Welcome one and all to Gridiron NSW 2016! Here at Gridiron Downunder we are lucky to have Daniel Crighton on board from the Northwestern Predators, to give us his insight into the upcoming season in the Premier State, along with weekly updates on how the battle for the Waratah Bowl is progressing throughout the year. Welcome to Gridiron DownUnder Daniel!

2015 marked the 32nd season of GNSW, and brought with it a lot of touchdowns, picks, big hits and blistering runs. The Sydney University Lions triumphed over the West Sydney Pirates in the Waratah Bowl to capture an unprecedented 13th title in a row. Now we look towards the upcoming season and what it will bring for American Football in NSW. The North Sydney Rebels will open the season against the defending champs in Sydney Uni on August 25th, and in an offseason which has been marred by the stop-start-stop news of the NGL, GNSW will hope to re-establish the high level of American Football it already brings in NSW. Below are my previews of each of the teams, in the order they finished in 2015.

Sydney University Lions (9-0):

Sydney Uni have long been the gold standard of GNSW and last season was no exception. Going 9-0, scoring 572 points and only conceding 52 is a great testament to their coaches and training. With players like RB Alex Watson pounding the turf, and arguably one of the best QBs in Australia at the moment in Kiernan Dorney, the Lions are looking to add another title to their cabinet this season, which would make 14 in a row. Can that be achieved? Only time will tell.

West Sydney Pirates (8-1):

Long known as the number two team in the GNSW comp, the Pirates are desperate to change that perception this season and break Sydney Uni’s 13 year streak. Veteran QB David Ward (Australian Outback and NSW Wolfpack Representative) led his Offence well last season, putting up over 320 points. The defence conceded only 11 points a game in the regular season, and their only loss was to the eventual champions. One player to keep an eye on is RB Marlou Tacgue, who put up big numbers in the back end of the season and was one of the main reasons the Pirates got into the Waratah Bowl. Watch for him to back it up this year.

Northwestern Predators (6-3):

The Predators started off strong last season, having one of the best defences in the league, but couldn’t quite keep pace with the Lions and Pirates down the stretch. They did bounce back however and were able to book themselves a spot in the playoffs, going down narrowly to the Pirates in the semi-final 47-41. Veteran QB Mark Shoebridge (Australian Outback Rep, NSW Wolfpack Rep) is back for another season and with players at his disposal like WR Jack Prichard (NSW Wolfpack), TE Jordan Harrison (NSW Wolfpack) and RB Jack Marton (Australian Outback, Dakota State at Bottineau Lumberjacks) plus many others, the Predators are looking to mount a strong title run this season and hopefully knock off the perennial powers above them.

UTS Gators (5-4):

UTS had the largest contingent of players in the NSW Wolfpack in this year’s AGL Championships, and even though it was a disastrous campaign for the Wolfpack, many of those players gained much needed experience at the next level. Look to see this transfer into their play on the field this season. One player to watch is LB Marcos Delana. The 2-time Australian Outback representative is a beast who has the ability to explode off the snap and catch many RBs and QBs off guard. The Gators went down to Sydney Uni in the semi-final of the 2015 season. They will be looking to reverse that result, and book another trip to the Waratah Bowl, making that their 6th appearance in 10 years.

UNSW Raiders (5-4):

Led by Australian Outback Head Coach and Hawaii graduate Paul Manera, the Raiders were middle of the pack last year, losing to UTS in the first round of playoffs. The Raiders caused a did cause a few upsets along the way, with key players WR Max Nina (Australian Outback Development Rep), WR Ben Raglione (Australian Outback Development Rep & NSW Wolfpack Rep) and DB Joey Donaghy (NSW Wolfpack Rep) making key contributions alongside a strong ground game on offence. This season, the Raiders will look to build on the positives of 2015 and book another spot in the playoffs.

Central Coast Sharks (4-5):

The Sharks are coming off a disappointing season last year. Their team had a lot of expectations but failed to deliver in the opening few games of the season. While they were able to turn the tide late and claim a spot in the playoffs for the first time in their history, they would be disappointed with their first round exit at the hands of the Predators. Under the tutelage of veteran Head Coach Peter Tos, and with the return of QB Jordan Nikora from the NGL, the Sharks will look to back up their performance from last season and book another appearance in the playoffs.

Wollongong Mustangs (3-6):

The Mustangs have had a chequered history in GNSW, appearing sporadically in the playoffs over the last 6 years. However, in the 2015 season, they posed a legitimate threat to the top flight teams in certain games, pushing them to single digit losses. The appeal for Gridiron in the South is growing though, with many players being attracted to the glitz and glamour from the Mustangs and Brumbies. 2016 will be an interesting season for the Wollongong outfit, who hope to rack up a few more wins and make a run for the playoffs.

North Sydney Rebels (3-6):

With 3 of their starting line up recently playing for the Australian Outback Development Squad in Tahiti this year, and another 2 players representing the NSW Wolfpack in this year’s AGL Championships, this is one team to watch. They are my tip to be the dark horse of this season. Players like LB Daniel Pearson and DT Stephen Armstrong (Both Australian Outback Development and NSW Wolfpack Reps) on D will make life very tough for RB’s this year. They’re well drilled, focused and hungry. Look for the Rebels to cause a few upsets in 2016.

Nepean Ducks (2-7):

The Ducks experienced a similar season to the Cobras, finishing 9th on the ladder. However they are a team full of promise. Producing players like WR Grant McNaughton who has competed for the NSW Wolfpack and also travelled with the Australian Outback Squad to the 2015 IFAF World Championships in the US, there is a lot of promise and hope with the Ducks. This season, I can see them stacking up a few more wins and developing their squad into a legitimate playoff contender in the near future.

Newcastle Cobras (0-9):

The Cobras were very disappointing in 2015, the only team to finish without a win. But that’s not to say they weren’t hungry. I’d consider that a developmental season for them, and with the Hunter Gridiron League coming to fruition this past off-season, the Cobras have had a chance to look at many new players in the area, who they will be able to add to their roster and hopefully use to turn their luck around in 2016.

Sutherland Seahawks (DNP 2015 Season):

The 2016 season marks the return of the Sutherland Seahawks after a year hiatus from active competition. The Lambropoulos brothers have been hard at work grooming the Seahawks Colts team into a winning unit, taking out the Kookaburra Bowl each year for the last 3 years. The talent from the junior squad will slowly seep into the Division 1 team and the Hawks should have a view to go back to the winning ways of the early 2000s.

Games to watch:

  • Round 2: Sydney Uni vs UTS – The AGL Grudge Match
  • Round 4: Northwestern vs Sydney Uni – Whose Mascot is atop the GNSW Metaphorical Food Chain?
  • Round 5: Northwestern vs West Sydney – Who are the Lion’s main challenger?
  • Round 6: Central Coast vs Newcastle – The F3 Derby
  • Round 7 (Pink Round): UNSW vs North Sydney – The Pink Round

Predicted Ladder for 2016

  1. Sydney Uni Lions
  2. Northwestern Predators
  3. West Sydney Pirates
  4. UNSW Raiders
  5. UTS Gators
  6. Central Coast Sharks
  7. Wollongong Mustangs
  8. North Sydney Rebels
  9. Sutherland Seahawks
  10. Nepean Ducks
  11. Newcastle Cobras

2016 Gridiron NSW Season Preview

Daniel Crighton

LB for the UTS Gators. AKA Choc.

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