Round 1 – reschedule, Men’s & Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but we have some blockbuster long weekend matches.

Originally the long weekend was scheduled for a week off; but the washout in the opening round saw all matches postponed. But now that it’s time to play these games, there’s some intriguing match-ups.

In the Mens, we have 1st v 2nd, 3rd v 4th and 5th v 6th. We also have a replay of last year’s Grand Final in the Womens. It couldn’t have been scripted any better.

Parramatta in the Womens still have this week off, they have the bye. They’ll be hoping the bye doesn’t cause any drop in momentum, as they’ve hit some good form in the last few weeks and have come surging up the ladder.

Some interesting match-ups this round that could have plenty of implications for how the ladder takes shape. This should be a great weekend of footy!!


Pennant Hills Demons v Sydney University Students

Mike Kenny Oval (top oval), Friday 7:30pm

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Played 7, Won 6, Lost 1, 177.64%. Streak – W6

Sydney Uni – 4th. Played 7, Won 6, Lost 1, 160.74%. Streak – W5

A Friday night blockbuster sees two in-form teams fighting it out for third place on the ladder, putting them in pole position in the race for the finals double-chance. This should be a cracker at Mike Kenny Oval; but if you can’t get up to Cherrybrook on a Friday night, you can still catch the action live as it happens on Streamer [link –  ]

The Demons have won six on the trot, and are looking in great form as the season continues to unfold. Last Saturday the heavens opened at Mike Kenny and the Demons weren’t finding it easy in the wet conditions; but still had way too much class for St George and prevailed by 28 points. Wilson Mudge, Nick Hey and Mitch Blow were pivotal to the Demons’ success as they made light work of the heavy conditions, So far so good, but this will be a test.

Sydney Uni have kept the wins coming in; although they were made to work hard at Henson Park last week. It wasn’t easy to control the ball in the wet, and the Students were given a test by a determined UNSW-ES side that stayed within striking distance all afternoon. But when the game was there to be won in the last quarter, the Students stepped up and got it done. Monty Velthuis, Oscar Bosnjakovic and Tim Barton played key roles for the Students; who once again showed that even when it’s tight, they can find a way to get across the line, a quality that will stand them in good stead for this encounter.

Six in a row for the Demons, five in a row for the Students. But for one of them, the winning streak ends here. Whoever wins this one goes into third place, and will move that little bit closer to the double-chance in the finals; as well as drawing level on games with the loser of the North Shore v Manly clash. The loser will be fourth, but still at least two games clear of fifth. It could be another wet night on Friday, so whoever is going to prevail here will need to dig deep. There’s a big edge for the rest of the season at stake.

South-West Sydney Blues v Inner West Magpies

Monarch Oval, Friday 7:30pm

South-West Sydney – 6th. Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5, 73.12%. Streak – W1

Inner West – 5th. Played 7, Won 3, Lost 4, 89.49%. Streak – L2

Friday night footy comes to the Macarthur region for the first time as South-West Sydney host Inner West Magpies in a pivotal clash at Monarch Oval. A win for the home side will open up the race for the top five; while the Magpies can strengthen their hold on a top five position if they can get the points here. A game with plenty on the line, and if your schedule doesn’t allow you to get down to Monarch, you can catch the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

When the newly-promoted South-West Sydney lost their first two games by big margins, it looked like it could be a hard learning curve. But they learned their lessons quickly and have been more than competitive in most games since. And last week at Kanebridge they took out their second win, with a big finish getting them to a 42-point winning margin. Baily McParland, Bailey Stewart and Jordan Pidgeon flew high in tricky conditions to get the Blues home and propel them to sixth on the ladder. Suddenly they’re only a game outside the five, and if they can make the most of their home ground advantage in this one, they’ll draw level with the Magpies and be in a position to make a run for the finals.

The Magpies have just come out of a tough section of the draw where they had to play both undefeated teams back to back. Last Saturday at Gore Hill they were never in the hunt against North Shore, held to two goals and going down by 44 points. Thye Hamilton, Michael Lemme and William Deller kept working hard, but the Magpies didn’t have the firepower to match it with the Bombers. It leaves the Magpies just one game and not a lot of percentage ahead of the Blues; and they’ll need a win here to keep a comfortable hold on their spot in the top five. But if they can get the win here, the Magpies will go back to leading the chasing pack by two games and will be in a much more comfortable position.

It’s 5th v 6th, but depending what happens here, the gap between the top five and the rest will either open up or become a close-run thing. If the Magpies can get the points in this game, they’ll be two games plus percentage clear in fifth place and it will take something special for anyone outside the five to run them down. But if the home side can prevail; then maybe, just maybe, the competition newcomers can dare to dream the impossible dream.

North Shore Bombers v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 12:20pm

North Shore – 2nd, Played 7, Won 7, Lost 0, 244.00%. Streak – W7

Manly – 1st. Played 7, Won 7, Lost 0, 260.74%. Streak – W7

North of the Harbour, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. There’s never any love lost for the Battle of the Spit Bridge; and with top spot on the line, this game has the ingredients to be one of the best games of the season. Gore Hill Oval is the best place to catch the action, but if you’re not able to be there, the next best thing is to catch the game live on Streamer. [link –  ]

The Bombers remain undefeated. Last week it wasn’t easy to get clean possessions as the rain tumbled down and the ball was as slippery as a cake of soap. But North Shore rose to the conditions and shut the Magpies out of the contest, holding them to two goals on their way to a 44-point win. Ethan Grace, James Tidemann and Pat Bolger were the standouts on the day, but it was a solid team effort from the Bombers; and if they can turn on another performance like that on their home synthetic, they’ll be hard to beat.

Manly have also maintained an unbeaten record in 2024, and last week at Waverley Oval they dominated UTS around the ground and despite some inaccurate finishing in front of goals finished with a comfortable 48-point win. Kyle Martin, Willem Smit and Cooper McClennan were in the thick of the action for the Wolves as they kept their grip on top spot for another week. But this is the big test, and the Wolves will have to step up another gear for this one.

This was planned to be the season opener, but that wasn’t to be. It’s turned out to be a blockbuster, with both sides going in undefeated. Only one of these teams will maintain that status; with that team going outright top. Add in the local bragging rights and there’s plenty on the line in this clash. Both teams in form, high on confidence and with plenty of star power in both lineups. This is a game not to be missed, and whoever can get the points in this one will move to premiership favouritism.

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v St George Dragons

Blacktown Int. Sportspark – Oval 2, Saturday 2:50pm

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6, 69.51%. Streak – L5

St George – 9th. Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6, 54.95%. Streak – L1

We’re at Mahoney Park for a clash between two teams whose 2024 season hasn’t gone to plan so far. But this is round 1, no better moment for a fresh start. And one of these teams will find a spark to kick-start their season.

UNSW-ES have struggled this season, and it wasn’t going to be an easy contest against Sydney Uni in the rain at Henson Park. But the Bulldogs fought and scrapped and kept the Students within their sights all afternoon; eventually going down by just seven points despite the efforts of Fred Tricks, Hamish Morrison and Max Geddes. It wasn’t a win, but a good fighting effort; and if they can show that sort of application this week, they’ll be in a position to finally start their revival.

The Dragons were coming off their first win when they travelled to Mike Kenny last week to take on Pennant Hills. But in the heavy conditions, they were unable to gain their second win, held to just three goals as they went down by 28 points. Patrick Tegg, Finnegan Ritchie and Jeremy Woods kept working hard, but the Dragons didn’t have the personnel to match it with a very good Demons side. But now they meet a team with an identical win-loss record; and now’s the time they need to lift and take the opportunity.

It’s been a difficult season to date for both clubs. Just one win so far, and it will be a long way back to get into finals contention. When the season was due to begin, both clubs had higher hopes for this year. But now is the time to re-discover that optimism, to get a fresh start and work their way back. And for one of these clubs, that starts right here. After the trials and tribulations of the season thus far, the morale-boosting four points are there for the team that can step up and take them.

East Coast Eagles v UTS Bats

Blacktown Int. Sportspark – Oval 2, Saturday 5:10pm

East Coast – 10th. Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6, 40.39%. Streak – L6

UTS – 8th. Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6, 62.17%. Streak – L4

Recent results haven’t been kind to either of these teams, but this clash between the Eagles and the Bats presents an opportunity to stop the losing momentum and get a morale-boosting win on the board. It’s four points and a change in direction that’s up for grabs; and it’s there for the team that can stand up and take it. A high-stakes encounter, and if you’re not able to get to Kanebridge, the next best thing is to follow the action live as it happens on Streamer. [link – ]

The Eagles have lost their last six and find themselves at the bottom of the ladder, and needing a lift. Last week they went down to South-West Sydney in a clash that was close for three quarters but the Eagles were unable to keep up in the last, despite the valiant efforts of Daniel Gauci, Nick Johns and Andrew Browning. It was a hard loss to swallow, but now the Eagles need to regroup and attack this contest, treating it as one they can win to get their 2024 campaign up and running.

It hasn’t been a great campaign for the Bats thus far either, and they have only saluted once. Last week at Waverley they were never in the hunt against Manly and went down by 48 points. Josh Ralph, Taine Moraschi and Josh Lee never stopped putting the effort in, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bats in the contest. But now against another team with an identical win-loss record, it’s time to step up. It’s not too late to save the season, but the fightback has to start here.

It could be a heavy track at Kanebridge on Saturday, and both sides will be desperate to change the trajectory of their season. Expect to see some desperation tackling and no easy possessions allowed. But once a team has the smell of victory, they won’t be letting go. Wins have been few and far between; but when the opportunity is scented, suddenly the mood lifts and the self-belief returns. This is the moment, and it’s there for one of these teams. One win here can kick-start something.


UNSW-ES Bulldogs v St George Dragons

Blacktown Int. Sportspark – Oval 2, Saturday 9:50am

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6, 58.44%. Streak – L1

St George – 9th. Played 6, Won 0, Lost 6, 4.29%. Streak – L6

Two teams who desperately need a lift go head to head at Marrickville as the Bulldogs play host to St George. The Bulldogs have saluted just once so far this season, while the Dragons remain winless with a poor percentage. If either of these teams is going to make anything of their 2024 season, now’s the time to get it done.

The Bulldogs have one win on the board, but were unable to double that tally last week when they were held goal-less by Sydney Uni at Henson Park and went down by 29 points. Even with their established top players like Shelby Koh, Senna Gulden and Chloe Anderson in the lineup, the Bulldogs were well behind Sydney Uni on the day. But this is a new day, round one; and against a winless opposition, now is the time for the Bulldogs to step up and give their season a restart.

St George are yet to record their first win for the season, and with a poor percentage are in a spot of bother. Last week at Mike Kenny they were held to a solitary point by Pennant Hills and went down by 27. Hannah Kaine, Sienna Smith and Caitlin Edmonds continued to apply themselves in the wet conditions, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Dragons in the contest. But now, against another bottom-three team, this is when the Dragons need to find another gear and step up.

On this year’s ladder, there’s a big game between the top six and the bottom three. Both these teams, being in the bottom three, have some work to do to bridge that gap. But one of these teams will record a morale-boosting win, the first step along that long road. But whoever doesn’t get the points here will be left behind. This is an opportunity for a win, and it’s there for the team that can stand up and take it.

Pennant Hills Demons v Sydney University Students

Mike Kenny Oval (top oval), Saturday 11:35am

Pennant Hills – 8th. Played 6, Won 1, Lost 5, 57.28%. Streak – W1

Sydney Uni – 5th. Played 6, Won 4, Lost 2, 116.20%. Streak – W1

Finally Pennant Hills are on the board in 2024. After their breakthrough win last week, the Demons have got that monkey off their back. But one win isn’t enough, and they’re still a long way behind the top six. And if the Demons are to bridge that gap, now is the time they have to string some wins together. But it won’t be easy against a Sydney Uni side battling to maintain their spot in the top five.

The Demons captured that elusive first win last week in wet conditions at Mike Kenny Oval, as they scored the only four goals of the game to defeat St George. Elly Rudd, Amelia Bennett and Alex Williams were standout contributors for the Demons, and you could see the confidence lift as they had the sniff of victory. But now that they finally have that first win, the next step is to turn that result into a winning streak; which means going on with the job this week. If the Demons are to become a finals aspirant, there’s a three-game gap to make up; and this game is the first step in that campaign.

Meanwhile Sydney Uni continue on their merry way, sitting in the group of four teams with four wins, three games ahead of Pennant Hills. The Students got there last week when they held UNSW-ES goal-less on their way to a 29-point win; ably led by the deeds of Ella van den Borne, Saskia Johnson and Kendra Blattman. The Students would be delighted with their progress so far this season, but there’s a long way to go; and they can’t afford to risk their form in games like this one.

With a three game break between sixth and seventh, there’s a lot of ground for the Demons to make up. A win for them here is essential if they are to have any hope of making it through. But it won’t be easy against a Sydney Uni side that hasn’t done too much wrong so far in 2024. The Students are in the peloton of teams with four wins so far, and can’t risk falling off the pace. The Demons are going to have to find something special here.

North Shore Bombers v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 2:50pm

North Shore – 6th. Played 6, Won 4, Lost 2, 107.34%. Streak – L2

Manly – 4th. Played 6, Won 4, Lost 2, 181.20%. Streak – W1

There’s always plenty of feeling when the Northern derby takes place, the Battle of the Spit Bridge. And this game should be no exception, with both clubs coming into this game with a 4-2 record and fighting it out in the battle for spots in the top five. This game should be a hard-fought encounter. If you can’t get up to Gore Hill for this one, don’t forget to fire up the Streamer and follow the action from wherever in the world you are. [link –]

After winning their first four games of the season, the Bombers have dropped their last two to fall out of the five. Last week at Gore Hill they led at half time against the Goannas, but were only able to score one behind in the second half and went down by 16 points, despite the hard work of Emily Bliss, Stephanie Krauel and Zoe Hurrell. After such a promising start to the season, the Bombers won’t want to drop off now; and the fightback starts here on their home synthetic against their local derby foe.

Manly come into this game with winning form on the board, after a hard-fought victory over UTS in challenging conditions at Waverley last week. Heavy rain made the ball hard to control all day, and it wasn’t always pretty to watch; but thanks to the efforts of Hannah Woolf, Zara Hamilton and Kenya Fahey, the Wolves were able to get enough of the ball to get over the line by 10 points. It’s not going to be easy every week, but time and again the Wolves have found a way to get the win when it’s tough; a quality that will stand them in good stead for this clash.

Both these clubs entered Premier Division in 2020. In the first four seasons, North Shore have never beaten Manly. But this is a new-look North Shore side in 2024, and they’ve got plenty to play for. A strong start to the season, but lost their last two and will be determined to get themselves back on the winning list. But it won’t be easy against a Manly side has that consistently finds a way to get the job done. This should be a closely-contested match, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if this goes down to the wire.

East Coast Eagles v UTS Bats

Blacktown Int. Sportspark – Oval 2, Saturday 7:30pm

East Coast – 1st. Played 6, Won 5, Lost 1, 214.17%. Streak – W3

UTS – 3rd. Played 6, Won 4, Lost 2, 218.05%. Streak – L1

The Grand Final replay. It was the Eagles who took the honours in the competition decider last year; but now the Bats come to Kanebridge looking for revenge. Both teams have had early success in this new season; and this game has the ingredients of a classic. You won’t want to miss this one, but if the Metro ride to Rouse Hill isn’t for you, you can still catch the action live on Streamer. [link –  ]

The defending champions have barely missed a beat in 2024, and come into this game top of the ladder. They also come in refreshed and relaxed after last week’s bye. Their last start was a fortnight ago at Sydney Uni No 1, when they held the Students to one scoring shot and took out a 56-point win; with Rylee McGartland contributing five goals and Michelle Foscarini, Teagan Germech and Caitlin Reid featuring prominently around the ground. With that sort of star power in their lineup, the Eagles will be hard to stop in any game they play.

UTS have also had a positive opening to the 2024 season, but slipped over slightly against Manly at a very wet Waverley Oval last week, going down by 10 points. On a day when it was difficult to get clean possessions, Gabby Stanwix, Madeleine Quinn and Aoife Barry kept contesting the ball; but the Bats weren’t able to come up with the big plays when the game was in the balance. But last week was an exception to what has been a positive season for the Bats; and they’ll be ready to fight back and return to form in this encounter.

This was intended to be the season opener, with the unfurling of the flag. The flag has already been unfurled; but that won’t stop the Eagles wanting to continue their quest for another title against one of their biggest rivals. But the Bats will be coming to play; with nothing to lose and everything to gain, they’ll throw everything they have at this encounter. There shouldn’t be much separating the two sides in this clash.