Round 11 – Men’s & Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

We move on another week, and the race for the finals is heating up; and there’s some all-important games up for decision this weekend.

In the Men’s, North Shore remain undefeated, with Manly a game behind. A two-game gap has opened up between second and third; but it’s a tight race for that third spot. Inner West Magpies in fifth, who were well behind Sydney Uni a few weeks ago, have nearly caught the Students. But the Magpies have a crunch game against South-West Sydney this week; one that the Blues need to win to keep their finals hopes alive.

In the Women’s, East Coast remain on top and Manly second. But it’s another tight race for the double-chance; with Parramatta and Sydney Uni a game clear of UTS and North Shore. Unless something remarkable happens, the finalists will come from those six teams and someone will miss out. Parramatta have the bye this week, but will be looking over their shoulder at the results happening around them and what the implications are for their finals chances.

It hasn’t been easy to get the games in, with several wet Saturdays in a row playing havoc with the fixturing. But fortunately for both Premier Division teams, we’ve found a way to get every game in. Everyone in Sydney footy will be keeping their fingers crossed for better weather this time; but you can probably expect to see home more heavy grounds, and it’s not an easy time for those with the job of cleaning the guernseys after a game.

But footy goes on, and we’ve got some big games coming up this week.


Inner West Magpies v South-West Sydney Blues

Picken Oval, Saturday 12:00pm

Inner West – 5th. Played 10, Won 6, Lost 4, 115.11%. Streak – W3

South-West Sydney – 6th. Played 10, Won 4, Lost 6, 84.84%. Streak – W2

It was only a few weeks ago that these teams last met, on that wet Friday night at Monarch when the Blues were unable to score a goal. At the time, the Magpies’ hold on a spot in the top five was looking shaky; but just a few weeks later the Blues are on a roll and have one more chance to keep the finals within reach.

That night was the first game in a three-match winning streak for the Magpies, which has tightened their grip on a finals berth. The winning run has seen them get so close to Sydney Uni’s fourth spot, held out by less than two percentage points. The last win was at Kanebridge last Saturday, when they dominated the Eagles from start to finish to record a 58 point win; with Luke Jamieson, Jye Doyle and Leroy Veerhuis playing influential roles. The Magpies’ stocks are looking brighter now, but there’s still more work to be done.

Meanwhile, South-West Sydney put that loss behind them and have hit some impressive form, winning back to back matches to retain sixth spot. Last week was their best performance yet, as they hosted Pennant Hills and got up in a thriller by four points. Caleb May, Bailey Stewart and Brydon Coles were standout contributors for the Blues. Since joining Premier Division at the start of the season they’ve learned well, adjusted to the higher league and by claiming the scalp of the third-placed team, shown that they are competitive at this level. But to take the next step and challenge for the finals, they need the win here.

Two wins in a row for the Blues, and the competition newcomers have made a solid start to their Premier Division existence. But this game is pivotal. If the Blues can win, they’re just one win behind the Magpies and the finals dream is alive. But if the Magpies replicate the result from Monarch, and Sydney Uni get up in their game, the gap to the finals will blow out to three games plus percentage; a bridge that looks too far. The Magpies, on their home deck, can just about close the finals race and all but lock in our top five for the year.

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Henson Park, Saturday 1:30pm

UNSW-ES – 9th. Played 10, Won 2, Lost 8, 61.70%. Streak – W1

Manly – 2nd Played 10, Won 9, Lost 1, 213.82%. Streak – W2

Just when our defending premiers finally got themselves back on the winning list, they find themselves up against the in-form Manly; and the Bulldogs are going to have to pull out something special at Henson Park on Saturday to retain the winning momentum.

The Bulldogs have struggled with their premiership defence this season, but finally managed to crack a win last Saturday, their second victory over UTS in 2024. It was a close-run contest, but despite trailing at every change the Bulldogs found a way to get the win; with Hamish Morrison, Will Foster and Tom Unger playing key roles in making the win happen. But the Bulldogs still find themselves in ninth place, and with plenty of work to be done to make a move up the ladder.

Manly continue on their winning ways, and last Saturday on an extremely heavy track at Weldon Oval they overcame a slow start to power ahead of Sydney Uni for a 32-point win. Tom Sheldrick, Jono Marsh and Cameron Manuel made light work of the boggy conditions to lead the way to another impressive win. The Wolves have been in strong touch nearly every week so far this season, and just need to keep doing what they’re doing.

The two sides played at Blacktown in round 5, with the Wolves getting up in a thriller by four points. And with the confidence that only a win can provide, the Bulldogs will be looking to take the fight up to the Wolves again this time. But Manly have proved themselves to be a formidable side in 2024, and the Bulldogs will have to lift another gear from last week’s performance to keep their end up this time. If they don’t, one of this competition’s powerhouse teams will have little trouble in going through their paces.

UTS Bats v East Coast Eagles

Waverley Oval, Saturday 2:15pm

UTS – 8th. Played 10, Won 2, Lost 8, 69.39%. Streak – L1

East Coast – 10th. Played 10, Won 1, Lost 9, 61.70%. Streak – L9

Unless something extraordinary happens in the second half of the year, the game between the Bats and the Eagles at Waverley won’t have any bearing on this year’s finals. But for both clubs, who have had their share of trials and tribulations in 2024, here is a chance for a welcome circuit-breaking win in a season where they’ve been hard to get.

UTS let a golden opportunity slip last week when they were run down by UNSW-ES at Henson Park. Despite leading at every change, and despite the efforts of Josh Ralph, Lewis McCormack and Cian Vincent, the Bats went down by four points. The loss leaves them in eighth spot, just two wins for the year. But here is an opportunity to right that wrong and get back on the winning list if they are good enough to get the job done.

The Eagles, after a win in the first game this season, have lost their last nine. Last week at Kanebridge they were never in the hunt against the Magpies, losing every quarter and going down by 58 points. Corey Dowle, Jacob Jones and Scott Brown never gave up; but at no stage throughout the afternoon did the Eagles look like they would get back into the contest. But now, against another team that has struggled to put the wins together, here is their chance to arrest the losing streak and salvage something from this season.

For both teams, 2024 hasn’t delivered what the club has been hoping for. But for one of these teams, this game will gave some welcome respite from the pain of defeat; an opportunity to sing the song and bask in the spoils of a rare victory. But for the other, it’s just another loss in a season that has brought too many. It’s more than just four points up for grabs, it’s a boost to the morale and confidence. And it’s here for the team that can rise to the occasion and take it.

St George Dragons v Sydney University Students

Olds Park, Saturday 2:30pm

St George – 7th. Played 10, Won 3, Lost 7, 70.45%. Streak – L1

Sydney Uni – 4th. Played 10, Won 6, Lost 4, 116.47%. Streak – L3

It will be desperation stakes at Olds Park on Saturday. The home side struggling well outside the five and coming off a heavy loss last week. While the visitors have dropped three in a row and their hopes of qualifying for the finals double-chance are hanging by a thread. These are two teams in desperate need of a win, which only one team can achieve.

St George’s season took a turn for the worse at Gore Hill last Saturday when they were unable to score a goal until late in the game and went down to North Shore by 63 points. Jonathan Pearson, Matt Saunders and Jordan Taylor battled hard, but the Dragons didn’t have the firepower to match it with one of the competition’s best teams. Now they’re back on their turf, but have another tough opponent to take on. Life isn’t easy for the Dragons in 2024, but they need to embrace this challenge and come out breathing fire.

Meanwhile at Weldon Oval last Saturday, Sydney Uni slumped to their third loss on the trot when they were over-run by Manly in hardcore slushy conditions. Tim Barton, Monty Velthuis and Rohan Watson never stopped trying, but the Students didn’t find the conditions to their liking and were unable to last four quarters against Manly. It was a tough section of the draw for the Students, playing the three sides above them in consecutive weeks; and now they are only just hanging on to fourth spot by less than two percent over the Magpies. Not just who wins, but the margin will be critical here.

These teams played at Sydney Uni No 1 in round 4, and on that occasion the Students were 40 points too good for the Dragons. The Dragons have lifted since then to win three games; but are still well short of finals contention. But the stakes are high for the Students, who could potentially drop to fifth even if they win, depending what happens in the game at Picken Oval. If the Students can break the losing streak, all is well for them; but if they don’t, they are in danger of not just keeping falling too far behind the top three to be able to catch them, but from the chasing teams behind them. The Students are under pressure if they go down here.

Pennant Hills Demons v North Shore Bombers

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

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Played 10, Won 7, Lost 3, 148.78%. Streak – L2

North Shore – 1st. Played 10, Won 9, Lost 1, 245.97%. Streak – W10

This must surely be one of the most keenly-anticipated clashes in the home and away season, as the Demons host the Bombers at Mike Kenny Oval. Third v first, two long-time rivals. North Shore coming in undefeated; but this fixture was the Bombers’ only loss in last year’s home and away season. And both sides are set to be there at the business end of this season. There’s plenty of interest in this clash; and for those who can’t get there to see the action live, don’t forget to catch it as it happens on Streamer. [link – ]

But the Demons have hit a little snag in the last couple of weeks, dropping back to back games. Last week at Rosedale they suffered a shock loss to competition newcomers South-West Sydney. It was a thriller, only four points in it; but the loss sees the third-placed Demons fall two games behind Manly. Nick Eynaud, Stephen Wray and Tom Edmonds were impressive for the Demons last week; and the Demons will again be looking to them to stand and deliver.

North Shore keep winning as the weeks tick by. Last week at Gore Hill it was a tough low-scoring affair against St George, but the Bombers held the Dragons to a single goal to take the game by 63 points.

These teams met at Gore Hill on the opening day of the season, and on that occasion the Bombers were 64 points too good. But this time it’s on natural grass in the Demons’ territory, and the Demons have climbed this mountain before as recently as last year. After a couple of hard games on the road, they’re ready for this challenge. But the Bombers will be hard to stop, no-one else has managed to so far this year. And although we’re still only in June, if the Bombers can get up here and South-West Sydney lose their game, North Shore’s participation in this year’s finals will be mathematically guaranteed.


UTS Bats v East Coast Eagles

Waverley Oval, Saturday 12:30pm

UTS – 5th. Played 9, Won 5, Lost 4, 165.16%. Streak – W1

East Coast – 1st. Played 9, Won 8, Lost 1, 278.36%. Streak – W6

The Bats and the Eagles faced off in last year’s Grand Final; and again just a few weeks ago on the long weekend. On both occasions the Eagles took the spoils. Will it be third time lucky for the Bats? They may need it to be to stay in the top five.

Last week the Bats snapped their three-game losing streak with a hard-fought 16-point win over UNSW-ES under lights at Blacktown. It was a win built around the efforts of Kaitlin McCaffery, Hannah Cerezo and Serina Baukes, and it maintained the Bats’ fifth-placed position. But this week they’re up against a quality in-form opponent; and will need to step up another gear.

East Coast lost a game early in the season, but since then they’ve been in ominous touch and few teams have made any form of challenge to their dominance in this competition. Last Saturday on a wet track at Kanebridge, the Eagles dominated Parramatta from start to finish to record a 28-point win. Shiarna Tarasenko, Michelle Foscarini and Caitlin Ford were the leading contributors, but once again it was a display of team dominance as the Eagles shut the Goannas out of the contest. As long as they can maintain form like that, they’ll be hard to stop.

On the long weekend game at Kanebridge, the Eagles were 23 points too good. But this time we’re at Waverley, a ground where the Bats have a strong record of getting the job done. And the Bats will need to lift for this one or, depending on other results, they risk falling out of the top five. But this is a big challenge against an East Coast side that has barely put a foot wrong in the last couple of months. Six in a row and looking good, and the Bats are going to have to put in a special performance to knock them off.

St George Dragons v Sydney University Students

Olds Park, Saturday 12:50pm

St George – 9th. Played 9, Won 0, Lost 9, 5.66%. Streak – L9

Sydney Uni – 4th. Played 9, Won 6, Lost 3, 122.50%. Streak – L1

St George. Winless, under the pump, coming off another heavy defeat last week. Now they’re at home against a Sydney Uni side who need to win to maintain their spot in the top five.

2024 hasn’t been kind to the Dragons in their first season in Premier Division, and they find themselves winless with a very poor percentage. Last week they travelled to Gore Hill to take on North Shore, but were unable to score and went down by 96 points. This week they return to their home deck at Olds Park, and in front of the Dragon faithful they need to find a spark to get their season going. To find within themselves something extra to trouble one of the competition’s leading sides.

Sydney Uni went to Weldon last week and copped a drenching on a very heavy track, going down to Manly by 24 points. Saskia Johnson, Ash Dribbus and Jasmine Smith were among the Students’ best; but they were unable to trouble the Manly juggernaut. The loss leaves them in fourth spot; but against a winless opponent while the third-placed Goannas have the bye, this is their golden opportunity to move into the double-chance spots.

For Sydney Uni, the equation is simple. Win this and they’re challenging for the double-chance. Like they did in round 4 at Sydney Uni No 1, when they won by 84 points. But if the Dragons can somehow find a way to win, the Students risk falling out of the top five. With those high stakes, the Students can’t afford to take the Dragons lightly. And if St George can’t find something more, this could be a long, hard afternoon for them.

Pennant Hills Demons v North Shore Bombers

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

Pennant Hills – 8th. Played 8, Won 1, Lost 7, 43.30%. Streak – L2

North Shore – 6th. Played 9, Won 5, Lost 4, 121.51%. Streak – W1

It’s always a willing contest when the Demons and the Bombers lock horns, and this clash at Mike Kenny Oval should be no different. The Demons have struggled this season, but would love to claim the scalp of one of their keen rivals; while the Bombers need a win here to re-enter the top five. It’s an important match-up that’s best seen live at Mike Kenny Oval; but for those who can’t be there, the next best option is to see it as it unfolds on Streamer. [link – ]

Pennant Hills go into this game refreshed after the bye last week; and looking to use that bye as a fresh start for the season ahead. Their last start, two weeks ago, saw them go down to Manly by 38 points in tricky conditions at Weldon Oval. Kaitlin Noble, Hayley Lowe and Elly Rudd tried hard; but the Demons weren’t able to match it with an in-form Manly side. With one win for the year to date, finals seem unlikely; but the Demons will relish the chance to be spoilers of a rival’s finals aspirations.

North Shore started with four wins, then lost their next four. But last Saturday at Gore Hill Oval they returned to the winning list in style, as they held St George scoreless for an easy 96-point win. Emily Cleghorn, Lucy Yates and Zoe Hurrell were in the thick of the action for the Bombers as the form and confidence returned in an impressive performance. Still plenty of work to be done by the Bombers, but they’ve given themselves every chance of being contenders.

These sides met on the opening day of the season at Gore Hill, and on that occasion the Bombers completed a 23-point win. Now they’re on the Demons’ turf, and the home side would love nothing more than to pull off the upset result and put serious harm into the Bombers’ finals hopes. But for North Shore, just outside the five, there’s some tough games coming up. Now is the time they have to make their move to become genuine contenders. If the Bombers drop this one, it’s going to be hard for them to make it to the business end of the season.

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Wolves

Henson Park, Saturday 3:50pm

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 9, Won 2, Lost 7, 76.31%. Streak – L1

Manly – 2nd. Played 9, Won 7, Lost 2, 238.19%. Streak – W4

A Henson Park showdown puts the Bulldogs up against the Wolves. UNSW-ES have had their share of struggles in 2024, and face a monumental challenge against a Manly side that has hit some strong form in recent weeks and worked their way up to second.

The Bulldogs last week went out west to Blacktown to take on UTS, but were only able to score two goals and went down by 16 points. Ahlani Eddy, Chloe Anderson and Amelia Martin put in solid performances, but it wasn’t enough to get the Bulldogs over the line. With two wins so far this season, the Bulldogs sit three games outside the top five; and time is running out for them to make an impression. To have any hope of getting through to the business end of the season, they need to claim the scalp of some finals teams; and that is the challenge before them here.

Manly won their fourth game on the trot last week when they prevailed by 24 points against Sydney Uni on a slushy deck at Weldon Oval. The Wolves are on a roll, with Hannah Woolf, Zara Hamilton and Ash Carter leading the way last week; as the Wolves showed the application they needed to get over their opponents in tricky conditions. They find themselves in second spot, and building some great momentum as the season unfolds.

The two sides met at Blacktown in round 5, and on that occasion the Wolves prevailed by 27 points. The Wolves have been in impressive form lately, winning their last four on the trot; and the Bulldogs are going to have to find something extra to knock them off. But this is close to the Bulldogs’ last chance if they are to bridge the gap to the finals teams. It’s now or never.