Another strong goal-kicking performance from Nick Hey and Daniel McCullough led the University Blacks to a comprehensive 56-point victory over St Bedes/Mentone to keep their crown as ladder leaders entering Round 12. Piling on 14 majors to 6 after quarter-time, the Blackers etched their third win a row to leap into their clash with Parkdale Vultures this weekend in fine form. The Vultures have been incredibly gallant since returning to play a fortnight ago, pushing Carey in round ten and refusing to roll over against Beauy last weekend, showing some real grit as the long grind of season 2021 continues. The Blackers took down the Vultures by 65-points in round five with James Sansom booting four in a win that elevated Uni to a 5-0 start. On the backs of the aforementioned McCullough, Hey, as well as captain Jordan Quaile and Darren Mumford, the last fortnight has shown the Blackers incredible ability to score the ball with ease, this should be enough to lift Uni once again as they stay on track for a return to William Buck Premier in 2022.
Arguably the match of the round will feature the scorching Old Haileyburians welcoming a blistering De La Salle to Princes Park for a matchup featuring two sides that have collectively won 14 games in a row by an average of over 54 points. Winners of eight straight, the Bloods took down the Roys by 44-points on the weekend with Jackson Ross bagging five. While De La have claimed six-straight, with the always reliable Adrian Indovino and Tom Chalkley (in his first senior game of 2021), both kicking three to run out 35-point winners over Carey. The last time Haileybury did not come out on-top this year was in round one against none-other than De La, brewing a potential revenge game for Daniel Ward and company. Matt Colak and Nick Bufalo both kicked two apiece for the Blues in that clash while Ryan O’Meara starred to help his side fend off Haileybury. Both sides have been tearing the competition to pieces all season long and it’s almost impossible to separate them statistically, with a potential September matchup almost certainly crystalising as the year progresses. Despite dropping a whopping 178-points on Willy CYMS in round ten, I believe Haileybury have the more consistent scoring attack and barring any major outs during the week, should get the chocolates by the slimmest of margins. This should be a cracker.
Building their own winning streak to keep pace with the Blackers and Bloods is Beaumaris, who sit just one game outside the top-2 after their 37-point win over Parkdale in round eleven. Resting Chris Grigoriadis and Riley Mihailovic, the Sharks did not get the percentage boosting win they were after but still got the win, notching their fourth straight to remain circling the top-2. Cooper Ryan kicked three in his first career senior’s appearance while Jordan Smith stood tall with three as well. Their opponents this weekend in Old Carey were thoroughly outclassed by De La last round, going down by 35-points. Continuing to barely hang onto eighth spot and avoiding the dreaded relegation zone, Carey have dropped four of their last five and are doing themselves no favours to keep their heads above water. Facing each other a mere five weeks ago, the Sharks run over Carey by 26-points at CSC, with a familiar result forecasted here. Look for the Sharks to continue to dominate play and not give their opponents any forward entry, a trait they’ve possessed all season long, defending Banksia comfortably.
Breaking away from the peloton of spots six through nine was AJAX, as they upset Williamstown CYMS by 17-points to make it two-from-two in-clashes against their former Premier C counterparts. A day out for Toby Lipton with six majors elevated the Jackas to fifth on the table and at least for now, two-games clear of relegation with seven rounds to go. Their matchup this weekend comes against Fitzroy, who find themselves in ninth spot with just two wins next to their name, eager to get back on the winners list and escape from the bottom two. Nino Lazzaro, Jack Hart, Ted Clayton and Rory Patterson all kicked two as the Roys reduced a 76-point three-quarter time deficit to 44, a much more respectable result against the hottest team in the competition in Haileybury. The Jackas escaped Brunswick Street by a singular kick in round three, with first-gamer Harry Sheezel the hero with four in a remarkable effort. Another tough one to predict, with Fitzroy possessing a far-more potent forward line with Hart and Lazzaro, while the Jackas defensive unit led by Richie Simon and Justin Berkowitz, concedes far less than the Roys. I am leaning towards Fitzroy in a nail-biter despite AJAX’s fantastic result last weekend, but this should be another tight one.
Our final clash for round eleven will pit two sides sitting smack-bang in the middle of the aforementioned peloton in St Bedes/Mentone Tigers and Williamstown CYMS, with the opportunity to launch themselves into an unlikely second half of the season run towards the top-4 at stake. After winning back-to-back games in rounds five and six, the Tigers have been heading backwards since, dropping three on the trot with their round ten loss against Uni Blacks their largest defeat since round sixteen 2018. The CYs haven’t faired much better, dropping their last three with their defeat at the hands of AJAX on the weekend coming as somewhat of a shock. It’s fair to say both sides need a jolt to resurrect their seasons. Matthew Montebello’s squad captured the 4-points in round four by 33-points, with Nick Ebinger starring with four-majors in his one and only senior game so far this year. This should be another tight contest that will come down to how successfully the CYs can repel the Tigers scoring attack, with the always dangerous James Mangoni and Matt Caia always causing issues. Bedes in a close one.