Article by Michael Shillito

Four rounds remain before the Premier Division finals. And we’ve got some fascinating battles to be decided for the places in the finals. Two teams fighting it out for the minor premiership, another two teams fighting for the double-chance and the battle for fifth spot is far from over.

In the tussle for top spot, Sydney Uni and UNSW-ES went into the round separated only by percentage. But with UNSW-ES having the bye, a win for the Students would be enough to propel them back to outright top. And the Students would be untroubled in achieving that, with a convincing 82-point win over UTS in a rare Friday night match at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval.
It wasn’t a particularly inspiring start, as the Students took some time to hit their straps against a desperate UTS team who were determined to scrap for every possession. The first quarter wasn’t one that will go down in the classics, but the Students eventually established themselves on the scoreboard as they kicked the only three goals for the quarter to lead by 18 points at quarter time.
But it was in the second quarter where the Students really got going. By now they’d ridden out the early bumps from the Bats, and their kicks began to hit the targets more regularly than the error-riddled first term. The Bats kept working, and did manage to string some good passages of play together to kick three goals for the quarter. But it wasn’t enough to keep in touch with the rampant Students, who ran seven goals through for the quarter to lead by 44 points at the long break.
It had been a dominant display by Sydney Uni, and there would be no respite for the Bats in the third term. UTS had their moments when they put the Students under pressure, the odd good passage of play or instance of forcing a turnover. But such moments were rare in the context of what had been a lopsided contest in general play where the Students were getting the lion‘s share of possession and winning most of the contested ball. And with five goals to one for the quarter, the Students went into three quarter time holding a 69-point lead.
By the last quarter the game was safe, and a lot of the sting had gone out of the contest. There were some easier goals kicked in the last quarter, but the overall theme of the night being one of Sydney Uni dominance remained intact. The Students added to their lead in the last quarter, kicking five goals to three, extending their winning margin to 82 points in a commanding performance.
Matthew Powys and Allister Clarke led the way up forward for the Students to finish with four goals apiece; Powys joining Josh Cole and David Johnson among Sydney Uni’s best. The win puts the Students a game plus percentage clear on top of the ladder, although UNSW-ES have a game in hand and the battle for the minor premiership is not over yet.
Daniel Crouch, Jack Macklin and Ben Moyle kept putting in all night for UTS. But it was another heavy loss for the Bats; and their hopes of appearing in this year’s finals are fading fast. Two games plus percentage behind fifth-placed East Coast, time is running out for the Bats; who will need to not only win their remaining games but be depending on other results.

In the race for the double-chance in the finals, St George are one of the key players. And the Dragons kept themselves well and truly in the frame for third place with a win over Wests at Picken Oval on Saturday afternoon. But the Dragons were made to fight all the way for their win against a determined Magpies side who kept piling the pressure on all afternoon and, with a bit of luck, could have pinched the upset.
Little separated the two sides in the first quarter. The Dragons had their opportunities, but for much of the quarter they were held back by an enthusiastic Wests team who were rising to the challenge. Contesting every possessions, being there in numbers every time a pack formed around the ball and dishing out the physical pressure when it was called for, the Magpies weren’t making it easy for the Dragons through a first quarter in which there were plenty of lead changes. In the end, the Dragons won the quarter by four goals to three, leading by three points at the first change; but the game was still very much up for grabs.
The second quarter was an arm-wrestle, two teams refusing to concede an inch to the other and piling the pressure on. Easy touches were hard to get as a willing contest was unfolding. The Magpies were putting everything they had into the game, and matching it with the Dragons around the ground through a tightly-fought see-sawing second quarter. It was a quarter that the Magpies would win by three goals to two; with the Dragons leading by a point at half time.
It was in the third quarter that the Dragons would establish the match-winning break. After a defensively-minded second quarter, the game opened up in the premiership quarter; and it was during this term that the Dragons found their point of difference over the Magpies. There wasn’t much in it, but when given room to move the Dragons had better delivery and were able to create the options that mattered. It was a quarter that would yield six goals to three in favour of St George; enough for the Dragons to lead by 18 points at three-quarter time.
The Magpies never gave up, and kept coming during the last quarter. But whenever the game looked to be back in the balance, the Dragons would be able to conjure up the answering goal to snuff out the challenge. The Magpies had fought bravely all day, but time was running out and they were unable to make enough of a dent in the deficit to threaten the Dragons. The Magpies would win the final quarter by four goals to three, reducing the final margin to 13 points. But, although not totally convincingly, the Dragons had done enough to take the game.
Karl Merson was impressive up forward to finish with four goals for the Dragons; while around the ground David Lycakis, Alex Wynn and Ben Jones were doing plenty of good work with the ball. The Dragons’ win sees them remain in fourth place, half a game behind North Shore but with a game in hand. And the Dragons and Bombers play each other next week in what will be a pivotal game for the double-chance in the finals.
Nick Salter peppered the goals all afternoon for the Magpies to finish with eight goals; while Brenton Mumme, Reuben Haupt and Jackson Hand were the Magpies’ best. It had been a brave fight by the Magpies, as they have done on several occasions this year only to fall agonisingly short. The Magpies are still two games out of the top five, and although it’s still possible for them to make it to the playoffs, time is running out.

A game with importance for both the battle for third and for fifth was at Kanebridge Oval on Saturday evening as East Coast Eagles played host to North Shore. A win for the Eagles would have gone close to wrapping up the top five; but it wasn’t to be. It wasn’t a game that reached any great heights, but North Shore did what they had to, winning ugly but taking the game by 28 points.
North Shore have had a good record against East Coast in recent seasons, but the Bombers were given a dose of plenty of pressure in the early exchanges by an East Coast team determined to turn the tide. The Bombers were forced into turnovers and errors as the Eagles relished the challenge and took the fight up to their rivals. The scoreboard would reward them for their efforts, as the home side kicked three goals to two in the first quarter to lead by four points at quarter time.
But the Eagles were unable to capitalise on their early efforts during the second term. The North Shore defence tightened, and the Eagles were kept scoreless for the second quarter. At the other end, the Bombers were accumulating the inside 50s, but their inaccurate finishing would prevent them from getting the goals that the run of play should have resulted in. The Bombers would kick a wayward 3.7 for the second term, frustrating themselves with some missed opportunities but getting enough chances to take a 22-point lead into half time.
It was a lead that the Eagles never really looked like hauling in during the second half. Two goals within a minute at one stage in the third quarter briefly stoked their interest, but for much of the quarter the Eagles were second to the ball and weren’t able to put the Bombers under any sort of sustained pressure. Three goals to two in favour of the Bombers in the third term extended the lead to 31 points at three quarter time.
The Bombers had been the better side around the ground, but despite having nearly triple the number of scoring shots, their wayward finishing meant the scoreboard didn’t do them justice. And that wouldn’t change in the last quarter, a term of football that had the look of going through the motions as there was little to inspire in the on-field display. The Eagles would win the final quarter by two goals to one to reduce the final margin to 28 points; but it was North Shore’s evening.
Dylan Smith, James Cubis and Jack Campbell were best for the Bombers, as they didn’t have one of their best games but still did enough to take the premiership points. With the win, North Shore stays half a game ahead of St George in third place. And the win also mathematically guarantees that North Shore will be playing finals in 2017.
Despite the loss, the Eagles were well served by the efforts of Ryan Fitton, Eugene Kruger and Cameron Arndt. If the Eagles had won this game, it would have made life difficult for the teams outside the top five to chase their way in. But it wasn’t to be. The Eagles remain in fifth place, but Pennant Hills are now only half a game out, and have a game in hand.

East Coast’s loss gave the winner of the game at Weldon Oval an opportunity to put the Eagles’ finals berth under pressure; as Manly took on Pennant Hills. And it was the Demons who would get the job done, moving just half a game behind the Eagles and remaining very much in the finals race.
But it wasn’t looking that way early. Looking at the team they conquered in the Grand Final in their first two seasons of their Premier Division existence, the Wolves burst out of the blocks and hit the ground running with relentless pressing into their forward line. Had they kicked straight, they could have established a lead that would have made life even more difficult for the Demons; but as it was they still looked the stronger team around the ground. A quarter of four goals to two saw the Wolves leading by 17 points at quarter time, and it could so easily have been a bigger lead.
The Wolves were playing with confidence and flair in the first quarter, and the Demons knew they would have to lift their work rate around the ground to stop the Manly momentum. They managed to do that in the second quarter, but pegging back the deficit wasn’t going to be easy. The Wolves still had a spring in their step and would score three goals for the quarter; but the Demons stopped the flow and fought back to land three themselves and reduce the Manly lead to 14 points at the long break.
But when the teams emerged for the third quarter, the shape of the game changed. Whatever happened in the Pennant Hills rooms during the break had the desired effect, as they came out full of running and the entire game changed. Now it was the Demons who were first to the ball every time; while the Wolves, fielding a young team with many of their experienced names out, looked to have run out of legs and were struggling to keep up. And the goals quickly flowed as the Demons time and again pumped the ball into their forward 50 and hit their targets with regularity. It took just a few minutes to turn the deficit into a lead, and the scoring kept going. Nine goals to one in favour of the Demons reflected the play around the ground in a lopsided third quarter, and the Demons led by 36 points at the last change.
It had been a devastating burst of footy in the third term, and the Demons had put on a premiership quarter that had ensured the four points were going their way. The last quarter was a high-scoring shootout, which the Demons won by five goals to four; as the Wolves never gave up and kept fighting but they were never going to overcome the third quarter burst.
The final winning margin for the Demons was 47 points. When goals were needed for the Demons, Nick Hey spoke out and got it done with a return of five goals. Around the ground, Luke Skrivanic, Jesse Hare and Cooper Lee were outstanding and picked up plenty of the ball. It was a strong comeback win for the Demons, one that puts them just half a game behind the Eagles and with a game in hand. It was a result that gives them an strong chance of qualifying for this year’s finals, although they still have some tough games coming up.
Lachlan Kilpatrick, Jarrod Osborne and Hayden Washington worked hard all day for Manly. But after starting so well, it was disappointing for the Wolves that they faded so badly in the third quarter. Two games behind fifth spot and a poor percentage, their finals aspirations are in deep trouble. And with the bye next week, they risk finding themselves out of the running before they get a chance to fire another shot.

Sydney University 3.2 10.5 15.8 20.11 (131)
University of Technology 0.2 3.3 4.5 7.7 (49)
Goals : Sydney Uni –
M Powys 4, A Clarke 4, J Cole 3, W Stratford 3, D Johnson 3, M Vicic, J Irving, S Ryan. UTS – P Brennan, D Crouch, J Law, B Hunt, L O’Keefe, T Mead, R Bates.
Best : Sydney Uni – J Cole, D Johnson, M Powys, S Krochmal, A Clarke, R Bottin-Noonan. UTS – D Crouch, J Macklin, B Moyle, L O’Keefe, H Callahan, S Jansen.
At Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, Friday 21st July 2017.

St George 4.2 6.7 12.8 15.10 (100)
Western Suburbs 3.5 6.6 9.8 13.9 (87)
Goals : St George –
K Merson 4, N Ryan 3, D Lycakis 2, D Michalak, C Flanagan, A Wynn, D Soffe, P Tegg, B Jones. Wests – N Salter 8, B Mumme, L Davis, R Haupt, B Zoppo, J Newbury.
Best : St George – D Lycakis, A Wynn, B Jones, B Willems, E Shaw, C Flanagan. Wests – B Mumme, R Haupt, J Hand, C Gordon, J Robinson, D O’Connell.
At Picken Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.

North Shore 2.4 5.11 8.14 9.19 (73)
East Coast Eagles 3.1 3.1 5.1 7.3 (45)
Goals : North Shore –
H Carr 3, A McConnell 2, H McDonald, N Campbell, L Smailes, Z Fyffe. East Coast – M Weekes 2, S Pierce, M Eastman, A Drinkwater, R Fitton, D Spiteri.
Best : North Shore – D Smith, J Cubis, J Campbell, M Manteit, D Fitzgerald, K Devlin. East Coast – R Fitton, E Kruger, C Arndt, Z Johns, S O’Connor, A Browning.
At Kanebridge Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.

Pennant Hills 2.2 5.6 14.10 19.17 (131)
Manly-Warringah 4.7 7.8 8.10 12.12 (84)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
N Hey 5, T Moraitis 3, M Carey 3, R Ediriwickrama 2, H Angel 2, M Thomas, T Angel, L Skrivanic, C Luscombe. Manly – L Behagg 2, B Palmer 2, C Gallo, D Meadows, E Burke, J Parker, H Washington, E Kaporis, R Wearne, M Rogers.
Best : Pennant Hills – L Skrivanic, J Hare, C Lee, N Hey, D Preen, R Ediriwickrama. Manly – L Kilpatrick, J Osborne, H Washington, L Behagg, M Rogers, E Burke.
At Weldon Oval, Saturday 22nd July 2017.

Sydney Uni
St George
North Shore
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:
No matches played.

Division Two:
North Shore 24.17 (161) d UTS 2.1 (13)
Sydney Uni 11.13 (79) d Randwick City 4.13 (37)
Ladder – North Shore (56, 400.52%), UNSW-ES (52, 228.67%), Penrith (44, 227.52%), Wests (36, 138.13%), Pennant Hills (32, 114.99%), East Coast (24, 87.88%), Manly (20, 63.67%), Sydney Uni (16, 75.14%), Wollondilly (16, 59.98%), Randwick City (14, 48.94%), South-West Sydney (14, 44.91%), UTS (12, 66.50%).

Division Three:
North Shore 10.10 (70) d Penrith 5.6 (36)
Ladder – Camden (52, 268.83%), North Shore (52, 268.23%), Macquarie Uni (40, 176.75%), NorWest (36, 147.55%), Campbelltown (20, 88.24%), Penrith (8, 40.65%), Holroyd-Parramatta (8, 40.24%), Balmain (8, 38.88%).

Division Four:
No matches played.

Division Five:
No matches played.

Under 19s One:
North Shore 10.11 (71) d East Coast 5.6 (36)
Ladder (Match Ratio) – North Shore (91.67, 347.52%), St George (81.82, 236.39%), UNSW-ES (61.54, 155.42%), Pennant Hills (53.85, 96.44%), East Coast (41.67, 70.61%), Sydney Uni (18.18, 58.98%), Manly (0, 22.92%).

Under 19s Two:
No matches played.

Women Premier Division:
No matches played.

Women Division One:
No matches played.


Premier Division:

Saturday 29th July
Waverley Oval – UTS v Western Suburbs (2:10pm)
Blacktown ISP – North Shore v St George (2:30pm)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v UNSW-ES (2:30pm)
Henson Park – Sydney Uni v East Coast (3pm)

Division One:
Saturday 29th July
Waverley Oval – UTS v Camden (10am)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v St George (12:30pm)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v Holroyd-Parramatta (12:30pm)
Mahoney Park – Balmain v Western Magic (2pm)
Henson Park – Sydney Uni v Macquarie Uni (5:45pm)

Division Two:
Saturday 29th July
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v South-West Sydney (10am)
Blacktown ISP – North Shore v Penrith (10:30am)
Waverley Oval – UTS v South-West Sydney (12pm)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v UNSW-ES (12:30pm)
Hannaford Oval – Wollondilly v Manly (1pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Randwick City (1pm)

Division Three:
Saturday 29th July
Blacktown ISP No 2 – North Shore v Holroyd-Parramatta (10:30am)
Mahoney Park – Balmain v Penrith (12pm)
Monarch Oval – Campbelltown v Macquarie Uni (1pm)
Bensons Lane – NorWest v Camden (2:10pm)

Division Four:
Saturday 29th July
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v St George (10:30am)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v South-West Sydney (11am)
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v UNSW-ES (12pm)
Mike Kenny Oval (Lower) – Pennant Hills v Western Magic (12:30pm)
Trumper Park – UTS v Manly (2pm)

Division Five:
Saturday 29th July
Blacktown ISP No 2 – North Shore v UNSW-ES (8:30am)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Randwick City (9am)
Trumper Park – UTS v Penrith (10am)
Gipps Rd Oval – Holroyd-Parramatta v Western Suburbs (11am)
Bensons Lane – NorWest v Camden (12pm)
Monarch Oal – Campbelltown v Macquarie Uni (3pm)
BYE – Wollondilly.

Under 19s One:
Saturday 29th July
Henson Park – Sydney Uni v Manly (9:15am)
Mike Kenny Oval – Pennant Hills v UNSW-ES (10:30am)
Blacktown ISP – North Shore v St George (12:30pm)
BYE – East Coast.

Under 19s Two:
Saturday 29th July
Gipps Rd Oval – Wests Goannas v South-West Cats (9am)
Blacktown ISP No 2 – North Shore v Penrith (12:30pm)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v St George (2:30pm)
BYE – Western Blues.

Women Premier Division:
Saturday 29th July
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Western Wolves (8:30am)
Trumper Park – UTS v Newtown (12pm)
Mona Park – Auburn-Penrith v UNSW-ES (2pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Macquarie Uni (3pm)

Women Division One:
Saturday 29th July
Mike Kenny Oval (Lower) – Pennant Hills v Manly (10:30am)
Monarch Oval – Campbelltown v South-West Sydney (12pm)
Mona Park – Auburn-Penrith v Camden (12pm)
North Dalton Oval – Wollongong v UNSW-ES (2:30pm)
Blacktown ISP No 2 – North Shore v East Coast (2:30pm)
Hannaford Oval – Wollondilly v Newtown (3pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Western Magic (5pm)