By JESS WEBSTER
NEAFL ROUND 20
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Sydney University (5th) v Canberra Demons (3rd) at BISP, 12pm
*This match will be streamed live on NEAFL TV (youtube.com/northeastafl)
With the deadlock at the top of the Tribal Sport NEAFL ladder as five teams jostle for top spot, every game at this point of the season counts. But when games are played between two teams within that top five, there’s even more to play for and that is the reality this week as Sydney University host Canberra in a must-win clash.
Given the state of the competition as we enter the final rounds of the home and away season, a win in the game would give either side a distinct upper hand with finals in mind. Any chance of guaranteeing a home ground advantage across the finals would require a win in this mammoth Round 20 show-stopper.
The Demons enter the clash in perhaps their worst run of form for the season. After blitzing the competition with eight consecutive wins over the middle part of the season, Canberra has now lost two games in a row against finals-bound Southport and Sydney.
In contrast, Sydney University have worked their way back into form after a lowly stretch in the middle of the season, winning two of their previous three games in the competition.
Round 14, 2018: Canberra 13.14 (92) d Sydney Uni 10.13 (73) at UNSW Canberra Oval Round 6, 2018: Sydney Uni 12.10 (82) d Canberra 9.8 (62) at BISP Round 1, 2018: Sydney Uni 11.25 (91) d Canberra 13.5 (83) at UNSW Canberra Oval
1. How quickly things can change in this competition as Canberra battles to remain in the top two come the end of the home-and-away season. After winning eight in a row to soar to the top of the ladder for the first time in club history, the Demons are now facing three losses in a row if they cannot bounce back to form against Sydney University. If Canberra loses this week, and drops its final round match against Aspley, they could fall as low as sixth and be forced to travel to play an Elimination Final in the first week of finals.
2. Tristan Davies has earned a recall to the Students side for the first time since Round 11 after some serious form in AFL Sydney’s Premier Division. The 23-year-old has booted 51 goals from 11 games, and has averaged 5.5 per game since being dropped from the NEAFL side. Davies is coming off a 10-goal haul last week against UTS Bats and his inclusion could add some spark the Students forward line – which ranks last in the NEAFL for scoring accuracy (50 per cent).
3. The last time these two sides met in Round 14, Isaac Taylor ran amok with 33 disposals, 13 clearances, eight inside 50s and a goal to inspire the Demons to a history-making first ever win over the Students, who lead the overall win-loss record between the two clubs 2-1 this year. Canberra actually had less disposals (343-297) and broke even in clearances (49-48) and inside 50s (46-47) but pounced at stoppages. Canberra scored 47 points from their 48 clearances at an incredible scoring strike rate of 97.9 per cent, winning the game by 19 points.
Callum McFadden began to hit his straps in Sydney Univeristy’s last gam a fortnight ago after missing the majority of the season due to injury. Playing just his third game of the year, the 21-year-old collected 27 disposals, four clearances and six inside 50s to earnt he final Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination of the year. His inclusion adds further depth to the Students midfield, and McFadden is primed to become an ‘X factor’ in this year’s finals series if his form continues to grow
STATS THAT MATTER
Canberra has struggled to match it with Sydney University when it matters most this season with third quarters playing a significant role in the game’s final result between the two sides. The Demons chalked up a win in one of the two side’s three meetings this year, but not even that result could rectify their premiership quarter fade-out that has been present when the side suits up against the Students. This year, Sydney University has kicked 14.13 in the third term, more than doubling Canberra’s 6.3 across that same stretch.