It could prove costly in the run towards finals, but both Sydney University and Canberra can see positives out of their dramatic draw on Saturday at Phillip Oval.
Both teams missed out on a much-needed win that would have seen them gain a spot within the top six. After a fast finish, Sydney University were able to level scores 15.13 (103) apiece, thanks to a clutch goal by forward Nick Foster in the dying stages of the fourth term when he was awarded a free kick for a holding the ball decision against Canberra playing-coach Kade Klemke.
Canberra were on the back foot early after having Tom Highmore, Aaron Bruce and Angus Baker withdraw from the side late on top of the injuries to Mitch Maguire and Jack Powell.
After conceding an early lead, Klemke was proud of the way his side fought back into the contest and seeing different players stand up.
“I always thought that we were in it even when they were three goals ahead early in the game.” Klemke told neafl.com.au post-match.
“The boys were pretty confident we could still win the game, so it was really pleasing to get ourselves in front like that, it was just disappointing that we couldn’t finish it off.”
Klemke also noted the players who stood up in the absence of their star playmakers, including Rising Star nominee and vice-captain Andrew Swan, who was playing his first match since rupturing his ACL nearly 400 days ago.
“As a collective it was probably one of the better team performances we have had. And it was just good to see a lot of guys lift today,” Klemke said.
“[It was great] seeing guys like Swanny (Andrew Swan) have his first game back and was really good for us. Tom Faul took some big marks in some crucial moments and it was good to see even Riley Corbett getting his hands on it the football as well.
“Jarrod Osborne was fantastic today and did a fantastic job on Jake Bartholomaeus today and finished with 30 (disposals) himself. Alex Smout stepped up for us after his performance in last week’s game.”
Sydney University were the favourites heading into the game off the back of some good form in their tight loss to the GIANTS the week prior.
Foster said they were lucky to get away with two points against Canberra and have plenty to work on for their next match up against the Demons later in the year.
“It was probably good for us to jag the two points in the end. It’s little disappointing when we started so well and we didn’t hold on to that lead,” Foster said post-match.
“There are a lot of areas that we have improved on and over the past couple of weeks. But we have plenty of areas that we will need to improve on going forward.
“I think we have to be better at the contest, that is where Canberra is at their best. I think that they probably move the ball a little bit better and they had a fair few more uncontested marks throughout the game.
“We just have to be a bit better with our defensive method making sure that try to force them into taking contested options.”
With six home and away games remaining for each NEAFL side, both the Students and Demons will need to rack up some important wins to force their way into the top six.
Canberra will have to be wary of a hungry Redland Bombers side at UNSW Oval Canberra on Saturday afternoon.
With the Demons likely to have some big inclusions off the injury list, Klemke says the back half of the year will be challenging, but it’s not impossible to make finals.
“We potentially have five guys coming back into the side next week so that will make it tough at the selection table but that’s the positive,” he said.
“Our finals aren’t gone, it’s going to be tough but hopefully we can build from this.”
Meanwhile, Sydney University will be facing off against Gold Coast who find themselves in a similar spot after a slow start to the season.
Foster said getting first hands to the ball and executing their game plan will be crucial.
“AFL sides generally have really good foot skills and they will use the ball well. So that will probably be a common theme,” he said.
“The contest has been a pretty big theme for us, we feel like we did that well for the first couple of weeks during the season and then we dropped away, but we have been improving on that week in week out and have had some close games recently.”
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