Round 7 Men’s & Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

Our Premier Division competitions took a week off last weekend for the Rep fixtures against AFL Canberra. The cream of the crop making the drive to the Capital; with the Women taking out the win and the Men putting in a fighting effort but falling just short. And now we return to club competition.

In the Men’s Premier Division, a two-game gap has opened up between fifth and sixth. There’s still a long way to go, but the teams currently in the top five will be feeling positive about how the season has started and will be well placed for a run at the finals. For the teams outside the five, there’s work to be done to bridge that gap and get back into finals contention. And that work begins now.

In the Women’s, there’s a three game break between sixth and seventh. The bottom three have plenty of work to get back into contention. And for the teams in the top six, now is the time to start banking those wins before what could be a tight finals race. East Coast have returned to their familiar spot on top of the ladder, and everyone else will need to dig deep to knock them off.

We have a full round in the Men’s this week, with all ten teams in Saturday action. In the Women’s, North Shore have the bye this week; an extra week to reset after suffering their first loss of the year in their last game.

Five rounds are done, and this week brings us a third of the way into the season. And after a week off, it’s time to get back into it.


Inner West Magpies v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Picken Oval, Saturday 12:00pm

Inner West – 5th. Played 5, Won 3, Lost 2, 116.03%. Streak – W1

Manly – 1st. Played 5, Won 5, Lost 0, 288.89%. Streak – W5

High noon at Picken Oval; and we have the Inner West Magpies, in the top five and fresh from their triumph against defending champions UNSW-ES. But this is a massive test for them, as they take on the undefeated ladder-leading Manly.

At their last start, at Henson Park against the Bulldogs, the Magpies successfully overcame every challenge that was put their way. It was a low-scoring slog in tricky conditions, but the Magpies won every quarter and the Bulldogs were never able to get into the contest. Ben Zoppo, Jesse Manton and Jonathon Bowyer played key roles for the Magpies; it was a solid team effort to hold the Bulldogs to three goals. And now they find themselves in the five, two games clear of the Bulldogs.

Meanwhile at Weldon Oval, the Wolves maintained their unbeaten run with a 47-point win over St George. It took time for the Wolves to hit their straps, and they were letting themselves down with some inaccurate finishing. There was only 13 points in it at the last change, but when the game was there to be won, the Wolves found another gear in the last quarter. On a day when goals were at a premium, Zac Youten led the way with a bag of five; while Sam McMeeken and Keiran Le Jeune also made important contributions to the Manly cause. It wasn’t always pretty to watch, but the Wolves found a way to win; as all top sides must to from time to time.

The Wolves will go into this game as favourites. Undefeated, an imposing percentage, in impressive form. But the Magpies have shown plenty of fighting spirit this season and taken the fight up to highly-fancied opposition. This won’t be easy for the Wolves, and they’ll be made to fight for every possession. The Magpies are on their home turf, and they’re ready for battle. The Wolves can’t afford to take this one lightly.

St George Dragons v UTS Bats

Olds Park, Saturday 12:30pm

St George – 10th, Played 5, Won 0, Lost 5, 39.36%. Streak – L5

UTS – 8th. Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4, 66.89%. Streak – L2

Two sides that are struggling for form face off at Olds Park as the Dragons play host to the Bats. For one of these teams, a welcome win could be the circuit-breaker they’re looking for to kick-start their season. But for the loser, it’s another week where their hopes and aspirations slip further away. The stakes are high, and there’ll be plenty of desperation on display. The best place to catch the action is at Olds Park; but if you can’t get there, the next best thing is to see the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

St George’s luck wasn’t running their way in their last start when they were moved up to Weldon Oval for their clash against the undefeated Manly. But the Dragons found some fight and made life difficult for the Wolves for three quarters; and only 13 points separated the sides at the last change. But with the game up for grabs, the Dragons were unable to match it with the Wolves in the last term and went down by 47. Nathaniel McKenzie-Hicks, Callum Nash and Chris Powell never stopped putting the effort in, but it wasn’t enough to get the Dragons to their first win of 2024. But now at home against another team short of their best form, they need to find a way to lift further and get on top of an opposition.

UTS have also had their struggles this season, but when they travelled to Mike Kenny in their last game they stayed with Pennant Hills for a half, with scores being deadlocked at the long break. But they were unable to keep up with the Demons in the second half and went down by 39 points, despite five goals from Hugo Birks and some solid effort against the odds from Koby Grass and Ash Backlund. It’s a familiar story for the Bats, who have matched it with top sides for a time but unable to complete a four-quarter performance; and that’s something they’ll need to complete this time.

The Dragons are yet to salute this season, while the Bats only have one win to show for their efforts. But both clubs will have identified this game as a chance to get that elusive breakthrough result. You can expect both sides to dig deep here and put every effort in. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. A win here brings the form and momentum, the confidence to believe they can get their season back on track. But only one team will grab that prize and take it away. And for that club, singing the song will feel so good.

Sydney University Students v East Coast Eagles

Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 2:00pm

Sydney Uni – 4th. Played 5, Won 4, Lost 1, 135.29%. Streak – W3

East Coast – 9th. Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4, 44.52%. Streak – L4

It’s a blue and gold derby at Sydney Uni No 1 on Saturday as the Students play host to the Eagles. The Students have quietly gone about their business, getting the wins on the board; while the Eagles are looking for a spark that they haven’t had since the opening round.

Sydney Uni have kept the wins coming, and have four from five; but still giving the impression that they have plenty more gears to step up to when the time comes. Their last start was under lights at Blacktown; and they were given a scare by league newcomers South-West Sydney with scores level at the last change. But when the game was there to be won, the Students prevailed, holding the Blues scoreless in the last. Monty Krochmal, Noah Connick and Max Kozlik played key roles in the final quarter to get the Students over the line. The wins keep coming for the Students, but their best looks like it’s yet to come.

Meanwhile at Kanebridge, the Eagles were well beaten by North Shore; jumped at the start and went down by 83 points. Alex Foxall, Jacob Jones and Ben Currie never waved the white flag; but the Eagles never looked a chance of getting back into the contest. Now they’re up against another high-quality opponent, and they need to find something more this time. To draw on the inspiration they felt on the opening night of the season when they claimed the scalp of the Bulldogs. That was a game that showed what’s possible, but it can’t be a one-off.

The Students are building up to their best football, but still keeping the wins coming. But this time they’re up against an East Coast team that need to find something more. Since that stirring result against the Bulldogs in the opening round, the Eagles have copped four big losses; and will have used the Rep break to reset and will be desperate to re-discover that spirit that took them to that opening round match. Now it’s time to stand and deliver, and they can’t let the Students get away from them in this clash.

South-West Sydney Blues v North Shore Bombers

Monarch Oval, Saturday 2:10pm

South-West Sydney – 7th. Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4, 67.11%. Streak – L1

North Shore – 2nd. Played 5, Won 5, Lost 0, 241.67%. Streak – W5

The vast terrain of Monarch Oval sees Premier Division action for the first time since 2014 as the Blues make their first appearance in Campbelltown for the 2024 season. And it will be a test for them against a quality opponent, with the Blues taking on the undefeated North Shore.

The Blues were unable to take the points against Sydney Uni at Blacktown in their last start, but lost no respect with a solid fighting effort as they came from behind to level the scores at three quarter time. They were unable to score in the last quarter and went down by 16 points; but the Blues had put up a solid effort against one of the competition heavyweights, well led by the efforts of Bailey Stewart, Kain Flynn-Duncombe and Matthew Storey. It’s been a solid learning experience for Premier Division’s newest club, and in the last few weeks they’ve proved themselves to be competitive. But this will be a test.

Their opponent is an in-form North Shore team that has been in imposing form so far in 2024. Their last match was at Kanebridge, when the held the Eagles to a single scoring shot in the first half and raced to an 83-point win. Ned Campbell, Jake Veale and Simon Homsany led the way; and with players of that calibre making an impact, the Bombers are going to be hard to beat. Undefeated, in form, and with plenty of quality players in their lineup; if the Bombers get out to a lead early, it could be a long afternoon for the Blues.

The Blues would be pleased with some competitive efforts in recent weeks, defeating St George and taking the fight up to UTS and Sydney Uni. But this is a new challenge against a very strong and in-form team. The Bombers are fit and firing and haven’t done too much wrong so far this season; and the Blues are going to have to find something special here. And that includes a solid start; if they let the Bombers get away to an early lead, it will be so much tougher to get back into the contest than it was against the Bats or the Students.

Pennant Hills Demons v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Mike Kenny Oval (top oval), Saturday 2:50pm

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Played 5, Won 4, Lost 1, 157.31%. Streak – W4

UNSW-ES – 6th. Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4, 80.81%. Streak – L3

Four in a row for the Demons, and they’re on a roll. Now they return home to Mike Kenny, to take on a UNSW-ES side in trouble. The Bulldogs have dropped their last three, are two games out of the five, and need a spark to turn their fortunes around.

The Demons fourth win on the trot came against UTS at Mike Kenny. The Bats stayed with them for the first half, and scores were level at the long break; but the Demons stepped up the intensity in the second half and pulled away for a 39-point win. Harrison Pitt helped himself to five goals; while Thomas Edmonds, Jonathan Moran and Nick Hey picked up plenty of the ball around the ground. The Demons are building their form up nicely, and have moved themselves into a strong position. But this time they will surely be tested by an opposition that will show plenty of desperation.

At their last start, at Henson Park in the last round before the Rep break, the Bulldogs found themselves in unfamiliar waters, out of sorts and never able to get their game going. Out-tackled, out-enthused and outplayed by a determined Magpies side, the Bulldogs were held to just three goals and went down by 30 points. Fred Tricks, Gus Burgess-Hoar and Sam Young tried hard; but it was one of those days for the Bulldogs when little was going right. It’s been a start to the season well short of their lofty expectations; but there’s still plenty of quality premiership players in the Bulldogs lineup. Surely they can’t stay down all season. And the revival must start here.

The Demons go into this game as the form team. They haven’t put a foot wrong in their last four games, and have made their way up to third with some impressive form under their belt. They’re on their home turf and are looking in good shape. But this will be a test. The Bulldogs will need to find some backs-to-the-wall fighting spirit that they haven’t needed for years. Can the Bulldogs, underdogs for the first time in so many years, rise to the occasion? Their hopes for the season demand that they can.


Sydney University Students v East Coast Eagles

Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 12:10pm

Sydney Uni – 6th. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 148.70%. Streak – W3

East Coast – 1st. Played 5, Won 4, Lost 1, 173.55%. Streak – W2

It’s a lunchtime classic at Sydney Uni No 1 as two teams in impressive form go head to head as the Students play host to the Eagles in a high-stakes contest.

For Sydney Uni, it’s a return to action after a three-week break; with the Students having had the bye in the week before the Rep weekend. Their last start was back on the 4th against the Goannas at Gipps Road; where a strong third quarter got the Students into the lead and pivoted them to an eight-point win. Saskia Johnson, Kara Durante and Arabella Price were in the thick of the action for the Students as they turned on an impressive performance. They’re rested and refreshed and ready to go; and now is the time to click into action and prepare to move into the top five.

The Eagles’ last start was a total triumph as they returned to their familiar place at the top of the table, knocking off the previously undefeated North Shore in style with a comprehensive 57-point win. Teagan Germech, Amelie Prosser-Shaw and Summer Hall were prolific ball-winners; and they had plenty of company as the Eagles turned on their most dominant display so far this year. With form like they displayed at Kanebridge that day, their quest for their third straight premiership is well and truly on track; and the Students are going to have to turn on something special here.

Both these teams have only dropped one game so far this season and are looking in solid form. It’s a tight battle for the top five, and a team with a 3-1 record and a percentage of nearly 150 is a bit stiff to not currently be in the five. But at this stage of the season, it’s all about accumulating the wins; and against a fellow finals aspirant these wins are worth their weight in gold. Expect a high-quality contest between two teams looking to show plenty of fight.

Parramatta Goannas v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Gipps Road Oval, Saturday 12:45pm

Parramatta – 4th. Played 5, Won 3, Lost 2, 173.33%. Streak – W1

Manly – 3rd. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 289.06%. Streak – W3

It will be a clash of two teams with strong finals ambitions as the Goannas and the Wolves go head to head at Gipps Road on Saturday afternoon. Not only will the winner gain four critical competition points, but a key psychological edge against a potential finals rival.

The Goannas have had their ups and downs so far this season, but more ups than downs. 3-2 with a healthy percentage, the Goannas haven’t yet hit their peak form but are getting the results down. Their last start, the weekend before the Rep weekend, saw them comfortable enough when they achieved a 19-point result against UNSW-ES. Brianna-Lee Wade, Megan Mifsud and Lauren O’Sullivan were pivotal to the Goannas’ success; and the Goannas will be looking for big performances again this time. They’re staying in the top five, but still giving the impression that their best is yet to come.

Manly’s last start saw the Wolves win their third on the trot, when they held St George to a solitary point and cruised to a 60-point win at Weldon Oval. Rubie Michniewicz, Montana Bray and Zali Currie were the pick of them, but it was a dominant team effort that saw the Wolves boost their percentage and move into the top three. But their work is far from done; and the trip to Gipps Road won’t be an easy one for them.

At this stage of the season, the top teams will be looking to keep accumulating the wins, but not hit their peak too early. And both these sides have plenty of quality in their lineups; and are building up to something. There are high hopes for this season. But keeping the wins coming is all-important, and the four points up for grabs are very valuable. Four points the winner gets, four points the loser doesn’t. And when finals positions are finally determined, that could be the difference.

Pennant Hills Demons v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Mike Kenny Oval (top oval), Saturday 1:10pm

Pennant Hills – 8th. Played 4, Won 0, Lost 4, 43.60%. Streak – L4

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 5, Won 0, Lost 5, 54.31%. Streak – L5

Two teams without a win so far in 2024 clash at Mike Kenny Oval, looking to finally break their duck. For the winner, there’s that relief of finally getting some points on the board; the prize of singing the song and that feeling that they can turn their fortunes around. But it’s a prize that only one team will win.

The Demons have lost all four of their games so far this season. Their last game at Mike Kenny saw them held to a single goal as they went down to UTS by 31 points. Kaitlin Quinlan, Natalie Pajor and Kaitlin Noble were influential for the Demons; but they didn’t have the firepower to match it with a red-hot UTS side. But that was two weeks ago. After the Rep break, it’s time to come out with a new enthusiasm and a new desperation. They can’t afford more of the same.

The Bulldogs are also yet to salute in 2024. At their last start, against the Goannas at Henson Park, they started brightly and kicked the only goal of the first quarter; but would not score another until late in the game and went down by 19 points. Senna Gulden, Chloe Anderson and Ellie Veerhuis kept putting the effort in, but it wasn’t enough for them to take the points. It’s now or never, and they need to believe this is their opportunity.

Two desperate sides are facing off. Both would have pencilled this game in as being winnable; but they have to turn up and get it done. The team that gets the points here gets a much-needed morale boost. On the board, and with a chance to climb the ladder and taking the first steps towards salvaging their season. But for the loser, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this is going to be a long, hard season.

St George Dragons v UTS Bats

Olds Park, Saturday 2:50pm

St George – 9th. Played 4, Won 0, Lost 4, 5.58%. Streak – L4

UTS – 5th. Played 4, Won 3, Lost 1, 162.73%. Streak – W1

It’s time to stand and deliver for St George. Winless in both competitions, a low percentage and comprehensively outplayed in every match they’ve played so far; this wasn’t the way the Dragons’ debut season in Womens Premier Division was meant to go. But now, after a week off to reset, this is their opportunity to put things right. But they will have their work cut out against a UTS side with lofty ambitions for the 2024 season. If you can’t get down to Olds Park for this one, never fear – you can catch the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

The Dragons’ last start didn’t go to plan, when they had to travel to Weldon Oval and were held to one behind by Manly. Kaitlyn Elsenhuth, Bianca Clayton and Grace Parsons kept working hard; but the Dragons didn’t have the firepower to match it with the Wolves. Now they’re back home, and they need more. More fight, more determination, refusing to concede easy possessions. Now is the time they have to lift their work-rate and get themselves back into this season.

UTS returned to the winning list on their last start, when they recorded a 31-point win over Pennant Hills at Mike Kenny. Pivotal to the result were the contributions of Ruby Reid, Kaitlin McCaffery and Sophia Gaukrodger. Three out of four, and it’s so far so good for the Bats; but there’s still plenty of footy to be played and the Bats will build up their game as the season progresses.

The Bats are back on the winning list, and have only dropped one game this season. After their Grand Final appearance, they have ambitions to go one better this season. It’s a big ask for St George to match it with them. But match it they must. They’ve used their bye weekend to reset, and there’s work to be done. They can’t afford another heavy loss this time.