are to get the job done here, they’ll have to earn it.

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Parramatta Goannas

Henson Park, Saturday 3:40pm

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 4, Won 0, Lost 4, 56.17%. Streak – L4

Parramatta – 5th. Played 4, Won 2, Lost 2, 165.17%. Streak – L1

The last match to commence this round is a twilight fixture at Henson Park, a clash of east v west as the Bulldogs play host to the Goannas. The Bulldogs are looking for their first win of the season, while the Goannas are sitting mid-table with a 2-2 record so far in 2024.

Last week the Bulldogs were taking on the high-flying Manly side; and gave a good account of themselves in the first half. Just seven points separated the teams at the long break, but the Bulldogs fell behind when the Wolves lifted in the third term and eventually went down by 27 points. Ella McCarthy-Grigg, Zali Deep and Emily-Summer Hawes battled gamely for the Bulldogs, but it wasn’t enough to get their breakthrough win. But now they go round again, on their home deck at Henson. And the Bulldogs will need to pull out all the stops and put in a special effort here. They need a big scalp, and they must believe this is their opportunity.

The Goannas had an early start to their match against Sydney Uni last week at Gipps Road; but in the end they also fell behind in the premiership quarter and went down by eight points Zoe Clubb, Zara Stanford and Ashley Gray worked hard for the Goannas; but the loss left them with a 2-2 record and they stand at the crossroads. If they drop this game, they risk falling out of the top five. But a win will give them the feeling that they’re back on track. This week is important for the Goannas.

It’s time for the Bulldogs to lift. Four straight losses sees them at risk of losing contact with the top five; and this clash against the fifth-ranked team is their chance to keep in touch with the finals positions. But it won’t be easy. The Goannas, after their loss to Sydney Uni last week, will be sure to hit back hard. There’s some hard work to be done here, and neither side will be willing to concede anything to the other.