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The VAFA’s U18 Invitational squad of twenty-four travelled to Christchurch on the weekend and won both of its games against the AFL NZ U20s.
The trip was a rich experience for some of the VAFA’s youngest players, many of whom formed friendships with others from different clubs as well as soaking up the hospitality of their Kiwi opponents.
The New Zealanders, an older and certainly a stronger outfit, were very competitive in both games, but the Victorian boys stood up to the heat. The games had none of the false bravado that is sometimes seen in junior games, as all players put their heads down and concentrated on winning the ball.
Northern Bullant Dean Calcedo, the U18 VAFA medallist, was chosen as captain and led the team well throughout, providing great dash through the mid-field. Rupertswood’s Mitch Wilson figured strongly in the Saturday game, plucking some big grabs and booting three. St John’s Ben Ayache was a livewire around goals on Monday and might have kicked more but for some unselfish efforts. Oakleigh gun Aisea Valentini began both games with a bang, but in the second game, did his hamstring in the third term. Jon De Pellegrin put in two classy displays and his kicking was a delight.
Unfortunately, St Mary’s Salesian’s Jake Evans failed to make the trip, as he had fallen off a ladder and injured his wrist last Thursday. His twenty-three teammates embraced the opportunity with great glee, though just a couple of minutes into Saturday’s action, Harry Levvey went down with a knee and spent much of the trip thereafter confined to a chair.
It is to be hoped that many of the VAFA boys will be playing with and against each other for many years to come. Certainly one of the bi-products of the trip will be a new-found respect and understanding of their club opponents who were on this weekend, and perhaps in the future, their teammates.
There were plenty of parents and friends to support the boys and they will have returned with a new understanding of the VAFA competition, as well as having sampled the offerings of Christchurch, a quaint and beautiful city.
Christchurch has been under siege from quakes of late and the damage caused around the town is very evident, though it has failed to dim the spirit of the local population, which gathered en masse in one of the large town parks last Saturday to raise money for recovery.
Premier Grand Final umpire Merv Monty was a magnificent ambassador, assisting NZ’s umpires and players in the National Carnival, which was also played on the weekend.
Some pictures of the trip here 
Saturday 23 October

VAFA.   2.5   4.6   8.10  10.10.70
AFLNZ. 0.0   1.2    3.3     6.10.46

Goals: Wilson 3 Ely 2 Beames Pignitaro Ayache Morin Galea
Best: Valentini Ely Morin Jeffers Calcedo DePellegrin

Monday 25 October

VAFA.   2.4   4.9   8.12   12.14.86
AFLNZ. 1.1   5.2   5.4         7.4.46

Goals: Ayache 6 Gumley 2 Wilson Biddlestone Beames Kavanagh
Best: Ayache Ely DePellegrin Calcedo Galea Swallow
Full Team List
Dean Calcedo, Todd Beames (Northern Bullants); Michael Kavanagh, Joseph Pignataro (St Bernard’s); Thomas Galea, Mitchell Wilson, Brent Swallow (Rupertswood); Timothy Gumley, Keilan Biddlestone (Therry Penola); Heath Chipperfield (St Mary’s Salesian); George Angelopoulos, Luc Morin, Aisea Valentini (Oakleigh); Daniel Foot-Connelly, William Green (St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers); Corey Ely, Benjamin Ayache (St John’s OC); Harry Levvey, Mark Jeffers (Old Camberwell); Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jonathon De Pellegrin (Werribee); Edward Pearson and Shaquille Parker (UHS-VU / Flemington).