Sydney AFL Wet Weather Catch up Weekend Review

Article by Michael Shillito, Photos by Leigh Gazzard 

Wet weather and a late ground closure earlier in the season meant a catch-up game in Premier Division was required; and so St George and Manly made their way to Olds Park on Saturday afternoon.
For the Dragons, the game was an opportunity to move into outright second place and tighten their grip on a double-chance spot in the finals. For Manly, a win would move them into the top five.
Some midweek rain had softened up the ground, but the sun was out on game day; and a blustery wind would help dry the ground out. But that same wind would make it difficult to judge the movement of the ball, and shooting at goal from long range would be problematic.
During the early exchanges, it was the locals who would struggle with the conditions. Around the ground they had Manly’s measure in the contests, and were clearly superior at ground level. But when it came to shots at goal, time and again the ball would sail inexplicably wide of the big sticks. The possession tally was easily running the Dragons’ way, but they would only manage three goals to two to show for it; and a 12-point lead at quarter time.
But the weight of possession would take its toll in the second term, and the longer the quarter went the more dominant the Dragons became. Countless scoring opportunities saw enough of them being converted, and the Giants found themselves under increasing scoreboard pressure as the quarter drew on. Four goals to one stretched the Dragons’ lead out to 32 points at half time; but the tally of 18 scoring shots to four told the story of the lopsided possession stats. This was a St George side building towards peak form and maintaining a solid buildup to the finals; and the Giants struggled to get the ball into their forward 50.
As one-sided as the first half was in general play, the premiership quarter was even more so. The Dragons stepped up another gear, still not always kicking straight but kicking often enough to shut the Giants out of the contest. Six unanswered goals extended the lead to 73 points by three quarter time; the Dragons putting on a comprehensive display of the brand of footy that will see them as major challengers when the playoffs come around.
By three quarter time the game was safely won, and the pressure was eased in the last term. It wasn’t a quarter that reached any great heights, going through the motions as the clock counted down to the time the Dragons could return to the rooms and sing the song. But the Dragons weren’t giving any respite to the Giants and still won the quarter, kicking two goals to one to blow the final margin out to 83 points.
Xavier Stevenson spearheaded the charge up forward to finish with four goals, and along with Daniel Napper and Daniel Tomlins featured among the Dragons’ best. For the Giants, Robert Whitton, Sam Wicks and Levi Brain worked hard on what would be a challenging day.
The win mathematically guarantees St George’s participation in the finals, and sees them a game plus percentage ahead of third-placed North Shore; and the double-chance in the finals is looking good for the Dragons. For Manly, the size of the loss means that the Giants’ percentage has fallen below that of UTS; the Giants now a game plus percentage out of the five. And with the Giants having the bye next week, if Pennant Hills and UTS can get wins next week, the finals become very hard to reach.

Next week sees a round of four matches. One game that could potentially be critical for determining how the finals shape up is at Ern Holmes Oval with Pennant Hills hosting North Shore. East Coast can wrap up the minor premiership if they defeat Wests at Picken Oval.
UTS will be looking to return to form when they take on UNSW-ES in the Eastern derby at the Village Green, while St George take on Sydney Uni at Olds Park on Sunday afternoon. Manly have the bye.


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