By CHARLIE GOODSIR
Canberra has stunned Sydney University by nine points to win their first ever NEAFL final in emphatic fashion at Blacktown on Saturday.
The Students never really got going in the 15.13 (103) to 14.10 (94) defeat as they crashed out of the finals in uncharacteristic fashion, whilst the Demons grabbed their opportunity with both hands in a maiden Elimination Final appearance.
The Demons have become the first side in NEAFL history to make it to the next round of the finals after finishing in sixth position after the home and away rounds.
“A final win is what you play for in footy,” Canberra coach Kade Klemke told neafl.com.au.
“Considering our last four weeks, we are going to enjoy that (win) but we know that there is another game to go”.
The victory was set up by a fantastic first quarter in which the Demons came out of the blocks and jumped the Students. Austin Lucy got the Students off to a good start when he kicked the opening goal of the game but that would be the only joy Sydney Uni would have in the first quarter.
After some poor skills and handling, the Demons settled and kicked their first goal in the NEAFL finals through Harrison Carr.
After that goal, the Demons locked the ball inside their forward-50 and if not for their innacuraccy could’ve been up by more, but then kicked four more goals in the quarter to lead by four goals at the first change.
Nick Foster got Sydney Uni off to the perfect start with the first goal of the second quarter after five minutes and then Damien Bonney six minutes later to get the Students back within 11.
The Students had the momentum and were coming back hard but an awful kick by Zac O’Brien on the Students’ half back line led directly to a turnover and Alex Smout kicked truly to settle the Demons.
The turnover proved costly as the Demons then kicked two goals in as many minutes to head into the main break with a handy 31-point lead and effectively erased all of the Students’ hard work in that quarter.
O’Brien repaid his teammates for his earlier turnover as he kicked the first goal of the third quarter at the third minute mark. Three minutes later, Craig Bird took a spectacular one-handed mark and slotted through the most beautiful of set shots to give the Students some hope of a comeback.
Both sides would trade blows and go goal-to-goal which was beginning to frustrate the Students, as Jarrod Osborne kicked a goal right on the siren for the Demons to head into the final quarter with a 17-point advantage.
The fourth quarter became a real grind as the Demons were holding off a rampaging Sydney Uni who were throwing everything they had at Canberra to hit the front.
As time ticked away, Sydney Uni veteran Tom Young kicked the first goal of the last in the 13-mniute mark to get the Students within 10 points and get the crowd right behind them.
However, the Demons rallied when Mitch Hardie kicked a goal in the 16th minute mark to stretch the lead back out to 16 points. Jack Powell then sealed the famous win in the 26th minute with a wonderful snap, and thus booking Canberra a spot in the Preliminary Final against Sydney.
NEAFL Rising Star winner Mitch Maguire was inspiring for the Demons and was a huge factor in their win. Maguire collected 45 disposals, which was 11 above the next best on the ground, 10 tackles, seven rebound 50s, five inside 50s and five clearances in an incredible display.
“He put his hand up to say that his last few weeks weren’t up to standard and he wanted to prove a point,” said Klemke.
“We knew we had to be on our A-game and Mitch really drove that and led by example.”
Carr provided up forward for the Demons with three important goals and Isaac Taylor was impressive with his 24 disposals, nine tackles, nine clearances and seven inside 50s.
None of the Students had their best days but Craig Bird often showed his experience with 34 touches, eight clearances, five inside 50s, six tackles and 1.1. Young midfielder Callum McFadden (24 touches, eight clearances, six inside 50s and six marks) was also one of the Students’ best and despite a game changing turnover, O’Brien (23 possessions and 2.1) toiled hard.
The Demons will now face the Sydney Swans in the Preliminary Final for a potential spot in the 2018 NEAFL Grand Final. Swans coach Tadhg Kennelly was spotted at the ground eyeing his next opponents.
“We know that we can beat anyone and we’ve shown that this year” said Klemke.
“The Swans is going to be tough next week but we’ll go in with a plan and we’ll give it a good go.”
ELIMINATION FINAL 1
Sydney University v Canberra Demons at BISP
CANBERRA 5.7 8.9 13.10 15.13 (103) SYDNEY UNI 2.1 4.2 11.5 14.10 (94)
GOALS – Canberra: H Carr 3 A Bruce 2 C Owen-Auburn R Stevens A Smout G Richardson A Paech J Powell B Fulford L Meline M Hardie J Osborne. Sydney Uni: J Derickx 3 N Reinhard 2 Z O’Brien 2 N Foster C Bird S Tagliabue T Davies T Young D Bonney A Lucy.
BEST – Canberra: M Maguire L Meline T Highmore K Klemke H Carr S Martyn. Sydney Uni: C Bird T Barton L Stevenson W Sierakowski A Gulden A Day.