Here we go! The quarter finals are over and the top 2 teams are back. This is where it gets down to business and this is what separates the champions from the regular teams. All games will be contested tomorrow (9th of December) at Lidcombe Oval, so if you’re in the area come down and check out a great day of football!
Just a reminder of what the ladder looked like before last week:
- West Sydney Pirates (10-0)
- Sydney University Lions (9-1)
- UTS Gators (6-4)
- Northern Sydney Rebels (6-4)
- UNSW Raiders (6-4) ELIMINATED
- Sutherland Seahawks (5-5) ELIMINATED
In the quarter finals, the Gators steamrolled the Seahawks 42-6, while the Rebels beat down the Raiders 20-0. With the standings as they are, the Pirates will now face the lowest ranking team, being the Rebels. And the Lions will take on the highest-ranking team, in the Gators.
West Sydney Pirates (10-0) vs Northern Sydney Rebels (6-4)
Regular Season Result: WST 21 – 18 REB
What a season both these teams have had. The Pirates have had their first undefeated season in recent memory and have really progressed back into the juggernaut they were at the beginning of the 2016 season. They haven’t been steamrolling every opponent like they were last year, but they have been winning and at the end of the day that’s all that counts, right? Their biggest win of the season came over the defending champions, Sydney Uni, in week 4. All the years they were beat in the Waratah Bowl, all the emotions and anger came out in this game. They were able to get their revenge once and for all and now there’s one team standing in their way to repeat that performance. That team? None other than the Northern Sydney Rebels. This is a club that is extremely well run, well coached and shows up on game day hungry for a win. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Rebels are the youngest club in GNSW history, having only competed in the Division 1 competition since 2014. Last year, some people called their playoff run, a fluke. This year, the Rebels have shut the mouths of all their doubters with a back to back playoff run; proving that they belong in the upper echelon of teams in the GNSW. The Rebels capped off a great season with a strong defensive win over the Predators in week 9, beating us 26-0 and grabbing their first doughnut (zero points scored against them) in club history.
Players to watch:
Daniel Pearson – MLB Rebels
DP is probably the most complete linebacker currently playing in the GNSW, maybe even in Australia. His football IQ is extremely high and he has a great ability to read what’s happening in front of him and make a play accordingly. When the Preds played the Rebels, he would sit 3-5 yards in front of myself (at centre) and watch our QB and mimic his movements, a perfect QB Spy. His ability to wait and let the play develop before he makes his attacks can be a game changer, particularly against the Pirates run game.
Kristian Gacuma – WR Pirates
At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think I would be including Kristian in any of my articles, as he was contemplating not playing football again due to personal commitments. However, Coach Taylor was able to tempt Kristian to come back and boy what a decision this was. Kristian is, what I like to call, a reactionary receiver. What I mean is that he runs his routes but he makes plays based off the CB’s movements. He has explosive speed and those big hands of his are able to make catches many people can’t. If the weather holds out and QB David Ward moves the ball through the air, watch Kristian receive plenty of passes.
Choc’s Prediction: West Sydney by 7
Sydney University Lions (9-1) vs. UTS Gators (6-4)
Regular Season Result: SYD 58 – 6 UTS
This game has a different feeling to it. It feels like an old-school rivalry game. Like a Denver/Oakland game or an Auburn/Alabama game (yes, I’m still salty about the SEC Championship game…). Sydney Uni will go into this one to defend their standing as the state champions and they will look to make a HUGE statement in this game after losing to the current #1 seed, West Sydney Pirates. After this week 4 loss, Coach Ogborne made some personnel changes and the Lions came back as the dominant force they have been for the last 13 years. When they last met the Gators, the Lions showed the rest of the GNSW that they aren’t dead yet. Their 52-point decimation of the Gators really put the rest of the league, and particularly the Pirates, on notice. The Gators started the season white hot, winning their first 5 games in a row before dropping to the Raiders. Just like the Lions, Head Coach Rocco Bosco made some key personnel changes and this came to fruition in their quarter-final clash with the Seahawks. The Gators looked like they did at the beginning of the season and really got their O working seamlessly. This one looks like it will be a battle that will be contested on the ground, with both teams having extremely strong run games.
Players to watch:
Godfred Agyemang – RB Lions
Agyemang has really stepped up this season, into the void left by Lions talisman RB Alex Watson. Watto has sat this season out with an injury and Agyemang has stepped up into the role of 1st and 2nd down running back. He has a big frame but he moves with speed and power and has the ability to run straight through the tackles and pick up big yards. He also has quick feet and can juke and turn on a dime and get downfield on any outside runs. RB Charlie Adams usually fills in at 3DRB but Agyemang has also shown that he has hands as well, making key catches on 3rd down. Watch for Agyemang to make a difference in this game.
Tim Clulow – MLB Gators
The one player that I think has the ability to stop Agyemang, is Tim Clulow. For anyone who doesn’t know, Clulow has played state and national representative football, and picked up a nasty ACL injury in 2016, against the Lions! He is extremely fast off the snap and can create havoc for any opposition’s offensive line. Let’s just look back at their QF clash with the Seahawks, Clulow picked up 4 sacks himself. The Sydney Uni O line is much more skilled than that of the Seahawks, but Clulow should tear it up. If Agyemang chooses to run straight through the tackles, Clulow will be on patrol and that matchup between those two should be very interesting!
Choc’s Prediction: UTS by 3
**Photo Credit: Gridiron NSW