SYDNEY AFL FINALS WEEK 1 2010 Article and photos by Michael Shillito
There’s always something special about finals time. The weather is warmer, the sense of excitement stronger. By now only the top teams in the competition remain, the stakes are raised and every game assumes a new importance. The Final 5 system gives the top side the week off, so while Sydney Uni took a break to recover from any niggles they may have picked up, Wests took on East Coast for the right to play them in the second week of the finals.
Bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and Blacktown Olympic Park was looking a treat. And an early assault by the Magpies caught the Eagles by surprise and ensured the defending champions would be chasing the game. It began with Joel Minichiello forcing a turnover in the centre before driving the ball forward to a leading Matt Withers. Minichiello then added a goal of his own to the collection. A penetrating drive up the ground by Rohan Lilly set up Blake Bray, and former Swan Daryn Creswell got on the scoreboard. And when a 50m penalty took Kris Cochrane to the edge of the square, the Magpies had a 29-point lead before the clock had even reached 10 minutes.
Mike Beardsley got one back against the run of play, but an accidental bump on veteran umpire Frank Kalayzich resulted in a free kick and a goal to Blake Bray. The Eagles had struggled to get any coherent play going, but finally got one of their characteristic coast-to-coast plays going, Rohan Bilkey from the backline finding Eugene Kruger for a run and two bounces before a pinpoint delivery to Jamie Vlatko. Vlatko’s kick was unsuccessful, but the momentum began to turn East Coast’s way, goals to Charleston and Costello cutting the margin to 18 points at the first change.
The teams traded goals to Watkins and Bowles in the opening minutes of the second term. The Magpies, holding a 3-goal advantage, were keen to expand on their lead but the Eagles were holding them at bay. The Magpies tried to attack, but could only manage behinds, three in a row. And following the third came the Eagles’ play of the day.
Kristian Pearson took a virtually instant kick-in, catching the Magpie forwards unawares. Pearson found a running Ryan Fitton, who played on to Ben Rogers in the flank. Perfect delivery to Mark Goodey, 20 metres out straight in front; and in barely 20 seconds the ball had travelled the length of the field. Just two minutes after Goodey’s goal, Jamie Vlatko was taken high; and the goal cut the margin to 10 points at the long break.
Readers of the scorecards in years to come may suspect there was a biting southerly buster blowing during the game, with scoring heavily favouring the northern end throughout the match. But there was barely any wind, none that would have favoured either end. It was only that the Magpies emerged from the sheds looking sharper for the second half that enabled them to race to a match-winning lead.
It began with the Magpies getting the centre break and a free kick being paid 40 metres out, only for the ball to spill free to a running Dave Linsen. Advantage was paid as Linsen slammed the goal through. It was the start of a dominant period for the Magpies, beginning the third quarter as they did the first with five unanswered goals. Eid Kassem, after not having a major influence in the first half, took control by being twice left unattended within scoring range to add goals. Dave Linsen’s opening minute goal was the first of three for the quarter. The third, a well-placed long-range kick from a tight angle in front of the scoreboard, was followed by Linsen raising his arms in triumph as the Magpies had the sniff of victory in their nostrils. Damian Charleston got one back as the clock ticked into time-on, but a late double to Blake Bray extended the margin to an imposing 48 point lead at the last change.
The game was safe, and the Magpies were assured of victory even with the Eagles winning the final quarter. The final minutes of the match showed the Magpies making a statement of their dominance and showing they were in control of proceedings, chipping the ball around themselves. Loose men were everywhere, but the Eagles were unable to man up to prevent the circular chip-kicking and the Magpies were toying with their opponents. The clock ran down, and Wests took out a 31-point victory to advance to a clash with Sydney Uni next week.
Blake Bray and Dave Linsen kicked 3 goals apiece, with Linsen joining Joel Minichiello and Rohan Lilly among their best. Jamie Vlatko kicked 3 for the Eagles, while Ryan Fitton, Ben Physick and Jon Vlatko were prominent performers for east Coast.
The Magpies will play off against Sydney Uni next week for a grand final place, while the Eagles are in now sudden death. And following the Sunday elimination final, the first semi final will be a Hills derby, with the Eagles to take on Pennant Hills.
Conditions were ideal again on Sunday, Pennant Hills in action against North Shore in the elimination final. A big start for the Demons saw two goals on the board in the opening minutes, veteran Anthony Brawn weaving around the Bomber defence for the opening goal. A minute later, Jackson Potter kicked long to the square, only for the ball to sit up and not bounce forward. But it mattered not for the Demons, with young gun Nick Bills on hand to see the ball through.
On 10 minutes, Damien Casey played on to get the Bombers on the board, and a couple of minutes later a textbook lead and mark to Chris Murphy cut the deficit to 2 points before Brawn outmarked the North Shore defence to score his second goal.
The Bombers worked hard late in the quarter and put in a couple of highlights, firstly Ted Strudwick running 30 metres to run down Cameron Smith to earn a holding-the-ball free 45 metres out and then Kerrin Hughes flying high for a speckie. But both plays only saw the subsequent set shots go through for behinds, ensuring the Bombers would trail by 4 points at the first change.
The second quarter would be the make-or-break quarter that would determine the ultimate fate of the contest. Ben Attwood gave the Bombers the lead in the second minute of the quarter, but the lead would be short-lived before Brawn marked strongly 40 metres out. On 14 minutes, the Demon would again be in the thick of the action, marking under the shadow of the goalpost and with no North Shore defenders in sight, ran around for the easiest of goals. A free to Seb Parker added another, and when Jackson Potter played on after a mark and his long bomb sailed through the big sticks, the roar of the crowd signalled the growing confidence in the Demon camp.
Mitch Aitken pounced on a loose ball to add another on 21 minutes. North Shore needed a circuit-breaker, and it came when Casey centred the ball to find Hughes in range. Hughes’ goal cut the margin to 20 points, and they could have got closer had Chris Murphy not missed a set shot after the siren.
North Shore worked hard to get back into the contest in the third term. But the Bombers were their own worst enemy, with some wasteful finishing in front of goal. The Bombers kicked 2.5 for the quarter, with several more shots going out on the full. Although the Bombers had enjoyed the bulk of possession for the quarter, and had achieved more scoring shots for the game, the Demons extended their lead to 22 points at the last change.
Brawn’s fifth goal in the early stages of the final quarter put the result beyond dispute. Although goals to Hughes and Murphy in quick succession put the Bombers within three goals, there was never any likelihood of them coming back to steal the win as the Demon defence held firm. The final siren sounded with the Demons taking out a 17-point win; enough to book a semi-final date with East Coast next week while North Shore’s season is over.
Anthony Brawn scored 5 for the Demons, while they were well served around the ground by Jack Ferguson, Alex Fraunfelter and Josh Low. For North Shore, Chris Murphy and Kerrin Hughes kicked 3 goals apiece; while Cameron Holmes, Hughes and Adam Lord were among their best. It had been a successful season for the Bombers, returning to finals action after missing out in 2009; but this was as far as the North Shore campaign would go in 2010. And just four teams remain.
Western Suburbs 6.3 7.7 14.10 15.11 (101)
East Coast Eagles 3.3 6.3 7.4 10.10 (70)
Goals : Wests –
B Bray 3, D Linsen 3, D Creswell 2, M Withers 2, D Watkins 2, E Kassem 2, K Cochrane. East Coast –
Jamie Vlatko 3, D Charleston 2, M Goodey, Jon Vlatko, D Bowles, M Beardsley, D Costello.
Best : Wests –
J Minichiello, D Linsen, R Lilly, D Creswell, D Lambert, M Kassem. East Coast –
R Fitton, B Physick, Jon Vlatko, J Dimery, D Charleston, M Beardsley.
At Blacktown Olympic Park, Saturday 28th August 2010.
Pennant Hills 3.3 8.4 11.5 12.8 (80)
North Shore 2.5 4.9 6.14 8.15 (63)
Goals : Pennant Hills –
A Brawn 5, N Bills 2, J Potter 2, S Parker, M Aitken, J Ferguson. North Shore –
C Murphy 3, K Hughes 3, B Attwood, D Casey.
Best : Pennant Hills –
J Ferguson, A Fraunfelter, J Low, C Smith, J Trestrail, A Brawn, N Bills. North Shore –
C Holmes, K Hughes, A Lord, J Brain, T Strudwick, C Murphy.
At Blacktown Olympic Park, Sunday 29th August 2010.
Qualifying Final – Sydney Uni 10.11 (71) d Manly-Warringah 7.9 (51)
Elimination Final – Macquarie Uni 18.7 (115) d North Shore 4.10 (34)
2nd Semi Final – Southern Power 6.15 (51) d UTS 4.6 (30)
1st Semi Final – NorWest Jets 23.13 (152) d Holroyd-Parramatta 5.4 (34)
2nd Semi Final – Moorebank Sports 8.13 (61) d UTS 6.8 (44)
1st Semi Final – Penrith 15.15 (105) d Southern Power 9.4 (58)
2nd Semi Final – Auburn 8.7 (55) d Saints AFC 5.10 (40)
1st Semi Final – Moorebank Sports 9.8 (62) d Mac Uni Warriors 9.3 (57)
Under 18s Premier:
Qualifying Final – Sydney Uni 9.13 (67) d North Shore 5.6 (36)
Elimination Final – Pennant Hills 10.10 (70) d St George 7.7 (49)
Under 18s Challenge:
2nd Semi Final – Penrith 32.15 (207) d Southern Power 3.4 (22)
1st Semi Final – Holroyd-Parramatta 9.12 (66) d Manly-Warringah 5.7 (37)
NEXT WEEK’S FIXTURES:
Saturday 4th September
Bruce Purser Reserve
10:00am – Under 18s Premier 2nd Semi Final – East Coast Eagles v Sydney University
12:00pm – First Division 2nd Semi Final – UTS v Sydney Uni
2:15pm – Premier Division 2nd Semi Final – Sydney Uni v Western Suburbs
Gipps Rd Oval
8:30am – Under 18s Challenge Prelim Final – Southern Power v Holroyd-Parramatta
10:30am – Fourth Division Prelim Final – Saints AFC v Moorebank Sports
12:45pm – Third Division Prelim Final – UTS v Penrith
3:00pm – Second Division Prelim Final – UTS v NorWest Jets
Sunday 5th September
Blacktown Olympic Park
10:00am – Under 18s Premier 1st Semi Final – North Shore v Pennant Hills
12:00pm – First Division 1st Semi Final – Manly-Warringah v Macquarie Uni
2:15pm – Premier Division 1st Semi Final – East Coast Eagles v Pennant Hills