The time is now for Western Suburbs to make a charge at the premiership. They faded disappointingly in the back-half of the season to fall out at the Elimination Final stage to Sydney University.
They have a mature list and have added to their roster with mature talent suggesting they want success in the next couple of years. Paul Bevan could well prove to be the recruit of the year if he leads by example on the field under Kevin Eynaud who continues on as coach.
There was a bit more verve to the Magpies attack last year with Brenton Mumme superb especially early in the year. A fully-fit Josh Zoppo this year could make a big difference in the absence of Taylor Williamson who was the main target at centre-half forward.
North Shore had a year to forget last year with injuries crippling their year. With this said, they didn’t have the list to take out the title even if they had their full compliment.
They have proven to be a work-man-like side who will need to find their attacking flair under new coach, Gareth Lawson. Daniel Roberts has featured in a number of pre-season games and is likely to head up the forward line again. He is a presence but he will need help if they are to kick a winning total on a weekly basis.
Ted Strudwick only managed eight games last year and will be important likely off half-back. Dale Fitzgerald and Chris Murphy line up beside Ron Wason in an impressive defensive unit.
Western Suburbs came out of the blocks strongly last year with a 90-point win over Campbelltown, something they will be hoping to replicate on Saturday, which will be difficult on the Bombers home deck.
Danny’s Prediction: Western Suburbs by 20 points
Courtesy of Sydney AFL
B: C. Callander, J. David-Wright, D. Schacher
HB: D. Fitzgerald, M. Eddy, T. Hansen
C: T. Weston, R. Wason, J. Saunders
HF: M. Varjavandi, L. Genovesi, T. Harvey
F: R. Hezlett, E. Strudwick, A. Jalloh
R: C. Parsons, J. McKenzie, S. Carruthers
Int: L. McColl, M. Buskariol, J. Gray, M. Marquez
B: M. Lemme, V. Romanas, T. Barrett
HB: Y. Milligan-Saville, P. Bevan, R. Speed
C: C. McGrath, S. Pearson, B. Mumme
HF: T. Lambert, J. Ross, T. Considine
F: P. Wilmot, J. Zoppo, A. Eurell
R: H. McLean, T. Charles, J. Robinson
Int: P. Maxwell, Dominic Kannan, Aiden Bell, Mitch Hogan
Last year saw Western Suburbs return to the finals for the first time in several years, while North Shore missed out on playoff action. But with both sides boasting several new players, both were somewhat of an unknown quantity when they matched each other at Gore Hill Oval on Saturday afternoon.
Little separated the sides in the first quarter, both taking their time to hit their straps in a goal-for-goal opening term. Three goals apiece for the quarter saw the Magpies leading by a point at quarter time. But the Magpie defence tightened up in the second quarter, preventing North Shore from getting their game going. But, although looking good around the ground, the Magpies weren’t able to apply a lot of scoreboard pressure. Three goals to one was enough for a ten-point lead at half time; but it could have been more.
When the teams returned for the second half, it was North Shore that took the upper hand. Bomber players who had little influence during the first half began to pick up touches of the ball, and attacking options began to present themselves. It wasn’t long before the Bombers took the lead, the first two of four unanswered goals for the quarter. Squandered chances in front of goal would cost the Bombers a bigger lead, but a 20-point margin at the last change seemed comfortable enough.
But within five minutes of the last quarter starting, three Wests goals in quick succession had seen the North Shore lead cut to within a kick. The Bomber defence was under pressure, but held firm as the Magpies continued to attack. The Magpies were never able to take the lead, but did level the scores as the clock ticked into time-on before a late goal on the run from Matt Buskariol re-established the lead for North Shore, enabling them to hang on for a thrilling, morale-boosting, six-point win.
Ryan Hezlett, Tom Harvey and Liam McColl were North Shore’s best. Jake Ross was a star up forward for the Magpies, kicking six goals; and along with Yannick Milligan-Saville and Pat Wilmot was among their best. Four very valuable competition points for North Shore; and in what promises to be a tight race for positions in the finals, a key psychological boost and confirmation that the Bombers are headed in the right direction.
Courtesy of Sydney AFL