Men's Division One Preview
The Men’s Division One competition looks to be the most open division in the league where you could make a genuine case for every side. This was evidenced at the end of 2015 when Sydney University, in their first season in Division One, swept all before them to claim an unlikely premiership from 5th position. Balmain had started the season as the hottest of favourites however fell away late and were bundled out by the Students in the Prelim.
Pennant Hills continue to be a football factory with huge growth in recent years across all grades and a very strong junior network. The Demons probably should have won the flag last year but failed to take their opportunities in the decider and despite finishing the last quarter the better, fell agonisingly 1 point short and will be out to atone in 2016. Being a reserve grade side again many 1st Grade sides makes it difficult however the past two years have seen a very competitive side. This should continue in 2016 and with the likely addition of a number of last years minor premier Under 19’s players across the grades should have good depth. There is no doubt Jason Clarke will leave no stone unturned in his quest to go one better this year.
The side the Demons were beaten by last year, Sydney University should again be strong and certainly know how to win (this side has won three consecutive Grand Finals now). More impressive is that this is the clubs 3rd Grade side! Mixing form mid-season, the Students peak at the right time each year and will no doubt be there come finals to defend their title. Expected to be more than competitive last year but not go all the way, they will have a target on their back now.
UTS are the under achievers in this grade in recent years. 2014 and 2015 saw the side arguably the team to beat but in both years were unexpectedly bundled out before the big dance. Their mature, bigger bodies are certain to play finals but need to find the key to getting across the line when it really matters. Against Sydney University last year, the side were well up at halftime and seemingly put the cue in the rack only to be run down. Rarely get beaten on smaller grounds, a huge influx of players to the club and under senior coach Nic Fosdike the club has a new attitude and will be one of the favourites to win that long overdue Division One flag again.
New kids on the block Western Magic (formerly Blacktown) look to have again recruited well and despite being their first year in the competition, will feature in September you would think. They also know how to win having won premierships at the club in the past few years including last year’s Division Two flag in a tough contest against Camden. Player coach Ash Moeller has done an impressive job with his troops and will be assisted by former Goannas coach Jack Schwarze. They shouldn’t be underestimated by any side this year and are every chance of emulating Sydney Universities feats of last year (winning Division One after winning Division Two the previous season).
Balmain are hard to get a read of in 2016. After a premiership in 2014 and a minor premiership last year, the side looks to be weaker with a number of departures, most notably leading goal kicker and coach Luke Jarjoura. Under new leadership in the impressive Hugh Priest, the Tigers are expected to see a dip in their ladder position. The core of the side still appears to be there and weren’t far off Sydney University in the prelim so finals action is well within reach. A lot may rest on Hugh Priest’s shoulders in the midfield but if they can get star forward Brad Plug back they will be a force.
The side Luke Jarjoura has moved to, Holroyd-Parramatta had a season to forget in 2015 finishing in front of the winless UNSW/ES only. They will be looking to atone this year under a new coach and will also get the services of Jordan Pidgeon and probably Adam Byrne who surpringly played Division Four last year. They do need to improve significantly and don’t appear to have added to much to their roster at this point so may not rise too much up the ladder.
Also disappointing last year were Southern Power. On paper they had a side to play finals but fell well short and will be hoping to rectify things this year under a new coach. Depth may be the sides issue and while a return to finals might be a stretch, should be more competitive.
East Coast fall into a similar basket after a poor 2015 season, in particular in light of their senior grades dominance. Things don’t appear any brighter in 2016 for the Eagles reserve grade side and they may find 2016 a tough year.
St George are the real unknown quantity in 2016. Boasting a huge number of talented younger players in recent years, they have struggled for consistency but this year could be the year they really break out (both in this grade and their seniors). With a number of this sides senior players retiring at the end of last season, the young group will need to step up but have the ability to do so. Finals wouldn’t be a surprise at all but again will rely on stability in their seniors.
Macquarie University come into this season as one of the more consistent performers in recent years however will be under a new coach this season also. Very much a side that goes under the radar and just goes about their business without fuss, they probably aren’t expected to go all the way but should prove competitive. They had a strong spine last season led by Ryan Harris in the middle and if they can get a full season out of James Brackin they should play finals.
Snow Medal predictions
Reigning medallist Hugh priest was ultra-impressive last year and is every chance of going back to back providing the Tigers win enough games. Macquarie Uni’s James Brackin polls well every time he plays as do a couple of smalls in Southern Powers Liam Davis (former Sanders medallist) and Holroyd Parramatta’s Jordan Pidgeon. Big man Ryan Kennedy from Sydney University has a Sanders medal to his name already and is probably the best ruckmen in the division.
Listed transfers to date
In: Ben White, Stoitse Wade, Jack Schwarze, Jared Ryan, Stephen O'Connor
Out: Jason Moeller, Zachariah Godden
In: Jackson Brackin, James Argyle, Nicholas Andrews
Out: Drew Burden, Christopher Bateman, Ronan Wordsworth
In: Thwaites, Andrew, Little, Andrew
Out: Jack Riley, Chris Perry, Jordan Hodgson
In: Jared Wilson, Tristan Brunetti
Out: Matthew Thripp, Liam Pollard
In: Luke Jarjoura, Jarrod Dobler
Out: Joel Upfill, David Upfill, Haydon Turner
- Pennant Hills
- Western Magic
- Sydney University
- Macquarie University
- St George
- Southern Power
- East Coast