Sydney AFL Round 13 Review 2016

Article by Michael Shillito

Five rounds remain in the 2016 season, and although it looks like the minor premiership is decided, there’s some very tight battles for the top-three double chance and to make the final five which may well keep the interest levels running until the end of the home and away season.

At the top is East Coast Eagles. Stunned by the loss in last year’s Grand Final, the Eagles have done nearly everything right so far this year; only dropping the one game and finding themselves a runaway leader three games clear on top of the ladder.
On Saturday afternoon they hosted Sydney Uni at Kanebridge Oval. Wet weather during the week had made the ground soft and ball-handling was difficult; although by the time the game started the sun had emerged.
It wasn’t the easiest of conditions as the game got under way, and an inconsistent breeze kept the players guessing and made it difficult to judge the movement of the ball. And when the Eagles were able to run the ball forward, shooting at goal became problematic and several shots at goal that they would normally have expected to kick sailed wide of the big sticks. But weight of possession was making a difference as the Eagles kicked the only two goals of the quarter to lead by 16 points at quarter time.
The Eagles were looking the better side around the ground; and although the Students put up some defensive resistance, incursions into the Uni forward 50 were rare and the Students were unable to score a goal in the first half. The Eagles were looking in control, and with another four goals added in the second term, the lead was out to 43 points at the long break.
When the teams returned to the field for the third quarter, the game opened up and some more attacking football was on display. The Eagles were having the better of it, taking advantage of some more open play and creating chances up forward to land six goals. At the other end, the Students breathed a sigh of relief as they finally broke their goal drought, and managed two for the quarter. It was a dominant display by the Eagles as they stretched the lead to 67 points at three quarter time.
The result of the game was beyond doubt, and the last quarter saw the Eagles take their foot off the pressure valve to some extent, having already done enough to ensure a comprehensive win. But the Eagles still won the quarter, three goals to two; completing another chapter in the ladder leaders’ tale of dominance.
The final margin was 71 points. Damien Charleston, Jack Dimery and Aaron Savage were ball magnets all day, picking up enormous amounts of possession and keeping the Eagles on top around the ground. And with the win, the Eagles maintain their three-game break on top of the ladder; and their place in the 2016 finals is now mathematically guaranteed.
Will Gowers, Mitchell Mahady and Matt Vicic worked hard all afternoon for the Students. But it wasn’t their day; and the Students find themselves stuck in eighth spot with just two wins for the season, their hopes of playing finals are fading fast.

The top three get the double-chance in the finals; and three teams are in contention for the next two positions on the ladder. While North Shore had the bye, St George struck a crucial blow against UTS and did it in style with a 101-point demolition at Olds Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Dragons were looking good early, but the Bats looked to be making every effort to keep in touch during the opening quarter. But as the quarter progressed, the Dragons began to pull away and move the ball forward more often; and the scoreboard began to reflect this as they completed five goals to two in the first quarter and lead by 18 points at the first change.
It was already looking positive for the Dragons, but the second quarter saw them assert themselves further and put the contest out of the Bats’ reach. It was one-way traffic around the ground, St George showing themselves to be a dominant force as they controlled the contest around the ground and the Bats were unable to maintain the pace that the Dragons were showing. And with five goals to one for the quarter, the St George lead was out to 43 points at half time.
The Dragons had the scent of an opportunity to inflict a psychological wound on a potential finals challenger, and there was no relief in the third quarter as the Dragons put the Bats to the sword. The Bats did manage two goals in the third term, but they were rare moments of respite from the otherwise relentless pressure and forward drive of the Dragons. Another five goals were added during the premiership quarter, as the lead blew out to 63 points at the last change.
By the last quarter, the Bats’ resistance had faded and the Dragons were in complete control. It was a blowout, as the potential of a 100-point result was within sight and the scoreboard was ticking over with regularity. The Dragons were scoring at will, running through eight goals for the quarter while conceding just two during an open and free-flowing quarter of footy. This was St George, one of this season’s top contenders, at their electrifying best.
By the time the final siren sounded, the Dragons had completed a 101-point win. Blake Guthrie scored four goals, and along with Xavier Stevenson and Travis Martin was among the Dragons’ best. For the Bats, Brendan Browne, Tom Larby and Jai Lyons kept persevering all afternoon in what had become a tough afternoon for the club.
The win brings up eight for the season for St George. The Dragons remain in second place, a game clear of their challengers for the double-chance and with a far superior percentage. UTS drop to fourth, remaining on seven wins and their percentage falling well behind that of North Shore. The Dragons, Bombers and Bats all still have five games to play; although St George have the bye next week, they have a catch-up game the week after.

The wet weather during the week saw the UNSW-ES v Pennant Hills game moved to Kelso Oval. For Pennant Hills, a win was needed to stay in the top five; and in a dour low-scoring contest, they succeeded in doing that.
It was a tight and tough opening term, with little separating the two sides around the ground. Both sides were struggling to control the ball in slippery conditions, with clean possessions from either side being rare. There was no shortage of physical pressure applied in the first quarter, but few scoring chances for either side. And with one goal apiece, scores were level at the first change.
There was little to inspire about the second quarter. Plenty of turnovers, both sides struggling to do anything with the ball. Plenty of pressure applied, but few productive moves into the forward 50 in what was a battle of the defences. The Demons scored the only two goals of the quarter, enough to hold a 10-point lead at the long break.
There hadn’t been much difference between the two sides around the ground in the first half. But the Demons took control during the premiership quarter, and the Bulldogs were unable to keep up with them. Six unanswered goals told the story, as the Demons were able to pump the ball forward with regularity. Plenty of scoring chances were created, and although not all of them resulted in goals, keeping the scoreboard ticking over was more than enough against a Bulldog side who rarely ventured anywhere near their forward 50. By the time the three-quarter time siren sounded, the Demons had extended the lead to 51 points and victory was assured.
The Bulldogs’ goal in the opening quarter was a distant memory, and they would not add another against a Demon defence that would hold them scoreless through the second half. The sting and intensity had dissipated by the time the last quarter was under way, a term of footy that was largely going through the motions. The Demons would score two more goals to extend the final margin to 67 points; the bulk of their superiority coming from that dominant third quarter.
On a day when goals were at a premium, James Dunn’s return of four majors was worth its weight in gold. Around the ground, the contributions of Matt Thomas, Tim Wales and Tom Angel played a big part in getting the Demons to a big win. The Demons remain in fifth place, a game plus behind the Bombers and the Bats; but remaining ahead of Manly thanks to their superior percentage.
There’s not too many positives that UNSW-ES can take out of a game in which they were only able to score one goal; but James Pascoe, Jeremy Daniher and James McAnespie tried hard all day. At times this season the Bulldogs have showed considerable improvement; but this match was a day they would consider best forgotten.

Weldon Oval was closed after the wet weather, with the game between Manly and Wests on Saturday afternoon moved to Blacktown. It was a game in which Manly would keep in touch with the top five with a comfortable 70-point win.
The first quarter was tough and tightly-contested, as two sides who enjoy the physical side of the game were getting stuck into the challenge. There wasn’t much between the two sides, and plenty of pressure was being applied. One goal apiece was scored after a hardly-fought opening term, and the Giants led by two points at quarter time.
But when the two sides emerged from their huddles for the second quarter, the complexion of the game changed. Where the first quarter was tight, now it was lopsided. Where the first quarter was hard-fought, the second quarter saw free-flowing footy and a dominant one-sided display of footy. And it was Manly who were dominating, the lead building rapidly as they powered their way through a quarter in which the Giants would score nine goals to one, stretching the lead to 49 points at the long break.
The Magpies had been shocked by the intensity of Manly’s dominance in the second term. They attempted a fightback in the third term, and would manage two goals. But the Giants had the answer to any challenge the Magpies would mount; and the Magpies would be unable to make any dent in the scoreboard deficit. Three goals would go the Giants’ way in the third term, the lead out to 53 points; as the result of the contest was beyond doubt.
The Giants would go on with the job in the last quarter, as the opportunity had presented itself to attempt to bridge some of the percentage gap that may be crucial in determining the last finals spot. And four goals to one in the final term would be crucial in keeping the Giants in contention, as they would cruise to an easy win.
The Giants had plenty of attacking chances, with the twin forward combination of Jackson Pola-Smith and Lachlan Behagg making a massive impact as they would finish with five goals apiece. Evan Kaporis, Lachlan Behagg and Connor Pettersson got plenty of the ball for the Giants; powering their win, especially during the dominant second quarter. The Giants didn’t win by enough to dislodge Pennant Hills from the top five, but the percentage gap between the Demons and the Giants remains tight.
Brenton Mumme, James Bradley and Ben Zoppo were best for Wests. But it was another difficult match in a difficult season, one in which the Magpies have won just one game to date. And this loss extinguishes any faint mathematical hopes of being a part of finals action.

Next week will again see all four Premier Division matches played on Saturday. Manly will have a tough test to stay within reach of the finals when they host top side East Coast Eagles at Weldon Oval. Meanwhile at Waverley, UTS will be desperate to snap a two-match losing streak and stay within reach of the top three; but it won’t be easy against a Pennant Hills side that is starting to hit form and who can go level with the Bats if they can get the win.
A night game at Henson Park will see Sydney Uni needing a win to keep their mathematical finals hopes alive up against a rested North Shore; the Bombers looking for a win to stay in the top three. And Wests host UNSW-ES at Picken Oval, the Magpies being out of finals contention while the Bulldogs need a win to keep their finals hopes alive. St George has the bye.


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