Article and photos by Michael Shillito.
After the long off-season break, it was good to be back for another season of footy. Some teams had new coaches, all teams had new players and everyone had new expectations for their club for the season ahead. And after the first weekend, in which all Premier Division games were decided by comfortable margins, some teams will feel re-assured that they are heading in the right direction while others will be re-considering their game plans.
Warm and sunny weather greeted the players at Henson Park on Sunday as Western Suburbs took on St George. Wests this season are looking to go a step better after finishing just one game short of the grand final last season, while the Dragons after a disappointing 2009 are hoping to return to finals football this season.
The Magpies, winning the toss and kicking to the Sydenham Rd End in the first quarter, went into the game as favourites, but it was the Dragons who made much of the early front-running with three of the first four goals. After two Wests behinds opened the scoring, Declan Donohue marked 55 metres out. A 50 metre penalty put Donohue in a simple position and the Dragons took the lead. Cal McGuirk quickly replied from a free kick, but soon after Shane Demir received St George's second 50 metre penalty, one which put him within kicking range. The Dragon coach made no mistake, and from the centre break Patrick Romano led out to mark and goal to give St George a 10-point lead after 14 minutes.
But the lead was to be short-lived, as the Dragons would not score another goal until late in the second term. Within a minute of the Dragons' goal, Matt Eurell led out to mark a pinpoint pass 25 metres out and kick his first goal. And as the clock ticked into time-on, a loose ball in the goal square was toe-poked through the goals by Kris Cochrane for the Magpies to take a narrow lead to quarter time.
The early part of the second term saw Wests looking likely to build an imposing lead. The Magpies scored the first three goals of the quarter, two of them coming from the boot of Matt Eurell. The number 11 was proving to be a handy target up forward, playing a strong marking game. And even when on one occasion he dropped the ball in the goalsquare, a good second effort saw him outmuscle his opponent to regain the ball and kick truly. The lead got out to 22 points and the Dragons badly needed a goal; and finally it came after a brilliant individual effort from Tim Addison, swooping on the crumbs from a boundary throw-in, shrugging a tackle before kicking truly on the run from 45 metres out on the boundary. And the Dragons could have got even closer after Pat McBride was paid a free for holding 20 metres out; but McBride's kick sailed wide. At half time the Magpies held a 15 point lead.
With the margin less than three goals, the Dragons were still very much in the contest; and in the early stages of the premiership quarter they made a genuine attempt to plug the gap. Had they been able to make more of their opportunities the momentum of the game may well have swung their way. They did manage one goal, after Anthony Cuthbert pounced on a loose ball to score. Shortly afterwards the Dragons had a stroke of luck when Matt Withers had a goal disallowed after advantage wasn't paid, the Magpie captain then missing with his set shot. The Dragons moved the ball forward, but were unable to find the goal which would have brought the margin back within a kick.
Instead it was Wests who were able to switch the momentum their way, after a 50 metre penalty put Ben Absolum within scoring range, and kicking the next four goals the game moved out of St George's reach. Matt Eurell was again a key contributor, despite at one stage appearing to strain his leg after landing awkwardly from a mark. But he was able to remain on the field, and continue to be a focal point for the Magpies.
Despite a late St George goal, the Magpies still held a 26-point lead at the last change; and any hopes of St George coming from behind to steal a win were extinguished once and for all in the first minute of the final term when Matt Eurell received a 50 metre penalty for another goal. From there, with the game safe, the game largely went through the motions; but those who left early missed the individual highlight of the match. Cal McGuirk from the forward flank gathered the ball before going for a run, evading a tackle and bouncing the ball twice before threading the goal through from a tight angle.
Eurell didn't make it to the finish line, a head clash saw him being blood ruled at 20 minutes. But his 6-goal haul was pivotal to the Magpies making it to the winning list for the opening round. The final winning margin of 37 points was a fair reflection of the game, where the Dragons had fought hard and put in some good periods of play but the Magpies were more consistent and had superior firepower throughout the course of the day.
Kris Cochrane, Matt Eurell and Dave Linsen were among Wests' best, but everyone on their team played a part in giving the Magpies a first-up win. For St George, Scott Richmond and Declan Donohue were key performers.Balmain Dockers recruited heavily over the off-season.
Under new coach Nik Fosdike, former Swans Jason Saddington, Tim Schmidt and Nick Davis joined the Dockers and took the field at Drummoyne Oval for their clash against Sydney Uni. But the result was far from what the new-look Balmain side would have been hoping for, as they were comprehensively outplayed by Sydney Uni; the Students dominating from start to finish to win by 152 points.
As the game went on, the main interest was in whether the Students would bring up the double-century, and the last goal of the game enabled them to make that target. Mark Egan kicked 5 for the Students, while Andrew Kraefft and Alex Lee contributed 4 goals. Best on ground for Sydney Uni were new signings Adam McConnochie and Tom Elkington, along with the experienced Ben Mankarious. On a disappointing day for the Dockers, Nick Davis at least managed to find some of his old form with 3 goals, while captain Janis Blums was their best.
North Shore had a good start to their season when the Bombers defeated an undermanned Wollongong side by 64 points at Gore Hill Oval. The Bombers started quickly and led all day, but faced strong resistance by a determined Lions outfit that, although short of depth after the loss of some key players over the off-season, weren't going down without a fight. At half time the Bombers led by 17 points, and an early goal to the Lions after the break cut the margin back to within two goals. But the Lions were unable to maintain their resistance for the full distance, and the Bombers ran away with the remainder of the game to achieve a winning margin greater than the trend of play throughout much of the day would suggest.
Ron Wason, Kerrin Hughes and Lachie Pryor all kicked three goals for the Bombers, while Wason, Chris Murphy and Teddy Strudwick were among their best. For Wollongong, Jeremy McInnes kicked three while David Goodley and Paul Balding battled tirelessly all day.
East Coast Eagles celebrated the unfurling of their premiership flag in style in a twilight game at Bruce Purser Oval on Saturday. A family day of entertainment was on show, with the highlight of the evening being a grand final replay as the Eagles took on UNSW-ES. And the result was to be even more comprehensive this time, as the Eagles dominated from start to finish to record an easy 91-point victory.
New signing Jamie Vlatko kicked 6 for the Eagles in a best on ground performance, while former St George forward Peter Dugmore, in his first appearance in the East Coast colours, collected a bag of 5. Vlatko and Dugmore were among their best, as were Trent Baker and Damien Charlston. In a difficult evening for the Bulldogs, Jeremy Kiel and Angus Robson tried hard all night.
On Sunday at Blacktown, Pennant Hills proved far too good for Campbelltown as the Demons coasted to a 81-point victory. The first quarter was tightly contested, with the Demons leading by 15 points at the first change, but the Demons locked the Blues out of the contest in the second quarter when they held the Blues scoreless while accumulating six goals. The Blues never looked likely to work their way back into the contest, while the relentless Demons continued to press all the way as they won every quarter.
Luke Bilbe, Justin Barratt and Kieran Wright all kicked 3 goals for the Demons, while Jake Trestrail and new signing Jarred Mobbs were among their best. For the Blues, Shanan Kershaw and coach Radlee Moller worked hard all day; but the Blues were unable to find the firepower to match it with the red-hot Demons.
Western Suburbs 3.3 6.4 10.8 14.11 (95)
St George 3.0 4.3 6.6 8.10 (58)
Goals : Wests - M Eurell 6, C McGuirk 2, D Linsen, B Mumme, K Cochrane, D Watkins, A Eurell, B Absolum. St George - T Addison 3, D Donohue, S Wilsen, A Cuthbert, S Demir, P Romano.
Best : Wests - K Cochrane, M Eurell, D Linsen, B Mumme, C Noordhof, T Lambert. St George - S Richmond, D Donohue, T Addison, S Klein, B Guthrie, L Perris.
At Henson Park, Sunday 11th April 2010.
Sydney University 30.25 (205) d Balmain Dockers 8.5 (53)
Goals : Sydney Uni - M Egan 5, A Kraefft 4, A Lee 4, S Crichton 3, A McConnochie 3, S Sloane 2, T Elkington 2, T Barton 2, N Roberts, B Mankarious, M Thompson, G Stevens, J Lawson. Balmain - N Davis 3, T Schmidt, A Azhar, J Boyd, J Saddington, D Shaw.
Best : Sydney Uni - A McConnochie, B Mankarious, T Elkington, S Sloane, N Roberts, C Wells. Balmain - J Blums, A Azhar, T Young, T Schmidt, A Clark, J Farrell.
At Drummoyne Oval, Saturday 10th April 2010.
North Shore 4.3 6.8 13.11 20.16 (136)
Wollongong 2.1 4.3 8.6 11.6 (72)
Goals : North Shore - R Wason 3, K Hughes 3, L Pryor 3, T Strudwick 2, E Davis 2, B Attwood 2, R Grigg, M Powell, A Lord, C King, R Lynch. Wollongong - J McInnes 3, B Black 2, R Price 2, K Ewen-Chappell, L Favetta, M Toussis, L Rutter.
Best : North Shore - R Wason, C Murphy, T Strudwick, J Stiller, M Powell, R Grigg. Wollongong - D Goodley, P Balding, J McInness, B Black, J Daniher, K Ewen-Chappell.
At Gore Hill Oval, Saturday 10th April 2010.
East Coast Eagles 19.13 (127) d UNSW-ES 5.6 (36)
Goals : East Coast - Jamie Vlatko 6, P Dugmore 5, D Spiteri 2, D Charlston, T Baker, M Goodey, B Rogers, G Garner, A Stubbs. UNSW-ES - A Gulden 2, J Parmenter 2, J Kiel.
Best : East Coast - Jamie Vlatko, T Baker, P Dugmore, D Charlston, K Pearson, J Dimery. UNSW-ES - J Kiel, A Robson, P Kefalas, C Jourdain, A Gulden, A Goodieson.
At Bruce Purser Oval, Saturday 10th April 2010.
Pennant Hills 5.4 11.7 14.13 19.19 (133)
Campbelltown 3.1 3.1 6.3 8.4 (52)
Goals : Pennant Hills - L Bilbe 3, J Barratt 3, K Wright 3, J Low 2, B Jack 2, N Campbell 2, T Angel, N Baglin, J Mobbs, D Keating. Campbelltown - S Kershaw 2, O Love 2, H Wells, M Keys, D Chivas, R Bottin-Noonan.
Best : Pennant Hills - J Trestrail, J Mobbs, L Bilbe, B Jack, D Witt, S Parker. Campbelltown - S Kershaw, R Moller, R Bottin-Noonan, C Fretwell, C Jordan, R Mitchell.
At Blacktown Olympic Park, Sunday 11th April 2010.
Played Won Drawn Lost For Agnst Pts %age Streak Sydney University 1 1 0 0 205 53 4 386.79 W1 East Coast Eagles 1 1 0 0 127 36 4 352.78 W1 Pennant Hills 1 1 0 0 133 52 4 255.77 W1 North Shore 1 1 0 0 136 72 4 188.89 W1 Western Suburbs 1 1 0 0 95 58 4 163.79 W1 St George 1 0 0 1 58 95 0 61.05 L1 Wollongong 1 0 0 1 72 136 0 52.94 L1 Campbelltown 1 0 0 1 52 133 0 39.10 L1 UNSW-ES 1 0 0 1 36 127 0 28.35 L1 Balmain 1 0 0 1 53 205 0 25.85 L1
North Shore 17.17 (119) d Wollongong 3.5 (23)
East Coast Eagles 17.18 (120) d UNSW-ES 5.7 (37)
Manly-Warringah 11.8 (74) d Sydney University 10.6 (66)
Western Suburbs 11.10 (76) d Macquarie Uni 6.7 (43)
UTS 13.17 (95) d Pennant Hills 3.7 (25)
Ladder - North Shore (4, 517.39%), UTS (4, 380.00%), East Coast (4, 324.32%), Wests (4, 176.74%), Manly-Warringah (4, 112.12%), Sydney Uni (0, 89.19%), Macquarie Uni (0, 56.58%), UNSW-ES (0, 30.83%), Pennant Hills (0, 26.32%), Wollongong (0, 19.33%).
UTS 23.11 (149) d Balmain 7.5 (47)
Sydney Uni 15.7 (97) d Manly-Warringah 6.12 (48)
NorWest Jets 24.10 (154) d Camden 10.10 (70)
Holroyd-Parramatta 17.7 (109) d UNSW-ES 15.4 (94)
Southern Power 20.11 (131) d St George 2.5 (17)
Ladder - Southern Power (4, 770.59%), UTS (4, 317.02%), NorWest (4, 220.00%), Sydney Uni (4, 202.08%), Holroyd-Parramatta (4, 115.96%), UNSW-ES (0, 86.24%), Manly-Warringah (0, 49.48%), Camden (0, 45.45%), Balmain (0, 31.54%), St George (0, 12.98%).
East Coast 22.14 (146) d Holroyd-Parramatta 1.3 (9)
Macquarie Uni 8.7 (55) d Southern Power 4.14 (38)
Penrith 16.13 (109) d Sydney Uni 5.7 (37)
Moorebank Sports 12.13 (85) d UTS 5.5 (35)
Campbelltown 18.9 (117) d Pennant Hills 7.7 (49)
Ladder - East Coast (4, 1622.22%), Penrith (4, 294.59%), Moorebank Sports (4, 242.86%), Campbelltown (4, 238.78%), Macquarie Uni (4, 144.74%), Southern Power (0, 69.09%), Pennant Hills (0, 41.88%), UTS (0, 41.18%), Sydney Uni (0, 33.94%), Holroyd-Parramatta (0, 6.16%).
Manly-Warringah 8.14 (62) d Sydney Uni 5.6 (36)
Mac Uni Warriors 12.18 (90) d Southern Power 2.5 (17)
NorWest Jets 7.6 (48) d Camden 6.3 (39)
Penrith 14.12 (96) d UNSW-ES 5.9 (39)
Saints AFC 33.15 (213) d Mac Uni Kookas 6.3 (39)
Auburn 20.17 (137) d Holroyd-Parramatta 4.4 (28)
Moorebank Sports 12.15 (87) d UTS 5.4 (34)
Ladder - Saints AFC (4, 546.15%), Mac Uni Warriors (4, 529.41%), Auburn (4, 489.29%), Moorebank Sports (4, 255.88%), Penrith (4, 246.15%), Manly-Warringah (4, 172.22%), NorWest (4, 123.08%), Camden (0, 81.25%), Sydney Uni (0, 58.06%), UNSW-ES (0, 40.62%), UTS (0, 39.08%), Holroyd-Parramatta (0, 20.44%), Southern Power (0, 18.89%), Mac Uni Kookas (0, 18.31%).
Under 18s Premier:
Sydney Uni 17.9 (111) d Balmain 4.1 (25)
North Shore v Wollongong - postponed
UNSW-ES 10.10 (70) d St Ignatius Riverview 9.6 (60)
Pennant Hills 28.28 (196) d Campbelltown 2.0 (12)
St George 10.16 (76) d Western Suburbs 7.9 (51)
Ladder (Match Ratio) - Pennant Hills (100, 1633.33%), Sydney Uni (100, 444.44%), St George (100, 149.02%), UNSW-ES (100, 116.67%), St Ignatius Riverview (0, 85.71%), Wests (0, 67.11%), Balmain (0, 22.52%), Campbelltown (0, 6.12%), East Coast (0, 0%), North Shore (0, 0%), Wollongong (0, 0%).
Under 18s Challenge:
East Coast 8.12 (60) d Holroyd-Parramatta 7.7 (49)
Southern Power d Macquarie Uni - forfeit
Manly-Warringah 18.10 (118) d Moorebank Sports 8.6 (54)
Ladder (Match Ratio) - Manly-Warringah (100, 218.52%), East Coast (100, 122.45%), Southern Power (100, 0%), Holroyd-Parramatta (0, 81.67%), Moorebank Sports (0, 45.76%), Penrith (0, 0%), Macquarie Uni (0, 0%).
NEXT WEEK'S FIXTURES (Lurker's Kiss of Death in bold):
Saturday 17th April
Monarch Oval - Campbelltown v Balmain (2:10pm)
Olds Park - St George v East Coast Eagles (2:10pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 - Sydney University v Western Suburbs (4:10pm)
Blacktown Olympic Park - UNSW-ES v North Shore (4:30pm)
North Dalton Oval - Wollongong v Pennant Hills (6:10pm)
Saturday 17th April
Sydney Uni No 1 - Sydney Uni v Western Suburbs (2:00pm)
Blacktown Olympic Park - UNSW-ES v North Shore (2:30pm)
Trumper Park - UTS v Manly-Warringah (2:30pm)
North Dalton Oval - Wollongong v Pennant Hills (4:00pm)
University Oval - Macquarie University v East Coast Eagles (4:30pm)
Saturday 17th April
Olds Park - St George v Sydney Uni (12:00pm)
Trumper Park - UTS v Manly-Warringah (12:30pm)
Harrington Park - Camden v Balmain (2:10pm)
Gipps Rd Oval - Holroyd-Parramatta v NorWest Jets (2:30pm)
Gwawley Oval - Southern Power v UNSW-ES (2:30pm)
Third DivisionSaturday 17th April
Trumper Park - UTS v Pennant Hills (10:30am)
Monarch Oval - Campbelltown v Penrith (12:00pm)
Gipps Rd Oval - Holroyd-Parramatta v Moorebank Sports (12:30pm)
Gwawley Oval - Southern Power v East Coast Eagles (12:30pm)
University Oval - Macquarie Uni v Sydney Uni (2:30pm)
Saturday 17th April
Trumper Park - UTS v Manly-Warringah (8:30am)
University Oval - Macquarie Uni Kookas v Sydney Uni (8:30am)
Gipps Rd Oval - Holroyd-Parramatta v Moorebank Sports (10:30am)
Gwawley Oval - Southern Power v Auburn (10:30am)
Harrington Park - Camden v Penrith (12:00pm)
University Oval - Mac Uni Warriors v UNSW-ES (12:30pm)
Pioneers Park - Saints AFC v NorWest Jets (2:10pm)
Under 18s Premier
Friday 16th April
Alan Davidson Oval - Balmain v St Ignatius Riverview (7:00pm)
Saturday 17th April
Olds Park - St George v East Coast Eagles (10:00am)
Blacktown Olympic Park - UNSW-ES v North Shore (10:30am)
North Dalton Oval - Wollongong v Pennant Hills (2:00pm)
Sydney Uni No 1 - Sydney Uni v Western Suburbs (7:00pm)
Campbelltown has the bye.
Under 18s Challenge
Saturday 17th April
Gipps Rd Oval - Holroyd-Parramatta v Moorebank Sports (8:30am)
Monarch Oval - Southern Power v Penrith (10:00am)
University Oval - Macquarie Uni v Manly-Warringah (10:30am)
East Coast Eagles has the bye.