Article by Michael Shillito

Nine teams started the Premier Division season at the beginning of April. And 18 rounds later, it’s time to say goodbye to four of them. The home and away season is over; and we have a final five.

The final round was played in fine weather; but blowing a gale and cold. Most surfaces were in reasonable condition, although what has been one of the driest winters in living memory has made grounds a bit harder and dustier than would normally be expected at this time of year.

Manly hosted Wests at Weldon Oval on Saturday afternoon. Neither team could make the finals, but the stakes were to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Wolves were kicking with the wind in the first quarter and made it count. From the start, they knew what they had to do when the conditions were running their way, and they got the job done. Repeated long kicks into the forward 50 created scoring opportunities, which the Magpies struggled to repel. The Magpies did manage two goals against the run of play, but the Wolves were using their turn with the conditions effectively to land six goals for the quarter and lead by 27 points at the first change.
In the second quarter the Magpies had the advantage of the conditions, but were unable to make anything of it. The Wolves defended strongly, with numbers around the ball preventing the Magpies from any easy disposals. Much of the quarter was a war of attrition, where the ball was bogged down around the wings and incursions into the forward 50 for either side were rare. The Magpies would win the quarter, but only by two goals to one; and the Wolves were still 21 points ahead at half time.
Already ahead and with the conditions to their advantage in the third term, the Wolves closed down the contest in the premiership quarter. Time and again the ball would sail long from the midfield to the Wolves’ forward zone; and weight of opportunities would result in the scoreboard ticking over with regularity. Eight times in the third term the Wolves would penetrate the big sticks, each goal another dagger in the Magpie heart. And although the Magpies would eke out two goals during the quarter, the margin was 60 points in favour of Manly at the last change.
The final quarter saw the season for both clubs winding down, and with the game already decided it wasn’t a final term that reached any great heights. The Wolves would go on to win the final quarter by three goals to two, extending the final margin to 63 points. But for both clubs, the final siren meant the end of the season.
Callum D’Souza contributed four goals for the Wolves, and along with Sam Wicks and Jarrod Osborne was among Manly’s best. Manly failed to make the finals, the second year in a row they haven’t been part of the playoffs. But they had some strong moments, and claimed the scalps of finalists North Shore and St George, as well as a rousing win over East Coast a fortnight ago that killed the defending champions’ hopes of going back to back.
The Magpies received solid service all day from Charles Ford, Yannick Milligan-Saville and Pat Wilmot. The loss condemns the Magpies to their second wooden spoon in a row; but their tally of three wins is one more than last year. For many games this season they were in the contest until late in the game but weren’t able to get over the line; but the long season took its toll in the last few weeks with some heavy defeats.

Pennant Hills hosted UTS in a twilight clash at Mike Kenny Oval on Saturday evening. After last week’s Pennant Hills game was unfortunately cut short the Demons were a game ahead of UTS with a huge percentage differential. But whatever mathematical chance the Bats had of displacing the Demons in the finals were quickly blown away as the Demons dominated from start to finish to record a commanding 112-point win.
The wind blowing across the ground didn’t make it easy. Although it wasn’t favouring either end to any significant extent, it forced the play to the wing; and its inconsistency made it difficult to measure kicks. But the Demons were the better side at adapting to the conditions, and looked to have the edge around the ground as they scored five goals to two for the opening term to take a 16-point lead into the quarter time huddle.
The lights were on, and as the sun set during the second quarter the slim finals hopes of the Bats had also disappeared over the horizon and the long night of the off-season was upon the Bats. The Demons were controlling the ball at will, and try as they did the Bats were unable to stop the home side’s momentum. Like the first quarter, the second term would yield five goals to two in favour of the Demons as they surged to a 39-point half time lead.
The Demons were confident and the momentum of the game was running their way. The floodgates opened in the third term, as the Bats were unable to resist the Demon juggernaut. The quarter would result in seven goals to one, as the Demons dominated possession and efficiently shut down any UTS attacking moves. By the last change, the Demons led by 75 points and the result of the game was beyond doubt.
But although the Demons had the game safely won, they had every reason to keep going. With the finals starting next week, a finals-worthy combination had been found and there was no breaking of the momentum that they will be looking to carry into the finals. And with seven goals to two in the last quarter, the margin blew out into three figures.
Matthew Preen cleaned up on the forward line to score four goals for the Demons, while Nick Hey also ended up with four goals. Josh Boag, Stephen Wray and Tim Edmonds featured prominently around the ground for the Demons. There were times during the season when the Demons looked like missing the finals; but they found a way to make it through. And for the 14th season in a row, the Demons will be taking part in the playoffs.
Justin Crameri kicked four goals for UTS; while the Bats were well served by the efforts of Jack Macklin, Andrew Johnson and Luke Maslin. No finals for the Bats this season. A three game winning streak gave them the slightest of slim chances; but for the season to end in such a one-sided defeat will be a disappointment to the Bats.

Sunday afternoon at Henson Park saw UNSW-ES take on North Shore. The Bulldogs went into the game having lost their last three, while the Bombers had a six-game winning streak under their belt. But the formlines would be thrown out the window as the Bulldogs turned their fortunes around with a 39-point win.
The first quarter was an arm-wrestle, as both sides scrapped and fought to deny any advantage to the other. The ball travelled from end to end, but after each team scored an early goal both sides struggled to penetrate the attacking zones as resolute defences held firm. But two goals in the final minutes of the quarter gave the Bulldogs a 12-point advantage at quarter time.
The Bulldogs looked to be running away with the contest in the second quarter, as they hit the ground running after the ball was bounced to start the quarter. After a few weeks where the Bulldogs had struggled, they had their tails back up again and were constantly on the attack. But as the quarter drew on, the Bombers fought back to close the deficit and began to look more competitive. But the Bulldogs would win the quarter by four goals to three, extending their lead to 19 points at the long break.
The Bulldogs had been in front, but the Bombers were within striking distance during the first half. But in the premiership quarter the issue was put beyond doubt as the Bulldogs dominated proceedings to move out to a match-winning list. First to the ball every time it was in dispute and putting in stronger numbers every time a pack formed around the ball, the Bulldogs out-enthused the Bombers and powered away with the game. Six goals to two for the quarter saw the Bulldogs 43 points ahead at three quarter time and the result of the game clear.
It was two goals apiece for the last quarter, with the Bombers cutting the final margin back to 39 points but the Bulldogs having the game safely won. But the two sides will be back in action against each other next week in the Qualifying Final.
Jack Hardman was a handy focal point for the Bulldogs to finish with four goals; while the work of Max Lower, Jarrod Wachman and Fletcher Rowe was pivotal to the Bulldogs’ success. The Bulldogs are back on the winning list, and have the psychological advantage of having beaten the Bombers twice this season as well as the slight advantage of having the home dressing room at next week’s Qualifying Final.
Jack Campbell, Hamish MacDonald and Shaun Crane were best for North Shore. The Bombers’ winning streak is over; and this wasn’t one of their better performances. But they have a week to turn their fortunes around before another date with the Bulldogs that will count for far more than this clash did. Both teams had players out who will return next week; but both teams will have left a few tricks up their sleeves for next week.

Meanwhile in another Sunday afternoon game, East Coast Eagles took on St George at Kanebridge Oval. The Eagles will not be playing finals this year, but finished the season on a high with a convincing 104-point win over the Dragons.
In the early exchanges it wasn’t looking like being such a blowout. The first quarter was a scrap, where both sides competed for the footy and neither was making it easy for the other. The Eagles took the edge to win the quarter, but only by four goals to two for an 11-point lead. But the game was still looking up for grabs at that stage.
But when the teams returned for the second quarter, the Eagles were full of running while the Dragons were visibly struggling. It was one-way traffic around the ground, as the Eagles outran their opponents to be first to gather the loose ball every time. The Dragons weren’t helping their cause with some inaccurate finishing and some frustrating turnovers, but the Eagles were placing relentless pressure that the Dragons were unable to keep up with. The quarter would yield six goals to one in favour of the Eagles, extending their lead to 39 points at the long break.
There would be no way back into the contest for St George. The Dragons were unable to recover any ground against an Eagles side who were controlling all the stats around the ground. The Eagles were full of running, and starved the Dragons of any opportunities with the ball. Five goals to one for the quarter told the tale, a story of Eagle dominance that stretched the lead out to 66 point at the last change.
Last season saw the Eagles defeat the Dragons in the Grand Final to take out the premiership. The Eagles won’t be around to defend their title in the finals; but for one afternoon only they turned the clock back to last year’s heroics and inflicted more pain on the Dragons as six unanswered goals in the last quarter pushed the margin out over 100 points.
The Eagles spread the goalkicking love around, with 14 of their number getting on the goal-kicking list. Kieran Emery was the star of the show with five of them, joining Aaron Drinkwater and Eugene Kruger as the Eagles’ best. No finals for the 2016 champions, but they finished the 2017 season on a positive note.
Nathan Kenny, Liam Maze and Ben Jones worked hard for St George all day; but it was one of those days when nothing was going right. A disappointing way for the regular season to finish for the Dragons, and they have just one week to recover their momentum ahead of a sudden death Elimination Final.

And so the curtain comes down on the season for East Coast, UTS, Manly and Wests. Planning for the 2017 season, and a return to finals action, will already be under way. And only the final five remain.
Minor premiers Sydney Uni, who had the bye in the final round, will again have next week off. Saturday will be the Qualifying Final, with UNSW-ES taking on North Shore. And on Sunday there’s no second chance, as St George and Pennant Hills play off in the sudden death Elimination Final.

Manly-Warringah 6.4 7.5 15.10 18.11 (119)
Western Suburbs 2.1 4.2 6.4 8.8 (56)
Goals : Manly –
C D’Souza 4, J Parker 3, T Armitage 3, A Robertson 3, S Wicks 2, J Osborne, H Washington, C Pettersson. Wests – B Zoppo 3, M McGowan 2, J Hand, B Polley, S Pearson.
Best : Manly – S Wicks, C D’Souza, J Osborne, H Koch, A Hurley, E Burke. Wests – C Ford, Y Milligan-Saville, P Wilmot, C McEvoy-Gray, S Pearson, M McGowan.
At Weldon Oval, Saturday 19th August 2017.

Pennant Hills 5.1 10.7 17.9 24.16 (160)
University of Technology 2.3 4.4 5.6 7.6 (48)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
N Hey 4, M Preen 4, M Carey 3, J Stern 3, A Crisfield 2, L Skrivanic 2, M Thomas 2, J Carroll, C Luscombe, C Lee, J Peatling. UTS – J Crameri 4, L Maslin 2, S Jansen.
Best : Pennant Hills – J Boag, S Wray, T Edmonds, C Lee, J Peatling, M Preen. UTS – J Macklin, A Johnson, L Maslin, J Moyle, D Crouch, S Jansen.
At Mike Kenny Oval, Saturday 19th August 2017.

Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs 3.2 7.4 13.6 15.6 (96)
North Shore 1.2 4.3 6.5 8.9 (57)
Goals : UNSW-ES –
J Hardman 4, L Hoy 2, S Wilson 2, T Dickson 2, S Pollock, L Irvine, N Reinhard, J McAnespie, C Knudsen. North Shore – N Campbell 2, A McConnell, J McKenzie, S Barkley, D Roberts, S Crane, S Mason.
Best : UNSW-ES – M Lower, J Wachman, F Rowe, L Essenstam, L Hoy, C Knudsen. North Shore – J Campbell, H MacDonald, S Crane, J McKenzie, N Campbell, K Devlin.
At Henson Park, Sunday 20th August 2017.

East Coast Eagles 4.3 10.5 15.10 21.14 (140)
St George 2.4 3.8 4.10 4.12 (36)
Goals : East Coast –
K Emery 5, M Weekes 3, Jamie Vlatko 2, D Costello, S Turner, J Large, A Mohammed, B Vielhauer, E Kruger, D Spiteri, P Vlatko, A Savage, A Drinkwater, Jon Vlatko. St George – B Jones, J Mudge, A Wynn, B Addison.
Best : East Coast – A Drinkwater, E Kruger, K Emery, B Bourke, D Spiteri, C Arndt. St George – N Kenny, L Maze, B Jones, D Michalak, T Martin, L Sansom.
At Kanebridge Oval, Sunday 20th 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:
Western Magic 17.13 (115) d Holroyd-Parramatta 8.3 (51)
Balmain 12.11 (83) d Southern Power 5.3 (33)
Pennant Hills 14.11 (95) d UTS 3.3 (21)
Camden 10.11 (71) d Sydney Uni 5.6 (36)
St George 9.12 (66) d Macquarie Uni 4.7 (31)
Ladder (Final) – St George (60, 149.41%), Pennant Hills (52, 157.93%), Sydney Uni (52, 131.72%), Camden (48, 117.05%), Western Magic (44, 161.58%), UTS (38, 86.62%), Macquarie Uni (30, 90.73%), Balmain (16, 68.14%), Southern Power (12, 58.12%), Holroyd-Parramatta (8, 57.28%).

Division Two:
Pennant Hills 20.23 (143) d UTS 1.1 (7)
Randwick City 10.13 (73) d Manly 8.4 (52)
Western Suburbs 14.13 (97) d South-West Sydney 4.3 (27)
Wollondilly 9.13 (67) d Sydney Uni 9.10 (64)
East Coast 12.13 (85) d Penrith 5.7 (37)
UNSW-ES 9.5 (59) d North Shore 8.6 (54)
Ladder (Final) – North Shore (68, 353.07%), UNSW-ES (68, 226.38%), Penrith (52, 207.57%), Wests (44, 124.04%), Pennant Hills (40, 119.16%), East Coast (40, 114.83%), Sydney Uni (24, 88.28%), Manly (24, 65.53%), Wollondilly (24, 62.15%), Randwick City (18, 48.21%), South-West Sydney (18, 42.50%), UTS (12, 54.62%).

Division Three:
Camden d Holroyd-Parramatta – forfeit
Campbelltown 8.6 (54) d Penrith 6.15 (51)
NorWest 12.14 (86) d Balmain 3.2 (20)
North Shore 9.18 (72) d Macquarie Uni 6.8 (44)
Ladder – North Shore (68, 302.55%), Camden (68, 265.46%), Macquarie Uni (48, 183.18%), NorWest (48, 168.56%), Campbelltown (28, 87.18%), Penrith (12, 45.71%), Balmain (8, 33.35%), Holroyd-Parramatta (8, 32.01%).

Division Four:
Manly 10.7 (67) d Southern Power 2.13 (25)
Western Magic 21.20 (146) d South-West Sydney 0.3 (3)
Sydney Uni 15.14 (104) d Pennant Hills 2.5 (17)
UNSW-ES 9.10 (64) d UTS 6.10 (46)
St George 18.17 (125) d East Coast 4.5 (29)
Ladder – St George (60, 298.41%), Western Magic (52, 199.25%), Sydney Uni (44, 205.51%), UTS (44, 147.65%), UNSW-ES (44, 143.56%), Pennant Hills (40, 89.59%), Southern Power (24, 78.15%), Manly (20, 48.35%), East Coast (8, 35.73%), South-West Sydney (4, 19.42%).

Division Five:
Camden d Randwick City – forfeit
UTS 22.18 (150) d Campbelltown 4.0 (24)
NorWest 10.16 (76) d UNSW-ES 6.5 (41)
Sydney Uni d Penrith – forfeit
Wollondilly d Holroyd-Parramatta – forfeit
Macquarie Uni 4.7 (31) d North Shore 2.10 (22)
Ladder (Final, Match Ratio) – Camden (86.67, 240.71%), Wests (86.67, 237.52%), North Shore (81.25, 370.81%), Macquarie Uni (66.67, 156.76%), UTS (62.5, 209.59%), NorWest (62.5, 183.07%), Sydney Uni (62.5, 126.08%), UNSW-ES (50, 93.10%), Campbelltown (37.5, 73.70%), Randwick City (25, 51.16%), Penrith (12.5, 41.59%), Wollondilly (12.5, 26.16%), Holroyd-Parramatta (6.67, 13.83%).

Under 19s One:
North Shore 8.17 (65) d Manly 3.4 (22)
Sydney Uni 15.4 (94) d Pennant Hills 8.9 (57)
St George 4.11 (35) d East Coast 5.4 (34)
Ladder (Final, Match Ratio) – North Shore (87.5, 275.79%), St George (80, 196.77%), UNSW-ES (62.5, 146.45%), East Coast (46.67, 83.12%), Pennant Hills (43.75, 83.72%), Sydney Uni (20, 62.41%), Manly (6.67, 27.78%).

Under 19s Two:
Southern Power 14.15 (99) d Western Blues 5.2 (32)
Wests Goannas 8.8 (56) d St George 6.4 (40)
South-West Cats 21.13 (139) d North Shore 1.1 (7)
Ladder (Final, Match Ratio) – South-West Cats (93.33, 307.52%), St George (66.67, 104.31%), Southern Power (64.29, 138.68%), Wests Goannas (46.67, 79.73%), Penrith (35.71, 82.87%), North Shore (26.67, 58.91%), Western Blues (14.29, 50.99%).

Women Premier Division:
Newtown 7.9 (51) d Western Wolves 1.4 (10)
Sydney Uni 13.12 (90) d Auburn-Penrith 2.3 (15)
Macquarie Uni 15.18 (108) d UTS 0.0 (0)
UNSW-ES d Southern Power – forfeit
Ladder (Final) – Sydney Uni (64, 501.55%), UNSW-ES (60, 680.45%), Macquarie Uni (44, 168.81%), Auburn-Penrith (38, 83.66%), Newtown (24, 52.40%), Southern Power (20, 50.99%), UTS (18, 40.13%), Western Wolves (4, 20.22%).

Women Division One:
Newtown 5.6 (36) d Campbelltown 1.1 (7)
Camden 7.6 (48) d South-West Sydney 1.1 (7)
Western Magic 8.10 (58) d Pennant Hills 2.4 (16)
Wollondilly 8.9 (57) d Auburn-Penrith 4.7 (31)
Wollongong 8.2 (50) d Manly 2.3 (15)
North Shore 6.9 (45) d Sydney Uni 6.7 (43)
East Coast 11.20 (86) d UNSW-ES 1.3 (9)
Ladder (Final) – Wollongong (64, 875.57%), Manly (60, 651.65%), Western Magic (60, 594.19%), Pennant Hills (40, 149.38%), East Coast (40, 131.21%), North Shore (32, 106.77%), Sydney Uni (32, 94.56%), UNSW-ES (24, 69.91%), Wollondilly (24, 47.83%), Camden (24, 36.04%), Campbelltown (24, 31.85%), Auburn-Penrith (22, 43.85%), Newtown (18, 25.48%), South-West Sydney (12, 21.26%).


Premier Division:

Qualifying Final – Saturday 26th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – UNSW-ES v North Shore (3:50pm)
Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – St George v Pennant Hills (3:30pm)

Division One:
Qualifying Final – Saturday 26th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – Pennant Hills v Sydney Uni (6:30pm)
Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – Camden v Western Magic (1:20pm)

Division Two:
Qualifying Final – Sunday 27th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – UNSW-ES v Penrith (9am)
Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Kanebridge Oval – Western Suburbs v Penrith (3:30pm)

Division Three:
First Semi-Final – Sunday 27th August
Kanebridge Oval – Macquarie Uni v NorWest (1:20pm)
Second Semi-Final – Sunday 27th August
Henson Park – North Shore v Camden (3:30pm)

Division Four:
Qualifying Final – Sunday 27th August
Henson Park – Western Magic v Sydney Uni (11:10am)
Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Kanebridge Oval – UTS v UNSW-ES (11:10am)

Division Five:
Qualifying Final – Sunday 27th August
Henson Park – Western Suburbs v North Shore (9am)
Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Kanebridge Oval – Macquarie Uni v UTS (9am)

Under 19s One:
Second Semi-Final – Saturday 26th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – North Shore v St George (8:30am)
First Semi-Final – Saturday 26th August
Kanebridge Oval – UNSW-ES v East Coast (1:20pm)

Under 19s Two:
First Semi-Final – Saturday 26th August
Kanebridge Oval – Southern Power v Wests Goannas (9am)
Second Semi-Final – Saturday 26th August
Kanebridge Oval – South-West Cats v St George (11:10am)

Women Premier Division:
Second Semi-Final – Saturday 26th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – Sydney Uni v UNSW-ES (10:35am)
First Semi-Final – Sunday 27th August
Blacktown International Sportspark – Macquarie Uni v Auburn-Penrith (11:10am)

Women Division One:
First Elimination Final – Saturday 26th August
Kanebridge Oval – Western Magic v North Shore (3:30pm)
Second Elimination Final – Sunday 27th August
Henson Park – Pennant Hills v East Coast (1:20pm)