After arguably their best NEAFL season to date, Sydney Uni are forced to wait another year for an attempt at a coveted Grand Final appearance. Their 16.19 (115)- 12.11 (83) loss to the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba last weekend, meant the Students season came to an end one week early.
Sydney Uni were under the pump from the outset, placed under a lot of pressure across the park. They found it difficult to get the ball out of their back half, highlighted by uncharacteristic turnovers. Conversely, Brisbane controlled the football and had all the answers, dominating each match up. The Lions kept the Students goalless and took a 37 point lead into quarter time.
Facing a tough challenge, the Students regrouped at quarter time and Jonathan Williams got them on the board, with a goal early in the second. Despite trailing by as many as 50 points late in the second, the Students never gave up. They got a couple of goals back, late in the period, but still trailed 76-31 at the half.
The second half was much more evenly contested. Sydney Uni upped their defensive pressure and took advantage of their running game. Momentum started to shift the way of the Students. Accurate with their chances, they closed the margin to 24 points midway through the third. Although they put in a valiant second half effort, they could not bridge the huge gap created in their dismal first quarter and Brisbane came out 32 point victors.
Zac O’Brien (36 disposals, 1 goal) once again stood out for the Students, leading the possession count, while the scoring was evenly spread across a number of players.
It was an all too familiar feeling for Sydney Uni Captain, Lewis Stevenson, who was “Obviously disappointed with the result from Saturday. Against a quality side like Brisbane you can’t afford to give them a 6-goal head start and we suffered because of that. I was really proud of the way the boys responded after quarter time where we played some really good footy, stemming from our defensive pressure. I felt like we really put Brisbane under the pump in the second half but you can’t go deep into finals without putting in a four-quarter effort.
While they are still lamenting their preliminary final loss, the Students have taken some huge steps forward this season. Some outstanding team and player achievements of 2017 include:
- Sydney Uni record number of wins in a NEAFL Season (15 wins)
- Sydney Uni biggest ever NEAFL score (167 vs NT, Round 19)
- Sydney Uni largest winning margin (118 vs NT, Round 19)
- Ryan Hebron, Darcy Baron Hay and Zac O’Brien named in NEAFL Team of the Year
- Tom Morrison named NEAFL Coach of the Year
- 10 Sydney Uni players named in the NEAFL representative side (Defeated Tasmania 8.7 (55) to 5.8 (38))
- 5 Rising Star Nominees
- Tim Barton, Tom Ayton, Damien Bonney each reached 100 NEAFL games milestone
With each of their losses this season coming only from AFL sides, the Students have also further separated themselves from the non-AFL teams in the league and have begun to bridge the gap between the AFL sides.
“There’s a bitter taste left in the mouth after going out a week earlier than we’d have liked, but I believe our program has made some extremely positive gains this year as a result of some really hard work from the playing squad, coaches and support staff,” Stevenson added.
SYDNEY UNI 0.1 5.1 10.4 12.11 (83)
BRISBANE 6.2 11.10 14.16 16.19 (115)
Sydney University: M Manteit 2, J Hiscox, 2 M Wilson, D Bonney, T Derickx, J Derickx, A Gillespie, J Williams, Z O’Brien, M Thompson.
Brisbane: J Freeman 3, M Hammelmann 2, J Clayton 2, R Bewick 2, O McInerney 2, R Dadds, M Close, C Lyons, L O’Sullivan, B Sloan.
Sydney University: Z O’Brien, L Stevenson, T Barton, T Ayton, J Williams.
Brisbane: C Beams, C Cox, O McInerney, R Bewick, M Eagles, A Smith.