SYDNEY AFL FINALS WEEK 2 - Eagles into Grand Final, Bulldogs Fight Back
Article and Photos by Michael Shillito


We're well and truly into the business end of the 2009 season. Week 2 of the finals saw minor premiers East Coast Eagles make their third grand final in four seasons, while reigning premiers Pennant Hills' season came to an end.


Saturday's Second Semi Final was played at Bruce Purser Oval, with East Coast and Wests playing off for a grand final berth. The Eagles were coming into the game having had last week off, while the Magpies were in red-hot form after their big win over UNSW-ES in last week's Qualifying Final. It was a game that was sometimes tight, sometimes free-flowing and often controversial; especially during an emotion-charged third quarter.

A sub-plot through the game would be the quest for Gus Seebeck to become the first player in 10 years to score 100 goals in a Premier Division season. Seebeck went into the game with 97 for the season, and despite having an early set shot was unable to add to that tally during the first quarter.

It was first blood to Wests, as David Clout ran around from a tight angle before banging a goal through. But on 10 minutes, the Eagles had hit the lead, after Seebeck outmuscled two opponents to mark and quickly handballing to a running Ryan Smyth. Adam Byerlee extended the advantage after receiving a holding-the-ball free; but for much of the quarter the action was an arm-wrestle as the ball travelled from end to end. But time-on was to be the signal for the Eagles to step up the pressure, with Kristian Pearson having run from the backline to score the Eagles' fourth. Two more goals in the final minutes extended the lead to 25 points at the first change.

The second quarter was also an even fight for much of the quarter before the Eagles pulled away in red time. It was a war of the defences early, and it wasn't till 11 minutes that the first goal went through after Matt Withers was paid a free. The centre break set up an instant reply for Shane Ryan, and a running Ben Rogers added another for the Eagles. The Magpies had reason to fear the worst when friendly fire saw Matt Withers and Ben Absolum both down for the count; but fortunately for Wests both were OK and it was Withers who would add the next goal. But the closing minutes were again pivotal, another three-goal run by the Eagles extending the margin to 48 by the long break. Seebeck was on the board, bringing his season tally to 98.

While for much of the game it had been an even struggle, the Eagles' greater ability to last the distance in each quarter had been critical. Three-goal bursts in time-on in both quarters accounted for six goals of the eight-goal margin. But Wests only needed to cast their minds back to the last time the sides clashed, at Henson Park in Round 13, to know that an 8-goal lead at half time didn't mean the game is safe yet.

The third quarter was one where emotions ran high and which created plenty of talking points. It started innocuously enough, with Seebeck putting through number 99 and then dropping a chest mark which would have seen him line up a shot for the ton. But Brett Bedwell's departure under the blood rule, claret streaming from his face, saw tensions rise. Matt Eurell got a goal back for the Magpies, but shortly afterwards East Coast coach Glenn Garner and Wests' Daniel Lambert were wrestling in front of the Eagles' bench. A count was called, and both teams were made to line up in the centre; but the umpires ruled that the numbers were in order, the only change to the score coming when Troy Cole converted a free kick from the edge of the square.

Wests were playing their best football of the day, and a mark to Matt Eurell saw the margin cut to 36 points. The Eagles needed a steadier, and it came through Ben Rogers.  Eurell on the lead got a quick reply and a centre break set up Minichiello, but Glenn Garner with a set shot kept the margin at 6 goals at the last change. Early in the last quarter the Magpies kept coming, with Fiddler and Eurell cutting the margin to 27 points before Mark Mendola landed the knockout blow that put the result beyond any doubt.

But the Eagles had one last piece of business to attend to, and at 20 minutes it came. Gus Seebeck marked at the edge of the square, went back and kicked his 100th for the season; to the congratulations of his team-mates and rapturous applause from the grandstand. It seemed somehow fitting that Seebeck had brought up the ton at Bruce Purser, a venue that he has proudly showcased as Eagles' President and dominated as their full-forward.


The final margin was 54 points, enough for the Eagles to qualify for the Grand Final. Seebeck and Ben Rogers both kicked 4, while Ed Wilson, Kristian Pearson and Mark Skuse were among their best. For the Eagles, 2009 will be their third Grand Final in four seasons. Their previous two have ended in defeat - will it be third time lucky for the Eagles? For the Magpies, Matt Eurell kicked 4 while Medair Kassem and John Simpson were key contributors. The Magpies have another chance to qualify for football's big day, but will need to win next week's Preliminary Final.


Click here to see Harboursport's photo gallery from the Second Semi Final.


Wests' opponents in the Preliminary Final will be UNSW-ES, after the Bulldogs bounced back from their horror performance in last week's Qualifying Final to overcome Pennant Hills by 20 points at Blacktown Olympic Park on Sunday.

A bright opening term by the Bulldogs, with 5 goals to 1 in the opening quarter, got them off to the start they wanted. Peter Kefalas opened the goal-scoring, a long-range speculator from Bradfield extended the advantage. A running Jay Lewis got one back for the Demons, but a double from Brad Abbott from the pocket in front of the scoreboard and some clever use of the advantage rule to find an unmarked Max Collett saw them open a handy lead.

Early in the second quarter the Demons looked like getting back into the quarter. A 50m penalty in the opening minute put Alistair Richardson on the board. Two bungled kick-ins within a minute saw Richardson intercept to score his second and the margin was back to 8 points. UNSW-ES ruckman Earl Shaw found himself given 15 minutes in the sin bin, and during his absence it was goal for goal. A generous 50m penalty and a long torp by Woods gave the Bulldogs their first for the quarter, which was cancelled out by a 50m penalty goal to Scott Myers. A 50m penalty for going over the mark put veteran Troy Luff on the board. But a front foot no-ball from a kick-in resulted in a ball-up in front of the Pennant Hills goal, and a snap from Cameron Smith saw the margin again cut to 8 points.

A set shot from Beardsley gave the Bulldogs some breathing space, and at the 32 minute mark a soccer off the ground gave Brad Abbott his third after a lengthy period of consultation between the umpires saw the goal awarded. The Bulldogs held a handy 21-point buffer at the long break.

After the break, the game tightened considerably. Eight goals were kicked in the second term, double the total of the entire second half. All three of the third quarter goals came from set shots, but the Bulldogs landing two of them saw them win the quarter. But although the Demons only kicked one goal, it was not for a lack of opportunities; but in the latter stages of the quarter when they dominated possession there were too many chances squandered.

The final quarter saw the ball moved quickly onto the Demons' forward line. Jon Moraitis scored an early goal and suddenly the margin was back to 17 points and the Demons had a sniff. But a combination of wasteful finishing by the Demons and resolute defence by the Bulldogs, often moving numbers onto the backline, denied Pennant Hills any chance of getting closer. With numbers flooded on the Demons' forward line, occasionally the Bulldogs would make a break and counter-attack, but they were unable to land the knockout blow that would put the game beyond dispute. But as the clock continued to run, with no sign of a Demon revival in sight, it had become clear their premiership defence was over and that the Bulldogs had become the first Premier Division team since 2002 to bounce back after losing a final to win the next week.

UNSW-ES took the match by 22 points. Brad Abbott kicked 3 for the Bulldogs, while Mike Beardsley, Ben Woods and Max Collett were prominent ball-winners. For the Demons, Alistair Richardson kicked 3 while Aaron Crisfield and Luke Bilbe were among their best. Pennant Hills' season is over, and planning for 2010 begins. For UNSW-ES, next week's Preliminary Final sees a re-match with Wests and a chance to reverse the fortunes of the Qualifying Final disaster.

Click here to see Harboursport's photo gallery from the First Semi Final.

East Coast Eagles   5.3   10.10   13.12   17.18 (120)

Western Suburbs   1.2   3.4   8.6   10.6 (66)

Goals : East Coast - G Seebeck 4, B Rogers 4,  G Garner 2, L Stanford, K Pearson, M Mendola, R Smyth, S Ryan, A Byerlee, J Dimery. Wests - M Eurell 4, M Withers 2, A Fiddler, T Cole, J Minichiello, D Clout.

Best : East Coast - E Wilson, K Pearson, M Skuse, B Rogers, J Dimery, B Bourke. Wests - M Kassem, J Simpson, S Hudson, D Lambert, B Mumme, A Eurell.

Umpires - D Anderson, S Richardson, A Rutherford.

At Bruce Purser Oval, Saturday 5th September.


Uni NSW-Eastern Suburbs   5.0   9.5   11.7   11.13 (79)

Pennant Hills   1.4   5.8   6.14   7.17 (59)

Goals : UNSW-ES - B Abbott 3, J Bradfield 2, P Kefalas, T Luff, M Collett, S Pech, M Beardsley, B Woods. Pennant Hills - A Richardson 3, S Myers, J Moraitis, C Smith, J Lewis.

Best : UNSW-ES - M Beardsley, B Lewis, M Collett, A Gulden, A Henderson, S Rutland. Pennant Hills - A Crisfield, L Bilbe, B Jack, C Richardson, D Smith, K Wright.

Umpires - M Peck, M Gestier, P Barron.

At Blacktown Olympic Park, Sunday 6th September.

First Division

First Semi Final - Sydney University 12.12 (84) d Manly-Warringah 9.8 (62)

Second Semi Final - UTS 12.12 (84) d East Coast Eagles 4.5 (29)


Second Division

Preliminary Final - UTS 10.11 (71) d Southern Power 3.11 (29)


Third Division

Preliminary Final - UTS 6.15 (51) d NorWest Jets 5.12 (42)


Fourth Division

Preliminary Final - UNSW-ES 8.9 (57) d NorWest Jets 7.7 (49)

Under 18s Premier

First Semi Final - Wollongong 8.11 (59) d East Coast Eagles 7.8 (50)

Second Semi Final - North Shore 9.9 (63) d St George 7.6 (48)


Under 18s Challenge

Preliminary Final - Southern Power 9.13 (67) d Penrith 7.11 (53)





Saturday 12th September

Div 2,3,4 & Challenge Cup Grand Final Day - Blacktown Olympic Park

8:15am - Under 18s Challenge Cup - Sydney University v Southern Power

10:20am - Fourth Division - Sydney University v UNSW-ES

12:40pm - Third Division - UNSW-ES v UTS

3:00pm - Second Division - Macquarie University v UTS


Sunday 13th September

Preliminary Final Day - Blacktown Olympic Park

10:00am - Under 18s Premier - St George v Wollongong

12:00pm - First Division - East Coast Eagles v Sydney University

2:15pm - Premier Division - Western Suburbs v UNSW-ES







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