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The Elsternwick mistral arrived on time for the curtain-raiser on Saturday to the curses of the assembled. By the final quarter of the early game, it had really taken hold.

St Bernard’s managed 4.13 in its last effort to the scoreboard end, falling just four points short of St Kevin’s. Coming in to R18, the Snowdogs Twos had been unbeaten. Three losses in a row and now they are gone.

A glance around the crowd revealed many Marcellin fans in the crowd. A closer glimpse revealed that the not all of the maroon polo shirts were being worn by paid –up Eagles fans. The duty officers of Ph. D. Security wore similar apparel. These chaps appeared likely masters of internet security, while their skills in quelling an angry mob were happily never put to the test.

The main event began and the Bernies, hoping to avoid the bang-bang exit of their clubmates. Kicking into the breeze, they began well enough. Then the young Marcellin team found its rhythm and slammed on six goals. 

The Bernies were up against it. Their turn with the breeze was unproductive and while there was a flash of optimism in the final stanza, the Eagles dominated them.

Afterward, the Marcellin folk seemed happy enough with their accomplishment, though not overly excited. Perhaps visions of the daunting challenge of A Section in 2009 were even further tempered by thoughts of next week’s meeting with Old Essendon.

The Bernies backers, whom I suspect had sensed their ultimate fate some time ago, appeared less comfortable, knowing that their hard work, which had not delivered the immediate return to A Section that they craved, was about to begin all over again.

Yesterday, the wind was at it again, though it eased as the Bureau had forecast. However, the promised rain had not eventuated and despite the earnest attempts of VAFA officials, the Elsternwick surface blunted the penetrometer.

The Reserves grand final rematch was a one-sided affair from the second quarter, with the Xaverians looking stronger as the game progressed. In the end, they advanced for a grab at a third straight title.

The Red and Blacks, however, did not fare as well in the feature bout. It was no secret that the Xavs’ hierarchy had wanted rain and wind and perhaps even snow, but the weather gods did not deliver.

Collegians rebounded strongly from their disappointing last month and showed none of the tension of last week. After an even first quarter, the Purple Haze blanketed the reigning premier. This was the league leader at its best, skilful and systematic. They led by four goals at the half and by eight at the last break.

Yet at the Xavs’ final huddle, there was some optimism still among the throng that gathered, which perhaps revealed more about their faith in their team than it did about the gravity of their situation. As all expected, they had a crack again in the last, but their chance had long since passed. This was their fourth knockout bout on end and they’d used up all their coupons.

Post-game, the Collegians were satisfied but subdued, knowing that their mission is not yet complete. Their strong recruiting efforts of recent times have netted them some very fine players and they will not be satisfied with anything short of a premiership.

On Sunday’s form, they have a very good chance of reversing the result in the second semi-final, though this may have gone unnoticed by the Beders, who were out in strength at Sandringham to see their Under 19s come from six goals down to win the flag.

A win for the Combine next Sunday would complete the fairy-tale, but it is a re-invigorated Collegians outfit, with many experienced and talented players, that stands in their path. The triple jump – C, B, and A flags in successive years – has never been done. After yesterday, I doubt it will be next week. 

Fourteen years ago, Collegians defeated Old Xaverians in the preliminary final. Since then, the Xavs have played in every Grand Final but two. They won’t be back next week either, but by then no doubt, their machine will already be working overtime on next season. Their stalwarts were the last to leave the bar last night and they expect to be the first to return in 2009. Others around the VAFA will hope that these preliminary defeats will be the bookends of the Xavs’ golden era. We’ll see.

It has been a watershed year for the VAFA competition, with new players and emerging clubs making their mark. By next Sunday night, it will crown fresh champions in both A and B Sections. They will celebrate, while others plot their downfall. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, and it’s never really over.

The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the VAFA.
Max McGraw can be contacted at [email protected]