SYDNEY AFL ROUND 18 - A Final Five At Last

Sydney Uni's Brydon Coles tackles North Shore's Lachlan Pryor

Article and pictures by Michael Shillito


Over the course of the season, the fortunes of the participant teams have fluctuated wildly. It's been a roller-coaster of emotions in this even season, with amazing victories, devastating losses; and going into the last round, no finallist team knew with absolute certainty which final they would be playing in. And for North Shore and Sydney Uni, two teams that had walked the emotional tight-rope more than most, the question of whether they would be playing finals remained unresolved before their clash at Gore Hill Oval.

On the opening day marathon at Henson Park, Sydney Uni ran to the top of the ladder and remained undefeated for the opening month. A form slump then saw them lose top spot, but the Students bounced back to remain in the top 5 until dropping out for the first time in round 17. North Shore had a disastrous opening to their season, and were bottom of the ladder after round 6; but had stormed home to hit finals territory for the first time in round 17. But in such a topsy-turvy season, which of these teams could rise to the occasion and ensure their participation in the finals?

Kicking to the hospital end in the first quarter, North Shore struck the early blows to ensure that at no stage of the match would they ever trail. A grubber from Kade Tangney opened the goal-scoring. A mark to Daniel Kulk under the shadow of the goalpost gave the Bombers their second, and a lucky free to Kulk added another. And when Ron Wason, after marking on a tight angle, caught the Students napping by running around unchecked; the Bombers were off to a flying start.

North Shore make their entrance

But Sydney Uni rallied, and had they been able to convert their opportunities could have had the quarter-time lead. Scott on the lead scored their first, and some good work on the run by Walsh and Healy added a couple more. The Students were on a roll, but twice Mark Egan on the lead marked 25 out but uncharacteristically missed his set shots; mistakes that the Bombers made the Students pay for when Ron Wason was paid a free in the goalsquare moments before the quarter-time siren.

It was a 12-point ball game at quarter time, but after the Students scored the opening goal of the second term a run of six unanswered goals gave North Shore a 46-point lead at the long break and a sniff of the finals. Four of the goals came from free kicks, partly indiscipline in defence but there were other decisions which raised the ire of the Sydney Uni supporters. And when Mark Livy was the recipient of another free from 15 metres out in the opening minute of the third term, the lead had blown out to 52 points and the contest was already as good as over.

It could have been a blowout, but to Sydney Uni's credit they refused to lie down. The Students won the third and final quarters, reducing the final margin to 37 points. North Shore coach Michael Hosking in his three-quarter time address was far from impressed with the Bombers' inability to put the Students away when they had them on the ropes; but despite this they had done enough to qualify for the finals. Daniel Kulk scored 4 for the Bombers while Ryan Meldrum and Ben Attwood were among their best; while for Sydney Uni Jess McGuirk, Michael Healy and Brydon Coles each scored 2 while veteran Frank Punch was their best.


The ball is bounced to start the match

No finals appearance for Sydney Uni this year, but it was a season they have every reason to be proud of their achievements. In just their second season back in the top flight, and with a young and inexperienced team, they had been the pace-setters of the competition in the early rounds. Brydon Coles, Nick Clark and Angus Scott all received Rising Star nominations during the season and look to have a bright future in front of them in Sydney AFL. Their recruiting had been among the best in the league for this season, netting them some of last year's Wildcats under-18s premiership squad, midfielder Mark Egan and the return of Frank Punch. Coach Daniel Archer has a young and enthusiastic squad to work with, a team that have made a mark on Sydney football in 2008 with the promise of better things to come in 2009.


Top spot was up for grabs at the Village Green when UNSW-ES took on Pennant Hills. And it was the home side that took the honours, giving themselves a week off in the opening week of finals, with a 26-point win. After a good start to the game, kicking 4 goals to 1 in the opening term; the Bulldogs opened up a match-winning break in the second term when they held Pennant Hills scoreless while scoring 5.4 for the quarter. The Demons came out firing after the break, determined to peg back the gap, but some inaccurate kicking prevented them from making any significant inroads into the deficit. Brad Abbott scored 7 for UNSW-ES, taking his tally for the season to 87 and giving himself a chance to bring up the ton during the finals. Jonathan Bradfield scored 3 while Peter Kefalas and David Coupe were among the Bulldogs' best. For Pennant Hills, Spencer, Goodall and Bilbe each scored 2 goals while Alistair and Charlie Richardson were among their best.


Daniel Kulk gets the Bombers off to a good start

For East Coast Eagles to come in third and secure the double-chance in the finals, they needed to beat Western Suburbs on Saturday and hope St George would go down in their match. And as Charles McLaughlin Oval hosted senior football for the last time, the Eagles maintained their end of the deal with a convincing 90-point win over Wests. Restricting the Magpies to just 1 goal in the first half, the Eagles had already opened up a 61-point lead by the long break and there was no way back into the contest for Wests despite throwing everything at the Eagles in an even third quarter. Gus Seebeck and Ryan Smyth scored 4 for the Eagles, Adam Floyd and Michael Sankey 3 while Damian Bowles and Floyd were among the Eagles' best. Matt Eurell with 2 was the Magpies' only multiple goalkicker, while Cal McGuirk was among their best.

It was a season that began promisingly for Wests, and by the halfway mark of the season the Magpies were in the top 8; but a 7-game losing streak at the end of the season combined with a long suspension for coach Salem Kassem derailed their finals hopes. But there had been plenty of positives for Wests during the season. An exciting win over Pennant Hills at Ern Holmes in the early rounds saw the optimism fly high. The development of young talent continues, with the nomination of Mitch Frail for the Rising Star award. The return to Picken Oval, next door to their social club, gives the Magpies a stronger link to their history; and work will be undertaken in the near future to upgrade the quality of the venue.


But the Eagles' hopes of achieving the double-chance were dashed when St George completed a 58-point win over Balmain at Drummoyne Oval. The Dockers made the early front-running, kicking the first 4 goals and still leading by 10 points at the long break. But a devastating burst of 7 goals to 2 in the premiership quarter swung the momentum the Crows' way and the onslaught continued in the last term with the Crows running in 8 goals to 2. Peter Dugmore scored 7 for the Crows and Chris Gordon 3, while Dwain Watkins and Dane Williams were among St George's best; but Williams' day went horribly wrong in the last quarter when he was red-carded and it will be up to the tribunal to determine what role Williams plays in the finals. For Balmain, Daniel Napper scored 3 while Billy Dixon was their best.

Daniel Archer fires up his charges

Balmain finish the season in 8th place, having won 4 games for the season - as many as they have won in the previous 3 seasons combined. The Dockers, after a slow start to the season, have shown consistent improvement as the season unfolded. A win over reigning premier North Shore at Drummoyne lifted the spirits of the club; another squad of young players growing in experience and continuing to learn what it takes to succeed at senior level. Daniel Brian and Daniel Wilson took out Rising Star nominations, and look to have a future to look forward to; as for the first time in many years the Dockers finish their season with a real sense of optimism that their long time in the footballing wilderness is turning around.


There were no finals positions up for grabs when Wollongong took on Campbelltown under lights at North Dalton Oval, but Wollongong took the opportunity to break their 14-game losing streak and finish their season on a positive note with an 88-point victory. The Lions raced out of the blocks with an 8 goals to 4 first term and extended their lead in every quarter, putting the woes of this season behind them with a strong finish. Cameron Stanton kicked 7 for the Lions and Adam McConnochie 6; for both players, who have been key members of the squad since their promotion to Premier Division in 2005, their best goalscoring hauls. Michael Toussis and David Goodley were among their best. For Campbelltown, Ben Reid kicked 4 and Chris Lees scored 2. Also scoring 2 for the Blues was veteran Brian Kershaw, returning to the senior side for the first time in close to 10 years in a season in which Kershaw, during a reserves fixture earlier in the season, brought up his 400th appearance in all grades for the club - Kershaw's return to senior ranks making statisticians reach for their record books.

Despite a last-minute exodus of players shortly before the season started, Campbelltown started the season strongly with a creditable performance against Pennant Hills during the Henson Park marathon, followed by a hard-fought thrilling win against Wests. But with numbers already short, a rising injury toll affected their player depth and left coach Steve Bird with few options to turn his side's fortunes around when some heavy losses came. But some positives came through during the season, with their under-18s qualifying for the finals and several of those players having had a run in senior football, experience that will serve them well in the years ahead. Matthew Keys took out a Rising Star nomination.

Ron Wason attempts a checkside goal

It had been a frustrating season for Wollongong. It started promisingly, with a win over reigning premiers North Shore in round 3. But despite being in winning positions in several of their games this season, victory was not to come again until the last round. But, having been in winning positions, the Lions are not far from being able to convert those opportunities into victories. Tapping into the Illawarra juniors, Wollongong's under-18s have qualified for the finals, with a supply of promising players coming through the ranks. With a good club administration and a top-class facility at North Dalton, on-field success remains the missing piece in the jigsaw; but when that comes, the club looks well placed for prosperity in Sydney football.


In First Division, UTS maintained their winning form going into the finals with a 55 point win over Southern Sharks. Manly-Warringah displaced the Sharks in the top 2 with a 44-point win over NorWest Jets. Holroyd-Parramatta took out a 16-point win over Camden, while Macquarie Uni finished their season on a winning note with a convincing 110-point victory over Penrith.


North Shore   5.4   11.9   14.11   18.11 (119)

Sydney University   3.4   4.5   8.4   12.10 (82)

Goals : North Shore - D Kulk 4, M Livy 2, A Lord 2, B Attwood 2, R Wason 2, R Butchatsky 2, K Tangney, L Pryor, S Carruthers, A Nicks. Sydney Uni - J McGuirk 2, M Healy 2, B Coles 2, M Egan, B Mankarious, C Walsh, M Higgins, A Lee, A Scott.

Reserves - Sydney Uni 8.10 (58) d North Shore 5.7 (37)

At Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 24th August.


Throw-in on the forward pocket

Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs   4.0   9.4   11.9   14.9 (93)

Pennant Hills   1.2   1.2   3.15   8.19 (67)

Goals : UNSW-ES - B Abbott 7, J Bradfield 3, M Carey 2, D Coupe, S Pech. Pennant Hills - L Spencer 2, A Goodall 2, L Bilbe 2, K Wright, N Campbell.

Reserves - Pennant Hills 9.7 (61) d UNSW-ES 5.9 (39)

At Village Green, Saturday 24th August.


East Coast Eagles   6.1   11.10   14.14   20.17 (137)

Western Suburbs   1.5   1.9   4.13   5.17 (47)

Goals : East Coast - G Seebeck 4, R Smyth 4, A Floyd 3, M Sankey 3, D Bowles, J Coulloupas, B Rogers, G Garner, J Vlatko, L Stanford. Wests - M Eurell 2, C McGuirk, A Dowdle, B Lafferty.

Reserves - East Coast 14.20 (104) d Wests 5.3 (33)

At Charles McLaughlin Oval, Saturday 24th August.


St George   1.2   2.5   9.11   17.15 (117)

Balmain   4.3   4.3   6.8   8.11 (59)

Goals : St George - P Dugmore 7, C Gordon 3, M Goolagong 2, T Cole 2, D Williams, S Richmond, S Demir. Balmain - D Napper 3, D Hall, J Dickens, B Dixon, N Todd, R Officer.

Reserves - St George 22.12 (144) d Balmain 6.9 (45)

At Drummoyne Oval, Sunday 25th August.


Wollongong   8.3   14.9   17.14   24.18 (162)

Campbelltown   4.2   6.2   9.5   11.8 (74)

Goals : Wollongong - C Stanton 7, A McConnochie 6, M Sheppard 3, S Dennis 3, D McClure, J Weavers, S Davis, T Heath, T Bartlett. Campbelltown - B Reid 4, C Lees 2, B Kershaw 2, M Skuse, M Irving, S Kershaw.

Reserves - Wollongong 19.17 (131) d Campbelltown 1.3 (9)

At North Dalton Oval, Saturday 24th August.



Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs1815032,0401,48360137.56W4
Pennant Hills1814042,2111,27856173.00L1
St George1814041,7601,39856125.89W2
East Coast Eagles1813052,0891,32852157.30W1
North Shore1810081,6321,7214094.83W5
Sydney University1880101,7751,76632100.51L1
Western Suburbs1860121,4751,7802482.87L7


Simon Nash drives the Students forward

First Division:

Manly-Warringah 13.24 (102) d NorWest Jets 9.4 (58)

Holroyd-Parramatta 12.15 (87) d Camden 10.11 (71)

Macquarie University 17.23 (125) d Penrith 2.3 (15)

University of Technology 13.21 (99) d Southern Sharks 7.2 (44)

Reserve Grade

Manly-Warringah 14.11 (95) d NorWest Jets 3.1 (19)

Holroyd-Parramatta 11.17 (83) d Camden 3.6 (24)

Macquarie Uni 15.9 (99) d Penrith 6.2 (38)

UTS 10.16 (76) d Southern Sharks 1.4 (10)


Second Division:

Moorebank Sports 7.6 (48) d Holroyd-Parramatta 1.3 (9)

Sydney Uni Blue 23.15 (153) d UNSW-ES Whales 3.5 (23)

UTS v Pennant Hills - cancelled

UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Macquarie Uni - cancelled

Manly-Warringah 8.14 (62) d Sydney Uni Red 7.14 (56)


Ryan Meldrum in a best on ground performance

Under 18s Premier:

North Shore Bombers 15.11 (102) d North Shore Bears 5.7 (37)

East Coast Eagles 9.8 (62) d Western Suburbs 9.2 (56)

Wollongong 7.6 (48) d Campbelltown 5.8 (38)

Pennant Hills 22.14 (146) d St Ignatius Riverview 8.6 (54)


Under 18s Challenge:

East Coast Eagles 10.11 (71) d Pennant Hills 8.11 (59)

Macquarie Uni 6.8 (44) d Penrith 5.11 (41)

Southern Sharks 6.7 (43) d Moorebank Sports 5.4 (34)

UNSW-ES 11.11 (77) d Manly-Warringah 0.7 (7)




Saturday 30th August


Henson Park - Qualifying Finals

9:45am - Under 18s Premier - Pennant Hills v East Coast Eagles

12:00pm - Premier Division Reserves - Pennant Hills v UNSW-ES

2:30pm - Premier Division Seniors - Pennant Hills v St George


The Bombers celebrate making the finals

Wagener Oval - Major Semi-Finals

8:15am - Second Division - Sydney Uni Blue v Pennant Hills

10:15am - Under 18s Challenge - UNSW-ES v Macquarie Uni

12:15pm - First Division Reserves - UTS v Manly-Warringah

2:30pm - First Division Seniors - UTS v Manly-Warringah


Sunday 31st August


Henson Park - Elimination Finals

9:45am - Under 18s Premier - Campbelltown v Wollongong

12:00pm - Premier Division Reserves - Sydney University v St George

2:30pm - Premier Division Seniors - East Coast Eagles v North Shore


Wagener Oval - Minor Semi-Finals

8:15am - Second Division - UNSW-ES Bulldogs v Moorebank Sports

10:15am - Under 18s Challenge - Southern Sharks v Manly-Warringah

12:15pm - First Division Reserves - Macquarie University v Southern Sharks

2:30pm - First Division Seniors - Southern Sharks v Holroyd-Parramatta



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2006 Grand Final
2007 Grand Final
2008 Rnd 1 - Syd Uni v
2008 Rnd 1 - Wests v
2008 Rnd 1 - Pen Hlls v
2008 Rnd 1 - UNSW-ES v
2008 Rnd 1 - St Grge v Nth
2008 Rnd 2 - Wests v
2008 Rnd 3 - W'gong v
2008 Rnd 4 - Camptwn v S
2008 Rnd 5 - Nth Shore v
2008 Rnd 6 - Wests v Syd
2008 Rnd 7 - C'town v Nth
2008 Rnd 8 - Syd Uni v St
2008 - Rnd 9 - W'gong v
Pen Hl
2008 - Rnd 10 - Pen Hills v
Nth Shre
2008 - Rnd 11 - Sydney Uni
v Nth Shre
2008 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2008 - Rnd 12 - Nth Shre v
East Cst
2009 - Rnd 1 - St George v
Syd Uni
2009 - Rnd 2 - Camp'twn v
2009 - Rnd 3 - Sydney Uni v
Penn Hills
2009 - Rnd 4 - Wests v Nth
2009 - Rnd 5 - Syd Uni v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 6 - East Coast v
St George
2009 - Rnd 8 - Nth Shore v
Penn Hills
2009 - Rnd 9 - UNSW-ES v
East Coast
2009 - Rnd 10 - St George v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2009 - Rnd 12 - UNSW-ES
v Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 13 - Wests v
East Coast
2009 - Rnd 14 - Pen Hills v
2009 Represent -Sydney v
2009 - Rnd 15 - Nth Shore v
Syd Uni
2009 - Rnd 16 - Pen Hills v
Nth Shore
2009 - Rnd 17 - Nth Shore v
2009 - Rnd 18 - Wests v
Penn Hills
2009 - Qual Final - Wests v
2009 - Elim Final - Pen
Hills v Camp'town
2009 - 1st Semi -
UNSW-ES v Pen Hills
2009 - 2nd Semi - East
Coast v Wests
2009 - Prelim Final - Wests
2009 Grand Final Day
2010 - Rnd 1 - Wests v St
2010 - Rnd 2 - UNSW-ES v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 3 - East Coast v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 4 - Sydney Uni v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 5 - Camp'town v
2010 - Rnd 6 - Wests v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 7 - Penn Hills v
2010 - Rnd 8 - Nth Shore v
2010 - Rnd 9 - Camp'town v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 9 - Pennant Hlls
v North Shore
2010 - Rnd 10 - St George v
2010 - Rnd 11 - Balmain v
2010 - Rnd 12 - St George v
North Shore
2010 - Rnd 13 - Nth Shore v
Sydney Uni
2010 - Rnd 14 - Wests v
East Coast
2010 - Rnd 15 - East Coast
v North Shore
2010 - Rnd 17 - Nth Shore v
Pennant Hills
2010 - Qual Final - Wests v
East Coast
2010 - Elim Final - North
Shore v Pennant Hills
2010 - 2nd Semi - Sydney
Uni v Wests
2010 - Prelim Final - Wests
v East Coast
2011 - Rnd 1 - East Coast v
2011 - Rnd 2 - Balmain v
2011 - Rnd 3 - Balmain v
2011 - Rnd 5 - Pennant
Hills v North Shore
2011 - Rnd 6 - North Shore
v Campbelltown
2011 - Rnd 8 - UTS v North
2011 - Rnd 9 - Wests v
Sydney Uni
2011 - Rnd 10 - Balmain v
St George
2011 - Rnd 11 - Illawarra v
North Shore
2011 - Rnd 12 - East Coast
v St George
2011 - Rnd 13 - North Shre
v St George
2011 - Rnd 14 - Balmain v
Pennant Hills
2011 - Rnd 15 - North
Shore v Pennant Hills
2011 - Rnd 15 - Sydney Uni
v East Coast
2011 - Rnd 17 - North
Shore v Wests
2011 - Rnd 18 - Balmain v
North Shore
2011 - Rnd 19 - North
Shore v Sydney Uni
2011 - Rnd 20 - UNSW-ES
v North Shore
2011 - Qualifying Final -
Balmain v Sydney Uni
2011 - First Semi - Sydney
Uni v North Shore
2011 - Prelim Final -
Balmain v Sydney Uni