Article by Michael Shillito

Four rounds into the season, and there’s still plenty of footy to be played. The ladder is still sorting itself out, and the next few weeks will be decisive in determining who looks finals-bound in 2017. But one thing that has stood out in the early rounds has been the rise of Sydney Uni in Premier Division.
This is the Students’ sixth year as a NEAFL club. In the last five years, their Premier Division team haven’t been title contenders. They’ve scraped into the finals a couple of times with more losses than wins; but haven’t lasted long in the finals. But this year looks different; and for the first time since they began their NEAFL existence, Sydney Uni look a genuine threat in Premier Division.

It was a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, with the Students at home against Manly. Both teams were going into the game off wins last week; but this game was to be one-way traffic.
The Students were looking good early, and the Wolves were forced into some desperate defensive heroics to hold them out. It was four goals to one in favour of the Students in the first term, with the Sydney Uni team controlling much of the play but some resolute defence by the Wolves holding them at bay. But with a 20 point advantage at the first change, they were looking comfortable.
The second quarter wasn’t one that reached any great heights, with both teams being repeatedly forced to the wings and unable to get any decisive forward moves going. The Students scored the only two goals of the quarter, extending their lead to 33 points at half time. But the second term wasn’t a standout, the memorable moments were yet to come.
Having been held out by dogged defending in the first half, the Students emerged from the rooms for the third quarter with a more attacking mindset; and the floodgates opened. Now they were going direct to the forward line, and the scoreboard began ticking over more readily. It was seven goals to one in the third term, with the Students throwing off the first half shackles and throwing caution to the wind. By three quarter time, the Sydney Uni lead was out to 73 points and the noise was increasing from the blue and gold wearing group in the grandstand.
By the time the final quarter got under way, Manly’s resistance had gone and the Wolves were powerless to stop a complete demolition in the last term. The Students were controlling the ball at will in a marathon final quarter. Eleven unanswered goals told the tale, this had become a serious mismatch and the Wolves found themselves unable to put up any opposition at all in the final quarter.
In the end, the margin was 143 points. Xavier Richards, leaving the Swans and finding himself unwanted by other AFL clubs, made his way to Sydney Uni. And unable to get into the NEAFL team, he ended up in their Premier Division team, and was the dominant force in this match to finish with 13 goals. 13 may be a lucky number for some, but certainly an unlucky number for Manly. It’s been many years since an individual player has had a bigger bag in a single game. There were winners for the Students around the ground, but Richards, Kane Murphy and Harry Morrison were the pick of them.
It had been a dirty day for the Wolves. Tyrone Armitage, in his first game back at Manly after a stint in Victoria, along with Eric Burke and Callum D’Souza tried hard all afternoon, but it was one of those days when nothing was going right and there was nothing they could do to turn things around. The Wolves will be keen to forget about this one; and with the bye next week they have two weeks of solid training before the bounce-back campaign begins.

Meanwhile at Mortgage Choice Oval, two teams with ambitions to be in the mix at the business end of the season faced off when North Shore hosted UTS. The two sides had met in last year’s finals, when the Bombers got over the line; and they were again to taste the spoils of victory this time.
It was Ladies Day, and there was plenty of glitz and glamour on the hill and the bubbly beverages were flowing freely. But there was also a game to be played, and conditions were good. Despite the scorelines, there was no wind to speak of in the first half; just two sides that missed plenty of scoring opportunities that should have been converted. The Bombers led by five points at the first change, each team only scoring one goal from numerous opportunities as some good work from the midfields of both teams wasn’t fully capitalised on.
The Bats scored first in the second term to briefly take the lead, but they would not trouble the goal umpires again until deep in time-on. In the interim, the Bombers ran through six unanswered goals in a scintillating 34-minute quarter when the running players from both sides put on some attractive footy. Even though chances were being missed, and the margin at half time probably should have been higher than the 34 points it was, there’d been plenty of exciting footy on display.
But the Bombers always looked to have the edge, and this continued in the third quarter as the lead continued to grow. Five goals to two in favour of the Bombers was the scoreline in a quarter of footy when the North Shore side showed they had the answers to any challenge the Bats would throw their way. A festive atmosphere around the crowd was matched by the Bombers team as they extended the lead to 52 points at three quarter time.
The game was safely won, and the Bombers had safely consolidated their place in the top five. It hadn’t been a great day for UTS, who had looked outclassed for three quarters. But the Bats salvaged something out of the contest in the last quarter, as they refused to lie down and lifted their performance, running the game out. And they would achieve some reward for effort, winning the last quarter by five goals to three; and at least avoiding too big a hit to their percentage, which could be important when finals positions are decided.
In the end, the Bombers took the game out by 39 points. Matt Wilson and Wayd Blackburne proved to be a handy partnership on the forward line, the twin targets helping themselves to five goals apiece to keep the scoreboard ticking over all day. Around the ground, Jono Marsh, Chris Murphy and Shaun Crane were getting plenty of the ball for the Bombers. With two wins from three starts, the Bombers are well placed and look to have the potential to rise higher up the ladder.
Daniel Crouch, Scott Jansen and Tom Larby were best for the Bats; but it wasn’t enough to take the points this time round. The Bats’ season is delicately poised with two wins and two losses; but the ability in this team is better than a breakeven, and they’ll be working hard to string some wins together in the upcoming rounds.

Also on Saturday afternoon, UNSW-ES were at home to Pennant Hills at Henson Park. A 26-point win for the Bulldogs underlined their status as one of the competition’s big improvers but will cause a few question marks around Pennant Hills for this season.
The Bulldogs hit the ground running and got off to a flyer, and the Demons were never able to peg them back. It began with a run of six goals to two in the first quarter. There were Bulldogs at the bottom of every pack, and when the race was on for the ball they were first to the contest. A 23-point lead at the first change was enough to ensure the Bulldogs would be in front throughout the game; forcing the Demons into the desperation stakes of catch-up football for the rest of the afternoon.
The Demons were unable to make any dent in the deficit in the second term. Attempts to create scoring opportunities dried up as time and again they broke down across the half-forward zone, and the Bulldogs were able to get the ball out of trouble. And the Bulldogs were able to come up with the answers to any challenge the Demons would throw their way. Three goals to two in favour of the Bulldogs extended their lead to 30 points at half time.
If Pennant Hills were going to get back into the contest, they had to make every post a winner and capitalise on every attacking opportunity they had. Instead, they squandered chances. An inaccurate return of 2.6 ended any chances of making serious inroads into the scoreline; and hopes of a comeback faded with every shot that sailed wide of the big sticks. The Bulldogs would also score two goals in the premiership quarter; and although the Demons would win the quarter, the margin was still 25 points in favour of the Bulldogs and all the Demons’ efforts had amounted to little.
There was no alternative for Pennant Hills but to throw caution to the wind and turn the last quarter into a shootout; and hope they had the firepower to come from behind. But they didn’t. The Bulldogs were equal to the task, coming up with the answering goals as soon as the challenge was laid; and the Demons’ hopes were fading as quickly as the shadows of the King George V Memorial Grandstand were lengthening. After four goals apiece were scored, the final siren sounded to give the Bulldogs a 26-point win.
Sam Wilson spearheaded the Bulldogs’ forward line, finishing with an impressive four goal return. Around the ground, Jeremy Daniher, debutant Brad Pattison and Michael Thompson put in solid performances to ensure the quarter time advantage was never surrendered. The Bulldogs have now won three games, as many as they won in the whole of last season.
Goals were hard to come by for the Demons, but Theo Moraitis managed to conjure up four of them for the Demons; and along with Josh Boag and Sam Widmer was among the Demons’ best. The Demons are far from finished, and usually find a way to be there at the business end of the season; but with one win so far this season, they’ll need to string a winning streak together at some stage to make up some lost ground.

The round was completed on Sunday afternoon, as Wests were at home to East Coast at Picken Oval in a game that would be a thriller and go down to the wire.
Both sides had the same number of scoring chances in the first term, but the Magpies made the better use of their opportunities. Five goals to two gave the Magpies a 15-point quarter time lead. The scoring stats reflecting what was happening around the ground, as the Magpies may not have had the firepower around the ground that the Eagles possessed, but were making the best of what they had and taking the fight up to the defending champions.
The Eagles stepped up a gear in the second term, and were immediately making a serious dent in the quarter time deficit. But the Magpies came into the game keen to make an impression, and the Eagles were denied the easy use of the footy they craved, forced into the harder physical contests more often than they would have liked. The Eagles won the quarter by five goals to three, but the Magpies were clinging to a one-point lead at the long break.
The Eagles hit the front early in the third quarter, but they were never able to run away with the contest. Whenever they threatened to blow the game out, the Magpies kept hitting back. It was exciting footy to watch, plenty of momentum swings and some high scoring, with the Eagles scoring five goals to three for the quarter. The defending champions were holding a nine point advantage at three quarter time; but the Magpies weren’t giving up yet.
The last quarter was like an arm wrestle. Hard-fought, tight, and tough. It wasn’t a game for the faint-hearted, and the Magpie faithful were loving what they were seeing as their team was matching the efforts of the reigning premiers. Just two goals apiece were scored in the final quarter, and the last few minutes was a time of high tension and drama as the Magpies threw the ball forward time and again in search of one more goal. But it wouldn’t come; and eventually the siren sounded to leave the home side an agonising six points short.
Winning was a relief for the Eagles. Far from the dominant force of the last two years, they had to dig deep and draw on everything they had to fall over the line. But in the end they got it done. Kieran Emery, Stuart Turner and Daniel Spiteri got plenty of the ball and played key roles in getting the Eagles the points.
It was heartbreak for Wests. Twice in just a few days they’ve come close against one of the powerhouse teams in the competition but just fell short. Ben Zoppo was magnificent in the forward line, kicking eight goals to keep the Magpies in the contest; and along with Dan O’Connell and Brenton Mumme was among the Magpies’ best. The Magpies remain without a win, but with the fighting efforts they’ve put in over the last two rounds, surely that won’t remain the case for long.

Sydney University 4.4 6.7 13.11 24.15 (159)
Manly-Warringah 1.2 1.4 2.4 2.4 (16)
Goals : Sydney Uni –
X Richards 13, K Murphy 2, A Lucy 2, H Morrison 2, O Osborne, M Fogarty, N Foster, M Powys, A Clarke. Manly – T Armitage, L Brain.
Best : Sydney Uni – X Richards, K Murphy, H Morrison, N Foster, S Clark, A Clarke. Manly – T Armitage, E Burke, C D’Souza, J Lumsden, C Pettersson, A Robertson.
At Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Saturday 29th April 2017.

North Shore 1.8 7.14 12.18 15.20 (110)
University of Technology 1.3 3.4 5.8 10.11 (71)
Goals : North Shore –
M Wilson 5, W Blackburne 5, S Lee-Steere 2, L Smailes 2, C Murphy. UTS – T Larby 2, J Caica 2, J Law 2, S Sherwen, L Maslin, N Read, S Lewis.
Best : North Shore – J Marsh, C Murphy, S Crane, M Wilson, S Lee-Steere, D Schacher. UTS – D Crouch, S Jansen, T Larby, J Law, S Nethersole, L Maslin.
At Mortgage Choice Oval, Saturday 29th April 2017.

Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs 6.2 9.3 11.4 15.7 (97)
Pennant Hills 2.3 4.3 6.9 10.11 (71)
Goals : UNSW-ES –
S Wilson 4, J Daniher 2, J Buckley 2, J Cann, L Essenstam, T Banuelos, J McKinlay, K Jacob, J Hennessey, L Edmunds. Pennant Hills – T Moraitis 4, M Carey 3, J Boag 2, T Wales.
Best : UNSW-ES – J Daniher, B Pattison, M Thompson, L Essenstam, J Buckley, O Gahl. Pennant Hills – J Boag, T Moraitis, S Widmer, L Shepherd, J Carroll, J Hare.
At Henson Park, Saturday 29th April 2017.

East Coast Eagles 2.5 7.9 12.13 14.15 (99)
Western Suburbs 5.2 8.4 11.10 13.15 (93)
Goals : East Coast –
B Clark 2, L Gemmill 2, M Weekes 2, Jamie Vlatko 2, P Vlatko 2, D Spiteri 2, S Turner, A Browning. Wests – B Zoppo 8, N Salter 2, B Mumme, C Ford, M Westaway.
Best : East Coast – K Emery, S Turner, D Spiteri, L Gemmill, C O’Brien, P Vlatko. Wests – D O’Connell, B Mumme, B Zoppo, Y Milligan-Saville, C Ford, C Gordon
At Picken Oval, Sunday 30th April 2017.

Sydney Uni
North Shore
St George
East Coast
Pennant Hills
Black - Confirmed finallists
Green - Currently in a finals position, but not yet guaranteed a place in the finals
Blue - Not currently in a finals position, but still a chance to qualify
Purple - Will not be competing in the finals
Red - Wooden spoon, probable relegation

Division One:
Sydney Uni 13.11 (89) d Camden 6.11 (47)
Balmain 14.9 (93) d Holroyd-Parramatta 8.7 (55)
St George 15.15 (105) d Southern Power 3.4 (22)
Western Magic 10.11 (71) d Pennant Hills 9.5 (59)
UTS 7.11 (53) d Macquarie Uni 6.8 (44)
Ladder – Sydney Uni (16, 179.57%), St George (16, 175.83%), Pennant Hills (12, 164.36%), UTS (12, 121.30%), Camden (8, 100.35%), Macquarie Uni (8, 95.29%), Western Magic (4, 97.22%), Balmain (4, 67.87%), Southern Power (0, 51.16%), Holroyd-Parramatta (0, 50.13%).

Division Two:
UNSW-ES 14.6 (90) d Pennant Hills 7.4 (46)
North Shore 29.17 (191) d Randwick City 1.1 (7)
Manly 8.10 (58) d Sydney Uni 5.17 (47)
Penrith 13.9 (87) d Wollondilly 7.5 (47)
South-West Sydney 12.4 (76) d UTS 8.10 (58)
Western Suburbs 17.10 (114) d East Coast 4.12 (36)
Ladder – North Shore (16, 545.05%), UNSW-ES (16, 217.80%), Wests (16, 211.62%), Penrith (12, 125.32%), South-West Sydney (10, 86.34%), East Coast (8, 96.63%), UTS (8, 90.69%), Pennant Hills (4, 99.63%), Manly (4, 64.94%), Randwick City (2, 19.53%), Sydney Uni (0, 54.14%), Wollondilly (0, 44.23%).

Division Three:
North Shore 18.9 (117) d NorWest 6.11 (47)
Balmain 13.11 (89) d Holroyd-Parramatta 12.12 (84)
Camden 20.14 (134) d Penrith 1.2 (8)
Macquarie Uni 15.13 (103) d Campbelltown 6.7 (43)
Ladder – Camden (16, 217.17%), North Shore (12, 361.27%), NorWest (12, 138.75%), Macquarie Uni (8, 138.43%), Campbelltown (8, 130.94%), Holroyd-Parramatta (4, 59.11%), Balmain (4, 35.82%), Penrith (0, 34.76%).

Division Four:
St George 23.17 (155) d Pennant Hills 2.1 (13)
Sydney Uni d Manly - forfeit
UTS 16.8 (104) d South-West Sydney 5.1 (31)
UNSW-ES 15.15 (105) d East Coast 5.3 (33)
Western Magic 15.12 (102) d Southern Power 1.3 (9)
Ladder – St George (16, 492.78%), UNSW-ES (12, 200.00%), UTS (12, 192.56%), Western Magic (12, 148.57%), Pennant Hills (12, 85.40%), Sydney Uni (4, 77.93%), East Coast (4, 63.82%), South-West Sydney (4, 38.37%), Southern Power (4, 26.43%), Manly (0, 46.37%).

Division Five:
Sydney Uni 6.11 (47) d Penrith 6.6 (42)
North Shore 12.14 (86) d UNSW-ES 0.5 (5)
Campbelltown 23.10 (148) d Wollondilly 2.0 (12)
Macquarie Uni 12.15 (87) d Randwick City 4.3 (27)
NorWest 7.14 (56) d UTS 3.7 (25)
Western Suburbs 12.7 (79) d Camden 5.10 (40)
Ladder – North Shore (16, 404.76%), Wests (12, 392.86%), NorWest (12, 208.59%), Macquarie Uni (12, 130.22%), Campbelltown (8, 128.57%), UNSW-ES (8, 93.47%), Sydney Uni (8, 69.73%), Camden (4, 165.66%), UTS (4, 88.36%), Penrith (4, 83.80%), Randwick City (4, 42.05%), Wollondilly (0, 29.69%), Holroyd-Parramatta (0, 20.38%).

Under 19s One:
St George 13.10 (88) d Sydney Uni 8.4 (52)
UNSW-ES 15.4 (94) d Pennant Hills 6.6 (42)
East Coast 20.18 (138) d Western Magic 4.6 (30)
North Shore 23.12 (150) d Manly 1.1 (7)
Ladder – North Shore (16, 784.44%), St George (16, 377.36%), Sydney Uni (8, 163.95%), Pennant Hills (8, 101.76%), East Coast (8, 100.00%), UNSW-ES (8, 99.57%), Manly (0, 26.61%), Western Magic (0, 9.39%).

Under 19s Two:
Penrith 10.6 (66) d Wests Goannas 6.12 (48)
St George d Campbelltown – forfeit
Southern Power 12.10 (82) d North Shore 2.7 (19)
Ladder – South-West Cats (12, 341.05%), Southern Power (12, 269.66%), North Shore (8, 122.77%), St George (8, 52.66%), Campbelltown (4, 78.57%), Penrith (4, 45.82%), Wests Goannas (0, 54.77%).

Women Premier Division:
Auburn-Penrith 10.3 (63) d Newtown 8.6 (54)
Southern Power 9.16 (70) d Western Wolves 0.1 (1)
Sydney Uni 4.8 (32) d UNSW-ES 4.5 (29)
Macquarie Uni 8.4 (52) d UTS 3.1 (19)
Ladder – Sydney Uni (16, 418.33%), UNSW-ES (12, 777.50%), Southern Power (12, 148.33%), Auburn-Penrith (10, 79.56%), Western Wolves (4, 37.09%), UTS (2, 39.41%), Newtown (0, 45.52%).

Women Division One:
UNSW-ES 3.10 (28) d North Shore 2.6 (18)
Wollondilly 4.4 (28) d Campbelltown 4.1 (25)
Sydney Uni 16.16 (112) d South-West Sydney 1.2 (8)
Auburn-Penrith 8.5 (53) d Newtown 5.1 (31)
Western Magic 16.20 (116) d Pennant Hills 2.0 (12)
Wollongong 6.5 (41) d Manly 3.5 (23)
East Coast 16.19 (115) d Camden 1.3 (9)
Ladder – Wollongong (16, 636.00%), Manly (12, 568.42%), Western Magic (12, 401.94%), North Shore (12, 361.19%), UNSW-ES (12, 306.45%), East Coast (12, 247.01%), Campbelltown (8, 86.49%), Wollondilly (8, 83.04%), Auburn-Penrith (8, 38.07%), Sydney Uni (4, 66.53%), Pennnant Hills (4, 53.92%), Newtown (0, 10.76%), South-West Sydney (0, 8.93%), Camden (0, 6.86%).


Premier Division:

Saturday 6th May
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v East Coast (1pm)
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Suburbs (2:30pm)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v St George (2:30pm)
Trumper Park – UTS v Sydney Uni (2:30pm)
BYE – Manly.

Division One:
Saturday 6th May
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v St George (12:30pm)
Trumper Park – UTS v Sydney Uni (12:30pm)
Gipps Road Oval – Holroyd-Parramatta v Camden (3pm)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Western Magic (3pm)
Mahoney Park – Balmain v Macquarie Uni (3pm)

Division Two:
Saturday 6th May
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Suburbs (10:30am)
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v East Coast (11am)
Waverley Oval – UTS v Sydney Uni (11am)
Weldon Oval – Manly v Wollondilly (1pm)
Pioneers Park – Randwick City v Penrith (2:10pm)

Division Three:
Saturday 6th May
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v Campbelltown (9am)
Gipps Road Oval – Holroyd-Parramatta v Camden (1pm)
Mahoney Park – Balmain v Macquarie Uni (1pm)
Bensons Lane – NorWest v Penrith (2:30pm)

Division Four:
Saturday 6th May
Trumper Park – UTS v Sydney Uni (8:30am)
Weldon Oval – Manly v St George (11am)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v South-West Sydney (12:30pm)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v East Coast (1pm)
Sunday 7th May
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Magic (2pm)

Division Five:
Saturday 6th May
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Suburbs (8:30am)
Waverley Oval – UTS v Sydney Uni (9am)
Fairfax Reserve – Camden v North Shore (10:30am)
Gipps Road Oval – Holroyd-Parramatta v Campbelltown (11am)
Pioneers Park – Randwick City v Penrith (11:40am)
Sunday 7th May
Hannaford Oval – Wollondilly v NorWest (1pm)
BYE – Macquarie Uni

Under 19s One:
Saturday 6th May
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v East Coast (10:30am)
Weldon Oval – Manly v Western Magic (3pm)
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v Sydney Uni (3:45pm)
Sunday 7th May
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v St George (10am)

Under 19s Two:
Saturday 6th May
Gipps Road Oval – Wests Goannas v St George (9am)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Campbelltown (11am)
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v South-West Cats (5:35pm)
BYE – Penrith.

Women Premier Division:
Saturday 6th May
Trumper Park – UTS v Southern Power (10:30am)
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Wolves (12:30pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Auburn-Penrith (2pm)
University Oval – Macquarie Uni v Newtown (3pm)

Women Division One:
Saturday 6th May
Weldon Oval – Manly v East Coast (9am)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v South-West Sydney (10:30am)
Mahoney Park – Newtown v Camden (12pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v North Shore (12pm)
North Dalton Oval – Wollongong v Campbelltown (2pm)
Sunday 7rh May
Henson Park – UNSW-ES v Western Magic (12pm)
Hannaford Oval – Wollondilly v Auburn-Penrith (3pm)