Sydney University Lions will be chasing a Gridiron NSW Waratah Bowl three-peat when they take on UNSW Raiders in the 2023 season decider at Brookvale Oval on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions claimed the 2020 title with a 25-12 result over the UTS Gators and the 2022 title with a 35-0 result over the Northern Sydney Rebels after the 2021 season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
But they’ll have their work cut out against the Raiders who defeated them 44-14 in Round 2 and backed that up with a 44-7 result in their Round 8 encounter this season.
Indeed, the Raiders went through the 11-round season undefeated to claim the minor premiership on 20 points, with Sydney University Lions (12), Wollongong Mustangs (8) and UTS (8) making up the top four.
The Lions held on to defeat the Mustangs 22-21 in a nail-biter play-off at Woollahra Oval on Saturday to secure a finals berth, while the Raiders accounted for UTS to earn their place in the season decider.
The Josh Lawton coached Lions will be making their 32nd finals appearance when they contest Waratah Bowl XXXIX next Saturday and they’ll be aiming for a record 23rd title.
They were known as the Sydney University Stormtroopers when they were beaten 19-7 by the Canterbury Cougars in the inaugural competition in 1984. But on advice from Sydney University Sport they were the Sydney University Lions when they won their first title the following season and defended it in 1986 on the back of a 26-game winning streak. They backed that up with further titles in 1992 and 1995 before going on an amazing 16 title streak from 2003 to 2018.
During the intervening years the Lions went down to the Bondi Raiders in the 1989, 1990 and 1991 season deciders, lost to Manly Redbacks in the 1993 decider and ACT Astros in the 1996 grand final; lost to Sutherland Seahawks in the 2000 and 2001 deciders and lost to UWS Outlaws in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Lions Cubs season came to an end when they lost their semi-final 50-26 to the North Sydney Rebels on Saturday. They had been unbeaten until losing 24-22 in their Round 10 clash with Nepean Ducks.