SYDNEY AFL FINALS WEEK 1 2015
Article and Photos by Michael Shillito

August had turned into September. Winter over, spring had come. And finally, after weeks of anticipation where the makeup of the finals was clear, the business end of the season had arrived.

Saturday saw Blacktown International Sportspark bathed in glorious sunshine as the finals got under way with Manly and Pennant Hills facing off in the Qualifying Final. A 4:15 start meant that the shadows were lengthening across the ground as the game got under way; but conditions were great for footy.
The two clubs had played off in the last two Grand Finals, with the Giants taking out premierships both times. But the Demons had beaten Manly twice during the home and away season this year.
The Demons got off to a dream start, with Luke Bilbe marking inside the forward 50 and kicking truly in the opening minute; a lead he could so easily have doubled a few minutes later when an attempted slips-catch diving mark came into his fingers but slipped out.
But scoring would be hard to come by during the first quarter, a combination of the defenders being more in tune with the game than the forwards and some intense physical pressure. Manly levelled the game at the 15 minute mark after a strong mark by Jackson Pola-Smith at the edge of the 50 and the ball found its way to an unmarked Daniel Dickerson in the goalsquare. That concluded the goal-scoring in the first quarter, with the Demons adding three behinds in the latter stages of the quarter to lead by those three points at quarter time.
There were big hits early in the second term, the biggest coming from Gareth Benbow on Aaron Crisfield which earned the Manly tall his name in umpire Frank Kalayzich’s notebook and a 15-minute break from the game. And there were attempts at spectacular moments, such as Matt Carey flying high on centre wing but being unable to pull down what would have been the clear mark of the season.
It took 16 minutes before twin flags were drawn from the goal umpire. But when it came, it came in stunning style, with Dalton Sanderson roosting a shot from the 50 metre line on an angle and driving it through; giving the Giants the lead for the first time in the game.
The Manly lead was short-lived, as James Dunn on the lead took the mark 30 metres out and guided the ball home to restore the lead for the Demons. And as the clock ticked into time-on, a generously-measured 50 metre penalty to Michael Talbot gave Pennant Hills another; setting up a ten point lead at the long break.
Day had turned into night by the time the second half got under way. And the premiership quarter would see the Demons, already in front, take the upper hand and set themselves up for victory.
After ten minutes of the ball travelling from end to end with neither side looking like scoring a goal, Stephen Wray roved a pack and snapped truly to extend the Demon lead to 15 points. In a low-scoring game, it looked a commanding lead, and the Giants weren’t looking like bridging the gap.
As the clock ticked into time-on, the Giants were thrown a lifeline as James Brain sharked a boundary throw-in and snapped truly to cut the margin to eight points. But just moments later the Giants’ comeback was thwarted, a coast-to-coast play by the Demons ending with Cameron Smith on the run landing a shot from 50 metres out. And as Theo Moraitis showed his strength to pull down a contested mark and kick the goal as the three quarter time siren sounded; the Demons took a 20-point lead into the last change.
Both forward lines had been well held all day, Moraitis’ mark standing out as being a rare mark under pressure in the forward 50 in an evening when the norm would be for the ball to fall to ground or be quickly cleared by an opposition defender. In the context of a game where forwards were struggling, 20 points looked far too much for the Giants to make up.
As they tried to get back into the game in the last quarter, the clock was ticking. And it took ten minutes before they could manage a goal; with Max Carter on the run breaking the deadlock and cutting the margin to 13 points. But time was running out, and further attempts to cut the deficit came to naught. And a long set shot by James Dunn would be the knock-out blow, as he became the only multiple goal-scorer of the game and ensured the Demons wouldn’t be beaten.
In the end, the Demons won the game by 18 points, their third win against the Giants in 2015. Matt Carey, Daniel Preen and Damian Dell’Aquila featured prominently for the Demons and ensuring they stay out of sudden-death for another week. They’re through to a date with East Coast Eagles at Henson next Saturday, and a chance to be the first team to make it through to the Grand Final.
For the Giants, Connor Pettersson, Harrison Koch and James Brain were frequent possession-gatherers and put in strong efforts. But the loss sees the reigning champions into sudden-death territory; and will need to win three games in a row to defend their title; beginning with next Sunday’s First Semi-Final at Henson Park.

The Giants’ opponent in the First Semi-Final will be St George. The Dragons made their way through the cut-throat Elimination Final against Sydney Uni at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday afternoon; but had to hang on for dear life through a thrilling final quarter before they could progress.
It was cooler and windier on Sunday, but the conditions didn’t give any real advantage to either side. But the first quarter saw a more free-flowing style of football than the more physical Saturday game, and both sides were more prepared to attack than the defensive mindset that was so prevalent on Sunday. And the Dragons took the edge in the first quarter, with the height of Nick Ryan on the forward line featuring prominently as the number 19 scored twice in the opening term. Four goals to two in the quarter saw the Dragons lead by 11 points at quarter time.
But the Students had a strong team, and as they’ve proven before, they can lift when they need to. And in the second term, they fought back strongly. The tackles were harder, the pressure stronger, and the marks began to stick. And the scoreboard ticked over quickly during a short, devastating burst of footy by the Students that erased the deficit and levelled the scores in just eight minutes and then took the lead a few minutes later.
But the Students’ momentum was stopped when Bryce Addison went down, the Dragon needing to be stretchered off the field which caused a lengthy stop to play. And despite being a key player down, the Dragons had a chance to regroup; which they did to stop the Students’ run and kick an equalising goal to level the scores. And in the closing stages of the quarter, Jack Campbell earned the ire of the umpires with a trip, which saw him banished from the field for 15 minutes.
Scores were level at half time, but the Dragons re-asserted themselves in the third quarter. It wasn’t high scoring, with plenty of defensive pressure and a tricky wind making it difficult. The Dragons were getting the better of general play but reward for effort was hard to find; and one goal apiece meant scores were still level 17 minutes in the quarter. But goals in the final few minutes to Nick Ryan and Dylan Sanderson saw the Dragons achieve the break they had threatened for so much of the quarter, and hold an 11-point advantage at the last change.
The sun had set, the ball had become slippery, and the clock was ticking. Nine goal-less minutes passed before Jordan West pounced on a loose ball and slotted it home to give the Dragons a 16-point advantage. And the game looked to be running the Dragons’ way.
But the Students weren’t done yet, and they would cause plenty of nervous moments in the last few minutes. At the 18 minute mark, a downfield free kick gave Zac Fyffe a goal to cut the margin to 11. A behind cut the margin again to 10.
Time was ticking away, the clock deep in time-on. And controversy raised its head, as the St George runner was where he shouldn’t have been and a free kick was awarded, which Monty Krochmal converted. Suddenly the margin was back to four points. The Students went forward again, inside their 50 metre arc, looking for the winning goal. But the ball was turned over, the Dragons clearing it out of danger; and the Students’ hopes of pulling off a comeback win that had looked out of the question early in the final term was gone.
The siren sounded, and the Dragons had hung on. A four-point margin was far from convincing, but it was enough to ensure their progression to the First Semi-Final. On a weekend where goals were at a premium, Nick Ryan’s four goals were critical to the outcome; Ryan joining Nick Shaw and Jordan West to be the Dragons’ best and ensure they get a crack at Manly next week.
For the Students, Glenn Smith, Allister Clarke and Samuel Clark had worked tirelessly all day. It had been a gallant performance by the Students, who came so perilously close to stealing an unlikely win. But in the end, it wasn’t to be; and the Sydney Uni story for 2015 is over.

Just four teams remain. Saturday sees East Coast and Pennant Hills playing off, with a spot in the Grand Final the winner’s prize. And on Sunday, it’s Manly and St George facing off in a battle in which only one team will survive.

Premier Division:
Qualifying Final
Pennant Hills 1.5 3.7 6.9 7.11 (53)
Manly-Warringah 1.2 2.3 3.7 4.11 (35)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
J Dunn 2, M Talbot, C Smith, S Wray, L Bilbe, T Moraitis. Manly – D Sanderson, J Brain, D Dickerson, M Carter.
Best : Pennant Hills – M Carey, D Preen, D Dell’Aquila, A Crisfield, K Wright, T Angel. Manly – C Pettersson, H Koch, J Brain, J Weir, A Robertson, M Carter.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 5th September 2015.

Elimination Final
St George 4.2 5.5 8.7 9.9 (63)
Sydney University 2.3 5.5 6.8 8.11 (59)
Goals : St George –
N Ryan 4, D Donohue 2, B Jones, J West, D Sanderson. Sydney Uni – Z Fyffe 3, D Frawley, R Avis-Foster, C Browne, T Elkington, M Krochmal.
Best : St George – N Shaw, N Ryan, J West, J Hill, B Guthrie, T Preece. Sydney Uni – G Smith, A Clarke, S Clark, A Hawtin, E Sertbas, M Krochmal.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Division One:
Qualifying Final
Pennant Hills 4.1 4.3 6.3 9.5 (59)
UTS 0.3 1.8 6.9 6.11 (47)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
S Zikman 3, L Urwin 2, T Widmer, A Brawn, B Jack, P Barnes. UTS – E Williams, J Prince, H Callahan, N Morling, E Stainforth, J Reynolds.
Best : Pennant Hills – B Tos, T Scoular, A Nixon, L Vile, T Widmer, B Jack. UTS – H Winter, O Tate, T Reid, T O’Donovan, M Izhik, J Reynolds.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 5th September 2015.

Elimination Final
Sydney Uni 4.1 6.4 9.4 11.5 (71)
Macquarie Uni 3.1 4.2 5.6 8.8 (56)
Goals : Sydney Uni –
N Dale 3, C Kendrick 3, J Walsh, N Lloyd, L Freemantle, T King, M Carey. Macquarie Uni – J Brackin 2, C Hayes 2, T Cordner 2, R Harris, P Le Breton.
Best : Sydney Uni – M Higgins, S Power, T Kirkham, N Dale, C Kendrick, H Bown. Macquarie Uni – J Brackin, T Cordner, S Simpson, L Mead, A Rodgers, J Moylan.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Division Two:
Second Semi-Final
Blacktown 2.8 2.9 4.11 6.11 (49)
Camden 1.2 2.3 3.9 5.9 (39)
Goals : Blacktown –
E Barclay 3, B Hynes, J Moeller, M Newson. Camden – M Withers 2, R Newham, J Ayling, M Lecek.
Best : Blacktown – T Baracz, K Weir, A Polkinghorne, B Hynes, A Moeller, D Bertram. Camden – M Withers, M Hogan, M Halteh, J Ayling, B Sommerville, B Wharton.
At Henson Park, Saturday 5th September 2015.

First Semi-Final
Manly 3.1 4.5 8.5 9.10 (64)
Penrith 1.2 1.4 2.5 4.5 (29)
Goals : Manly –
B Collins 2, M Douglas 2, M Bell 2, M Grant 2, M Rawle, J McDougall. Penrith – D McDonald 2, J Dwyer, B McNamara.
Best : Manly – M Grant, M Rawle, R Hart, J McDougall, A Armstrong. Penrith – P Aumann, M McNamara, J Vearing, T McNamara, M Denton, G Paneras.
At Henson Park, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Division Three:
Second Semi-Final
UTS 3.1 6.4 7.6 10.11 (71)
Sydney Uni 1.4 3.5 4.6 6.7 (43)
Goals : UTS –
M Pennycuick 2, H Sleigh 2, T Nixon 2, T Piner, B Day, M Bignell, N Barrett. Sydney Uni – G Robbie 2, T Millsteed, P Lloyd, C Allworth, P Oscar.
Best : UTS – M Bignell, P Tegart, T Piner, M Ayres, T Nixon, D Murrell. Sydney Uni – A Clark, T Millsteed, E Turner, W Wright, M Fogarty, C Allworth.
At Henson Park, Saturday 5th September 2015.

First Semi-Final
Western Suburbs 4.3 6.3 9.3 16.5 (101)
Penrith 3.1 7.1 8.9 11.10 (76)
Goals : Wests –
M Eurell 8, M Cullen 2, S McWilliam 2, P Chachaty, J Steer, S Lear, E Doherty. Penrith – J Shelley 3, M Stevens 2, L Murphy 2, B Robinson 2, M Pope, M Brown.
Best : Wests – P English, G Gregory, S Lear, A Branthwaite, D Shepherd, P Chachaty. Penrith – M Burse, L Burcher, J Clark, M Payne, B Wilson, J Edwards.
At Henson Park, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Division Four:
Second Semi-Final
Macquarie Uni 4.4 6.7 7.9 11.11 (77)
Holroyd-Parramatta 1.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 (18)
Goals : Macquarie Uni –
D Munday 2, J Coburn 2, P Hayes, G Nixon, B Kucharski, J Cooper, T Ellen, T Cameron, M Lawrence. Holroyd-Parramatta – S Nolan, J Pidgeon.
Best : Macquarie Uni – D Munday, S Thompson, T Ellen, S Jamieson, T Shumack, P Hayes. Holroyd-Parramatta – M Ophof, J Haurua, S Nolan, A Townsend, K Radford, J Pidgeon.
At Henson Park, Saturday 5th September 2015.

First Semi-Final
Wollondilly 2.4 6.7 9.11 13.14 (92)
Manly 1.1 2.1 4.4 7.5 (47)
Goals : Wollondilly –
C Fitzsimmons 3, J Haddock 2, A Debs 2, C Wolfe 2, J Hamilton, R Hamilton, B Robinson, C Rutland. Manly – C Gallo 2, A Fraser 2, A Reid, A Michael, B Horrell.
Best : Wollondilly – S Paget, J Purcell, J Weston, C Wolfe, D Hockey, J Haddock. Manly – B Horrell, D Mountford, A Michael, D Knight, C Cutmore, R Comans.
At Henson Park, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Division Five:
Preliminary Final
UNSW-ES 3.3 4.6 8.6 9.8 (62)
Pennant Hills 2.3 3.4 4.7 5.11 (41)
Goals : UNSW-ES –
S Wright 4, N Dowsett, M Cullen, J Hook, A Yanitsas, J Tighe. Pennant Hills – C Mullins, J Hardman, N Baglin, G Hume, J McMullan.
Best : UNSW-ES – J Tighe, J Reid, D Hughey, T Reynolds, A Yanitsas, C Stritch. Pennant Hills – N Baglin, C Yard, A Robertson, J Brackin, J Cousens, P Hare.
At Henson Park, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Under 19s One:
First Semi-Final
North Shore 4.3 11.7 12.12 14.14 (98)
St George 3.2 3.6 4.8 6.10 (46)
Goals : North Shore –
H Carr 4, A Quail 3, A Treacy 3, N Hurrell, B Caddey, A Roy, C Sennitt. St George – R Waters 2, J Maldigri, K Anu, D Cooper, D Michalak.
Best : North Shore – B Parks, N Garrick, S Fraser-Krause, E Harvey, C Sennitt, H Carr. St George – D Michalak, J Maldigri, T Mitchell, T Gorman-Brown, S Barnes, R Waters.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Under 19s Two:
Second Semi-Final
Western Suburbs 1.3 6.7 8.8 10.13 (73)
Holroyd-Parramatta 4.0 5.3 5.5 7.7 (49)
Goals : Wests –
B Zoppo 5, D Kannan 2, A Yadav, D Tilio, T Kannan. Holroyd-Parramatta – S Smith 5, D Newcombe, H Landels.
Best : Wests – B Zoppo, K Foreman, T Kannan, A Bell, D Tilio, T Amanatidis. Holroyd-Parramatta – S Smith, D Jenson, R Morris, M Sapiatzer, A Storey, J Bartlett.
At Henson Park, Saturday 5th September 2015.

First Semi-Final
Moorebank 1.2 5.6 6.7 9.8 (62)
Penrith 2.3 3.4 7.6 8.10 (58)
Goals : Moorebank –
B Jones 4, H Keenan 2, M Togher, J Martyn, J Purcell. Penrith – L Hyland, D Nelson, Z Pianta, J Noble, K Quirk, B White, M Bragg, T Silvy.
Best : Moorebank – B Jones, M Watson, M Togher, J Bryan, L Phipps, A Lombardo. Penrith – A Erhl, Z Pianta, J Bragg, L Hyland, J Moore, T Morgan.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 6th September 2015.

Women Division One:
First Semi-Final
UNSW-ES 4.2 4.6 7.10 10.11 (71)
Western Wolves 2.1 2.1 2.1 2.1 (13)
Goals : UNSW-ES –
K Bishop 4, S Banki 2, K Lancaster, J Barclay, L Marzotto, R Godman. Western Wolves – K Lawson, M Freckelton.
Best : UNSW-ES – H Cogle, K Bishop, M Morriss, J Barclay, K Edwards, K Lancaster. Western Wolves – M Freckelton, C Calver, M Obien, B Harrison, A Carpenter, N Kris.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 5th September 2015.

Second Semi-Final
Sydney Uni 2.0 5.0 8.1 11.3 (69)
Newtown 1.1 4.3 4.5 5.6 (36)
Goals : Sydney Uni –
B Michalk 3, A Morgan 2, M Gray 2, N Barr, T Callaghan, C Binazzi, S Walker. Newtown – L Holdsworth 2, A Parkin, M Daley, V Iles.
Best : Sydney Uni – R Stack, N Barr, M Andresen, B Michalk, A Morgan, A Foo. Newtown – R Morison, V Iles, G Verkulyen, A Schroder, C Lees, T Nguyen.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 5th September 2015.

Women Division Two:
Preliminary Final
Penrith 1.3 1.4 2.9 3.11 (29)
Auburn 0.2 2.4 3.7 3.9 (27)
Goals : Penrith –
R Tomkins, K Easthope, J Burnham. Auburn – H Zreika 2, M Fung.
Best : Penrith – R Tomkins, N Perrett, J Vella, S Kostic, N Camilleri, K Easthope. Auburn – H Zreika, K Boyd, J Ghemraoui, S Badr, H Ajaj, F Abdelkafi.
At Henson Park, Saturday 5th September 2015.


NEXT WEEK’S MATCHES

Premier Division:

Second Semi-Final – Saturday 12th September
Henson Park – East Coast v Pennant Hills (3:30pm)
First Semi-Final – Sunday 13th September
Henson Park – Manly v St George (2:30pm)

Division One:
Second Semi-Final – Saturday 12th September
Henson Park – Balmain v Pennant Hills (1:10pm)
First Semi-Final – Sunday 13th September
Henson Park – UTS v Sydney Uni (12pm)

Division Two:
Preliminary Final – Sunday 13th September
Blacktown ISP – Camden v Manly (2:30pm)

Division Three:
Preliminary Final – Sunday 13th September
Blacktown ISP – Sydney Uni v Western Suburbs (12:15pm)

Division Four:
Preliminary Final – Sunday 13th September
Blacktown ISP – Holroyd-Parramatta v Wollondilly (10am)

Under 19s One:
Second Semi-Final – Saturday 12th September
Henson Park – Pennant Hills v UNSW-ES (11:05am)

Under 19s Two:
Preliminary Final – Saturday 12th September
Henson Park – Holroyd-Parramatta v Moorebank (6pm)

Women Division One:
Preliminary Final – Saturday 12th September
Henson Park – Newtown v UNSW-ES (9am)


FIRST GRAND FINAL DAY:
The first two premierships will be decided on Saturday at Blacktown International Sportspark. For Division Five and Womens Division Two, the ultimate glory of the season will be on the line.
The Grand Finals to be played are:
9:00am – Women Division Two – Gosford v Penrith
3:00pm – Division Five – UTS v UNSW-ES