By MYLES STEDMAN
Sydney University weren’t short on contributors in season 2018, making Friday night’s Driscoll Medal an intriguing race to the finish.
For the third straight season, the Students made the Preliminary Final with the likes of midfielders Zac O’Brien, Tom Young and Lewis Stevenson leading the way, with a young backline consisting of NEAFL Team of the Year members Ryan Hebron and Darcy Baron-Hay taking giant leaps in their development.
We take a look at the top contenders for the Driscoll Medal.
Arguably his club’s best midfielder this year, Zac O’Brien led Sydney University in the NEAFL MVP polling in his first season with the Students. Although he was rarely the flashiest on the pitch, O’Brien’s consistency – particularly in the back-end of the season – won him fans in the blue and gold, and caught him the eyes of the umpires and coaches also.
Defining game – Round 4 v Aspley: Arguably his best performance this season came in a hard-fought Round 4 win over the Aspley Hornets at Graham Road. O’Brien was just about best on ground, with 22 disposals, two goals and eight clearances as the Students won by 24 points.
Like O’Brien, Lewis Stevenson is a former AFL player and took over the sole captaincy at Sydney University this year as he started to look at home as part of the furniture this year at Number One Oval. Still searching for his first premiership with his new club, his spotty end to the season may see him fall out of calculations for the best-and-fairest, but his class, experience and match-winning ability won’t go unnoticed.
Defining game – Round 2 v GIANTS: Stevenson showed just how dominant he can be when he owned the GIANTS in Round 2. The pre-season favourites in the Students were coming up against the reigning premier, and Sydney University wanted to make a statement. Enter Stevenson, with a 31 disposal, two-goal, 11 clearance effort. He also recorded seven tackles, just for good measure.
One of the giant players and personalities of the competition, Tom Young showed his class again for Sydney Uni this year, rarely not named among the club’s best in each of his 18 matches. It can be said that Young is the Students’ most important player. When the 2015 NEAFL MVP hasn’t show up this year, they have struggled, but you can still certainly expect the former Collingwood Magpie and Western Bulldog to poll well.
Defining game – Elimination Final v Aspley: When his team needed him to stand up in its do-or-die final against Aspley, Young was there. winding back the clock to his NEAFL MVP-winning season, Young was prolific all day to the tune of 22 disposals, two goals and a ground-high nine clearances.
ONE TO WATCH
Typically, forwards fly under the radar in best-and-fairest votes, especially talls. The same can likely be said for Jacob Derickx this year, but as Sydney University’s most influential option up front, he may poll well. In only three of his 18 matches this year did ‘J-Dex’ fail to kick a goal, which is a testament to his incredible consistency. History also bodes well for the star forward, with Derickx winning the 2014 Driscoll Medal in his first season at the club.
Defining game – Round 5 v Gold Coast: In Round 5 against the Gold Coast Suns, Derickx hit the scoreboard five times in a 47-point win, and provided five further touches around the ground. To top it off, Derickx polled the maximum 10 NEAFL MVP votes for the day.
Don’t forget to download our free NEAFL App, featuring live Champion Data stats, player bios and more! Available now from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Have your say! Follow the NEAFL on Twitter (@neaflofficial), Instagram (@neaflofficial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/neaflofficial).