Harry Cunningham was one of the Swans best players on Sunday
The NEAFL Eastern Conference minor premiership – and a week off to start the finals next week – were secured by the Sydney Swans reserves in Sydney’s Sunday afternoon sunshine.
Facing an ‘away’ fixture against Sydney University at the SCG, the Swans went in as heavy favourites having beaten the Students by a combined 351 points in their two previous meetings.
However, the opening exchanges of the match reflected a much improved Unviersity outfit as they kicked three of the first five goals to lead halfway through the first quarter.
The Swans slowly wrestled back the ascendency to take a 19-point lead to the first break, with the lead inflated by two late goals to top-up player Tom Head – the first a soccer goal in the goalsquare, the second from a set-shot on the quarter-time siren.
When Head converted his third consecutive goal in the early stages of the second quarter, the Swans were away and could have put the game to bed before the end of the first half but for some inaccuracy in front of goal courtesy of some poor entries inside 50 and impressive Sydney Uni defence.
After a tight first half, the Swans broke the game open in the second half and ran away to record a 75-point win.
Sam Naismith made a welcome return to the reserves line-up in the second half for his first NEAFL game of the year and his first appearance in the red and white since the early stages of the NAB Cup.
Spending more time up forward than in the ruck, Naismith got on the end of a couple of possessions and showed good competitiveness, especially in marking contests.
As well as Naismith’s return, the second half was notable for the first outing of QBE Sydney Swans Academy Under-17 player, and Level 2 AIS-AFL Academy member, Isaac Heeney who finished the game with two well taken goals and linked up well along the wing and half-forward.
Harry Cunningham was a stand-out across the four quarters, setting up goals for his team mates with run-and-carry and pinpoint passes inside 50, while converting two of his own goals from long-range set-shots.
Swans rookies Daniel Robinson and Jake Lloyd also played well around the ball and impacted the scoreboard, while the defence, led by Tony Armstrong and Shane Biggs off half-back, did well to limit scoring opportunities in the second half and created plenty of run down the flanks.
Head again impressed in the forward line, showing his ability to kick multiple goals, while the efforts of the top-ups was personified by Jack McKinlay in the second quarter when he flew back with the flight of the ball into a marking contest, landed awkwardly on his neck, but bounced back to his feet to put forward pressure on his opponent. McKinlay received reward for his effort when he kicked a goal in the last quarter.
The Sydney Swans reserves will enjoy a week off in the first week of the finals next week, and will host the winner of the Belconnen and Ainslie qualifying final in a second semi-final to be played on the weekend of August 30 to September 1.
Sydney Swans reserves 6.4 8.12 13.16 18.23 131
Sydney University 3.3 5.3 7.6 8.8 56
Goals – Head 3, Towers 2, Membrey 2, Cunningham 2, Lloyd 2, Heeney 2, Robinson, Davis, Biggs, Jack, McKinlay