By Myles Stedman (NEAFL Media)
NEAFL ROUND 15
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Sydney University (4th) v Brisbane Lions (7th) at BISP, 12pm
*This match will be streamed live on NEAFL TV (youtube.com/northeastafl)
*Live Champion Data statistics available on the Official NEAFL App
It’s been a revealing two months of football for Sydney University. Between being held to just one goal by Southport and having their lowest score record overtaken, a fair amount of gloss has disappeared from the surface of Tom Morrison’s machine.
This week they have the chance to prove themselves with a win over a tough-to-beat Brisbane Lions side at Blacktown. However, they have been forced to shuffle the deck somewhat, returning Zac O’Brien, Will Sierakowski and Craig Bird to the side, while losing Mitch Thompson and Sam Fong.
Likewise, Brisbane is attempting to even out their ledger and snap a six-game backslide. The signs are there; last week, they almost ground out a win against the current ladder-leaders Southport, going down by two points at Fankhauser Reserve.
The Lions will be aided by the return of Ben Keays, but also lose Brandon Starcevich and Cedric Cox to the AFL. In a challenging stretch, this team needs as much experience as possible to make sure the wheels don’t fall off completely – if they haven’t already.
Preliminary Final, 2017: Brisbane Lions 16.19 (115) d Sydney University 12.11 (83) at the Gabba
Round 14, 2017: Brisbane Lions 21.6 (132) d Sydney University 10.7 (67) at BISP
Round 7, 2016: Sydney University 17.12 (114) d Brisbane Lions 17.2 (104) at BISP
1. There’s no mistaking what NEAFL fans will be thinking this week: each of the last few years, the Students have failed the toughest assignments of the semester. Their test comes a little earlier in 2018, as they battle through a rough patch of form, which could see their season succeed or sunk. Who knows how far down the rabbit hole a loss against a limping Lions side could send them?
2. On the other hand, Brisbane is putting their season in serious peril with the way they’ve been playing the past two months. If they’ve not played their way out of finals calculations already, they need a lot to go right in their own camp and around the NEAFL for them to again be a serious contender in 2018. An away win against Sydney Uni could kickstart the former end of the bargain.
3. As mentioned, Sydney University have three critical ins this week, not just on paper, but also in the locker room. O’Brien, Sierakowski and Bird are three of the most senior and respected leaders in the clubhouse at Number 1 Oval, and if the game is in the balance at half-time, the value of these three cool heads will prove itself.
Jake Bartholomeaus is not be flying under the radar any more with his recent and well-deserved Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star shoutout. Sydney Uni consistently recruit well from around the country, but also from their own backyard; the former Eastern Suburbs Bulldog earned his way on to this roster with an incredible 2017 in the Sydney AFL, and is now earning the stripes on the front of his new jersey in 2018.
STATS THAT MATTER
As reflected in their recent games, it has been a while since the Students stopped their opponents from running up the score on them. The Lions have kicked at least 16 goals against the blue-and-gold in their last three encounters, but crucially have only kicked more then eight goals once since Round 8, which was when their last win came. If they can again eclipsed 10 or 15 goals against this opponent, it might be enough to stop the rort.
Sydney University by 12 points.