Following Collegians’ Round 14 victory over Old Melburnians, the top four is certainly taking shape as Uni Blues, Old Xaverians and St Kevin’s OB prepare for finals while the Lions seem the likely candidate to finish fourth.
IF one of these teams claims the 2019 flag, what will the headline read and how would they rate in Team of the Decade discussions?
University Blues: The drought breaker
For a club who has spent more time in William Buck Premier/A Grade than any other over the past 66 years (60), the Blues have certainly underperformed during finals. The last of their three Premier flags came in 2004 but they’ve historically found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger 10 times in the top section. More recently, the Blues were skittled in three consecutive preliminary finals from 2015-17.
What the Blues do have this year, however, is a largely different set-up with Ayce Cordy, Cam O’Shea, Josh Green, Luke Russell, Tim Harper and Tom Young star players who had absolutely nothing to do with the three preliminary losses and thus shouldn’t feel the pressure or the monkey on the back when finals come around. Perhaps the final piece of the puzzle for Blues is Heath Jamieson. Jamieson came to the Blues this season after coaching St Joseph’s to the flag in the Geelong Football League last year. He knows what it takes to succeed in finals, and we all know winning form is good form!
Old Xaverians: The Team of the Decade
This year’s premiership will go a long way to deciding the Team of the Decade from 2010-19 but Old Xavs are clearly best positioned to accept the title. Having spent the entire time in William Buck Premier, Xavs have claimed three premierships from four grand finals and five finals series. This will mark the sixth year they’ve played finals and with a current strike rate of 60%, you’d be hard-pressed to tip against them.
While their first two games following the double bye were less than impressive after winning 10 of their first 11 games by an average of 57.7ppg, Xavs proved they can grind out hard-fought victories against a valiant St Bernard’s side. And it was a tough, brutal encounter, further showcasing the multitude of ways Xavs can win a match. 94 points against the Snow Dogs was their highest score since Round 10 and their mix of experience and young stars bodes as the perfect combination should their post-bye form continue to improve.
St Kevin’s OB: The Three-Peat
Despite having spent four seasons in William Buck Premier since 2010, if St Kevin’s OB claim the three-peat, this decade will belong to them. They made five B Grade finals series before claiming that incredible come-from-behind victory over Old Melburnians in 2015 and have made every post a winner since with the last two flags.
I’m not sure there’d be one supporter at SKOB who would be disappointed with how the reigning premiers are travelling after claiming their third straight win following the bye. More importantly, Mitch Brown returned with 37 disposals and two goals while Matt Arnot played his first game. The biggest difference for SKOB in 2019 in the addition of Jarrad Waite and, after missing more than a month with a hamstring injury, tore shreds off the De La defence with 11 goals. Any team who can add Brown, Waite and Arnot is in a very strong position.
Collegians: The Bridesmaid catches the bouquet
The comparison to a bridesmaid comes from six grand finals this decade but just two flags. The strike rate of finals series to grand final appearances though – 100%! They’re a powerhouse of the competition and never far from success and if they were to somehow surpass the three sides above them, seven finals series + three flags would have them as the Team of the Decade.
It was always going to be a slow start for the Lions, but they have since hit their straps and any side facing them in week one or two of finals would be nervous. After flying out of the gates the past two seasons, the Lions were exactly the opposite this year but have since won seven of their last 10. It seems like there’s less expectation on the Lions this year which could possibly play into their hands….