By Myles Stedman (NEAFL Media)
Sydney University claims top spot on NEAFL ladder with big win over Southport
Sydney University have taken top spot on the NEAFL ladder with a 33-point win at Henson Park, delivering fellow premiership contenders the Southport Sharks a hefty reality check in the process.
The Students were irresistible in the third quarter, pulling away with six goals to one, setting up the 13.10 (88) to 6.19 (55) victory, while the Sharks could not have bitten a whale if it was in front of them, outdoing their opponents 25 scoring shots to 23.
Damp conditions provided by early morning Sydney rain combined with a disruptive breeze seemed to favour neither team early on, both rolling sluggishly out of the blocks.
However, Southport were gifted an opening goal when Xavier Richards misfired in the back pocket and hit Rob Clements on the chest, who put through the opening goal.
Despite plenty of pressure from the Sharks early in their forward half, the experienced Sydney Uni defensive line managed to absorb it all.
Brenton Payne struggled in particular, misfiring on a multitude of first half chances, restricting his team to just one first quarter goal.
When given the opportunity, Sydney University broke hard and with deadly precision, with Damien Bonney cherry-picking two opening-quarter goals to give his team the lead.
In-form danger men Jack Hiscox and Tom Young also chipped in with one goal each to extend the lead at the first break to 15.
The breeze begun to prove its worth in the second quarter, with Southport getting the best of the run in the same manner as their opponents had done the first.
Clements seemed to be the only Shark with a working radar, as he registered both his and his team’s second goal for the game early on in the period, bringing them within eight points of the lead.
The Students kept on with the run and gun they’d shown in the first, but the swirling wind inside their forward 50 made goal-kicking conditions more challenging for the; the teams headed into half-time with the hosts leading by 4.
Just as their opponents had in the second, Sydney Uni got off to a fast start with the wind in the third quarter, opening with four goals in the first 10 minutes.
The Sharks’ lack of forward half targets begun to work against them as it had done so in weeks passed, with Sydney University’s talented and in-form defensive corps winning the aerial battle rather convincingly.
The quarter came to a close, perhaps mercifully for Southport, with the Students on a 6-1 run of goals, having made full use of the breeze behind their back.
Early fourth quarter goals were a necessity for the Sharks, but they couldn’t make them happen, opening the quarter with two more unwelcome behinds.
Despite coming home with the wind, it was not to be for the visitors, Sydney Uni continuing their dominance with three goals for the quarter to stretch the final margin to 33.
Sydney University coach, Tom Morrison, spoke on his team’s defensive transformation in 2018 post-game.
“We’ve done a lot of work on being able to win footy from our back six, we’ve got a defensive system that takes all 18 players to buy in for it to work,” he told neafl.com.au.
“Our defenders are starting to intercept the footy and send it back the other way as quickly as possible.
“We thought we’d turned a corner last week against NT Thunder and started to play a lot more team-first football and we continued that this week.
“Our players have got a real appetite to win the contests, and they’re hungry to go further than they did last year, and if that’s going to happen, we need to take care of teams in tight tussles.”
Morrison also spoke on the challenges of navigating an upcoming fortnight without football, with the Students having the bye next week.
“It’s probably not the best time to have the bye to be honest,” he said.
“In saying that, if we’re a mature enough group, and we’re the side we want to be, we’re not going to let that influence the way we perform in our next game against the Canberra Demons.
“(Mentally freshening up) will be the bigger challenge, moreso than physically.”
Southport coach, Stephen Daniel, kept things far more concise in his post-match breakdown.
“We were beaten by a better side, it’s simple,” he said.
“We thought our preparation wasn’t ideal coming into today’s game, but we respect the opposition, and we learn a lot from playing sides like that.”
The Sharks host the GWS GIANTS at Fankhauser Reserve next week.
Sydney University v Southport Sharks at Henson Park
SYDNEY UNI 4.3 4.7 10.7 13.10 (88)
SOUTHPORT 1.4 3.9 4.12 6.19 (55)
GOALS – Sydney Uni: D Bonney 3 N Reinhard 2 J Derickx 2 T Young 2 J Hiscox A Lucy M Wilson M Thompson. Southport: M Johnson 2 R Clements 2 B Murdoch M Manteit.
BEST – Sydney Uni: T Barton A Gulden D Baron-Hay R Hebron T Young D Bonney. Southport: M Manteit S Tape T Wilkinson R Clements E Reeves.