Premier C Team of the Year

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Mitch op’t Hoog – @mitch_toog

FB Will Sloss (OG) Comrey Edgeworth (O.M) Jack Connolly (CYs)
HB Tom Small (C.G) Michael Mitris (O.I) James Paul (O.H)(vc)
C Christian Carnovale (HR) Carl Groth (O.I) Jack Davis (O.M)
HF Nick Reeves-Smyth (O.I) Andrew Kay (Mar.) Ben Gray (CYs)
FF George Burbury (OG) (c) Nathan Waite O.H) Declan Reilly (C.G)
FOLL. Nick Blackney (CYs) Xavier Jordan (CG.) Jono Blanch (Mar.)
I/C Kyle Margaritis (Kew) Simon Bennett (OCam) Nick Baltas (C.G)
Callum Wood (OG) Peter Shakallis (O.H) Jackson Green (Mar.)
COACH Jarrod Carlson (Mar.)

On Saturday, Old Haileybury served up a nice warm dish of humble pie to yours truly after they turned their recent form around to secure a comfortable 25-point victory over minor premiers, Caulfield Grammarians.

The ‘Fields had a few chances early as Premier C leading goalkicker, Declan Reilly, was holding his marks and leading up well but failed to convert on the opportunities. It wasn’t just Reilly who was feeling the pinch of finals footy and the first quarter was played on scrappy terms, neither team managing any clean possessions. Most of the play, however, was in favour of Old Haileybury as they often got first hands on the ball. The Bloods tackling pressure around the ball allowed Caulfield no space, while their hard work on the inside translated to the outside and fed players like James Paul who was elite out of the back line, racking up possessions at will. In true finals fashion, however, despite Old Haileybury’s ascendancy around the ground, the game was played mostly between the arcs and the pill was hot! It took until the 18th minute mark of the first term before the opening goal was scored – thanks to an opportunistic kick out of the air from Corey Connelly.  For Caulfield, their first goal didn’t come until after the quarter time siren! The margin at the first break was seven points in favour of the Bloods.

Play opened up a little bit more in the second term and Caulfield started to wrestle back the momentum. Again, however, they failed to take their opportunities when presented to them and Old Haileybury’s pressure made it hard for the Fields to get any easy possessions. James Paul continued his dominance with his run out of defence. Both teams managed three goals in the second term, with a few points extending Old Haileybury’s lead out to nine heading into the main break.

Given their impressive season, finishing as minor premiers and having dropped just two games for the season, there was an air of inevitability that Caulfield would eventually claw their way back on top of Old Haileybury; A feeling that something had to give and the Bloods’ pressure would recede. To their credit, however, Old Haileybury were unforgiving and came out ferociously in the third. Caulfield were not given an inch at any of the stopagges, and every time they attacked, the Bloods would simply clear it back out with ease. The first goal of the third term came courtesy of the clean and crafty skills of John Nicolopoulos who controlled a half-volley at pace shrugged off one tackle and turned onto his right boot to finish from outside 50. The silky goal gave his team the momentum in the opening moments of the all important premiership quarter. From there, the Bloods never looked back and managed to maintain Caulfield to just three goals for the rest of the game as they bagged five more of their own.

Perhaps the most impressive stat to come from the game was that Old Haileybury were able to hold the offensive powerhouse of Caulfield to just 50 points for the whole game – that’s their lowest score for the season and more than 56 points fewer than their average home and away score. Worrying signs for Caulfield, especially given Premier C’s recent history with the loser of the second semi final bundling out in straight sets the past four years. Will Caulfield follow suit and make it the fifth year straight and their second on the trot? With the strong form of Marcellin there’s a definite danger that this could happen and I hope for their sake it doesn’t.

On Sunday, out at Elsternwick Park, Marcellin carried over their fine end of season form into finals and made light work of Williamstown CYMS, defeating the CYs by 47 points. Williamstown CYMS had worked hard to claim fourth spot and the one-sided outcome does beg the question whether the CYs exhausting bid to secure a finals berth impacted their performance on the big stage?

In saying that, we don’t want to take anything away from the Eagles who were dominant for most of the day after a shaky first five minutes. The CYs let a couple of early chances go begging before Marcellin’s Robert Constanzo kicked the opener on the back of some fancy footwork in the goal square. Constanzo’s goal seemed to settle the Eagles’ and by the time the first change had come around, the Eagles were leading by 31 points.

Their run off the half back flank was what broke the game wide open in the first quarter and every time the CYs attacked it would come back out far too easily. Play on at all costs seemed to be the theme of the day for Marcellin, particularly out of the back line, and their ability to get the ball moving forward fast caught the CYs flat-footed on many occasions, carving them apart on the rebound.

Despite a small third quarter resurgence from the CYs, Marcellin kicked ten goals to seven over the final three quarters to win by the eventual margin of 47 points. James Robertson, Andrew Kay and Jeremiah Antypas each kicked three goals for the Eagles with Robertson named best afield. Jack Connolly was the best player for the CYs, kicking three of his team’s eight goals.

With the win, Marcellin ridded themselves of some seriously bad finals juju, breaking their seven-game losing streak in finals which stretches all the way back to 2011. They’ll now face off against Caulfield Grammarians in this weekend’s preliminary final.

Based on the weekend’s form, Marcellin will be entering this game with all the momentum and history on their side. Caulfield were never able to get going in their loss to Old Haileybury and will need to get their groove back early if they’re to win. Despite being an attacking powerhouse, Caulfield’s forwards will need to play defensively-minded football to help stem the Eagles run out of the back line. The first five to ten minutes of this game will prove to be huge – can Marcellin start strong and get their run going or will Caulfield bring the pressure early to get on top and run away with it?

Last time these two teams met, Caulfield inflicted Marcellin with their only loss from Round 10 onwards, defeating the Eagles 119 – 63. This time around, I’m predicting the margin to be much closer. As much as I don’t want to see Caulfield go out in straight sets for the second year in a row, Marcellin were very impressive in their first final against the CYs and I’m tipping the underdogs to win by a couple of points in a nail-biter.