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  1. #1
    Almost Football Legend
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Bay 7 / Aisle 106


    Article by Michael Shillito

    The climax of the AFL Sydney season came on Saturday afternoon at Blacktown; as Sydney Uni and Pennant Hills took to the field for the Grand Final. It was an afternoon of sunshine, Blacktown was in great shape. But by the time the full-time siren sounded, heads were shaking in disbelief and the question being asked by so many was “how did that happen”?
    Pennant Hills have pulled off unlikely premierships before. Just two years ago, when East Coast were unbackable favourites, the Demons ran them down. But this Sydney Uni side was stronger, and this year’s Demons side didn’t look as good. By the end of July, their chances of making the finals looked grim. And now suddenly they’re premiers. Even with the odds stacked against them, they got it done.

    Sydney Uni had been the dominant force for most of this season. Racing to the top of the ladder early in the year, and leading all the way to the finals. A big win in the Second Semi. They hadn’t won a premiership at Premier Division level since 1992, but with a settled and star-studded lineup, this was their big opportunity.
    Pennant Hills had to struggle to make the finals, but got there. Coming from the Elimination Final, having to win three finals and come from three goals down in the Preliminary Final. The Demons, it was thought by many, would be competitive but only the most optimistic Demon diehard would have expected them to win.
    It was a subdued opening, with a full 10 minutes passing before either team troubled the scorers. But a Demon goal seemed to spur the Students into action and the ball spent most of the remainder of the quarter in the Sydney Uni forward line. And during the time-on period the rewards for effort came; with Will Stratford’s unorthodox run-up to a set shot that resembles climbing a step ladder. And then as Sam Ryan dropped the ball twice but got it back as he weaved through traffic to score, the Students had achieved a return of three goals to one for the quarter and the Students were leading by 15 points at quarter time.
    But the game deviated from the Sydney Uni script in the second term, as the Demons hit back hard. Two goals within a few minutes and suddenly the game was back within a kick. Although the Students were getting the ball inside their 50 metre line often enough, the Demon defenders were resolute and there was no way through. Much of the quarter was a battle of the defences, both sides putting numbers back and goals were hard to come by. The Demons would win the second quarter by three goals to one; and although most of the stats in general play suggested that the Students had been the better team through the first half, they only had a three point lead to show for it.
    The first half had been played to the backdrop of the chirping of vuvuzelas from a raucous Sydney Uni group on the hill at the railway end, their chants led from a megaphone. But as the second half got under way, the hill was stunned into silence. Instead, it was the Pennant Hills faithful in the grandstand, who had waited patiently through the first half as their team had held out against everything that their opponents had thrown at them in the first half, who found their voice.
    In no time at all, the Demons had the lead. With the first three goals of the premiership quarter, suddenly they were 15 points ahead. A short burst of energy, but it had turned the game on its head. Now the Students knew they had a fight on their hands. The natural light was beginning to fade, and the lights had been turned on. Was the sun setting on the Students’ premiership ambitions?
    The Students had to change their strategy. It was no longer enough to try to hold the Demons out. Now they had the attack. But their goal-kicking radar, which had served them so well during the season, let them down when it mattered most and shots that should have been converted sailed wide. The Students would eventually penetrate the big sticks to kick their only goal of the third quarter, but the Demons would get a reply in the final moments of the third term to lead by 12 points at the last change.
    A goal apiece to start the last quarter, and the Demons still held the two-goal buffer. For the Students, it was now or never. And they kept coming. Time and again the Students got the ball inside their 50, going long to within reach of the square. Shot after shot aimed at the big sticks, but the direction was off target.
    The Demons were under siege, but stood their ground magnificently. The tension among the fans around the ground was at fever pitch; while the nerves were rising for the players, with the fate of the match potentially riding on every kick. And as the Students found their second goal for the quarter, the margin of the game was within a kick. The Students kept coming, and the Demons threw everything they had at holding them out. The game had gone deep into time on, and just two points separated the teams.
    The game was calling out for a hero, someone who would put their hand up and prove himself to be the decisive edge. Cometh the hour, cometh the man; the man they call King. Matt Carey has been with the Demons for well over a decade. He’s played in premierships before, won a Phelan Medal; but never in his career has one kick made so much difference. Conquering the nervous tension that the occasion inevitably provided, his shot was long enough, high enough and straight between the big sticks. With barely a minute to go, the Demons were home.
    The clock ran down to zero, and the Demons had once again pulled off an unlikely premiership. Six points separated the two sides. It was close, but the Demons had got it done.

    As the final siren sounded, the contrast in the field was pronounced. Two feelings, physically just metres away from each other but emotionally separated by a galaxy. Every year the teams change, but the sentimental value of the moment is the same.
    For the losing side, players slump to the ground. It’s an empty feeling. They’ve had a good year to get there, they’ve given it everything they had. But in the moment, that counts for nothing. Tears are shed, players sit alone. Nothing but the passage of time can console the hurt.
    And next to the agony is the ecstacy.
    Players embrace in triumph. They’re joined by the coaches. And then, jumping the fence, comes the rest of the club. Family and friends. Players from other grades. Injured players. Committee members. Past players. They’re all part of it. Every embrace is pure joy. Every drop of sweat in pre-season, every niggling injury, every tough moment is vindicated. This is the aim of everyone who plays the game.

    Sydney Uni have had a good season. Many Students players have taken the next step in their footy this year. The Students have become a force in Premier Division this year. Going down in the Grand Final hurts, and that hurt will never fully be erased. But they will surely use that as motivation to go one step better next year.
    Josh Cole, Michael Fogarty and Ryan Bottin-Noonan were best for the Students; and they continued to fight hard all day. But in the end, they fell agonisingly short.

    To the winners go the spoils, and once again the winners are Pennant Hills. As the players climbed the stage to receive their medals, each had their own story of how they got there. Some are still young and their star is still rising. Some have been playing for a long time but maybe not for much longer. Some have come from elsewhere and found a home at the club. Some have moved away and returned. Some have overcome adversity along the way.
    But all of them have this moment in common. And whatever the future holds, it is something they will always have.
    Ranga Ediriwickrama, Michael Carroll and Josh Stern were Pennant Hills’ best. But everyone in the team played their role well and played a part in getting the flag to the Demons.
    Their season is over. But their premiership celebrations have barely begun.

    Pennant Hills 1.2 4.4 8.4 10.6 (66)
    Sydney University 3.5 4.7 5.10 7.18 (60)
    Goals : Pennant Hills
    – N Hey 3, M Carey 2, J Peatling, J Boag, J Stern, R Ediriwickrama, T Wales. Sydney Uni – W Stratford 2, N Foster, S Ryan, J Cole, L Vella, M Vicic.
    Best : Pennant Hills – R Ediriwickrama, M Carroll, J Stern, C Lee, L Shepherd, M Carey. Sydney Uni – J Cole, M Fogarty, R Bottin-Noonan, K Murphy, H Morrison, M Krochmal.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 16th September 2017.

    Division One:
    St George took out the Division One Grand Final, defeating Sydney Uni by 44 points at Blacktown on Saturday afternoon.
    The Dragons had been minor premiers, but had to go through the Preliminary Final to get to the big game after going down to the Students in the Second Semi-Final.
    A high-scoring opening term saw the Dragons edge out a lead, as they took advantage of the open nature of play to score five goals to three in the first term and lead by 13 points at the first change. The game tightened up in the second, and the Dragons made it hard for the Students to build any coherent forward movement. The quarter would yield two goals to one in favour of the Dragons, extending their lead to 19 points at the long break.
    The Dragons had been the better team in the first half but the Students were still within striking distance. But the game was put out of Uni’s reach in the premiership quarter, as the screws were tightened and the Students were denied any opportunity of building a score that would get them back in the contest. The Dragons added three unanswered goals in the third term to put the game beyond doubt as the lead was stretched to 36 points at the last change.
    The final term wasn’t one that reached any great heights, with the premiership already decided. But the Dragon Army on the hill were making plenty of noise as the game headed towards the inevitable premiership celebrations. Two goals to one in the final term made the margin a convincing 44 points.
    Dylan Addison kicked five goals for the Dragons, while Liam Maze, Connor Flanagan and Timothy Tegg were ball magnets all day; as the Dragons went one better than their heartbreaking one-point loss in last year’s Grand Final. The Students had been well served by the efforts of Jacob Swarts, John Walsh and Oscar Osborne; but it was St George’s day.
    St George 5.1 7.3 10.4 12.7 (79)
    Sydney University 3.0 4.2 4.4 5.5 (35)
    Goals : St George –
    D Addison 5, J Ware 2, L Maze, S Randell, O Selvi, D Napper, M Holmes. Sydney Uni – C Morgan 2, O Osborne, J Stapleton, J Walsh.
    Best : St George – L Maze, L Flanagan, T Tegg, D Addison, S Wilsen, M Webb. Sydney Uni – J Swarts, J Walsh, O Osborne, B Fitzpatrick, C Browne, B Hawtin.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 16th September 2017.

    Division Two:
    The early arrivers to Blacktown on Saturday morning saw a game that would go down to the wire, as North Shore had a nervous morning but eventually got across the line to take their Grand Final against Wests by 18 points.
    North Shore had been the strongest team in the division during the season, only dropping one game and comfortably winning the minor premiership before a comfortable win in the Second Semi-Final; while the Magpies had to bounce back from a loss in the Qualifying Final with wins in the First Semi and Preliminary Finals to get to this game.
    It was goal for goal in the first term, with the teams scoring three goals apiece in an evenly-contested first term; and the Magpies led by two points at the first change. And the game again had little separating the two teams around the ground in a tight second quarter, in which the Bombers added two goals to one to go into the rooms at half time with a lead of four points.
    The Bombers had been the hottest of favourites, but were being made to work hard by a Wests side that contested every possession; and the Bombers were feeling the pressure and were unable to exert the dominance they had so often this year. Just one goal apiece would be scored in the third term, and the Bombers were precariously placed at three quarter time with a lead of just three points.
    It was tight, and the game was in the balance. But in the end, the experience and class of the Bombers got them over the line. It was only a few late goals in the dying minutes that made sure of it; and the final term would be three goals to one. But it was enough for the Bombers to take the flag.
    Brad Plug filled an important gap in the Bombers’ lineup, as he controlled proceedings up forward to score six goals in a best on ground performance; while Ziggy Middendorf and Nic Hurrell also featured prominently for the Bombers. After going down in last year’s Grand Final, the Bombers finally have broken through to claim premiership honours for their reserves. If the divisional structure in its current form continues next year, the Bombers surely will go up to Division One next year.
    Jackson Hand, Andy Eurell and Michael Tuttle were best for the Magpies; who produced a strong finals campaign to get through to the Grand Final and push the highly-fancied Bombers all the way.
    North Shore 3.0 5.0 6.1 9.4 (58)
    Western Suburbs 3.2 4.2 5.3 6.4 (40)
    Goals : North Shore –
    B Plug 6, B Parks, M Varjavandi, A Quail. Wests – R Hinson, M McGowan, J Etto, T Woods, C McGrath, J Newbury.
    Best : North Shore – B Plug, Z Middendorf, N Hurrell, T Hansen, M Varjavandi, J Watters. Wests – J Hand, A Eurell, M Tuttle, M McGowan, P Boyd, H Sherwood.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Saturday 16th September 2017.

    Division Five:
    Three more Grand Finals were played at Blacktown on Sunday to lower the curtain on the 2017 season.
    The first was the Division Five game between Wests and UTS. The Magpies had been first to qualify for the big game, while the Bats had come all the way from the Elimination Final.
    The Magpies were getting plenty of the ball early, but struggling to get reward for effort on the scoreboard; while the Bats were making better use of their limited opportunities. Two goals to one in favour of UTS saw them leading by a point at the quarter time. But their lead was short-lived in the second term, as the Magpies continued to attack and landed three goals in the second term while holding the Bats scoreless to lead by 19 points at half time.
    The Magpies continued to hold the Bats at bay during the premiership quarter, and the Bats were unable to make any dent in the deficit. There would be two UTS goals, but the Magpies had the answers when they were needed; and won the quarter when they added three goals to lead by 26 points at the last change.
    It had been a low-scoring game to this point. But the floodgates opened in the last. The Bats had been through a long finals campaign, but had nothing more to offer. And the Magpies, with the scent of premiership glory in their nostrils, powered away in the last term with a blistering quarter of footy. Nine unanswered goals turned the game into a one-sided result, with the Magpies taking the game by 82 points.
    Aaron Connelly controlled the forward line to finish with six goals; and along with Daniel Lawrence and Tom Barrett was among the Magpies’ best. The Magpies didn’t field a thirds team last year, but it has been an important addition to the club this year; and has netted Wests their first premiership in any grade since 1996. Declan Gamma, Ashton Ryder and Andrew O’Donaghoe were best for the Bats.
    Western Suburbs 1.5 4.7 7.8 16.10 (106)
    University of Technology 2.0 2.0 4.0 4.0 (24)
    Goals : Wests –
    A Connelly 6, A Convery 3, S Hudson 2, P English 2, J Lear, A Elchah, S Kruse. UTS – D Gamma, A Ryder, R Tulloch, L Nevin.
    Best : Wests – D Lawrence, A Connelly, T Barrett, D Balassone, A Elchah, J Pedemont. UTS – D Gamma, A Ryder, A O’Donaghoe, P Mullane, E Molloy, J Rackemann.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 17th September 2017.

    Division Four:
    St George and UTS played the Division Four Grand Final. The Bats’ quest for a fourth straight premiership in this division was foiled at the last hurdle as the Dragons, who had been minor premiers, took out the Grand Final by 20 points in a low-scoring tussle.
    The Dragons controlled the game around the ground early, but some inaccurate kicking would hold them back. But the Bats struggled to get the ball into their forward 50 against some strong defensive work by the Dragons. With two goals to one in the first term, the Dragons led by 11 points at the first change. And going on with the job in the second term, the Dragons prevented the Bats from making any impression at all as they added the only goal for the quarter to lead by 20 points at half time.
    The Bats had only managed one scoring shot in the first half, but fought back strongly in the third to cause the Dragons some nervous moments. But the Bats were unable to fully capitalise on their time when they were the stronger team; and were only to add one goal in the third term. The lead was cut to 12 points at the last change, but the Dragons were still in front.
    And the Bats were unable to draw any closer in the last term. The Dragons would score the only goal; and a tight and defensively-minded scrap would finish with a St George premiership, adding to the silverware from Division One and Under 19s Division One to make a highly successful year for the St George club.
    David Ryan, Riley Orr and Conor Soffe were best for the Dragons; while Spencer Pascal, Shaun Silver and Jos Ellison stood out for the Bats.
    St George 2.5 3.8 3.9 4.13 (37)
    University of Technology 1.0 1.0 2.3 2.5 (17)
    Goals : St George –
    J Gasovski, C MacDougal, M Knight, T Garrido. UTS – S Mitchell, F Holzer.
    Best : St George – D Ryan, R Orr, C Soffe, R Craig, S Lording, A Bah. UTS – S Pascal, S Silver, J Ellison, L Lemessurier, J Watson, N Ward.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 17th September 2017.

    Womens Division One:
    The final game for 2017 was the Womens Division One Grand Final, which saw Wollongong take on Western Magic. The Saints had been minor premiers and had a good win in the Second Semi-Final, while the Magic had come from third through three sudden-death semi-finals to make it through in the final six system.
    Not much separated the two sides early in what was always likely to be a willing contest. The Saints had a slight edge, scoring two goals to one, but the Magic were getting plenty of the ball and only three points separated the two teams at quarter time. And both sides kept pace with each other in the second term, which resulted in one goal apiece in the second term and a lead to the Saints of four points at the long break.
    The Magic kept pushing the Saints during the premiership quarter, and the Saints had to work hard to maintain the lead against relentless pressure. It was another tight quarter of footy, with each team adding just one goal, as the Magic held the highly-fancied Saints back and kept working them hard all the way through the quarter; with Wollongong leading by just two points at the last change.
    It had been a great fighting effort by the Magic, keeping the Saints on their toes for three quarters. But the long finals campaign took its toll in the final quarter, and the Magic had nothing more to give. The Saints would add three unanswered goals in the final term, running all the way to the finish line to finish with a 22-point win in a game which for most of the afternoon looked set to be much closer.
    Kelly Chan, Jennifer Stanton and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster were best for Wollongong, as they bounced back from the pain of last year’s extra time Grand Final loss to finally take the premiership that had eluded them last year. Jaimee Mann, Lauren Houghton and Elizabeth Pickering-Rodriguez were tireless workers all afternoon for the Magic.
    Wollongong 2.0 3.1 4.1 7.3 (45)
    Western Magic 1.3 2.3 3.5 3.5 (23)
    Goals : Wollongong –
    C Stanton 2, E Morris 2, R McGartland, S Gibson, L Kidd. Magic – E Pickering-Rodriguez 2, A O’Keeffe.
    Best : Wollongong – K Chan, J Stanton, G Biedenweg-Webster, C Stanton, E Morris, T Bell. Magic – J Mann, L Houghton, E Pickering-Rodriguez, M Jansen, C Corr, S Freeman.
    At Blacktown International Sportspark, Sunday 17th September 2017.

    Hard to believe another season is done and dusted. Seems like only a short time ago since the season started, and already it’s over.
    It’s been an enjoyable season. Sydney footy has its challenges, and every club goes through hard times at various stages. There’s always winners and losers; but overall the trend seems to be going in the right direction. There are more teams, and more players, than ever before. Long may that continue to increase. With 97 teams across the AFL Sydney system this year, the target for next season would surely have to be to cross the 100 mark.

    There’s many people to thank for making this column happen. To Lauren and Chris and their team at AFL Sydney HQ. To the clubs, the players and the coaches who put on the games every week. And the third team in every game, the umpires; it’s a thankless task but we wouldn’t have a game without them.
    And thanks to all you who read this column and those who comment in the forum. There’s often some lively discussion and debating points, but that keeps it interesting.
    And thank you to the game of Australian Football. The best sport in the world.

    Footy season is certainly busy, and becoming more so. Between doing things at club level, writing this review every week and generating support for GWS Giants; Saturdays in winter are always a rush for me. But I wouldn’t have things any other way (except GWS to have less Saturday day and twilight home games and more Friday nights and Sundays to minimise clashes). I’m certainly keen to do it again next year, and have no intention of hanging up the keyboard.
    This column will be back again next year, and I hope you’ll be back to read it.

    Have a great off-season everyone. Thanks for a great year in 2017. And here’s hoping 2018 will be even better.

    Follow me on Twitter - @tealfooty

  2. #2
    Great work again Norris Lurker!

    Plenty of popular winners this season, congratulations to all of them, and commiserations to those who didn't take home a flag, and don't forget ... on Mad Monday, don't do anything you wouldn't want your mother to know about!

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