Sydney AFL Round 17 Review
SYDNEY AFL ROUND 17 2016
Article by Michael Shillito and photo by Leigh Gazzard
Saturday afternoon saw Sydney bathed in sunshine, the temperature rising to the mid-20s for the penultimate round of the Premier Division season. It was a round that featured an upset result that sees two clubs remaining in the battle for the double-chance. And a round that sealed the fate of the wooden spoon.
In their first two seasons in Premier Division, Manly defeated Pennant Hills in the Grand Final for a dream back-to-back opening in the highest grade. Two years later, the Giants will not be playing finals this year; but the rivalry with the Demons remains strong.
When the Giants hosted the Demons at Weldon Oval on Saturday afternoon, the visitors were needing a win to stay in the hunt for the double-chance. But it wasn’t to be.
The warning signs for the Demons were there in the opening term. It was a low-scoring and physical affair in the early exchanges, the way Manly like it. Incursions into the forward 50 for either side were rare, but the Giants were looking the stronger side around the ground. Two goals to one saw the Giants leading by seven points at the first change, but the Giants looked like they were just getting warmed up.
And so it would prove in the second term, as Manly began to exert themselves and put on some scoreboard pressure. It was a more open quarter of footy than the first, but the Giants were having the better of it. And when the Demons did go forward, some wasteful finishing on the forward line would hold them back. It was a quarter when Manly put on some of the best footy they’ve played this season, with five goals to one opening the lead out to 27 points at half time.
The Demons knew they would have to lift in the third quarter, but this wasn’t their day. Try as they might, they were unable to match it with the Giants; out-hustled and out-possessed by a Manly side who, although out of realistic finals contention, were determined to make a statement against one of their strongest foes. The Giants were finding themselves at the bottom of every pack, and finding room to move forward; and with another quarter of five goals to one, the margin was out to 54 points by the time the three-quarter time siren sounded.
The job was safely done, and the Giants had claimed the scalp of the defending champions. By the time the last quarter was played, the pressure was off. The Demons won the last quarter, four goals to two, to reduce the margin to 42 points; but that barely mattered. It was a comprehensive performance by the Giants against a surprisingly flat Demons side; one that ensures the Demons will be playing sudden death when the finals come around.
Jesse Lander, Sam Wicks and Will Brassil were standout contributors for the Giants, on a day when the Northern Beaches side put on some of the best footy they’ve put in this season. The Demons found willing workers on a tough day in Tom Angel, Ranga Ediriwickrama and James Dunn.
Manly are only a game behind Pennant Hills; but the percentage gap is so big that even if the Demons were to lose next week and the Giants win, the margins of those games would have to be astronomical for the Giants to deprive the Demons of a finals spot. That’s not going to happen. But we know that the Demons will need to win four finals in a row to defend their premiership.
That leaves the battle for the double-chance to be fought between UTS and North Shore. The Bombers went into the round in third place, but had a tough game to negotiate as they travelled to Olds Park to take on the second-placed St George.
The Dragons were already guaranteed of finishing second; but were keen to maintain their winning momentum and continue their imposing Olds Park record. North Shore had defeated the Dragons earlier in the season, but a devastating opening term gave the Dragons the edge this time. Racing out of the blocks with an energetic burst of footy, the Dragons created plenty of chances in the opening term and converted enough of them to build a healthy lead. Six goals to two saw St George leading by 22 points at quarter time, and ensured that the Bombers would be left to chase the game.
Shell-shocked by the Dragons getting the jump, the Bombers lifted in the second term. But it would be a long way back. The Dragon momentum had to be halted, and that was done; resulting in a low-scoring and hard-fought quarter. The Dragons were held to just two goals for the quarter, but the Bombers could only manage two themselves, only cutting one point from the quarter time deficit by the time the teams returned to the rooms at half time.
But when the teams returned to the field, the Bombers found a new energy and a new drive, and emerged full of fight and running in the third quarter. Suddenly the Dragons were under pressure as the Bombers were winning contests around the ground. The Dragons twice broke the Bomber momentum with goals, but the Bombers were surging forward and picking up plenty of the ball as they ran in four goals for the quarter. The three quarter time siren rang with the Dragons’ lead cut to nine points, and the Bombers were full of spirit as they went into the huddle back in the contest and with hopes of pulling off what would be a remarkable win.
But it wasn’t to be, as the break gave the Dragons a chance to steady and stop the Bomber momentum. For all their hard work in the second and third terms, the Bombers had nothing more to give in the last, and were unable to manage a score in the last quarter as the Dragon defenders stood tall to stop the North Shore run. The Dragons scored two goals in the final term, enough to close out the win.
The final margin was 21 points. The Dragons will finish in second place after the home and away season, and would have regardless of what happened in this match; but winning form and momentum is important to be maintained in the lead-up to the playoffs. Paul Sain was sound up forward for the Dragons to finish with six goals; and along with Ben Wharton and Blake Guthrie was among the Dragons’ best.
Danny Roberts had a strong game up forward for the Bombers to finish with five goals; while Selby Lee-Steere and James Loneragan also featured prominently for the Bombers. But the loss sees them drop to fourth on the ladder, and in danger of playing against Pennant Hills in the sudden-death Elimination Final.
The Bombers’ loss enabled UTS to pass them and move into third spot, and the Bats did exactly that with a minimum of fuss with a convincing 98-point win over Wests at Trumper Park.
It wasn’t looking like being that one-sided early. The Bats were heavily favoured to win, but in the opening term the Magpies were matching it with them in the contests and on the scoreboard. It was a high-scoring shootout in the early exchanges, the two sides going goal for goal and taking advantage of the attacking opportunities that the small ground provides. The lead changed hands several times in a quarter that produced four goals for each team, the Bats leading by a point at quarter time.
But the Magpies were unable to replicate their attacking drive during the second term, slowed to a walk by the pressure that the Bats laid on. And now the ball was finding itself inside the Bats’ forward 50 more often, although some wasteful finishing would prevent the Bats from taking full reward for effort during the quarter. An inaccurate scoreline of 2.7 for the quarter could easily have seen the Bats establish a bigger lead than they did; but their defence held the Magpies goal-less for the quarter, opening up a 19-point lead at half time.
But, although the margin wasn’t all that big, the Bats had established a weight of possession, which took its toll in the premiership quarter. The Magpies were unable to match it with the Bats around the ground, and the Bats were in control of proceedings. They would score five unanswered goals for the quarter, with a single kick pumping the ball from the centre clearance to the forward line; and from there no shortage of scoring opportunities presented themselves. By three quarter time, the lead was out to 52 points and the Bats were looking comfortable.
The final quarter was a blowout, as the floodgates opened and the Bats reaped the rewards of the efforts they had put in all day. The Magpie resistance was broken, and the Bats were enjoying the spoils of victory as they slammed eight goals home while holding the Magpies to just one. It was vintage UTS, controlling the contest and out-muscling the Magpies with a minimum of fuss.
In the end it was a 98-point win for UTS. Daniel Breese contributed five goals to the margin and Ben Nethersole four; while around the ground Thomas Perks, Jai Lyons and Ben Moyle were unstoppable forces.
The Bats now sit one game ahead of North Shore in third spot, but with a much lesser percentage. The double-chance for the finals will go to UTS unless the Bats lose to Manly in the last round and North Shore knock off East Coast. Not impossible, and the Bombers are the only team to have beaten the Eagles so far this year; but UTS would have to feel confident of appearing in the Qualifying Final.
For the Magpies, Hamish Sherwood, Tim Woods and Ben Zoppo kept putting in all day, even with the odds stacked against them. But the Magpies were powerless to stop the UTS juggernaut. And the loss leaves the Magpies stuck on two wins for the season, condemning them to the 2016 wooden spoon.
Sydney Uni got themselves out of the wooden spoon danger zone in the University derby at the Village Green, when they lowered the curtain on UNSW-ES’s season with the Students taking out a 28-point win.
But early on, the Bulldogs were making the front-running. The Students weren’t helping their cause with some missed shots that should have been converted; but the Bulldogs had come to play and were putting on some good footy early in the game. The home side would kick the only three goals of the opening term to lead by 16 points at quarter time.
The Bulldogs, looking to fly the flag one last time in 2016, were giving a good account of themselves, threatening to run away with the contest. They would add another two goals in the second term, but the Students fought back as the quarter unfolded. Finally clicking into gear after a sluggish start, the Sydney Uni side found their rhythm and made their way to the big sticks four times in the second term; and after the Bulldogs had been looking threatening earlier in the game, suddenly the margin was back to six points at the long break.
The third quarter was exciting to watch, a display of open running footy as both sides adopted a positive, attacking mindset and searched for the goals that would establish a winning break. It was goal for goal, the Students taking the lead only to cop a quick reply from the Bulldogs. An enthralling contest through a quarter of momentum shifts would see the Students land five goals to four, again taking the lead and holding a three-point margin at the last change.
It was close, but the momentum had swung Sydney Uni’s way and they would go on with the job in the last quarter. Making it harder for themselves than they really needed to as some shots at goal that looked easily kickable sailed wide, but the sheer weight of possession in the last quarter meant they were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over. A return of 6.9 for the quarter was more than enough. The Bulldogs kept trying, but could only muster three goals in the final quarter as the Students had enough of the ball to ensure a comfortable win.
The final margin was 28 points. Allister Clarke spearheaded the Students’ charge with four goals, while Luke Vella, Monty Krochmal and Aron Everett were ball magnets around the ground. The win sees the Students move to three wins, enough to avoid the dreaded last place.
For the Bulldogs, Tom Chichester, Alex Foote and Tom Dickson featured prominently; but it wasn’t enough to prevent the UNSW-ES side from defeat. With a bye in the final round, the Bulldogs’ season is now over. A young, rebuilding side; the Bulldogs’ three wins for the season is two more than last year. And with some exciting young talent on their list, the potential exists to move up the ladder over the next few seasons. But this time round, they were unable to go out on a winning note.
We have simultaneous starting times for the final round next week, with all games being played Saturday 2:10pm. UTS can ensure they keep third place if they beat Manly at Trumper Park. If the Bats fall over, it leaves an opening for North Shore to take the double-chance, but it won’t be easy for the Bombers as they host top side East Coast at Mortgage Choice Oval.
Meanwhile St George, second place comfortably in their keeping, can fine-tune their finals preparation when they play bottom side Wests at Picken Oval. Pennant Hills, who will finish fifth after two losses on the trot, have a chance to regain winning form before the finals when they travel to Sydney Uni No 1 to take on the Students. UNW-ES have the bye.
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