By JESS WEBSTER
The pre-season favourites made a third consecutive Preliminary Final, but their season came unstuck with one quarter of bad football against Brisbane at the final hurdle for the star-studded Sydney University.
Here is the Students’ season in review.
By the Numbers
Ladder position: 3rd
Last year: 3rd
Top 5 Driscoll Medal votes
270 votes: Tom Young
252: Zac O’Brien
243: Ryan Hebron
234: Damien Bonney
230: Jack Hiscox
Top 5 NEAFL MVP votes
73: Zac O’Brien (third overall)
61: Tom Young (sixth overall)
43: Lewis Stevenson (ninth overall)
21: Jacob Derickx
19: Jonathan Williams
Snapshot: Sydney University dominated the headlines early in 2017 with a number of high-profile recruits adding to their premiership credentials under first-year coach Tom Morrison, who won the NEAFL Coach of the Year award. With five Rising Star nominees, and three players inside the NEAFL MVP Top 10, the Students were one of the teams to beat heading into the finals series. They qualified for a third consecutive Preliminary Final, but stumbled in the first quarter, creating a deficit too big to claw back as they lost to eventual premier Brisbane in heart-breaking fashion.
Highlight: Morrison guided the Students brilliantly as the ticked off numerous club records this year, including their best win-loss record (14-4) in the minor round season. One of those matches also created more history when the Students hosted NT Thunder in Round 19. Sydney University produced their biggest ever score, plus their biggest winning margin, when they put on a clinic against the Territorians to win 25.17 (167) to 7.7 (49).
Lowlight: Ultimately, it came down to 30 minute of bad football which cost Sydney University a maiden Grand Final appearance. Coming up against the Lions at the Gabba, the Students conceded 6.2 to 0.1 in the first quarter. They each kicked five goals in the second, and the Students won the second half, but ultimately they couldn’t bridge the gap in a disappointing end to their season.
Star Power: What made Sydney University so strong this year was an even spread of contributors across the field. Tom Young won back-to-back Driscoll Medals, but he wasn’t alone in a powerful engine room. Zac O’Brien stormed home to finish third in the NEAFL MVP, with Lewis Stevenson also producing match-winning performances at times. Nine players made the NEAFL representative squad, including former Swans Xavier Richards and Jack Hiscox, who were important recruits after being delisted by Sydney last year.
Next Generation: The Students boasted the highest number of Rising Star nominees – two of which made the NEAFL Team of the Year in defenders Ryan Hebron and Darcy Baron-Hay. Callum McFadden, Nathan Cooper, Ned Reinhard and Matthew Wilson also impressed along the way, while James Loneragan is another young gun looking to make his mark in the future.
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