17.06.2008 – Graham Croker

Two players from the Sydney University Australian Football Club recently took part in a historic match between Sydney and the Victorian Amateurs (VAFA) played at Henson Park.

Alex Lee and sports scholarship holder Mark Egan played for Sydney in the 86-81 loss to the Victorians, the first clash between the two teams since 1938.

The Victorian Amateurs, one of the oldest and strongest leagues in Melbourne, having formed 1892, included five former AFL players in Tim Fleming (Richmond/Carlton), Anthony Brown (St Kilda), Marty Pask (Brisbane/Western Bulldogs), Daniel Roach (Collingwood) and Matthew Robbins (Western Suburbs).

Sydney AFL, led by Pennant Hills midfielder Alastair Richardson, was a mixture of youth and experience, including 17-year-old forward Dane Rampe and Sydney Swans veteran Troy Luff, who played 155 games for the club.

Played in overcast and occasional drizzly conditions, AFL Sydney kicked the first goal of the game through a Mark Skuse snap. VAFA hit back with goals to Leigh Hendra, Justin Arnold, Adam Pirrie and Andrew McGuiness.

AFL Sydney had hard workers in Declan Donohue and Phil Entwisle in defence and Dwain Watkins in the middle. An excellent snap from Dane Rampe and a scrambling goal from Alex Lee saw the home side go into the first break trailing by just seven points.

The second term saw AFL Sydney gain the ascendancy, with Luke Jarjoura and Jason Coulloupas taking control of the centre, while Angus Darling nullified the impact of the VAFA big men.

Luff moved forward in the second term and responded with two goals from strong marks. Matt Carey also proved dangerous around goals and managed to kick two goals for the term which saw Sydney open up a 22-point lead.

The VAFA managed to kick two late goals through the agency of McGuiness and Marty Pask and reduce the gap to 10 points at the long break. Sydney suffered a blow in the second term with Troy Bartlett being forced out of the game with a corked thigh.

VAFA came out after half-time full of fire and took control of the game, dominating the stoppages and were able to kick three goals for the quarter through Pirrie, Mark Paterson and Ben Doherty.

Strong defensive work also prevented AFL Sydney from kicking a goal in the third quarter and the visitors led by six points at the final change.

Sydney can thank the defensive work of Entwisle, Donohue, David Coupe, skipper Richardson, Kieran Wright and Chris Noordhoff for remaining in touch with one quarter to go.

Despite the urgings of coach Sydney Danny Ryan, the visitors kicked the important first goal of the last quarter through Arnold. A snap goal from Pirrie saw the VAFA extend the lead to three goals. However, Sydney were not done yet. Jon Vlatko kicked a goal from a mark following an excellent smother from Rampe to keep them in touch, and this was followed by Luff’s third goal.

The VAFA responded with goals to Doherty and an excellent goal on the run from Patterson saw them extend the lead to 17 points with five minutes to play. Sydney refused to give in and when Darling and Vlatko both goaled from marks the difference was just five points.

Sydney gained possession through a Richardson mark 70 metres out from goal, but he was beaten by distance and the final siren. The visitors ran out 4.3 6.4 9.6 13.8 (86)
winners over Sydney 3.2 7.8 7.12 11.15 (81).

Despite the gloomy weather conditions, the match was played on an excellent surface. Henson Park has undergone a major renovation over the summer months and is now one of the best grounds in Sydney.
Meanwhile, sports scholarship holders Ben Mankarious and Brydon Coles recently played for the Sydney AFL Rising Stars against Black Diamond AFL (Newcastle and Central Coast) at Newcastle.

Mankarious was named among the best on ground in Sydney’s come behind 21.2.146 to 19.13.127 win.