Article by Michael Shillito

Only two rounds remain before the finals, but the form lines are unpredictable. Another round of upsets makes us wonder who has the potential to go all the way; while Manly and UTS, who are off the finals pace are left to contemplate what might have been had they found their form earlier.

Manly’s 2017 season hasn’t been a great year, and when they ran onto their home ground at Weldon Oval on Saturday afternoon to take on fifth-placed East Coast Eagles, the Wolves were bottom of the ladder. The Eagles were fighting to stay in the top five. But what would follow turned back the clock to Manly’s glory days of 2013 and 2014, as the Wolves dominated from start to finish to record a comprehensive 76-point win.
From the start, it was clear that Manly had come to play, and they were going all-out to salvage something from their season by claiming a big scalp. Immediately they were running faster, tackling harder and pumping the ball to their forward line with more frequency. The Eagles were shellshocked, second to the ball every time and turning the ball over in the face of relentless pressure from the Wolves. And the scoreboard reflected what was happening on the field, as the Wolves ran through six goals to two and led by 23 points at the first change.
The Wolves had enjoyed a slight wind advantage, but nothing like what the scoreboard margin was suggesting. And that was shown in the second term, when the Eagles were kicking with the wind but unable to make anything of their advantage. It was a somewhat subdued performance by the Eagles, who were out-muscled and out-enthused by a Manly side with their tails up and taking full toll of the psychological edge they had built for themselves. Into the wind, the Wolves won the quarter by four goals to three, stretching their lead to 37 points at half time.
Manly were on a roll, and the third quarter would be one-way traffic. The Wolves were relentless, forcing contests and turnovers and denying the Eagles any effective use of the ball. This was vintage Manly, and they showed themselves to be impenetrable and unstoppable. A bad day was getting worse for the Eagles, and they were powerless to stop the rampant Wolves. Seven goals to one for the quarter blew the margin to 67 points at three quarter time.
There was little intensity left in the contest in the final quarter. Manly had the game won, and the last quarter wasn’t one of gritty defence or bodies being placed on the line. A long quarter would result in the Wolves scoring six goals to five, but the term of footy was a countdown until the long-awaited moment when the Wolves’ six-game losing streak would come to an end and they could finally sing their song.
The final winning margin for Manly was 76 points. Mitch Rogers contributed six goals to the Manly cause, while Hayden Washington chipped in with four. Around the ground, Lachlan Kilpatrick, Lachlan Behagg and Ryan Wearne picked up plenty of the ball. Manly won’t be playing finals this year, but their losing run is over. And they’ll be wondering where this form has been all year.
Bailey Stewart, Aaron Drinkwater and Daniel Spiteri were best for the Eagles. But this was a disappointing performance by the Eagles, one that sees them drop out of the top five. And with the bye next week, they face the risk that their finals hopes could be over before they get to step on the field again.

UTS have left it till late, maybe too late, to find their best form for the season. But the Bats kept their slim finals hopes alive with their second win on the trot, when they claimed the scalp of the second-placed UNSW-ES at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday afternoon.
The first quarter was a scrap, as two desperate teams faced off and refused to concede an inch to the other. The pressure was superb, the skill level not so in a quarter of footy that would be physical and tightly-contested but one which had little to offer to the outside runners. The Bulldogs would score the only goal of the quarter, but much of the term would consist of some big hits but some fumbles and high-pressure turnovers. When the quarter time siren sounded, the Bulldogs held a two-point advantage; but it hadn’t been a quarter of footy that will go down in the classics.
It was another tight quarter in the second term. It looked set to be a war of attrition, as the two teams muscled up to each other and launched some bruising bumps and crunching tackles. Loose men to run the ball were hard to find, and scores were hard to come by. This wasn’t a contest for the faint-hearted, but both teams willingly put themselves on the line. The quarter would yield three goals to two in favour of the Bulldogs, who went into the rooms at half time with an 11-point lead.
But when the teams returned for the second half, the complexion of the game changed completely. The first half had seen the Bulldogs lead a scrappy contest. But in the third term, it was a more open and attacking game; and the Bats were on top. The half-time deficit was quickly made up, and the Bats kept going. Runners and attacking players who had been barely sighted in the first half began to exert a greater influence, and the Bats were making the scoreboard tick over. The quarter would produce six goals to three in favour of UTS, with the Bats turning their half-time deficit into a nine point lead at the last change.
The game wasn’t over yet, and the Bulldogs would work hard in the last quarter to try to regain the lead. But it wasn’t to be. The Bats had a sniff of the win they so desperately needed, and they weren’t letting go. The game was up for grabs until the final minutes, it was close enough that a late Bulldog surge could have snatched it. But the surge didn’t come, and the Bats with a return of three goals to two for the quarter finished with a 16-point win.
Rohan Bates spearheaded the Bats’ charge on the forward line with four goals; while Tim McKenzie, Simon Lewis and Jack Macklin were prolific ball-winners around the ground. The Bats have won two in a row, and are still a very slim outside chance for the finals. They would need to win their last two games by enough to get their percentage ahead of East Coast and Pennant Hills to lose their last two. With the Bats playing Manly next week and Pennant Hills taking on Sydney Uni, it’s certainly possible that when Pennant Hills and UTS play each other in the last round a finals spot could be on the line.
Steven Pollock scored four goals for the Bulldogs on a day when goals were hard to get, while Tom Banuelos, Tom Dickson and Darcy Cordell made positive contributions around the ground. But the loss was a disappointing one for the Bulldogs, their second on the trot. The Bulldogs have exceeded all expectations this season to be in second spot, but will need to turn their form around quickly to stay there.

There was no upset at Mike Kenny Oval, as Pennant Hills picked up their third win in a row to replace East Coast in the top five with a convincing 101-point win over Wests.
The Demons wasted little time in asserting their authority in the midfield, creating chance after chance for their forwards. The Demons squandered several chances they should have converted, but the weight of possession took its toll and the Demons never looked under threat. The Magpies were trying hard to hang in there, but it was apparent from the early exchanges that they didn’t have the firepower to be a force in this contest. Four goals to two in the first quarter saw the Demons lead by 16 points at quarter time and looking good.
The possession stats were looking one-sided in the second term, as the Demons were on top around the ground and placing the Magpies under constant pressure. The Wests defenders were frequently called into action, and were able to place enough pressure on their Demon opponents to force errors, turnovers and missed shots. But the Magpies weren’t able to get the ball into their attacking 50 metre zone enough to threaten the Demons scoreboard advantage. The second term would yield three goals to one in favour of the Demons, putting them 31 points ahead at half time.
It was all Wests could do in the first half to hold the Demons out as best they could. But in the premiership quarter, the Magpie resistance faded and the Demons took complete control. The floodgates opened, and it was only some more inaccurate finishing at times that would prevent the margin from being even bigger. As it was, eight unanswered goals turned what was already a comfortable margin into a blowout. The Magpies have been competitive in most of their games this season, but this time they were powerless to stop the Pennant Hills juggernaut as the Demons stretched the margin to 84 points at the last change.
The main question was whether the Demons could get the margin up to three figures. As it turned out, they would; but only just. The last quarter wasn’t one that reached any great heights, and the Demons had the cue back in the rack after their dominant third term. But they still managed to score three goals to one, to get the final winning margin up to 101 points.
There were plenty of Demon goals to go round, with Nick Hey scoring five and Matt Carey four. There were plenty of Pennant Hills winners around the ground; with Jackson Potter, Stephen Wray and Nick Hey the pick of them. The Demons find themselves in fifth place. They have tough games against Sydney Uni and UTS to come; but one more win will be enough to continue an unbroken run of finals appearances going back to 2004.
Dan O’Connell, Michael Tuttle and Callum McEvoy-Gray were best for the Magpies. But it was one of those days when nothing was going right. And the loss, combined with Manly’s win, sees the Magpies fall to the bottom of the ladder.

The round was completed with a Sunday afternoon game at Olds Park, with St George playing host to Sydney Uni. The Students would win the game by 29 points to wrap up the minor premiership, but first had to absorb some strong pressure from the Dragons; which the home team squandered their opportunity to capitalise on.
When the game got under way, it was looking like St George were the dominant side in the midfield. Time after time they were gathering the ball and pumping it into their forward line; and had they been able to exert some significant scoreboard pressure, the entire vibe of the game changed. A lopsided stat of 14 scoring shots to one in the first quarter should have created a situation where the Dragons were in complete control. But a return of 1.13 to the home side meant they led by just 13 points and the Students were still in the contest.
There was a cross-ground wind, but it wasn’t as bad as the inaccurate scoreline would suggest. But after such reckless finishing in front of goals by the Dragons in the first quarter, it was the Students’ turn to have the yips when attempting to finish in the second term. The Dragons kicked three goals to two in the second term, but the Students won the quarter; having the bulk of the play but shot after shot sailing wide of the big sticks. The Dragons led by 12 points at half time, and overall should have been leading by more; but it was a half that was cause forwards from both sides to bang their head into the goalpost in frustration.
The Dragons would be made to rue their first quarter finishing when the Students got on top in the third quarter. The 12-point half time margin wasn’t nearly enough of a buffer against the Sydney Uni juggernaut in the third term, and the Students wasted little time in taking the lead; when the run of play in the first term should have seen them still a long way behind. And once the Students had taken the lead, there was no stopping them. A quarter of seven goals to two saw the Students turn the half time deficit into a 20-point lead at the last change.
Having dominated and not got the reward, and then being run over, the Dragons were feeling deflated; and there would be no way back in the last quarter. The Students would score three goals to two in the final term, a quarter that was largely going through the motions with the result of the game no longer being in doubt.
Will Stratford was a strong force up forward for the Students to finish with six goals; while Sam Ryan, Harry Morrison and Luke Vella were the Students’ best. With the win, the Students go two games plus plenty of percentage ahead of UNSW-ES, and the minor premiership is decided. The Students have Pennant Hills next week before the bye in the last round and another week off in the first week of the finals.
Kuiam Anu, Bryce Addison and Earl Shaw worked hard all day for the Dragons; but it wasn’t enough to get them over the line. But despite the loss, thanks to East Coast’s defeat, St George’s place in the finals is now confirmed. But unless they win their last two games and North Shore lose their last two, the Dragons will be playing sudden death in the finals.

Manly-Warringah 6.1 10.2 17.7 23.12 (150)
East Coast Eagles 2.2 5.5 6.6 11.8 (74)
Goals : Manly –
M Rogers 6, H Washington 4, R Wearne 2, C D’Souza 2, L Kilpatrick 2, E Burke 2, A Butler, J Osborne, L Behagg. East Coast – B Stewart 2, P Vlatko 2, D Spiteri 2, Jamie Vlatko 2, A Browning, M Weekes, K Emery.
Best : Manly – L Kilpatrick, L Behagg, R Wearne, D Meadows, C Johnston, T Armitage. East Coast – B Stewart, A Drinkwater, D Spiteri, A Browning, E Kruger, K Emery.
At Weldon Oval, Saturday 5th August 2017.

University of Technology 0.5 2.6 8.10 11.15 (81)
Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs 1.1 4.5 7.7 9.11 (65)
Goals : UTS –
R Bates 4, T McKenzie 3, T O’Donnell, T Larby, S Maslin, S Wightman. UNSW-ES – S Pollock 4, H Annear 2, T Bartholomaeus, T Banuelos, S Wilson.
Best : UTS – T McKenzie, S Lewis, J Macklin, S Jansen, R Bates, B Liddell. UNSW-ES – T Banuelos, T Dickson, D Cordell, H Annear.
At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 5th August 2017.

Pennant Hills 4.5 7.11 15.18 18.25 (133)
Western Suburbs 2.1 3.4 3.6 4.8 (32)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
N Hey 5, M Carey 4, M Preen 3, T Moraitis 2, C Luscombe 2, L Shepherd, T Edmonds. Wests – S Pearson, T Barrett, B Zoppo, N Salter.
Best : Pennant Hills – J Potter, S Wray, N Hey, M Preen, L Skrivanic, L Shepherd. Wests – D O’Connell, M Tuttle, C McEvoy-Gray, C Ford, T Barrett, J Polley.
At Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 5th August 2017.

Sydney University 1.0 3.7 10.10 13.15 (93)
St George 1.13 4.13 6.14 8.16 (64)
Goals : Sydney Uni –
W Stratford 6, N Kyriakacis 2, A Clarke 2, N Foster, J Swarts, L Vella. St George – N Kenny, D Lycakis, M Holmes, D Hoban, D Donuhue, E Shaw, N Shaw, J Hill.
Best : Sydney Uni – S Ryan, H Morrison, L Vella, W Stratford, R Bottin-Noonan, A Sierakowski. St George – K Anu, B Addison, E Shaw, L Sansom, C Flanagan, D Michalak.
At Olds Park, Sunday 6th August 2017.

Sydney Uni
North Shore
St George
Pennant Hills
East Coast
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:
Pennant Hills 4.11 (35) d Macquarie Uni 4.10 (34)
Western Magic 17.14 (116) d Southern Power 3.10 (28)
UTS 14.10 (94) d Holroyd-Parramatta 5.7 (37)
Camden 16.11 (107) d Balmain 8.7 (55)
Sydney Uni 12.10 (82) d St George 5.5 (35)
Ladder – St George (52, 150.67%), Pennant Hills (48, 155.67%), Sydney Uni (48, 139.59%), Camden (44, 116.13%), UTS (38, 98.21%), Western Magic (36, 153.02%), Macquarie Uni (30, 94.00%), Balmain (8, 59.16%), Holroyd-Parramatta (8, 56.72%), Southern Power (8, 56.65%).

Division Two:
Pennant Hills 8.4 (52) d Wollondilly 5.5 (35)
UNSW-ES 19.11 (125) d UTS 3.5 (23)
East Coast 9.17 (71) d Manly 2.6 (18)
South-West Sydney 8.10 (58) d Sydney Uni 6.11 (47)
North Shore 13.16 (94) d Randwick City 4.7 (31)
Penrith 11.6 (72) d Western Suburbs 4.6 (30)
Ladder – North Shore (64, 359.70%), UNSW-ES (60, 230.85%), Penrith (48, 215.62%), Wests (40, 138.80%), Pennant Hills (36, 111.76%), East Coast (32, 103.46%), Sydney Uni (20, 84.00%), Wollondilly (20, 62.91%), Manly (20, 61.54%), South-West Sydney (18, 45.81%), Randwick City (14, 46.42%), UTS (12, 59.22%).

Division Three:
NorWest 13.5 (83) d Penrith 5.4 (34)
Camden 8.18 (66) d Macquarie Uni 6.5 (41)
Campbelltown 13.15 (93) d Holroyd-Parramatta 2.3 (15)
North Shore 16.22 (118) d Balmain 0.1 (1)
Ladder – North Shore (60, 313.55%), Camden (60, 249.50%), Macquarie Uni (44, 170.73%), NorWest (40, 148.15%), Campbelltown (24, 91.49%), Penrith (12, 45.55%), Balmain (8, 37.02%), Holroyd-Parramatta (8, 35.72%).

Division Four:
Western Magic 15.22 (112) d East Coast 5.6 (36)
Southern Power 9.8 (62) d South-West Sydney 5.10 (40)
Manly 8.10 (58) d Sydney Uni 6.13 (49)
UTS 10.8 (68) d St George 9.11 (65)
Pennant Hills 14.7 (91) d UNSW-ES 9.8 (62)
Ladder – St George (56, 313.84%), Western Magic (48, 195.94%), UTS (40, 145.63%), Pennant Hills (40, 97.07%), Sydney Uni (36, 194.50%), UNSW-ES (36, 144.84%), Southern Power (20, 79.19%), Manly (12, 39.57%), East Coast (8, 35.58%), South-West Sydney (4, 22.14%).

Division Five:
Camden 15.17 (107) d Campbelltown 10.3 (63)
North Shore d Holroyd-Parramatta – forfeit
Sydney Uni 20.16 (136) d Wollondilly 3.0 (18)
Macquarie Uni d Randwick City – forfeit
Western Suburbs 20.14 (134) d Penrith 4.3 (27)
UTS 10.10 (70) d UNSW-ES 7.3 (45)
Ladder (Match Ratio) – North Shore (92.86, 414.07%), Wests (85.71, 242.60%), Camden (84.62, 229.59%), Macquarie Uni (64.29, 141.15%), UTS (57.14, 175.33%), NorWest (57.14, 158.05%), Sydney Uni (57.14, 108.94%), UNSW-ES (50, 91.36%), Campbelltown (42.86, 85.55%), Randwick City (28.57, 60.06%), Penrith (14.29, 43.58%), Holroyd-Parramatta (7.69, 17.65%), Wollondilly (7.14, 23.45%).

Under 19s One:
East Coast 14.16 (100) d Manly 3.7 (25)
North Shore 10.10 (70) d UNSW-ES 9.6 (60)
St George 14.10 (94) d Sydney Uni 3.5 (23)
Ladder (Match Ratio) – North Shore (92.86, 297.20%), St George (76.92, 211.49%), UNSW-ES (60, 142.18%), Pennant Hills (50, 86.57%), East Coast (46.15, 81.21%), Sydney Uni (15.38, 58.33%), Manly (7.14, 27.47%).

Under 19s Two:
South-West Cats d Western Blues – forfeit
Wests Goannas 6.13 (49) d Penrith 3.6 (24)
St George 8.12 (60) d North Shore 3.2 (20)
Ladder (Match Ratio) – South-West Cats (92.31, 287.79%), St George (69.23, 100.82%), Southern Power (58.33, 125.97%), Wests Goannas (42.86, 77.07%), Penrith (38.46, 84.40%), North Shore (30.77, 70.08%), Western Blues (16.67, 57.05%).

Women Premier Division:
UNSW-ES 18.13 (121) d UTS 0.0 (0)
Auburn-Penrith 3.7 (25) d Southern Power 2.2 (14)
Macquarie Uni 11.14 (80) d Newtown 2.1 (13)
Sydney Uni 14.14 (98) d Western Wolves 2.1 (13)
Ladder – UNSW-ES (56, 777.78%), Sydney Uni (56, 451.85%), Macquarie Uni (36, 139.47%), Auburn-Penrith (34, 85.58%), Southern Power (20, 54.65%), UTS (18, 50.36%), Newtown (16, 45.91%), Western Wolves (4, 20.38%).

Women Division One:
UNSW-ES 5.9 (39) d Sydney Uni 2.4 (16)
Manly 9.11 (65) d North Shore 1.0 (6)
Newtown 3.11 (29) d Auburn-Penrith 2.3 (15)
South-West Sydney 13.11 (89) d Wollondilly 4.5 (29)
Pennant Hills 18.10 (118) d East Coast 3.2 (20)
Western Magic 5.13 (43) d Wollongong 2.3 (15)
Camden 3.3 (21) d Campbelltown 2.1 (13)
Ladder – Manly (56, 999.53%), Wollongong (56, 868.75%), Western Magic (52, 561.57%), Pennant Hills (40, 172.61%), East Coast (36, 134.46%), Sydney Uni (32, 111.03%), North Shore (24, 103.74%), UNSW-ES (24, 97.12%), Wollondilly (20, 44.34%), Campbelltown (20, 27.10%), Auburn-Penrith (18, 32.75%), Camden (16, 24.95%), Newtown (14, 23.69%), South-West Sydney (12, 23.06%).


Premier Division:

Saturday 12th August
Olds Park – St George v UNSW-ES (1pm)
Picken Oval – Western Suburbs v North Shore (2pm)
Waverley Oval – UTS v Manly (2:10pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Pennant Hills (4:30pm)
BYE – East Coast.

Division One:
Saturday 12th August
Olds Park – St George v Camden (11am)
Trumper Park – UTS v Western Magic (1pm)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Holroyd-Parramatta (2:30pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Pennant Hills (2:30pm)
University Oval – Macquarie Uni v Balmain (5pm)

Division Two:
Saturday 12th August
Picken Oval – Western Suburbs v St George (12pm)
Waverley Oval – UTS v Manly (12pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Pennant Hills (12:30pm)
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v Wollondilly (2pm)
Pioneers Park – Randwick City v UNSW-ES (2:10pm)
Blacktown ISP No 1 – Penrith v South-West Sydney (2:30pm)

Division Three:
Saturday 12th August
Blacktown ISP No 1 – Penrith v Camden (10:30am)
Monarch Oval – Campbelltown v North Shore (1pm)
Bensons Lane – NorWest v Holroyd-Parramatta (2:10pm)
University Oval – Macquarie Uni v Balmain (3pm)

Division Four:
Saturday 12th August
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v Manly (10am)
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v Western Magic (10:30am)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Pennant Hills (12:30pm)
Trumper Park – UTS v South-West Sydney (2pm)
Olds Park – St George v UNSW-ES (3:45pm)

Division Five:
Saturday 12th August
Picken Oval – Western Suburbs v St George (10am)
Trumper Park – UTS v Holroyd-Parramatta (10am)
Blacktown ISP No 2 – Penrith v Camden (11am)
Monarch Oval – Campbelltown v Sydney Uni (11am)
Pioneers Park – Randwick City v UNSW-ES (11:40am)
Bensons Lane – Norwest v Wollondilly (12pm)
BYE – Macquarie Uni.

Under 19s One:
Saturday 12th August
Sydney Uni No 1 Oval – Sydney Uni v UNSW-ES (8:30am)
Olds Park – St George v Pennant Hills (9am)
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v North Shore (12pm)
BYE – Manly.

Under 19s Two:
Saturday 12th August
Blacktown ISP No 1 – Penrith v South-West Cats (8:30am)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v North Shore (8:30am)
Blacktown ISP No 2 – Western Blues v St George (1pm)
BYE – Wests Goannas.

Women Premier Division:
Saturday 12th August
Waverley Oval – UTS v Sydney Uni (10am)
Gwawley Oval – Southern Power v Newtown (10:30am)
University Oval – Macquarie Uni v UNSW-ES (1pm)
Picken Oval – Western Wolves v Auburn-Penrith (2pm)

Women Division One:
Saturday 12th August
Monarch Oval – Campbelltown v Wollondilly (9am)
Mortgage Choice Oval – UNSW-ES v Western Magic (12pm)
North Dalton Oval – Wollongong v Sydney Uni (12pm)
Blacktown ISP No 1 – Auburn-Penrith v South-West Sydney (12:30pm)
Mortgage Choice Oval – North Shore v Pennant Hills (2pm)
Kanebridge Oval – East Coast v Manly (4pm)
Fairfax Reserve – Camden v Newtown (5:10pm)