Sydney AFL Round Review, Round 7 2016

Article by Michael Shillito, Photo by Leigh Gazzard 

After seven rounds, the ladder is beginning to take shape; but there’s some tight battles for positions still to be played out. In the last couple of years, by this stage of the season it was already clear who the final five would be; but this year that’s still far from settled.
St George and East Coast are the front-runners, and have already racked up six wins from seven games; but neither have had a bye yet. They’re followed by North Shore and UTS, teams that were not in finals calculations last year, with four wins from six games. Recent premiers Pennant Hills and Manly are a game behind with three wins from six; two games clear of seventh spot.

All Premier Division games this week were played on Saturday afternoon, in a day of glorious sunshine and exceptionally warm conditions for this time of year, with the mercury climbing into the high 20s; and with little rain having fallen recently, all grounds were in good condition.

A 12 noon start at Trumper Park for the match between UTS Bats and St George. The Dragons would take the points and maintain top spot on the ladder, but not before facing a challenge from a Bats side who proved themselves worthy of being finals contenders.
An entertaining opening term set the tone for the game, as the Bats were taking the game up to the Dragons. There were few easy possessions for either team, but enough to allow the skilful players in each team their chance to shine. The Dragons were looking slightly better around the ground, but there wasn’t much in it; and with four goals to three, they led by nine points at the first change.
But the Bats lifted their intensity in the second term. At times it was physical as the big Bats bodies exerted themselves in the contest; but the small confines of Trumper Park made it easy enough to get the ball up forward and create scoring opportunities and the scoreboard continued to tick over. Both sides were creating chances, but the Bats were making better use of theirs, and with four goals to three for the quarter, cut the margin to five points at half time.
With little separating the two sides, it had become a fascinating tactical battle, with each side having their area of strength and working hard to make it count. The momentum see-sawed, but the Dragons were able to maintain the lead. Never by much, as the Bats continued their hard work; but by enough to not concede the scoreboard advantage. Four goals to three for the quarter was enough for the Dragons to move into the three quarter time huddle with a 13-point advantage.
The Bats had given their all, and their effort couldn’t be faulted. But in the warm conditions as fatigue set in during the final quarter, they were unable to match it with the Dragons in the last quarter. They gave it their best shot, and did manage to penetrate the big sticks twice; but the Dragons pulled away during the latter stages of the game, and four goals for the quarter gave them a 21-point win and kept them in top spot on the ladder.
Dragon veteran Declan Donohue showed some impressive form on the forward line to finish with five goals; while second-gamer Nick Craig Shipley, Travis Martin and Alex Wynn featured prominently in general play. Jack Hewitt spearheaded the Bats’ attack to finish with six goals; while Rohan Bates, Ben Nethersole and Scott Dadswell were ball magnets for the Bats all day.

East Coast Eagles remain in second place, like St George they have six wins from seven games. And the Eagles made significant progress towards bridging the gap in percentage as they dominated Wests from start to finish to complete a 165-point win at Kanebridge Oval.
From the start, it was clear that the Eagles would be a dominant force. This was one of the competition’s top fancies at home, and they’d come to play. Loose men were everywhere, and there were no shortage of targets presenting themselves up forward. Incursions into the Magpies’ forward line were rare, but the Eagles in most occasions had little difficulty in clearing the ball out of trouble. Five goals to one in the first quarter set up a 26-point lead at quarter time, but there were already signs that this game was heading for a blowout.
The Magpies were unable to do anything to hold back the Eagle tide in the second term, and the goal umpire at the Wests’ forward line had nothing to do but wave the flags after scores at the other end. And there were plenty of them, as the Eagles fired the ball up forward with regularity. The shots weren’t always accurate, and the margin could have been even bigger; but so strong were the Eagles that six unanswered goals saw them go into the rooms at half time with a 69-point lead.
If the floodgates weren’t already open in the first half, they certainly were in the third quarter. Time and again the Eagles were controlling the ball at will, finding unmarked players to run the ball forward and there were no shortage of forwards to share the goal scoring around against minimal resistance. It was a horrible quarter for the Magpies, and although they managed to get one goal, the Eagles surged forward time and again to finish with nine for the quarter; and the lead was out to 123 points at three quarter time.
There would be no respite for the Magpies in the final quarter, and nothing they were able to salvage from the contest. They would be unable to score a goal in the last quarter. With the sting well and truly gone from the contest and players cramping after such a hot day, the goal-scoring slowed slightly with the Eagles scoring six goals in the final term. But throughout the day it had been an emphatic statement by the Eagles; a top team playing their top football and never allowing their opponents into the contest in any way.
The final winning margin was 165 points, a substantial percentage boost for the Eagles. Andrew McConnell finished with six goals and Matthew Eastman four, and together with Jack Dimery were the Eagles’ best; but it was hard to find an Eagle player who didn’t fulfil their role magnificently on the day. Timothy Woods, Pat Wilmot and Ben Zoppo tried hard for the Magpies; but it was a disappointing day for them. At times this season the Magpies have put in competitive performances, but this game was one they would want to put past them and move on.

After a slow start to the season, Manly’s season is starting to build some momentum, and the Giants continued their pickup in form with a 26-point win over local rivals North Shore at Weldon Oval.
The Bombers have claimed some impressive scalps this season, but they have never beaten Manly at Premier Division level. During the early exchanges they were immediately subjected to plenty of pressure as the Giants played their hard brand of footy. There wasn’t much that separated the two sides during the first quarter, but the Giants managed two goals to one to lead by four points at the first change.
But Manly was seeing the game played under their terms. A low-scoring, sometimes scrappy contest; it wasn’t always one for the lovers of the aesthetic side of the game, but it’s a game plan that has served Manly well for many years. The pressure applied was relentless, the Bombers having to scrap for every possession and unable to get their running game going. It was another low-scoring quarter, with two goals to one; but although the margin on the scoreboard was only 12 points at the long break, it was hard to see how North Shore would break the shackles and get back into the contest.
North Shore did lift in the third term and showed more around the ground, but some inaccurate finishing prevented them from getting reward for effort. Although the Bombers were working hard, there was no way for them to bridge the deficit on the scoreboard; and although the Giants were only able to achieve three scoring shots for the quarter, all three of them were goals. The Bombers had a crack, but with three goals to two, the Giants had won the quarter. 15 points separated the teams at the last change, but the Giants looked safely home.
The last quarter saw some slight release of the pressure valve, but the Giants were in a position to capitalise and get some scores on the board. Any outside chance the Bombers may have had was lost to a string of missed shots at goal; while the Giants had the run of play and were making every post a winner. Four goals to two in the final term extended the final margin to 26 points; but in reality that margin flattered the Bombers and it was Manly’s day.
Harrison Koch, Calum Johnston and Alex Harmer were best for the Giants; as they moved level on games with Pennant Hills and just percentage separates them from the top five. For North Shore, Chris Murphy, Jimmy McKenzie and Sam Carruthers provided solid service all day. Thanks to UTS also losing and the Bombers having a better percentage than the Bats, the Bombers remain third on the ladder; still a game plus percentage ahead of Pennant Hills and Manly. Appearing in the finals remains a goal for the Bombers, but that win over their northern rivals remains elusive.

Meanwhile at Sydney Uni No 1 Oval, UNSW-ES broke through for the first win of the season with a 12-point win over Sydney Uni; a result that sees the Students’ finals aspirations take a severe hit.
The Students hadn’t won a game since the opening day of the season. But it was clear early on that if they were going to get back on the winning list, they had a fight on their hands. The Bulldogs had come to play, and were putting the home side under plenty of pressure. It took some time for either team to get their game plan going, with plenty of physical stuff early and a string of ball-ups and boundary throw-ins. But the Bulldogs took the edge with three goals to one in the opening quarter, leading by 14 points at quarter time.
But it was in the second quarter that the Bulldogs took the decisive edge that put them on track for their first win. Taking control around the midfield and getting the ball onto the forward line, weight of possession and opportunities would see the Bulldogs establish themselves in the game. Four goals to two opened up a 29-point lead at half time, and Bulldog players who have struggled for much of this season were feeling the confidence returning.
The Bulldogs had a sniff of a win, and weren’t letting go in the third quarter. It wasn’t always pretty to watch, but the Students could find no way to get themselves in the contest; as the Bulldogs time and again would clear the ball out of trouble and it’s only a couple of kicks to get the ball down towards the scoring zone. It wasn’t a high-scoring quarter, just three goals to one; but UNSW-ES were leading by 40 points at the last change and the confidence had returned.
Sydney Uni had been stung by the efforts of the Bulldogs. This was a game they would have been keen for a win to kick-start their run up the ladder, but it hadn’t been working for them. The Students came back in the last quarter, finally putting on some of their best footy with a run of six goals to one. But the Bulldogs always had enough of a buffer that they were never under any real danger of the Students stealing the game. The final margin of 12 points was much closer than the run of play for much of the day would indicate; but enough for the Bulldogs to finally taste the spoils of victory, and a rousing rendition of the team song was heard from the rooms after the game.
Jeremy Daniher, Alex Foote and Matt Round had been pivotal to the Bulldogs’ win, playing their roles and getting plenty of the footy. For the Students, James Lewington was best on ground in a losing side to finish with five goals, while Peter Casey and Spencer Krochmal also featured prominently. Both teams have one win from six games, two wins outside the five. But this was UNSW-ES’ day.

No Premier Division matches are scheduled for next weekend. With no matches having been washed out so far this season, the wet weather weekend won’t be required.
There are some matches scheduled in other divisions; but with no catch-up fixtures needing to be played, for many footy players in Sydney, next weekend will be a week off to get over any niggles.
And with no Premier Division matches to be played, there will be no review column next week. We’ll be back the week after. The fixture list below shows matches scheduled for the next two weeks.


The full Round review can be found here:





Comment Guidelines: The SportsTG Network is made up of players, families and passionate sports followers like you who have a strong opinion about sport. That's great - we want you to have your say and share your thoughts with the world. However, we have a few rules that you must follow to keep it fun for all. Please don't be rude, abusive, swear or vilify others. Apart from some pretty serious sport sanctions, we also can ban you and report you if things get out of hand. So play fair and have fun, and thanks for your contribution.