By JESS WEBSTER, neafl.com.au
2018 Tribal Sport NEAFL Final Series
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Southport Sharks v Sydney Swans at Fankhauser Reserve, 1pm
*This match will be streamed live on NEAFL TV (youtube.com/northeastafl)
*Live Champion Data statistics available on the Official NEAFL App
One team on Sunday will create a slice of history with their first NEAFL premiership triumph as the top two ranked side’s of 2018 clash in a Grand Final not to be missed.
On one side, a new-look Southport has risen from the ashes in 2017 to be one victory away from completing the ultimate transformation, and restoring the proud club’s reputation as champions. Head coach Stephen Daniel and his army of assistants have taken the Sharks from ninth place to a minor premiership in one season with a combination of clever recruiting and rebuilding a club culture that had produced record lows in recent seasons.
But in order for Southport to reach the pinnacle of the competition they must get past the mighty Sydney Swans, a club which has dominated the league since its inception but is yet to taste the ultimate glory on Grand Final day. A changing of the guard will unfold on Sunday with the Swans led by NEAFL MVP runner-up Darcy Cameron, young midfielder Jordan Dawson, emerging defender Colin O’Riordan as well as a stack of first-year draftees and impressive academy talent.
Will it be a young, fresh Swans side to break their Grand Final curse, or will Southport thrive on home turf to lift the NEAFL premiership cup for the time?
Round 7, 2018: Sydney 20.11 (131) d Southport 6.7 (43) at the SCG
Round 2, 2017: Sydney 20.9 (129) d Southport 3.9 (27) at BISP
Round 4, 2016: Sydney 12.13 (85) d Southport 6.9 (45) at Drummoyne Oval
1. For Southport to win their first NEAFL premiership they will have to achieve something else they’ve never done before – beat Sydney. The Sharks have lost every match they’ve played against the Swans by an average of 68 points. The last encounter was back in Round 7 this year when Sydney ran away with a 78-point victory at the SCG, kicking 10 goals to none in the final term.
2. Since the NEAFL merged in to a single league in 2014, every Grand Final has been nothing short of a thriller. Aspley kicked it off in 2014 with a shot after the siren to beat Sydney by two points. NT Thunder beat Aspley in Darwin the following year by a single behind, followed by wins to the GIANTS (four points) and Brisbane (three points) against Sydney the last two seasons. Can the trend continue this year?
3. The Swans will field nine AFL-listed players on Sunday and you cannot underestimate the importance of each of them, in particular Darcy Cameron. The NEAFL MVP runner-up has been in scintillating form in the NEAFL this season with a stunning average of 155 Champion Data ranking points per season. The goal-kicking ruckman also leads the competition in contested marks, and will be among the contenders for the Andrew Ireland.
4. Both Sydney and Southport are quite evenly matched in some key statistics, which will make for a cracker of a Grand Final between the two sides which finished first and second on the ladder. The clubs are separated by just 0.4 per cent in averaged contested possessions per game (Sydney 147.8 to Southport 147.4), 0.2 per cent in clearances (Southport 39.9 to Sydney 39.7), and 0.3 per cent inside 50s (Sydney 55.6 to Southport 55.3)
Bailey Stewart (Sydney): A 2018 Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nominee, Bailey Stewart has enjoyed a breakout season at NEAFL level this year where he leads the tackle count for his club with an average of five per game. Boasting elite running capabilities, leadership qualities and hard work ethic, the 19-year-old will certainly be keen to make his mark on the Grand Final stage.
Kyle Veerhuis (Sydney): Kyle Veerhuis has shot out of the blocks the past month to become a real smoky for the AFL Draft. His ability to play tall and small, plus his great pace and endurance, makes the 18-year-old a fantastic versatile player. He is starting to shine as a defender, and will be one to watch on Sunday.
Ethan Reeves (Southport): Another nominee for the 2018 Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star Award this year, Reeves’ comeback to NEAFL level has been nothing short of remarkable as he prepares for a shot at a premiership medal. Reeves, a former Gold Coast SUNS Academy member, had barely touched a football the past two years whilst serving a church mission in Vancouver. Now 21, Reeves returned to Australia last December, earned a place in Southport’s first game of the year as a defender, and hasn’t looked back since.
Cody Filewood (Southport): One of the best feel good stories in this year’s Grand Final is comeback kid Cody Filewood. A nominee for the NEAFL Rising Star Award in 2017, Filewood’s season was cut short by a devastating ACL injury. He only returned to NEAFL level in Round 20 this year, and will play in his first Grand Final in just his fourth game of the season. Filewood has definitely hit the ground running in the past month, kicking nine goals in his three games as well as averaging 15 disposals and seven marks.
STATS THAT MATTER
Sydney has lost all four of their NEAFL Grand Final appearances by a combined margin of just 17 points. The Swans lost to Brisbane in 2013 (eight points), Aspley in 2014 (two points), the GIANTS in 2016 (four points) and Brisbane in 2017 (three points).
Southport by 10 points.
Image: NEAFL/TJ Yields