It’s the transitional time of the sports calendar when I spend an inordinate amount of time following the inspiring stories of the UNSW sports teams establishing themselves at the beginning the season or qualifying for epic finals extravaganzas, studying with an intensity rarely applied to my university assignments. . .

Saturday. Game day. The air was boiling with gothic clouds, the sky’s commotion reflecting the feverish excitement and anticipation for the impending battle of the universities; UNSW-Eastern Suburbs versus Sydney Uni. And a spot in the Grand Final was the ultimate prize.

The Bulldogs came into last weekend fresh and confident having earnt the first week off after taking out the minor premiership. They hadn’t tasted defeat since April and had won both clashes between the two sides during the regular season; hanging on in a thriller early in the season and denying Sydney Uni any scoring chances in the rematch. We finally have the answer to the question asked so persistently by the Baha Men ever since that fateful summer of dance music in 2000. Who let the dogs out? Sydney Uni let down their guard and the Bulldogs had been set loose. 

The runaway competition favourites were at their best as they reached an unassailable 44 point lead at the long break. It was already clear that the Bulldogs were on their way to their second straight Grand Final. There was plenty of run through the midfield, and plenty of forward options presenting themselves with some handy leads. A tight UNSW backline pressured the Students into errors and turnovers, too many chances were wasted, and they were haunted by kicks swinging wide in the swirling gusts. The Bulldogs were in control of their game, and continued to press home their advantage. While Sydney Uni managed to cut the final margin to 45 points in the final quarter, the damage was already done. The Bulldogs were happy to play out time secure in the knowledge that they were through to Sydney AFL’s big dance.

In an Avengers-like superteam, Jesse Aish’s value to the Bulldogs was evident more than ever as he landed four major scores and played a hand in setting up several more. Hayden Nichols, Johnny Pawle and Joe Byrnes also played pivotal roles for the Bulldogs, while Mike O’Donnell reached the 50 game milestone in a dominant performance.

Michael O'Donnell is grand final bound and looking for a second consecutive premiership
Michael O'Donnell is grand final bound and looking for a second consecutive premiership.

The Premier Bulldogs have another week off to get over any niggles before facing Pennant Hills. While they have been the standout team in the competition all season, the job isn’t done yet. 

Full Results:
Men’s Premier defeated Sydney Uni 16.9 (105) to 7.18 (60)
Women’s Premier Division lost to Sydney Uni 4.3 (27) to 4.3 (27)
Men’s Premier Reserves lost to Pennant Hills 9.9 (63) to 11.11 (77)
Men’s Division 3 defeated Southern Power 9.16 (70) to 0.5 (5)
U19s Division 1 defeated East Coast Eagles 11.11 (77) to 2.6 (18)

With the final whistle you could hear the shattering of hearts as UNSW were defeated by Hunters Hill in the final of the Stockdale Cup. It was tough and close came down to less than one try. 

But do not despair rugby fans, Coogee Oval, that glorious heartland of the Sydney Rugby community, will once again host a game for the ages. UNSW Sport strategic partners Randwick Rugby will take on Argentina on Saturday afternoon with kick-off at 2:30pm. The Randwick side is packed with legends, UNSW students and alumni among them. The Pumas will unleash a close to full strength side in a hit out before the Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

Ask anyone and they will tell you that this will be spectacular. With the Pumas' exciting brand of rugby and an unexpected opportunity for the Galloping Greens, even Old Guy Who is Always at the Rugby Club daren’t offer a prediction about how the game will play out. While sport will always have its politics, it is hard not to feel that this match is an organic, emphatic reversal of the contrived way matches and athletes are packaged and processed. Its top-level suburban rugby meets rising stars of the international scene. In short, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. 

Full Results:
Stockdale Cup UNSW lost to Forest 14-18

If I learnt anything from Remember the Titans (apart from that Ryan Gosling is a complete liability at corner back) it is that the arc of the gridiron season will be no smooth ride. There will be jarring reality checks as well as inspirational moments syrupy enough to glaze the eyes of even the most stern-faced ref. 

The Raiders approached this week of training with renewed determination, but the women’s team narrowly went down to the Ducks by 4 points. The young and upcoming Colts also recorded a loss, but showed heart fighting back in the second half.

The men’s UNSW Raiders team was the first to celebrate a win this season, as they closed the day 30 points ahead of the Napean Ducks. Cue Ain’t no Mountain High Enough and an awesome training montage.

In other news, it was announced by Gridiron Australia over the weekend that UNSW’s very own Women's head coach Dane Robertson, has been selected as the Defensive Backs coach for the Australians Women's team for the upcoming 2021 World Championships. To congratulate Dane and show your support for the UNSW Raiders, be at Forestville Park on Saturday for round 3 action.

Full Results:
Men’s GNSW League 
UNSW defeated Nepean Ducks 38-8
Women’s GNSW League 
UNSW lost to Nepean Ducks 14-18
UNSW lost to Northern Sydney Rebels 8-14

I have the utmost respect for netball players. With all the bent back fingers, sprained ankles, and the uncomfortable proximity to fellow player’s armpits, netball is not for the faint-hearted. It’s quick, skillful, and maybe even a bit brutal. If that wasn’t enough, we have reached the tail end of the netball season and each game is kicking up a notch. The Sies were unlucky in having to play the minor semi final in A1 after finishing on equal points with the top two teams. Their tough luck extended with a loss to a rampaging Randwick Rugby team who finished eight competition points below them on the ladder, leaving the UNSW team to start their build towards the 2020 season. The Blues were outstanding in the B2 major semi final and have secured their place in the grand final on 14 September. The Omurais (C2) and Mobies (C3) both had strong wins in their minor semi finals and head to the preliminary final this weekend. Both teams will play opponents they narrowly defeated just two weeks ago in Round 14 and will feel confident against opponents coming off two consecutive losses. Meanwhile the Dolphins had the narrowest of losses in the Intermediate 3 major semi final, but are sure to bounce back in the preliminary final this week, where they take on a Mascot team they have defeated twice this season.

Full Results:
A1: UNSW Sies lost to Randwick Rugby 2 28-48
B2: UNSW Blues defeated Mascot 40-30 
C2: UNSW Omurais defeated Bondi United 35-33
C3: UNSW Mobies defeated Mascot 6 45-36
Inter3:UNSW Dolphins lost to Rose Bay 33-34

It was a big week of finals for our hockey teams, with all four of the finalists progressing through to the next round. Despite a loss and a draw, our teams qualified high enough during the regular season to continue on and go for glory in 2019. And never fear, our internationally renowned hockey stars don’t do all that cardio for nothing. In truth, the season of training comes down to who can last the longest on the dance floor. The #Whalies would like to remind the UNSW hockey community to keep 11 October free for presentation night to celebrate a fantastic season and party all night long.

Women's Metropolitan League
UNSW 3 lost to Mosman-Harbourside 1-0
UNSW 6 defeated Macarthur-Bankstown 3-0

Men's Premier League
UNSW 1 defeated Ryde HH 4-3
UNSW 2 drew with Moorebank Liverpool 2-2

The UNSW Women’s water polo team took home the bronze in the Kashiwazaki Women's Cup in Japan. The Whales clinched the win with a strong 13-10 victory over Bourbon Water Polo Club. After two days of training and carb loading with sushi, this was an exciting achievement and a brilliant way to round out the tournament.