Sydney AFL Round Review 12 2016

Article by Michael Shillito

We’re two-thirds of the way through the home and away season. And as we enter the race for the finals, there’s a clear front-runner for the minor premiership, but a very tight battle for the double-chance in the finals and another tight race to make the five.
All four games in Round 12 were played on Saturday afternoon. It was election day; and those who voted with their feet to be at a game of footy were treated to sunny skies and grounds in reasonable shape.

The top two teams played off at Kanebridge Oval when East Coast played host to St George. The Eagles consolidated their place on top of the ladder with a 19-point win.
But it wasn’t looking that way early in the game. The Dragons, looking to bounce back from a loss to North Shore last week, burst out of the blocks with a burst of devastating football. From the opening bounce, the Dragons showed they had come to play as the midfield asserted their presence early and created numerous opportunities in the forward line. The scoreboard was soon ticking over with regularity as the Dragons pumped the ball forward time and again; and after five goals to one in the first quarter, St George was leading by 24 points at quarter time.
Confidence was sky-high in the red and white camp, and they continued to attack in the second term. But their goal-kicking radar deserted them, and they would return an inaccurate 2.6 for the quarter; preventing them from getting full reward for effort. And the inaccuracy in front of goals created a window of opportunity for the Eagles, who lifted around the ground as the quarter drew on. And a surge by the Eagles would see them finish with four goals for the quarter to cut the margin to 16 points at the long break.
It was a willing contest as the two sides returned to the field for the third quarter. Two sides likely to play crucial roles at the business end of the season looking for the edge not just for this match but a psychological boost for the contests to come. The Dragons had made the early running, and would add another two goals during the premiership quarter. But the Eagles were coming fast, and the Dragons were unable to repel all their forward thrusts. Four goals to the Eagles would cut the margin to just three points at the last change, and a thrilling last quarter was in prospect.
But the momentum had swung the Eagles’ way, and the Dragons were unable to regroup during the three quarter time break. The first goal early in the last term gave the Eagles the lead for the first time in the game. And the Eagles’ midfield had taken control of the game, giving plenty of inside 50s for the forwards to play with. Accuracy in front of the big sticks wasn’t always there, and the Eagles scored 3.7 for the final term. But the Dragons were unable to score a goal, and the Eagles had done enough to take the win.
Jamie Vlatko looked dangerous up forward for the Eagles to finish with four goals; while Blake Anderson, Kieran Emery and Andrew Browning played important roles around the ground. The win, the Eagles’ eighth on the trot and tenth of the season, opens up a three-game break ahead of the second-placed Dragons. Only an unspeakable calamity would see them miss out on the minor premiership from here.
Travis Martin, Tim Coenen and Dylan Addison featured prominently for the Dragons. But two losses in a row sees the minor premiership now seemingly out of reach. The Dragons remain in second place with seven wins, with a better percentage than UTS and North Shore; but will be keen to bounce back onto the winning list next week to regain their momentum.

North Shore joined St George and the bye-resting UTS on seven wins for the season; but the Bombers had to dig deep to eke out the points, winning ugly against a determined UNSW-ES side at Kelso Oval.
Both the Bombers and the Bulldogs had enjoyed giant-killing wins last week, but both seemed to be suffering a let-down as this game got under way. The first quarter wasn’t one that reached any great heights, with the skill level of both sides being below par and both sides struggling to get any coherent moved forward going. The Bulldogs scored the only goal of the quarter, leading by seven points at quarter time; but it hadn’t been a great quarter of footy.
Both sides knew they had to lift their game, but it was the Bulldogs who responded first; and in the early stages of the second term threatened to run away with the contest. Two goals in the opening minutes of the quarter stretched the lead to 20 points before the Bombers fought back. The second quarter was far better from both sides than the first, as the kicks started hitting their targets, the marks began to stick and the runners from both sides made enough space to move the ball forward. Both sides would score three goals in the second quarter, which finished as it started with the Bulldogs holding a seven-point advantage.
There was little to inspire about the third quarter. The flukey and inconsistent wind blowing around the vast expanses of Kelso Oval didn’t help, but both sides seemed to be trapped in a negative mindset through a dismal quarter of footy. Neither side scored a goal, or even looked capable of scoring one, the quarter being a mercifully short one before the siren sounded with the Bulldogs nine points ahead at the last change.
The Bombers had looked a far cry from the side that had looked so commanding against St George last week. But whatever coach Ryan Meldrum said to his charges at three quarter time had the desired effect; as within a couple of minutes of the restart the Bombers had taken the lead. Now there was no stopping them, and the Bulldogs’ stiff resistance over the first three quarters had crumbled. The Bombers would go on with the job in the last quarter, finishing with five goals to one; and despite looking entirely unconvincing for three quarters, had done enough to take the game.
The final margin was 16 points. Lachy Hayres, Luke Robertson and Chris Murphy were best for the Bombers. The Bombers are now on seven wins, equal with St George and UTS and with a better percentage than the Bats; but the Dragons and the Bats have a game in hand, while North Shore have the bye next week and it will be a fortnight before they get a chance to add to their win tally.
Alex Foote, James Pascoe and Tom Dickson had worked hard for the Bulldogs; but despite holding the Bombers well and leading them for three quarters, the Bulldogs were unable to take the win. Their tally of three wins for the season leaves them two games out of the top five; and although not out of the finals race, time is running out.

Pennant Hills’ premiership defence hasn’t always gone to plan. But the Demons are clinging on to the top five, and remain in fifth place after a 51-point win over Wests at Mike Kenny Oval.
The Magpies were buoyed by a breakthrough win last week, and in the early exchanged were taking the fight up to the Demons. Little separated the sides in the first quarter, with the Magpies matching it with their well-credentialled opponents in the opening term. The Demons scored three goals to two to lead by five points at quarter time, but it had been an evenly-contested opening term.
But some poor finishing would sabotage the Magpies’ chances of keeping pace with the Demons in the second term. The Magpies had more scoring shots, and should have converted more of them into goals than they did; but a return of 2.5 would cost them dearly. The Demons added three goals in the second term to win the quarter and lead by nine points at half time. It had been a gallant fight by the Magpies in the first half, but by missing those shots were their own worst enemy; and although they were within a couple of goals of their opponent, the chance for an upset had gone.
The Demons lifted their work-rate in the premiership quarter, and the Magpies were unable to keep pace with them as the home side slowly but surely drew ahead. There was never a lot in it, but four goals to two had blown the margin out to 20 points at the last change; enough to put the game out of Wests’ reach. Demon players who had little influence in the first half had begun to pick up more of the ball, and the Magpies were unable to come up with the answers.
And so it would be in the last quarter, as the danger signs that had been so clear to see in the third quarter saw the scores blow out. The Demons were in control, with six goals to one in the final term; as they cruised to a 51-point win. The Demons have struggled to put on their best footy this season, and this was still well short of a premiership display; but it was enough to show they had broken the resistance of the Magpies and take a comfortable win in this game.
Nick Hey was the dominant figure in this match, kicking seven goals in a best-on-ground performance. Theo Moraitis contributed four goals, while Tim Wales and James Dunn made pivotal contributions to the Demon cause around the ground. The Demons have five wins for the season, two games behind fourth place; and remain in the top five thanks to their percentage being better than that of Manly. But their place in the finals is still far from guaranteed.
Cameron McEvoy-Grey, James Bradley and Cameron Gordon worked hard all day for Wests. But the Magpies still have just the one win for the season, and now only a bizarre permutation of results for the remainder of the season would fulfil their slim mathematical hopes of playing finals.

Meanwhile at Henson Park, Manly joined Pennant Hills on five wins when they defeated Sydney Uni by 50 points.
The Giants had been stung by their shock loss to UNSW-ES last week, and determined to prevent a repeat of that performance, hit the ground running with an explosive start that blew the Students out of the contest. Four unanswered goals in the first quarter was the scoreboard reward for a dominant quarter of footy in which the Students struggled to get the ball inside their 50 metre line as the Giants imposed their presence and defended resolutely throughout to go to a 24-point quarter time lead.
Manly were in control around the ground, and went on with the job in the second quarter. It was a more open and attacking quarter of footy than the first, as the Giants looked to stretch the scoreboard out to a match-winning lead while the Students were searching for a way back into the contest. But it was the Giants who had their contest in their grasp, and with five goals to two in the second term extended the margin to 40 points at half time.
2016 has been far from plain sailing for Manly, but they scented an opportunity to not just take a win but boost their percentage. And the Giants would go on with the job during the premiership quarter, feeling their confidence returning as they put the Students to the sword. Five goal to three in the third quarter would stretch the margin to 54 points; as the Giants turned the clock back to their premiership years with another strong quarter of footy to put the result of the game beyond doubt.
Day was turning into night by the time the three-quarter time siren sounded. The lights had taken over during the final quarter, which wasn’t one that reached any great heights. Two goals apiece were scored during the final term, and a string of behinds meant that the Students at least salvaged something from the game by winning the last quarter. But this was Manly’s day, the Giants’ 50-point win being one of their strongest performances of the year to date.
Young gun Lachlan Behagg dominated proceedings, finishing with seven goals for the Giants in a best-on-ground performance; while Jarrod Osborne and Dean Meadows were ball magnets for the Giants all day. Five wins for the season sees Manly outside the five on percentage; not a big percentage gap. But to make the finals from here, the Giants will need to win more games than Pennant Hills.
Allister Clarke, Seb Trevaskis and Spencer Krochmal were best for Sydney Uni. But the loss for the Students sees them stuck in eighth on the ladder with just two wins, three games out of the top five; and making the finals from here will be a big ask.

Next week will again see all four games played on Saturday afternoon. A game that could be critical for determining how the top three and the double-chance in the finals will take shape sees St George host UTS at Olds Park.
UNSW-ES return to the Village Green for a clash with Pennant Hills, while Manly will be looking to continue the winning momentum from this week as they host Wests at Weldon Oval. And at Kanebridge Oval, it’s a blue and gold derby as East Coast host Sydney Uni. North Shore has the bye.


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