Round 12 – Men’s & Women’s Premier Division Preview

Written by Michael Shillito

We’ve moved from June to July, and when this weekend’s matches are done and dusted, we’ll be two-thirds of the way through the home and away season. The finals are getting closer and the sense of anticipation will grow over the next six weeks.

In Men’s Premier Division, North Shore is top with Manly a game behind; and the Bombers and the Wolves play each other this week in what is sure to be a keenly-anticipated clash. It’s hard to imagine a scenario from here where one of them won’t be the minor premier. Three games further back is Pennant Hills, Inner West and Sydney Uni, separated only by percentage. They’re playing for the double-chance in the finals, but only one will succeed. Then it’s another three games plus percentage to South-West Sydney in sixth; and unless something truly remarkable happens, the Blues and the teams beneath them on the ladder won’t be playing finals this year.

In the Women’s, East Coast remain top, a game clear of Manly. Sydney Uni are a game behind in third; but they have the bye this week. Hot in pursuit of the Students, looking for a spot in the top three are Parramatta and North Shore, with the Goannas having a game in hand. UTS are in sixth, a game behind but still in the running. The bottom three teams look to be too far behind to be a realistic chance of making a run to the finals.

It’s a massive weekend of footy, with some crunch games to be played. And maybe an upset or two to keep us guessing.


Manly-Warringah Wolves v North Shore Bombers

Weldon Oval, Saturday 12:00pm

Manly – 2nd. Played 11, Won 10, Lost 1, 204.65%. Streak – W3

North Shore – 1st. Played 11, Won 11, Lost 0, 237.80%. Streak – W11

Northern pride is on the line in the Battle of the Spit Bridge, as the Wolves play host to the Bombers at Weldon Oval at high noon on Saturday. Always a tantalising encounter; but even more so this time round with top spot up for grabs in this clash between two sides who are likely to again face off when the finals come around. It doesn’t come any bigger than this during the regular season, and the best place to catch the action is at Weldon Oval; but for those who can’t be there, the next best thing is to see all the action live on Streamer. [link – ]

The Wolves have only dropped one game so far this season, and last Saturday they continued on their winning ways with a 30-point win against UNSW-ES at Henson Park. The Wolves led all the way, for most of the afternoon it wasn’t a big lead; but when the game was there to be won, it was the likes of Cameron Manuel, Jasper Crouch and Ty McGrath who stood tall and ensured the Wolves would get over the line. You’re not going to dominate every week, but quality sides like Manly will find a way to get the win even on their non-dominant days.

North Shore remain undefeated on top of the ladder, but were made to work to maintain that status by Pennant Hills at Mike Kenny last week. There was only a kick in it at the long break, but the Bombers got on top in the third term to take out a 22-point win. In a low-scoring encounter, Fraser Thurlow’s four goals were worth their weight in gold; and the former Essendon forward also joined Christian Loone and Will Giacometti among the Bombers’ best. So far the Bombers have seen off every threat that has come their way; but an in-form Manly at Weldon is a new challenge.

It was only a few weeks ago when these sides last met, in the rescheduled round 1 on the long weekend. On that occasion at Gore Hill, the Bombers pulled away in the second half to record a 28-point win. But this time it’s on Manly’s turf, and the Wolves have every intention of using that advantage to make it hard for the Bombers. If the Wolves can get the points here, they draw level on games and top spot will be a close percentage call. But if the Bombers prevail, they will go two games clear on top and they’ll be hard to catch for the minor premiership. Plenty on the line in this clash.

Sydney University Students v South-West Sydney Blues

Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 12:40pm

Sydney Uni – 5th. Played 11, Won 7, Lost 4, 117.72%. Streak – W1

South-West Sydney – 6th. Played 11, Won 4, Lost 7, 79.86%. Streak – L1

Fifth v Sixth. Only one spot on the ladder separates these teams, which doesn’t seem like much. But when that gap is three games plus percentage, there’s a massive mountain for South-West Sydney to climb to get to that elusive fifth place. And if they are to have any chance, the Blues must start to climb the mountain here. But the Students will be doing everything in their power to topple the Blues off the mountain.

Sydney Uni snapped their losing streak last Saturday at Olds Park when they got past the Dragons by 19 points. Harry Morrison scored four goals in a best-on-ground performance, while Vincent O’Brien and Felix Rugge-Price were influential around the ground for the Students. Strangely, even though the Students won, they dropped a spot on the ladder as their percentage fell below the Magpies. But a win’s a win, the losing streak is over, and they are level on games with the Demons and Magpies. A win here keeps them in the race for the double-chance, and keeps South-West Sydney even further away from the finals.

For South-West Sydney, a chance to get into finals contention was missed at Picken Oval last Saturday when they went down to Inner West Magpies by 59 points. Khy Gibbs, Finbar Delbridge and Bailey Stewart kept putting the effort in, but the Blues never looked like getting into the contest. It was a result that leaves the Blues three games behind the top five; and although there’s been plenty for Premier Division’s newest team to be encouraged about this season, making the finals looks to be a bridge too far from here.

These teams met at Rosedale Oval in round 6, and on that occasion the Students prevailed by 16 points, with the Blues putting up a solid performance but falling just short. If the Blues are to have any hope of being in the finals, it’s essential they reverse that result this time around. There’s a lot of ground to make up, and time is running out. But the Students have plenty to play for, and they need a win to keep in touch with the double-chance in the finals. This is a game that neither team can afford to drop, so you can expect plenty of desperation and stiff defence in this contest.

St George Dragons v Inner West Magpies

Picken Oval, Saturday 1:00pm

St George – 8th. Played 11, Won 3, Lost 8, 71.13%. Streak – L2

Inner West – 4th. Played 11, Won 7, Lost 4, 125.00%. Streak – W4

The Inner West Magpies are on a roll. Four wins in a row has given them a shot at the double-chance in the finals. But they can’t afford to drop any games against lower-ranked opponents; and this is a danger game for them when they travel south to Olds Park for a Saturday afternoon clash against St George.

The Dragons have had their share of struggle in 2024, but they put up a respectable performance against Sydney Uni last week, giving the Students some nervous moments but going down by 19 points. Tye Gander added another four goals to his season tally, while Jordan Taylor, Jeromos Mills-Vasas and Lachlan Querzoll picked up plenty of the ball around the ground. Against another probable finalist this week, the Dragons will again be looking for a competitive performance; and if they can lift another gear from last week, maybe even claim a major scalp.

Inner West, meanwhile, has hit a purple patch of form and their winning streak of four games has taken them from a top five spot being in question a month ago to having passed Sydney Uni and only percentage is keeping them from the double-chance. And the percentage got a boost last week when they were 59 points too good for South-West Sydney; helped along the way by five goals from Ben Zoppo and strong performances around the ground by Callum McEvoy-Gray, Jack Rule and William Deller. Four wins on the trot, and the Magpies just need to keep doing what they’re doing now.

When the two sides faced off at Picken Oval in the opening day of the season, the Magpies were 42 points too good for the Dragons. But the Dragons have shown some improvement in most recent weeks, and would love to have a win against a likely finals team to show for their efforts. But the Magpies have looked impressive in winning their last four, and won’t be easy to stop. The Magpies need the win here to keep in touch with the finals double-chance; and they can’t afford to risk losing this one.

East Coast Eagles v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 2:10pm

East Coast – 10th. Played 11, Won 1, Lost 10, 47.45%. Streak – L10

UNSW-ES – 9th. Played 11, Won 2, Lost 9, 62.32%. Streak – L1

On the opening day of the season, East Coast sent shockwaves through the league; when the team that has taken out the last two wooden spoons knocked off the defending back to back premiers. Now they meet again as the bottom two. Hopes that the opening round would trigger an Eagle resurgence were not to be; while the Bulldogs have only saluted twice this season. Both sides come into this clash desperate for a win, but only one will see their wish come true.

After that opening win, the Eagles have lost 10 in a row; the most recent defeat being against UTS at Waverley last Saturday when they were jumped at the start and went on to go down by 64 points. Marshall Poynter showed the way up forward with four goals, while Jacob Jones, Angus Edwards and Baylee Jones put in solid efforts over four quarters. Wins have been hard to get in recent seasons; but the sight of the Bulldogs as their opponents will be some form of encouragement for the Eagles. They’ve got it done once against them this season, and must surely fancy their chances of doing it again.

Last week the Bulldogs took on Manly at Henson Park. Although they were close enough to the Wolves to stay interested for most of the afternoon, the Bulldogs were never able to take the lead and suffered their ninth loss for the season. Hamish Morrison, Sam Thorne and Anthony Halikas worked hard all afternoon, but the Bulldogs were never able to threaten Manly’s lead. But, although the Bulldogs have been under-manned all season, there’s still enough premiership players in their lineup for them to be a threat to be taken seriously.

The nine-point win to the Eagles on opening day seems a long time ago for the Eagles now. But another clash with the Bulldogs is a chance to once again enjoy the spoils of victory, if they are good enough to take it. A Bulldog win here will leave the Eagles two games clear at the bottom, and all but condemns them to a third straight wooden spoon. But if the Eagles can prevail, they’ll draw level on games with the Bulldogs; and may yet avoid that fate. It’s now or never for the Eagles.

Pennant Hills Demons v UTS Bats

Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 2:55pm

Pennant Hills – 3rd. Played 11, Won 7, Lost 4, 139.45%. Streak – L3

UTS – 7th. Played 11, Won 3, Lost 8, 78.94%. Streak – W1

Three losses in a row has put Pennant Hills under pressure to maintain a top-three position; and the Demons have some work to do in order to return to the winning list. This week at Mike Kenny Oval they take on a UTS side with nothing to lose, but who would love to do some damage before the season is done.

Last week the Demons took on North Shore. The first half was an arm-wrestle, and there wasn’t much in it at the long break; but the Demons were unable to score in the third term as the Bombers set up a match-winning lead. Connor Matthews, Nick Eynaud and Lachlan Willey worked hard, but it wasn’t enough to get the Demons the points. Three losses on the trot and it’s only their percentage that is keeping them ahead of the Magpies and Sydney Uni; and the Demons can’t afford to drop another game here.

The Bats have had their share of trouble in 2024, but last Saturday gave them a welcome win when they got off to a flyer against East Coast at Waverley and took out a 64-point result. Hugo Birks spearheaded the charge with nine goals to take him to the top of the goal-kicking ladder, and along with Hamish Latchford and Koby Grass was among the Bats’ best. Wins have been hard to come by this season; but having sung the song last week, the Bats will be hungry for a repeat this time round and should throw everything they have into this contest.

There’s plenty of snakes and ladders in a footy season, and three losses in a row is a snake for the Demons. They can’t afford another loss here; if that happens, Inner West and Sydney Uni may well overtake them. With the home ground advantage against UTS, the Demons will still be favourites here. But the Bats, although they’re extremely unlikely to challenge for the finals, would love to have some influence on the finals by claiming a big scalp, and this is their opportunity. The Demons can’t take UTS lightly, and the upset result is not impossible.


St George Dragons v Parramatta Goannas

Blacktown Int. Sportspark Oval 2, Saturday 12:10pm

St George – 9th. Played 10, Won 0, Lost 10, 5.39%. Streak – L10

Parramatta – 4th. Played 9, Won 6, Lost 3, 156.91%. Streak – L1

On the opening day of this season, these two clubs met to begin their Premier Division existence; the Goannas playing their first game as a stand-alone club while the Dragons had been newly promoted. Now they meet again, with the Goannas a big chance for the top three while the Dragons are fighting to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

St George’s first season at this level hasn’t been easy. The Dragons are yet to record a win and have a very poor percentage. Last week against Sydney Uni, the Dragons were held to a single behind as they went down by 52 points. Hannah Phillips, Caitlin Edmonds and Maggie Ritchie battled tirelessly against the odds, but the Dragons were unable to put any meaningful pressure on their opposition. After such a tricky season, they’ll need to find something from somewhere to lift their performance, put a side under pressure and fight for their first win at this level. Time is running out.

The Goannas go into this game refreshed after last week’s bye, a chance to rest and recover from any little niggles they are carrying. Their last start wasn’t an easy won, when they were unable to match it with a red-hot East Coast team and went down by 28 points. On that occasion, Zoe Clubb, Abbie Lewis and Stephanie Wilkins tries hard; but the Goannas couldn’t find a way to stop the rampant Eagles. But now they’ve had a rest, and against a lower-ranked opponent they’re ready to make their move and make an impact on the competition.

In that opening game at Gipps Road, the Goannas won 70-0; a result which was to set the tone for the season as it has unfolded since then. The Goannas have seamlessly made their way into the top five, challenging for the double-chance; and a win in this match while the Students have the bye will get them to third. While it’s been a struggle for the Dragons. But this is a fresh start for St George, the scoreboard wiped clean and now is the time to lift a gear. If they can’t do that, it will be a long, hard afternoon.

Pennant Hills Demons v UTS Bats

Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 1:10pm

Pennant Hills – 8th. Played 9, Won 1, Lost 8, 41.86%. Streak – L3

UTS – 6th. Played 10, Won 5, Lost 5, 131.76%. Streak – L1

Two teams looking for a form and morale boost meet at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday as Pennant Hills play host to UTS. It’s been a tough year for the Demons, while the Bats have fallen out of the top five and need to get the points here to get their 2024 campaign back on track.

Pennant Hills have only saluted once so far this season, but last week against North Shore they gave themselves a chance when they led at half time; only to be held scoreless in the second half to go down by 35 points. Natalie Pajor, Elly Rudd and Kaitlin Quinlan played solid games for the Demons, but it wasn’t enough to last four quarters and get the win. A strong effort for the full four quarters is required this time.

Meanwhile UTS fell out of the top five last week at Waverley Oval when they were never in the hunt against East Coast and went down by 50 points. Tilley Edwards-Hill, Tahlia Fraser and Aleshea Houlahan put plenty of work in for the Bats, but they were unable to match it with a very strong East Coast lineup. June wasn’t kind to the Bats in their quest for a repeat of last year’s Grand Final appearance, but a new month is a fresh start against a lower-ranked opponent; and just what the Bats need to get their season back on track.

For the Bats, having lost four of their last five games to fall out of the top five, a win is essential here; and they’ll want it to be by enough to give their percentage a boost. If they are to be finals contenders this season, they have to get the job done here. But the Demons won’t be making it easy. Nothing to lose, everything to gain; and although playing finals is very unlikely, claiming the scalp of a finals team will give the Demons the morale boost they’re looking for. And the Demons will go into the match believing that this thing can be done.

Manly-Warringah Wolves v North Shore Bombers

Weldon Oval, Saturday 2:30pm

Manly – 2nd. Played 10, Won 8, Lost 2, 254.32%. Streak – W5

North Shore – 5th. Played 10, Won 6, Lost 4, 132.51%. Streak – W2

Northern Sydney pride is on the line at Weldon Oval as the Wolves play host to the Bombers. For Manly, a win is essential if they are to challenge the Eagles for the minor premiership; while North Shore need a win to stay in the top five. Both clubs have winning form on the board, and will come into this match expecting a tough and willing contest; and for those who can’t make it over the Spit Bridge to Curl Curl, you won’t miss a moment on Streamer. [link – ]

The Wolves are on fire at the moment, a 5-0 run in June propelling them to second spot on the ladder. Last Saturday at Henson Park they showed themselves to be 51 points too good for UNSW-ES with a clinical performance spearheaded by Ash Carter, Hannah Woolf and Zara Hamilton. They’re still a game behind East Coast, but all they can do is what they’ve been doing, to keep winning and wait for the Eagles to slip. And when they put in a strong performance like they did last Saturday, there are few teams that have what it takes to get past them.

North Shore re-entered the top five last week when they came from a point down at half time to knock off Pennant Hills by 35 points at Mike Kenny Oval. The Bombers were well served by Lucy Yates, Teigan Collister and the de Montemas sisters as they ran away in the second half for a percentage-boosting win. But now they have a challenge, a tough battle against a nemesis team. But this is a challenge that the Bombers will embrace. Their survival in the top five depends on it.

Manly are flying high; and they’ll go into this game as favourites. Five wins in a row, playing on the Weldon turf against an opposition they’ve never lost to at Premier Division level. The Wolves have been playing some great footy in recent weeks. But they can’t afford to take North Shore lightly. If they’re even slightly off their game, the Bombers are ready to pounce. If they are to figure in this year’s finals, the Bombers will need to knock off someone who’s currently above them on the ladder; and this is one they’d really love to win. This won’t be an easy game for the Wolves, and they’ll have to earn the four points here.

East Coast Eagles v UNSW-ES Bulldogs

Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 4:30pm

East Coast – 1st. Played 10, Won 9, Lost 1, 281.12%. Streak – W7

UNSW-ES – 7th. Played 10, Won 2, Lost 8, 66.57%. Streak – L2

Seven wins in a row, and they’re a happy team at East Coast. And this week they return home to Kanebridge for a twilight encounter with UNSW-ES and looking to further cement their hold on top spot.

Last week at Waverley Oval, the Eagles dominated the Grand Final re-match from start to finish to complete a comfortable 50-point win over UTS. Caitlin Reid, Chloe Arndt and Bryany Parker were in the thick of the action for the Eagles as they went through their paces and completed a win in which they never looked threatened. When they’re on their game like they were last week, the Eagles are hard to beat, and the Bulldogs are going to have to find something special this week.

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the Bulldogs, although they have managed to record two wins. Last Saturday at Henson Park they never looked like getting on top of Manly and went down by 51 points, despite the efforts of Emma Haley, Chloe Anderson and Ahlani Eddy. It doesn’t get any easier this week, with the toughest away trip in Sydney; but all the Bulldogs can do is persevere in the face of adversity and look for a weakness in the Eagles that they can exploit.

Going for their third straight premiership, the Eagles have barely put a foot wrong in the last seven weeks as their winning streak rolls along and they keep getting the job done week after week. All the advantages this week are with the Eagles; home ground, ladder position, an imposing lineup. If ever a team is battling against the odds, it is the Bulldogs this week. But with their backs to the wall, the Bulldogs will be keen to put up a fight here, to put the Eagles under pressure. If they are able to scrap and contest every possession and put the Eagles under pressure, the upset is possible. Stranger things have happened.