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Dreams and nightmares
Never write off Old Xaverians! What a comeback and what a win, but how many of us are surprised? The countless hoards of people who kept saying that with  Old Xavs its different  and they always find a way were correct. The comeback win against De La Salle in the Preliminary Final by 14 points is just one more game that will go down in Xaverian folklore as another September special at Elsternwick Park.  
De La Salle jumped out of the gates in impressive fashion with four goals inside the first 15 minutes of the game. The blue and gold’s small fleet of runners were zipping the ball back and forth and then forward with pace and accuracy. The delivery to Brett Eddy in particular, was simply breathtaking at times. More importantly Eddy was converting his chances. 
Eddy had another chance to start the second term and De La were all of a sudden out to a five-goal lead. Michael Darvell converted an opportunity for Xavs that reduced the margin back to four goals, but in general play it was still all De La Salle. 
Tyson Hunt copped an accidental bump in the contest from Pat Ambrose that saw him spill some claret over the surface of Sportscover Arena. The margin at that point was four goals and Brendan Goss had a chance to reduce that margin with a minute to go in the half but missed a shot from 20m out on an angle. 
As good as De La Salle were to half time, they still hadn’t put Xavs away. The margin at the long break was 25 points and whilst not insurmountable there reality was that something dramatic would need to change for Old Xavs. Where this would come from was uncertain as Old Xavs in recent weeks have not been as clinical in their ball movement forward of centre as we have come to expect.
After half time Old Xavs came out firing but that still couldn’t stop De La kicking the first of the term. Xavs did kick the next two to cut the margin to 20 points before Eddy got on the end of another one to kick his fifth goal of the game. A beautiful Josh Agius pass set Goss up for his third to bring the margin back again but the problem was that Xavs hadn’t made any inroads to the De La Salle lead.  In fact at three quarter time, the lead had crept up by one to a 26 point margin. Eddy could have had six before three quarter time but a miss took his tally to 5.3 with a quarter to play and the game was De La’s to lose.  
Old Xavs needed to call on their heroics of the 2010 Preliminary Final to pull back this margin. They got the first goal of the term and the pressure they applied around the ground was huge. However as quick as a flash Eddy was lining up for his sixth, but missed to leave the margin at 21. There was more drama as the stretcher was brought out for Andy Biddlecombe who hit the ground from a marking contest and was knocked out. At the resumption Old Xavs kicked a goal to bring it back to 15 points. 
In quick succession a goal to Jake Williams brought it back to 9 points and the recalled Esmonde Prowse who was hugely influential in the final quarter – as was Nick Wynne – reduced the margin to three. 
The names Agius, Ball and Darvell were all keys to the revival as the crowd watched on in disbelief at a side who had managed just six goals to three quarter time and no more than nine goals in each of their previous four weeks were able to kick eight goals to one to win by a comfortable 14 points. 
Grand Final Preview – Collegians v Old Xaverians
Form, past results and a week of rest get thrown out the window for Sunday’s Grand Final. Whilst Collegians would be thrilled that last week’s Preliminary Final went down to the wire, they would be equally concerned that Old Xaverians have found their mojo again. The Collegians structure and run off half back has troubled Old Xaverians in the past two encounters but Old Xavs finally got some of their own run back in the final quarter last week. For spectators this is an exciting prospect, running football off half back is exciting to watch and with Sautner at one end and Handley or Lynch at the other we should be in for a beauty. 
There will be key players for both sides and it is worth looking at a couple of those potential match-ups to see who wins those vital contests. Pat Ambrose and Charlie Holst will be a key factor in how Old Xaverians go across half forward. Holst won the plaudits of his coaching panel for his last two displays, but Ambrose was equally impressive. His combative attack on the pack is crucial for Goss and Williams to be able to rove and Holst seems to direct his spoiling into the laps of Tardiff and Zimbachs to run a clear. 
Nick Wynne will likely get the job on Nick Ries, with the Collegians skipper a key player in their semi-final win. Wynne is equally important for the run of Old Xavs out of the backline and if he can nullify Ries and get into space to create some drive for Xavs then that will be a win for them. The problem of course is that everything Ries touches generally turns to goal-d. He only needs the ball a handful of times to make something happen. 
The ruck battle between John Shaw and Cam Purss and most likely Barclay Dixon and James Jorgenson will be crucial to the outcome. First use of the football to Ball, Agius and Darvell or to Stachan, Bull and Scott will allow the side winning the clearances to immediately apply pressure to the opposition defensive units. 
Another key matchup is Nick Sautner and Tom Carey or possibly Andy Biddlecombe. Biddlecombe will have to get up from his injury last week to play so Carey will be vital as the man to mark Sautner. Sautner got away from Old Xavs two weeks ago and as well as kicking goals, he was a key antagonist throughout. 
There are many other matchups that matter, and we are unlikely to see any hard tags on the key midfielders of both sides so it should be a shootout in the centre. Unfortunately it is unlikely to mean a shootout on the scoreboard and expect it to be a tight low-scoring contest.
Where does it leave us? Collegians have been supreme this year and should start as favourites, Old Xavs have the belief and momentum that a comeback win like last week can provide. I favour Collegians to go back-to-back winning this one by 12 points. The Jock Nelson Medal to go to Lachlan Fergusson. 

And then there were three
Temptation to jump on board the team that wins the cut throat semi final and abandon the vanquished from the second semi final is strong no matter what level of football you play. De La Salle looked very good accounting for Old Scotch and Old Xaverians didn’t look so good as Collegians kicked away in the last quarter. The problem is the statistics alone tell us that we should never write off the second semi final loser and more so when that team wears red and black. I copped a bit of criticism on twitter last weekend when I tweeted that Old Xavs can’t kick a score.  The insinuation was that I had written off Old Xavs this year. That was far from the truth, what is the truth though it that Old Xaverians have failed to kick more than 10 goals in their past five matches. The game against Caulfield in the bog was never going to be a goal fest but after kicking four goals in the opening quarter last Saturday, Old Xavs kicked only five more for the game. 
What an opening burst it was too. Old Xaverians came out firing and piled on 4.4 to lead 28 to zero inside 20 minutes of the first quarter. Collegians couldn’t get their hands on the ball and players with normally sure hands were fumbling under first, the real pressure and then, the implied pressure that Xavs had created. 
John Shaw, Matt Ball, Ryan Colbert, and Michael Darvell were winning the centre clearances, and the pressure was applied by the Xaverians forwards to lock the ball in and create scoring chances. Unfortunately they only managed 4.4 in this period of dominance and everyone knew Collegians were never going to go away. 
At half time there margin had reduced had been cut to 11 points and we were set for a frenetic second half. This is when Collegians made their move. Kicking six goals to three to assume a seven point break with a quarter to play. Old Xavs needed something, but nothing came. Nick Sautner back from a broken leg was getting on the end of everything, Nick Ries continued his prolific season with another three goals and double that in score involvements, and Shura Taft converted twice more for Collegians to take the margin to 38 points at the final siren. Xavs were held to just a behind in the final term as they were restricted greatly by the Lions running backmen of Tardiff, Hylton and Kamenar. 
De La Salle and Old Scotch looked like being a classic, down to the wire encounter until De La kicked clear in the final quarter. The margin got out to 38 points before three late goals to Old Scotch brought it back to rest at 20 points as the siren sounded on the Cardinals’ season. It was what the least they deserved as Old Scotch were more than a handful all afternoon but the small break that De La Salle established in the second quarter after Old Scotch missed chances in the first term was never really able to be bridged. 
De La Salle believed they had their best side on the park for almost a year. There were 10 changes from the last time these sides met when Old Scotch humbled the La Sallians at Camberwell a few weeks back. Most of those changes were in the better performers on the day as De La Salle’s disposal wasn’t always perfect, but found targers at critical times allowing them to first alleviate pressure then build an attack, with Brett Eddy, Sam Pickett and Nic Roberts on the end of many moves. 
Old Scotch fought to be within 11 points at three quarter time and the first goal of the final term would be crucial. They got that goal through and length of the field transition with the ball ending up in the arms of Hamish Dick who reduced the margin to a goal. But that would be as close as they got. The sides traded a goal each but the margin was still eight points. A burst of points was followed by a series of goals for De La Salle as they piled on five goals in a row to blow the margin out to 38 points. Old Scotch kicked three late goals to get it back to 19 points but time was their enemy. The final margin finished at 20 points and Old Scotch’s season ended with plenty to look forward to next year. 
Old Xaverians v De La Salle
There is something about a Preliminary Final that conjures more in the imagination than a grand final. We see it in the lower sections of amateur football for the reward is two-fold (promotion and a Grand Final), but in Premier its all about getting a crack at the top prize in the game. 
Old Xaverians are on a three game losing streak and you would be a brave person to tip them to lose a fourth game in a row. De La Salle returned their up and down season, to the heights of a great team performance and win last week, whether they can hold that performance another week will be the question. Their formline is an unpredictable WLWLWLW. 
Three weeks ago they outplayed Old Xaverians at the Dairy Bell with pace and panache kicking goal after goal in the first quarter. They will need a performance like that again if they are to win a ticket to the big dance next week. All week people have been telling me not to write off Old Xavs in September, of course there is a reluctance to do so, but we need to assess the form of both sides. 
Statistics show us that the wounded second semi final loser is often able to get up for the Preliminary Final.  However the feeling amongst onlookers is that this week is De La Salle’s to lose, they have the cattle and the form to defeat Old Xaverians and quite possibly to challenge Collegians the following week too. However I keep getting sucked back to the vortex of never writing off Old Xaverians…. What to do? Back to statistics is the only solution, for that reason Old Xaverians will win on Sunday by 7 points in a low scoring game. 

Now for final exams
What have we learnt from 18 rounds of football? The home and away season concluded last week and with studying over it’s time for exams. Do we have a premiership favourite? Who will pass the final exam with the best mark in 2012? On pure statistics you would have to say that the ladder positions are an accurate reflection on any market if one was to be framed When crunching the numbers of win/loss record against the other finalists Collegians come out on top with a record of 4-2. Old Xaverians and De La Salle both have a 3-3 record whilst Old Scotch is 2-4 against their finals opponents. What does it tell us? The answer is nothing. Finals are a different beast and for that reason Collegians can be happy with a win against Old Xavs last week, but it would be dangerous to expect the same again. 
Old Carey finished their season on a high with a win over De La Salle at home. Carey always match up well against De La and the Panthers led all day and were intent on ending their season on a happy note. There is no doubt they have enormous talent but losing three games by under a kick has ultimately cost them a place in September. Damien Yze kicked three to go top of the Sharp Shooters table and despite a late De La Salle fight back, Old Carey hung on to win their final game of 2012 by 14 points.  
Uni Blues were on the cusp of breaking their Brindisi Street hoodoo when they lead St Bedes/Mentone Tigers by 14 points at the final change. St Bedes/Mentone Tigers proceeded to rattle on five unanswered goals in the final term to just two behinds from Uni Blues. Darcy Holden finished with five goals into end the Tigers season on a high. Both clubs will be keen to reset for a stronger showing in 2013, particularly earlier in the season.
Old Trinity and Caulfield Grammarians played out an entertaining contest in their last game in Premier Section for at least a season. The relegated sides were both looking to end the season with a smile and most observers were probably hoping that the Fielders could salute for the first time this year. Alas it wasn’t to be as Old Trinity kicked away to win by 38 points with four goals to Brett Howell and three to Andrew Ramsden to take him level with Old Carey’s Yze to share the goal kicking honours. Caulfield become the seventh team to record a winless season in the top section but the lessons learnt this year should keep them in good stead for a massive tilt at the Premier B premiership in 2013. For Old Trinity the question remains will Rambo play on? 
Old Scotch have found some devastating form in recent weeks. The come from behind win against Old Carey has lifted their confidence levels, trust and belief in each other to all time highs. They are playing fast, exciting football and it was on display against St Bernards at Camberwell last Saturday. A nine goal second term was merely the centerpiece in a display that should have De La Salle checking the video this week. Lach Hill was on the end of five goals and Matt Burns four as the Cardinals sourced multiple avenues to goal. St Bernards would be happy with their season, for a time they were a chance of playing finals before injuries took their toll. Five goals to Andrew Merrington was a good return and winning the last quarter with six goals to one is a fond memory to take into pre-season. 
Collegians were pleased with the win over Old Xaverians but won’t be taking it for granted. Collegians had 10 more scoring shots, had three players kick 4.11 between them and prevailed by 10 points. The highlight of the day was the mark of the year that wasn’t. Collegians backman Will Tardif flew above the pack on the goal line to haul down a Shaun Smith like screamer only for the goal umpire to adjudicate that Ben Kennedy’s kick for goal had crossed the line for six points. (check the photo on the inside back cover of the record) Tardif was denied as were Old Xaverians, but this was just a mock exam, the real stuff happens this weekend.
Collegians v Old Xaverians
Collegians should be confident that they have the game to defeat Old Xaverians.  Old Xavs on the other are either foxing or have some question marks on their form. It’s always hard to tell how a side’s form is going when they have been locked in to a double chance for a few weeks. Perhaps Xavs have been coasting? Both sides have players to return to their best 22 and both have injury clouds over key players. Jon Mercuri rolled his ankle and doesn’t look a likely starter but Matt Handley should return from a week off. Whether they get balance out of that swap is a question for Andy Gowers and his match committee. Trent Zimbachs also seemed to roll an ankle last week but he should play. They also have Jack Bull to return and a certain Nick Sautner who is almost right. So to a prediction, if the game is anything like last week then we are in for a treat. Collegians are in form and have the momentum so should win by 13 points. 
De La Salle v Old Scotch 
De La Salle’s form line is a harder read than the Art of War. One week they are up the next they get beaten. De La had a great quarter against Old Xavs sandwiched by losses to Old Carey and St Bedes/Mentone. More worrying was their last match against Sunday’s opponents Old Scotch. Yes, there were players out and yes, De La have virtually had the last few weeks knowing they were playing finals but the lack of consistency make them hard to tip. Old Scotch are the complete opposite and in recent weeks have been building their form to a finals like standard. On form alone I lean to Old Scotch by 24 points but who knows, finals are a different beast. 

Apparently winning form is good form and three of the four finalists in Premier adhered to this philosophy with solid wins on the weekend. The one exception was Old Xaverians who came up against fellow finalist De La Salle at the Dairy Bell and were subject to a De La blitz in the first term that has interesting ramifications for the finals in a week’s time. It must be said that had it been De La Salle who surrendered to Old Xavs in a similar manner, the same aspersions would have been cast about them. Old Xaverians have had a tough run of late thanks to the winter rains and schedule which has seen them play three of four games in bog like conditions. Pretty football had to be sacrificed in favour of kicking off the ground, belting the ball forward and tough tackling heavy football. So when Old Xavs were faced with a wave after wave of running possession football in the opening quarter against De La Salle it was a shock to the system. However the question remains; with nothing to play for other than winning form, how much of Old Xaverians play in recent weeks has been foxing and how much of it is reality? This week’s round 18 preview of the second semi-final should tell us more. 
We start the review at Waverly Park where De La Salle put on a clinic in the opening quarter to slam on eight majors to one. Half of the goals came from the boot of Sam Pickett – who ended up with five for the day – and Brett Eddy is starting to move very nicely having missed so much football. To be fair to Old Xavs they managed to bring the game back to relative parity but still only had four goals on the board to three quarter time. A short burst from Xavs to start the final quarter got them to within five goals but it was as close as they got. The Williams boys – Jacob and Sam – Sam Haslem and Jacob Gotch controlled the midfield for most of the day for De La whilst Matt Handley was always a threat up forward for Old Xavs finishing with three of their seven goals. 
Old Scotch put any doubts of an implosion to bed early on at University Oval as the Cardinals led Uni Blues by 51 points at half time. The Blues having secured safety the week before, in the opening exchanges played like they had already had their Mad Monday as Scotch pressured them out of possession then executed accurately on the break, showing the confidence of a side on its way to September. Tom McKinley left off from his good form last week and he had good company with Gene Van Den Broek also dominant in midfield. Messrs Passador and Davis kicked three goals each as the Cardinals played quality football throughout. 
Collegians have also been building their form into finals like condition and there was no reason to let that form slip as they hosted St Bedes / Mentone Tigers at Harry Trott. After a tight first term the game opened up in the second as Collegians kicked five goals to two for the term. The third quarter was then very interesting as the home side were held goalless, registering just one behind whilst the Tigers got back to within a kick at the final change. The breeze played a part but nothing could stop the torrent of ball coming into the Collegians forward line in the final quarter. The Lions had 16 scoring shots to one kicking 10.6 for the quarter to blow the margin out to 11 goals. Shura Taft and Cam Lee both kicked four each for the home side with Josh Kamenar again playing well off half back.  Jaryd Robertson was best for the visitors while Paul Wintle was their only multiple goal kicker. 
Caulfield Grammarians had shown some solid form in recent weeks and the feeling was a win was just around the corner. The trip to St Bernards though is never an easy one and so it proved to be. Perhaps the Grammarians thought it would be a little easier having run Old Xavs close the previous week, but no game is easy in Premier and the Snowdogs have a proud record at the Snakepit. Six goals in each of the first two quarters was a great result for the home supporters in their last home game of the year. The goals kept coming after the break with Andrew Merrington on the end of seven goals out of his side’s 20 for the day. Chris Mitchell slotted a lazy six as St Bernards ran out winners by 11 goals. 
Something about Old Carey and Old Trinity brings out close matches. Perhaps it’s the neighbourly factor, or perhaps they just match up well. Old Carey were in control for most of the game but an Old Trinity fight back in front of their home fans for the last time in Premier section for at least a season got them to within five points of the Panthers. Both sides were flat after the results of the previous week, but perhaps Old Carey had just a fraction more to play for. They lifted enough to win by 15 points, but on checking the live scores app fans of Old Carey would have seen that Old Scotch had beaten Uni Blues. A final bitter pill for the season, the reward is another honourable 5th place for Old Carey in just their second season in Premier. 
The team of the year covers all 10 teams from Premier and has a solid mix of dominant backman, big marking forwards, in and under midfields complimenting the players that run all day. Congratulations to those that made it and thank you to all coaching panels that nominated players. 
B T Caven (St Bernards) T Carey (Old Xavs) J Baxter (De La Salle)
HB C Howat (Old Carey) L McQueen Miscamble (Old Carey) G Hamilton (Old Trinity)
C J Rowe (Old Carey) P Summers (Uni Blues) C Lee (Collegians)
HF N Ries (Collegians) J Watts (Uni Blues) T O’Sullivan (Caulfield)
F S Pickett (De La Salle) P Ambrose (Xavs) S Glennen (SBMT)
R S Neaves (Old Scotch) P Kean (SBMT) N Jamieson (Old Scotch)
I S Sherwan (Old Scotch) J Vickers (De La Salle) M Ball (Old Xavs)
T Zimbachs (Collegians)
This week: Final round of the season and we bid farewell to six sides from the running, two of who will drop and we say thank you to both Old Trinity and Caulfield Grammarians. Coincidentally they play each other this week and I believe Caulfield will win at home to avoid becoming the seventh side in the top section to have a winless season. De La Salle won’t miss at Old Carey and the Tigers will beat the Blues. Old Scotch will defeat St Bernards and Old Xavs will beat Collegians because they have to. 

Cue in the rack?
Last week certainly revealed all. Unfortunately football is not scripted and any romanticism that it would all come down to the last round of the season to determine who would be relegated and who would make finals evaporated last Saturday by a combined margin of just eight points. The visiting sides conquering the home teams of Bulleen Road in a day of high drama that left noise and frivolity in one set of rooms and quiet devastation of a season lost just next door. We now have two weeks of little consequence to ladder positions before the finals and who can remember the last time that happened? The only question is how many teams will put the cue in the rack?
Old Trinity will be planning for a year in Premier B next season. After trailing for most of the day against their relegation rivals University Blues, the home side rallied in the last quarter to close to within four points. However they ran out of time and will be ruing the costly misses from earlier in the day. At three quarter time Old Trinity had more scoring shots than their opponents kicking 3.12 to Blues’ 8.3. The inaccuracy cost them in the final quarter push with 3.5 to a solitary goal. Peter Summers again played well with three goals for the Blues while Brendan Iezzi and Fergus Stewart were key in the Trinity comeback. 
For the second time in two seasons Old Carey has lost a close late in the season to a side that will occupy fourth spot in their place. Last year it was Uni Blues by three points and this year Old Scotch celebrated a four point win in this virtual elimination final. Old Scotch kicked two goals in the opening quarter and were goalless for the next two but that didn’t stop them kicking four goals into the breeze in the final quarter to steal a famous victory for the Cardinals. Hamish Dick was everywhere and moved forward he dribbled a goal through from the pocket to close the margin to two points then Rob Ferraro slotted a banana out of the pack to hit the front with under a minute left. Tom McKinley was everywhere for Scotch and Julian Rowe likewise for Carey. 
Caulfield Grammarians almost caused a bigger upset than the one Uni Blues inflicted on Old Xaverians the previous week. For Caulfield they are getting closer to the elusive first win – with a real chance to get that win in the next two weeks. Toorak Park was a mess with both sides managing eight goals between them. Old Xaverians have hit a bit of a flat spot and whilst a win is good any time of year being run this close by a side that was already relegated will be of some concern. 
St Bernards have had an incredibly tough couple of weeks with the tragic passing of two much-loved clubmen. There were times during the game against Collegians it looked as though the home side might get up in honour of Harry Overman, but perhaps the emotion was a little too much. Just a point the difference at the final change the margin drifted to 33 as Collegians kicked five goals to zip in the final quarter. Courtney Hylton gets better and better each week and Nick Corp kicked three for the Lions
De La Salle joined Twitter this week and hinted that this was a must win game in order to secure finals. Their percentage suggests that their finals aspirations were never in doubt and perhaps this is why they lost to St Bedes / Mentone Tigers. The trip to Brindisi St is never easy and the form that the Tigers have shown in recent weeks suggests that early season injuries were costly. The Lasallian Chalenge Cup was won by the home side due to the work of Damien Waters, Pat Tyquin and Pat Kean. The match never scaled great heights with smothers and close checking a regular occurrence. Brett Eddy kicked zero goals seven behinds and perhaps the motivation just wasn’t there for De La who were all but safe in the four.
This week: With little to play for due to results last week, it will be interesting to see what teams run out and how committed everyone is at the contest.  Only a calamitous performance in the final two rounds from Old Scotch and wins from Old Carey can change the make up of the four. Old Scotch showed a resilience and perseverance last week and that should see them beat Uni Blues, who may relax now that they are safe. Collegians should be too strong for St Bedes / Mentone Tigers at home. Caulfield might sneak their first win out at St Bernards. and if its not this week it will be next week. With both sides feeling flat Old Carey should beat Old Trinity when they travel across the road but again wouldn’t be surprised if the OTs get up. De La Salle host Old Xaverians in the 96.5FM broadcast match of the day. I tossed a coin and it came up with De La Salle. 

Every week when casting an eye over the upcoming fixtures there is a certain trepidation of only selecting the form sides. In amateur footy there are always upsets and its often just a matter of picking which one it will be. Last week despite tipping the favourites in all games, the planets were aligning for an upset and it was just a matter of guessing which game it would be. 
Initial thoughts were that the upset would come via a win for Old Trinity or Old Carey. Trinity threatened Old Scotch but they couldn’t hold on and Carey never got going as Collegians played their best footy in recent weeks. Many were surprised to see it Uni Blues beating Old Xaverians when checking the live scores app and were maintaining their lead as the day progressed. Astute readers will note that the past two weeks I have suggested Old Xavs were not far away from having the loss they had to have but we shouldn’t take anything away from Blues who beat Old Xavs for the fist time in a couple of seasons. 

At University Oval Uni Blues trailed Old Xaverians at quarter time but in a low scoring match had edged ahead by three points at the main break. A strong third term where they kicked four goals to one gave the Blues a lead and the hope they needed going into the last. Peter Summers kicked three goals and Marshall Rippon and Charles Shaw were great for the Blues. Xavs lost top spot but have three weeks to build their form before finals. University Blues are in control of their own fate. The collective joy at the final siren was only marginally louder than the sigh of relief in securing a valuable four points. 

Collegians almost have their full squad back available and more importantly are back to some of their intimidating best as the brushed aside the threat of Old Carey at home. The ball spent large periods of the game in the Collegians forward half as Carey without Matt Laidlaw fell down badly across half forward. Carey led at quarter time but Collegians kicked 10 goals to four after that to win by 37 points. Cam Lee was best on ground for slick work across half forward and the centre line, contributing two goals as well. A close second was Nick Ries with four majors whilst Charlie Holst rounded out the votes repelling every Carey attack across halfback. 

Last time St Bedes / Mentone Tigers met Caulfield Grammarians the margin was reduced late by Caulfield side who charged home at Brindisi Street. This time the margin was the same but manor in which it was achieved was quite different. Caulfield led by 17 at the long break thanks to the good play of Dean Scheetz and Tom O’Sullivan in the middle. The third quarter was a reverse – on the scoreboard at least – of what happened in the second and the Tigers led by five points going into the last. The Tigers had to hold on against a desperate Caulfield side, Darcy Holden found space for a couple of goals and Simon Richards was in an under everything. Caulfield had three goal contributions from Tom Quinn and Will Edwards there is still reason to believe they will get a win in 2012. 

Last week it was about confirming that Old Scotch are back and I was almost made to eat my own words thanks to a desperate Old Trinity who came from 35 points down at quarter time to just five points down at the final change at Camberwell. Beware of the relegation threatened side as Old Trinity kept coming with Tim Walsh leading the goal kickers with four in the absence of Andrew Ramsden who did his hammy during the game. At the other end Mar Passador had no second-up issues as he slotted five following his four the previous week. Unfortunately for Trinity a goalless first quarter and catch up football is sometimes just too hard to keep going with all day. Old Scotch secured fourth spot back and Old Trinity are two games off safety with three to play. 

De La Salle were expected to come out firing after an insipid performance a week prior and that didn’t augur well for St Bernards. The Snowdogs have run out of steam in recent weeks but have played well enough at times this year to suggest it won’t be a short-lived return to Premier competition. Having secured safety in the division St Bernards have exposed more of their younger players to senior football in preparation for next year. De La Salle have used a large number of players as well this year but anytime you have 10 goal kickers six of the them kicking multiples then you are likely to win. Brett Eddy also second-up kicked five (four in the last quarter) as a five goal three quarter time lead was extended to 83 at the final bell. Messrs.’ Vickers and Jarvis led for De La whilst Josh Madden was best for the Bernies. 

This week will reveal all if two results on Bulleen road go the way of the visiting teams. If Old Scotch defeat Old Carey and Uni Blues defeat Old Trinity then the season’s key placing will be known. However that would make the last two rounds insignificant so we can’t have that. For the sake of the competition the Bulleen Road home sides will both win. Old Xaverians won’t drop two in a row on their visit to Caulfield, St Bedes / Mentone Tigers will push De La and might hold on to win and Collegians will produce against St Bernards as they fine tune their campaign. 

11.08.2012 Andrew Leonard 
What a turn around! That’s what the Old Scotch faithful would have been thinking as they watched goal after goal sail through against third placed De La Salle on Saturday. Only a week earlier the Cardinals had looked tired and at times uninterested against St Bedes / Mentone Tigers, so where had this come from? Earlier in the day Dean Anderson said it wasn’t a confidence issue his side faced and if you were at Camberwell on Saturday you would have to agree. Elsewhere St Bedes / Mentone Tigers assured themselves of Premier football action next year with a dominating win over St Bernards . 
De La Salle had eight changes to their side from the previous week but personnel alone shouldn’t explain the 81-point deficit at the final siren. Old Scotch played their best footy in the earlier part of the season when it was warmer and last Saturday the sun returned, the ground was dry and the Cardinal’s runners were everywhere. Games are determined in midfield and Nick Jamieson, Rob Ferraro and Lach Hill tore strips off a De La Salle midfield that had lost its grunt and depth. Sam Haslem and Jacob Gotch kept trying all day but when you throw in the Scotch forward combination of Mark Passodor – four goals on his return – and Max Van Den Broek (2 goals), De La Salle were in for a troublesome day. Brett Eddy returned for his first game in over a year and will only be better for the run. For De La, best just to wipe this one from memory, for Old Scotch, look out Carey in two weeks time. 
Teams in relegation trouble seem to find something in the final rounds that would have been helpful only a few weeks ago. For Old Trinity perhaps we saw the first signs of this in the final quarter at Toorak Park where they kicked seven goals against top side Old Xaverians. Unfortunately for the OT’s their opponents were coasting at that point thanks to a 35-point three quarter time lead. Xavs kicked five goals of their own in the fourth quarter, as did Brendan Goss for the day in an exhibition display of forward play. That’s 11 wins in a row for the red and blacks, the question remains will they have the customary “loss we had to have” before finals or are they just six wins away from a brilliant season. For Old Trinity, there is room to be optimistic, their form is better than their nearest rivals and they traditionally play well at their next destination of Camberwell Sports Ground. 
Old Carey was expected to win at home but had never beaten University Blues before this game. A seven-goal-to-one opening quarter put any fears of a slip up to bed early as the Panthers looked ‘on’ for this. As news of Scotch’s demolition of De La filtered through, Old Carey never relented extending the margin at every break to win by 75 points and maintain their percentage buffer on Old Scotch in the battle for fourth. The story though was Damien Yze who kicked 11 goals to break the club’s senior goal kicking record for a game – previously held by Vice President Michael Cooke. Carey also saw the return of Carl Peterson to the forward line who bobbed up with two goals, however the contributions of Alistair Stewart-Holmes, James Rimington and Simon Harris couldn’t go unnoticed. Pete Summers might be closer in the Woodrow Medal after his performance but that won’t help Uni Blues who now have the same percentage as Old Trinity. 
Collegians are the quiet achievers as they keep winning in an unassuming manor. Another 10 goal win against lower placed opposition is never going to grab the headlines, but the Lions will be happy with they way things are progressing.  Jack Bull, Jono Dixon and Shura Taft shared the goals again in the win over Caulfield Grammarians. Collegians have also increased their depth playing a number of U19s players in these middle rounds with all of this boding well for a tilt at back-to-back premierships. For Caulfield, Brett Sinclair was best on a day when yet again they lead at quarter time, were close at the long break, but fell away after that. 
In the final game at Sportscover Arena before finals St Bernards knew a win would leave them hovering to assume fourth spot should both Carey and Scotch slip up in the closing rounds. The Bernies didn’t fire a shot in the opening half as for the second time in two weeks a side was held goalless for a half at the home of the VAFA. Given the form that St Bedes / Mentone showed last week there was little surprise in the way they played. Paul “Rat” Wintle said on radio the previous day that 2012 hasn’t been his best year, but he defied that personal assessment with a display that saw him voted best on ground by the Inner FM commentary team. This was despite a virtuoso performance from Shaun ‘Rat Tail’ Glennen who kicked seven goals as the Tigers dominated then withheld a late St Bernards fight back to book themselves into the Premier fixture for 2013. 
This week’s broadcast match of the round on 96.5FM sees Collegians host Old Carey and last time they met it was a point the difference in favour of the Lions. At the Trott I can’t see Carey getting as close. Old Scotch should therefore assume fourth spot with a win over Old Trinity but as mentioned, there was something to like about the men in green last week, and don’t be surprised if they salute, however Scotch looked back to their best and will be too strong. Old Xaverians face Uni Blues at University Oval, whilst ‘the loss that had to have’ hasn’t materialized yet, it won’t be this weekend either. Caulfield Grammarians host St Bedes / Mentone Tigers and the Tigers are in blistering form and will be too good. De La Salle will bounce back against St Bernards. 

04.08.2012 Andrew Leonard 

Winning for safety
It will never rain the required amount of water for a city of our size again; the drought is here to stay, a desalination plant will save us all we were told. You could have fooled our footballers, who battled their way through the slosh on Saturday. Gone are the days when a sprinkle of rain during the week saves the groundsmen some watering duties, the grounds are taking a lot of water, some hold up better than others, but one thing is for certain, wet winter footy is well and truly back. Around the suburban grounds of Melbourne low scoring tight contests were prevalent in most matches, but as we all know, there are always exceptions to the rule. 
De La Salle are proving to be one of those exceptions at the moment as they won their fourth game in a row comfortably defeating Caulfield Grammarians at home by 57 points. 
Sam Williams was dominant, adding a goal to his slick work through the middle. So too was the skipper David Lowe, whilst Sam Pickett kicked four goals to help the home team extend their lead at every change. For Caulfield it was another case of putting in a good first half only to fall away after half time. Chris Game was good for the visitors but they failed to kick a goal in the final two quarters of the match. Against a De La side chasing a double chance, it makes for a tough Saturday afternoon. 
In recent years not too many sides have managed to hold Old Xaverians goalless for a half of football, Old Carey now hold that honour. Unfortunately the Panthers couldn’t hold on for victory in unbelievably tough conditions at Sportscover Arena on Sunday. Old Xaverians kicked a couple of goals at the start of the third term to arrest the lead, they added their third goal at the start of the last to extend the margin to a game winning lead. 
Old Carey tried to fight back and got to within nine points but the conditions and a bad miss from Damien Yze, 10 meters our directly in front cost the game a chance of the grandstand finish it deserved. Both sides were applauded from the ground at the conclusion of the match with the captains of both sides playing magnificently in the muddy slog. 
Expectations for University Blues to win this match, and ease relegations fears were not met as St Bernards proved too strong at University Oval. The conditions again played a part to keep the teams close, but when you don’t score in a quarter of football – as Blues failed to do in the second – it will cost your side victory. In fact Blues outscored St Bernards in two of the four quarters and it was all square in the last. 
However 4.5 to zero in the second quarter was enough to hand St Bernards a win that leaves them just a game outside the four. For University Blues, the loss leaves them looking over their shoulder for the remaining five games of the season.  For St Bernards it was a welcome return to the side of the Madden surname as both Josh and Luke kicked a goal each with Luke named best in the 19 point win. 
Old Trinity improved their deficit by 98 points from last week; unfortunately this week wasn’t any easier as they were playing the reigning champs Collegians. The home side fell 22 points short of the Lions in an entertaining game at Daley Oval. 
In wet conditions you need to take your chances and although a some of the 14 behinds that Trinity scored were conceded by an under pressure Collegians backline, the ball was in their home side’s forward line enough to suggest this game could have been closer.  When Collegians went forward they generally converted with Jack Bull, Shura Taft, Sam Hibbins, all booting two majors. Andrew Ramsden kicked his 50th goal for the season for the umpteenth time. 
Upsets are a part of footy and St Bedes / Mentone Tigers seven goal win over Old Scotch was a happy one for the home team. Yes, the Tigers were at home and ye,s Scotch had lost three of their last four but the difference between the sides on the day belied their positions on the ladder. St Bedes / Mentone Tigers started strongly, as they had the previous week, but their eight goal torrent in the second stanza ripped this game apart. The margin never dropped below four goals for the remainder of the day. 
Pat Keane was a star with over 30 touches and kicking three goals, but could have five with more accuracy. Luke Schumman was always a threat up forward for the Cardinals and whilst he managed three, the supply wasn’t great due to the extreme pressure put on the Scotch midfield delivering the ball. A great win for St Bedes / Mentone Tigers gives them breathing space from the threat of relegation and surely one more win would see them remain in Premier section next season. 
This week Collegians should account for Caulfield Grammarians at home and University Blues will find the going tough against Old Carey who should regain Julian Rowe and possibly Ben Smithwick for the clash at Dunshea. Old Scotch host De La Salle in the radio broadcast match of the day at Camberwell. Last time these sides met, De La Salle won a one-point thriller in round one. More polished now De La will be too strong for the Cardinals. 
Old Trinity play three of the top five in the run home and need to pinch wins from somewhere. I feel an upset brewing but can’t see them losing to Old Xaverians at Toorak park. The Sunday game at Sportscover Arena is St Bedes / Mentone Tigers and St Bernards, both sides are still mathematical chances to play finals but reality suggests they  might be too far back. On last week’s form the Tigers should win and book their place in Premier for 2013. 

28.07.2012 Andrew Leonard 
When checking the live scores app for scores from around the grounds on Saturday it appeared that three of the four lower placed sides were a chance of upsetting their higher placed opposition. 
However by the end of the day regular service had resumed, with all four higher placed sides recording good wins. Then on Sunday at quarter time it look like ninth placed Old Trinity had come to play against the third placed De La Salle as they led at the first change before an avalanche of goals from De La Salle ensured that Round 12 would be remembered as the week the top five asserted themselves over the bottom half of the section. 
St Bedes / Mentone Tigers arrived at Toorak Park to find excellent conditions for football and they started the game brilliantly kicking three goals in the opening three minutes to the main grandstand end of the ground. A six goal to one quarter ensued, and with the first two goals of the second quarter sending the margin out to 40 points a major upset was on the cards. But Xaverians are on a mission this year and as they did against St Bernards two weeks prior, their stronger bodies started to outmuscle the lightly framed Tigers.Firstly reducing the deficit to four goals at the long break, then arresting control in the third term to lead by a point at three quarter time and finally running on to win by five goals. 
Matt Handley kicked four but was shaded by the performance of his younger understudy, Pat Ambrose who kicked three. Matt Ball lead from the front and had Brad Rogerson, Nick Wynne and Michael Darvell all in support. For the Tigers the three Wintle brothers were strong contributors as was U19 Big V Captain Dan Garside. 
Old Scotch needed a win and they could have been excused for feeling nervous at half time against Caulfield Grammarians. It was a low scoring contest and importantly Grammarians had the lead at the long break. The second half was more of a reflection on where the sides were placed, led by Richard Eva (2 goals) and Tom McKinley (4) Old Scotch kicked nine-goals-to-five after half time to overrun the home side and keep in touch with the four. 
It was another good display from Caulfield without getting the result and there is no doubt they will be a side to be reckoned with next year, albeit in Premier B. Max Slonim was their best, kicking another three goals, the 30 point margin suggests the Fields are not far away from a win this year. 
The game that was hardest to predict, it was the visiting Old Carey who registered a win against St Bernards at the Snakepit to hold on to fourth spot from Old Scotch on percentage. Both sides looked to have enjoyed their week off in a first half arm wrestle where skill errors and the unlucky bounce of the ball cost both sides on occasions. St Bernards missed a host of chances at the end of the first quarter that would have given them a bigger buffer to defend, and another tight quarter in the second saw the Snowdogs lead narrowly at half time. 
Old Carey came out firing in the third term. The powerful kicking of Julian Rowe and Cam Howat, and strong bodies of James Rimington and Matthew Laidlaw were too much for a younger St Bernards side. Laidlaw kicked three of his five goals for the day in the third quarter in which the Panthers kicked eight to blow the game open. Tom Caven was outstanding at half back for the home side but he alone couldn’t stop the onslaught. The final quarter was a fizzer and a final margin of 35 points was all courtesy of that third quarter blitz. 
In good conditions at Harry Trott it was surprising to see such a lopsided score line, with both sides inaccurate kicking costing them throughout the afternoon. This was highlighted in the second quarter when Collegians kicked 2.9 for the term. The most costly quarter for Uni Blues was the last when they scored 2.5 for the quarter but the game was dusted at that stage. 
James Jorgenson and Shura Taft each booted three goals for the home side and Andrew Scott kicked ‘behind of the year’, spinning one way then the other to snap through a minor score. Peter Summers put in another solid display for the visitors – look out at the club B&F later this year – but it was all to no avail as Collegians extended the margin at every change to win by an even 50 points. 
This week the games take on some extra significance as both Old Scotch and Old Carey confront difficult matches in their bid for finals action. Old Scotch travel south to St Bedes / Mentone Tigers in Inner FM’s match of the day (96.5FM). The Tigers, matched it with the top side the previous week for a half and will fancy themselves at home to the Cardinals. Having made the mistake of tipping against SBMTs at home a few weeks ago, I will not repeat it – the home side to win in an upset. 
Old Carey host Old Xaverians on Sunday at Sportscover Arena (also a broadcast game) and after watching Xaverians last week I get the feeling that a loss is around the corner. Six games to go is as good a time as any, so in another upset, I am siding with the Panthers. 
Old Trinity host Collegians at Daley Oval and despite a 20 goal loss to De La, Trinity will fair better at home, although probably not enough to knock off Collegians. 
University Blues and St Bernards is a battle for mid table supremacy and I can see Blues winning this game at home. 
De La Salle might try to better their 20 goal win last week against Caulfield at home, but I can’t imagine an improving Caulfield lying down, having said that, De La Salle to win comfortably. 

21.07.2012 Andrew Leonard  
A week is supposed to be a long time in footy. How about a month? Four weeks ago Old Scotch were 2 games clear from fifth place and looking destined to play finals footy. 
Fast forward a month and Scotch have lost their last three in a row. Admittedly the past two against the best two sides in 2012 to date but dual coaches Powell and Anderson must be wondering how to regenerate the earlier season form for the Cardinals this week. 
They are outside the four for the first time this year and simply must win this week against Caulfield Grammarians to right the course of the ship in 2012.
Before we look forward we must look back and what a long way back two weeks ago seem now. Mid year breaks are a great chance for clubs to reset for seven more games of intensity that will either see them avoid relegation or go into September in top form.
In the weeks before the break Old Xaverians had found top form. Knocking off Collegians and Old Scotch in fine style before their trip to the Snakepit two Saturdays ago. St Bernards at home are a tough prospect and the Snowdogs certainly came to play with a cast of under 19 talent at their disposal. 
Andrew Grosso was brilliant kicking four goals in the third quarter and seven for the game, but unfortunately the youthful enthusiasm of he, David Wall, Simon Caven and Chris Peart wasn’t enough to outmuscle the experienced bodies of John Shaw, Damian Lynch and Tim Dynon who performed stubbornly all day for Xaverians. 
St Bernards had a dazzling third term, but Xavs rallied in the final quarter, and when Jake Williams kicked his third the game was out of reach for St Bernards. They fell short by just seven points.
Old Carey have found some form mid season and while many neutral observers might imply its down to a double dose of Yze, the locals believe it’s the increased consistency from their stable of stars and the development and extra experience of their youth to thank. 
The match against Caulfield Grammarians had the potential to be a game of how far Carey but Caulfield showed in passages that they could match it with Carey despite losing every quarter on the way to a 70 point loss. 
For Carey Brendan Huf returned to the side for his first game of the year and the 2010 R.I. Cordner Medallist provided another spark up forward for the Panthers kicking 2.3. That didn’t match Paul Fiorenza’s four or the work of Luke Maslin and Lach McQueen-Miscamble who controlled things off half back.
De La Salle had to be wary of a let down heading to University Oval. A win against Collegians the previous week was a good sign but consolidating their position against Uni Blues was vital if they were to be taken seriously as a premiership threat this year. 
Uni have also fond some good mid-season form to move clear of the relegation battle in recent weeks. The Blues took it up to the visitors, leading at quarter and half time in a low scoring battle. 
De La pressed hard in the third quarter and were it not for errant kicking (2.6), should have lead by more than eight points at the final change. It was a tense final quarter but University could never hit the front, De La securing a good away win by 15 points. No one doubting the Thomas’s at De La with both Moloney and Humphrey putting in fine displays. For the home side, Pete Summers continued his good form from last week to be their best.
In arguably the most important match of the round at <st1:street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Brindisi Street</st1:address></st1:street> it was the home side that prevailed over a desperate Old Trinity. I went for Trinity based on the form of both sides the previous week but going from Daley Oval to the confines of <st1:street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Brindisi Street</st1:address></st1:street> proved more of a problem for the OT’s than expected. 
St Bedes / Mentone Tigers had 31 scoring shots scoring at 45% accuracy; Luke Terrell was best bagging four. However had Trinity been online more often from their 28 scoring shots at 28% accuracy this game might have been closer. The costly middle two quarters brought the visitors 2.6 and 2.8 respectively. The 20 point margin at three quarter time seemed achievable but goals to Terrell – his fourth – Paul Wintle and Cam Hansen put the game beyond doubt for the Tigers. A great win in front of a huge luncheon crowd there to celebrate Vern Boag being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
On Sunday Old Scotch hosted Collegians at Sportscover with both sides needing to arrest a two-game losing streak before the break. Scotch had the breeze in the opening term and profited from its use to lead by 26 points at the first change. The Cardinals were good again in the second term restricting Collegians to four for the quarter and managing two themselves to hold a 13 point advantage at the long break. 
The breeze still favoured the scoreboard end in the third however Old Scotch only managed 1.3, outscored by a more desperate opponent to only lead by half a kick going into the last. James Jorgenson was moved forward for the injured Nick Sautner and had immediate impact, kicking two final quarter goals. Jono Dixon was a handful at half forward all day kicking three and continually presenting as a target. The Lions held Scotch goalless in the final term to run over the top of them for a 39 point win. From kicking five-goals-to-on in the first, Old Scotch only managed three more for the game opposed to 14 by Collegians.
This week: St Bernards host a rampant Old Carey and I think the visitors will prevail. Collegians are back at the Trott to Uni Blues with the home side to salute. It doesn’t get any easier for SBMTs as they travel to Toorak Park and it’s hard to tip against Old Xavs at present. Caulfield Grammarians will fancy themselves against Old Scotch but the Cardinals are made of sterner stuff, Scotch in a close one. Old Trinity are a much better side at home, unfortunately for them this week home is Sportscover Arena and that is not ideal for their chances, De La Salle to win on Sunday.
For all the latest Premier news follow Andrew on Twitter: @LennyVAFA

07.07.2012 Andrew Leonard 

The weather forecast foretold a torrid time for football on Saturday however the only rain for the most part was the rain of goals that were plundered by attacking sides.
Old Trinity needed to lift for the second 9 after a few bogeys in their final quarters of recent weeks.  Kicking five goals to St Bernards one in the opening quarter was the kind of start the home supporters would have craved. The locals banged on another five in the second term to be 54 points up at the long break. 
St Bernards, a game outside the four before the start had much to play for. Goals to big men Luke O’Sullivan, and Liam Wilkinson had the travelling Bernies supporters up and about. Murmurings in the crowd suggested that anywhere within 40 points was gettable against a Trinity side with a recent history of last quarter fade-outs. 
A six goal deficit at ¾ time was enough for a sniff. Unfortunately for the Bernies a sniff was all they got as Trinity rained goals on the Snowdogs to mimic the first term with five goals to one to a final margin of 10 goals. Ramsden kicked another four with Kristian Butler and Andrew Kyriacopoulos the leading lights around the ground.
Across the road at Old Carey’s Dunshea Oval it was a tighter contest early as St Bede’s / Mentone Tigers did well kicking into the breeze in the opening quarter to trail by only 9 points. 
Carey attacked into the breeze hard in the second quarter, but were wasteful hitting the post a couple of times in their 3.7 for the term, a running long goal to Steven Freemantle the highlight. Michael Wintle was everywhere for the visitors, with Carey supporters worried about the effect he and Pat Kean were having at the contest. 
However Carey’s kicked the first four goals of the third term which game them 45 point buffer going into the last. Despite the best efforts or Paul ‘Rat’ Wintle, the Tigers weren’t able to mount a comeback. 
Carey had a wider spread of good players, Cam Howat, Simon Harris, Ben Smithwick (3 goals) all on form and Adem Yze another three goals although none of those were in the last quarter. 
In the match of the day De La Salle hosted Collegians at Waverly Park and De La needed a win to maintain the push for a double chance in September. De La started strongly but were wasteful, kicking 4.8 in the opening quarter to Collegians solitary goal. The reigning premiers hit back hard in the second quarter with five goals and trailed by just three points at halfway. 
The final term had a 12 point advantage to De La Salle which was gobbled up by a couple of quick goals with Nick Sauntner bringing Collegians to within a kick. Sauntner finished with four for the game but ultimately is wasn’t enough as De La steadied and held on to win by 9 points. 
John Griffiths also kicked four for the home side and they now sit a game from a double chance and with a confidence boosting win like this will fancy themselves with eight to go.
The two former APS heavyweights, Old Xaverians and Old Scotch battled it out on the pristine fields of Xavier College. Xavs, in conjunction with the College were fostering closer ties with the school and what better way to do so than the football display they put on. 
The Cardinals jumped the home side early to lead by eight points at quarter time. Xavs played better football in the third term, kicking 5.4 to 2.2 to lead by two goals at the main break. 
Lachie Smith returned to the Xavs side and contributed two goals as did Andy Biddlecombe but it was the six from Matt Handley that was the difference. For old Scotch it was Nick Jamieson and Will Strange who managed a couple each but it wasn’t enough to stop a reverse of this fixture from earlier in the year. Xavs winning by 40 points to be outright top after 10 rounds.
The Sunday game at Sportscover Arena had many pundits thinking this would be that day that Caulfield breakthrough in 2012. Hosting University Blues at headquarters it was the fielders who started strongest kicking 3.3 to 1.3 much to the delight of Steve Lawrence. 
However the conditions dictated this would be a close game and the mood was anything from 8-10 goals would be enough. Blues started the fight back with a breeze towards the scoreboard end assisting them to three goals for the quarter and a half time lead of four points. The third quarter would be vital for the Grammarians chances, but they only managed a behind with the breeze at their back. 
The lights were turned on for the last quarter but it was only the students who benefitted. Pete Summers kicked 1.4 for the term, but was one of many Blues who lifted when it mattered for the final 30 minutes. Ian Prendergast was a star all day whilst Gavin Winter and Max Slonim shone brightest for Caulfield.
This week the game that holds most interest in terms of season defining is at Brindisi Street where ninth place St Bedes / Mentone Tigers host 8th place Old Trinity in the proverbial eight point game. The loser will fall back into the bottom two and after seeing both sides last week Trinity have the stronger form and will edge the Tigers in a close one.
St Bernards didn’t play well on Saturday but showed enough in patches to suggest they are a good side and back at the Snakepit will fancy themselves against Old Xaverians. However the ladder leaders are on another level at present and will win today. 
De La Salle travels to the University Oval against a Blues side who have found their groove in recent weeks. De La should bring Uni back to earth. Old Carey are building some good mid season form and had this match been at Glenhuntly they might have found this more challenging, Caulfield to wait another week for their first success. 
On Sunday Old Scotch host Collegians at Sportscover and the Cardinals need a win, so too do the Lions. In a toss of the coin, the side facing up was the colour purple. 

30.6.2012 Andrew Leonard

In trying conditions across most grounds tactical football was limited to thumping the ball forward or locking it in. The centre wicket area coating the midfielders in the familiar mid-winter muddy look, that makes a shower at half time a serious option for some. Not so for the hardened men of Premier. Many who follow amateur football suggest you shouldn’t anoint a premiership favourite until all teams have been played once. At the halfway point we have more information at our disposal to check where the preseason oracle has lead us astray. 
De La Salle travelled to the Snakepit and someone remarked when reviewing the quarter time score, that it must not have rained in West Essendon the past week as St Bernards piled on seven goals in the opening stanza. De La Salle had a similar lead at half time the previous week against Old Xavs and were overrun, so they knew it was possible it was just about finding a way. A three goal to one second quarter reduced the deficit 17 points at the long break. A five-goal-to-four third term had onlookers believing in the blue and gold with half an hour of football to play. However the Bernies are made of sterner stuff and with a five goal haul from Andrew Merrington they snuffed out any chance of a comeback and consigned De La to a brace of losses. 
For the first time in Premier football this season two sides outside of the four managed to defeat opponents firmly entrenched.  Old Carey managed to outlast Old Scotch at Camberwell by less than a kick bringing the Panthers back into the land of hope for those teams chasing finals. It was an arm wrestle all day with neither side managing more than two goals on end. Scotch lead by two at quarter, and three at half time before Carey lead by one at the last change and five at the final siren.  Carey will be happy that they stopped a good side from playing they way they wanted to with Nick Richardson applying the brakes on Lachie Hill. For the second time in two weeks Trevor Rowe sent star recruit Adem Yze forward and the last quarter specialist delivered again with two vital majors. For the visitors Cam Howat kicked three and had many friends in Lach McQueen-Miscamble, Richardson and Rob Josephs who contributed for four quarters. For the home side Tom McKinley was best with only Will Strange able to kick multiple goals. 
The top of the table clash saw undefeated Collegians host Old Xaverians at Harry Trott. The reigning premiers started brightly against the 2010 champs before Xaverians worked their way on top. The Lions led by 5 points at quarter time and within minutes of the start of the second the lead was gone.  A seven goal quarter from Xavs with Matt Handley superb kicking three, put the game into an ominous position for the hosts.  The big bodies of Handley, Pat Ambrose, Andy Biddlecombe and Damien Lynch in the forward line were troubling the Collegians defenders but more importantly they couldn’t win the ball out of the middle. A five minute period after half time saw a number of chances fall to Collegians as they pressed, Cam Lee missing three shots – two difficult snaps. Nevertheless seven behinds to one goal two still saw Xavs win the quarter. The last term was a fizzer with neither side kicking a goal. Xavs taking top spot at the turn for home along with their 37 point win. 
We are not quite at survival panic stations yet, but be sure the clubs in the bottom four of the section have it in the back of their minds that if you beat your nearest opposition in the clichéd eight point games, then survival is a step closer.  For University Blues they did just that an in doing so jumped over Old Trinity in another close one at University Oval. Former Blues coach John Kanis was riding every score update as it came through on the livescores app. Incumbent, Fergus Watts couldn’t be happier with the performance of Marshall Rippon, Peter Summers and Henry Weddell. For the vanquished, failing to score in the opening quarter was costly – Brett Barrett and Andrew Kyriacopoulos were the mainstays for the afternoon. 
In the other bottom four clash the hot and cold St Bede’s Mentone Tigers held out a fast finishing Caulfield Grammarians at Brindisi Street. Hot in the first term kicking 6.6, Mick Dwyer won’t be happy with the fact that the Tigers were both inaccurate and goalless in the last term (5 behinds). Furthermore his side allowed the winless ‘Fielders to charge home with 3.5 to wittle a 28 point ¾ time margin back to 10. Alas it was a bridge too far for Caulfield with inaccuracy costing them also.  Victoria U/23 captain and Big V senior representative, Tom O’Sullivan continued his strong form with best afield honours, while the hosts had the Senior Big V captain, Paul Wintle to thank for marshalling the defence to allow them to hold out for a valuable four points. 
To this week: De La Salle return home needing a win to maintain their right to a top four place. With Collegians as the visitor I like their chances of causing an upset. Old Carey should have beaten the Tigers in Round 1 and they should make up for it winning their third game in a row. Old Trinity need a win but the visitors St Bernards have a sniff of fourth spot – The Greens in a close one for me. Old Xavs will be looking for revenge for their loss to the Cardinals in round three, and at Toorak Park they will get it. The final game is on Sunday as footy returns to Sportscover. Caulfield are getting closer to breaking through but Headquarters is a happy hunting ground for the Blues. Had it been at Glenhuntly I might have been swayed, its not, so I won’t. 

Round 8 set nothing in stone but provided a good few signposts for the way home. For those clubs outside the four, it’s going to be tough to find a spot on the September bus, provided, of course, the top teams keep winning. Given their form thus far, it’s hard to see them doing otherwise, save when they play each other. The race to avoid the drop may yet draw a lot of nominations. As always, we shall see . . .
Old Scotch and Uni Blues have had some ding-dong struggles in recent years and it has usually been the Varsity emerging on top. That was then, this is now. The Cards are riding high and Blues are struggling. Coming off a hammering from the Brindisians, Blues showed pluck early but were again totally outclassed and outplayed by the slick Red Men. What is it? The new coaches? The new jumper? No more red shorts? Whatever, it’s all working out Camberwell way. Luke Schumann, playing his second senior game, slotted five and the Dancing Machine that is Gene, Gene van den Broek another four to further boost his rookie of the year chances. There were also some strong performances from the back six and the Caledonians careered away. U19 eligible Pat “Chauncey” Gardiner debuted well, while Jack Watts again put his hand up and Marshall Rippon did likewise in another Batman and Robin episode. But a dynamic duo needs more help than it’s getting right now. Varsity added just a goal in the middle quarters to Scotch’s nine and when they revved in the final stanza with four, the Reds added another nine.
Caulfield Grammarians again began well but their luck ran thin when Collegians got going. They have led all three top teams over their past three home games, but the happy ending still eludes them, despite the four quarter effort of Tom O’Sullivan, who should poll mighty well in the Woodrow and might even win it if the aforementioned Caped Crusader doesn’t grab his second. Sundberg and Scheetz gave plenty too, but the Lions roared on, with Taft, Ries and Lee bagging fourteen between them. With their share of injuries and quite a number of guns playing in the Twos, things look to be humming along very nicely at the Trott. 
Just how nicely we may discover this week when the Purples host Xavs in a bout for the mid-minor premiership. The Red and Blacks began brightly against De La but the Blue and Golds had a strong finish into the wind in the first term to turn square. DLS’ second term was all energy and they added six goals to two, with their stark advantage in leg speed sending a massive shiver down the collective spine of the Toorak Park faithful. The difference was four goals at the long break, but in the tea-room, there was gloom among veterans of campaigns past, with predictions thrown about with more abandon than De La runs the football. A five-goals-to-none third term, in which Xaverians thoroughly mastered the visitors, gave them a chance and a resolute final term saw them home with some late goals, including a bomb from a pressure set shot from the youngster Louis Tiernan. The bright spots for DLS were the great form of Leigh Harrison and the Humphrey Bros, while Xaverians John Shaw and Cameron Purss ensured victory at the many stoppages.
For the second time in two years, Old Carey broke Old Trinity’s hearts. In a gripping affair at Dunshea, the Greens looked to have the ascendancy and the points in the bag. They led by 34 points in the final term. Then, in the gloaming, the Panthers’ latest boom recruit, Adem Yze had a quarter that will live long in the memory of Carey fans, plundering the defence for five goals. Bas Simpson was a grand contributor, shutting down the Ramsden threat, while Cam Howat and Julian Rowe went about their quality business. For the vanquished, Kristian Butler, who had a ripping third stanza, and Pete “Tape” Mescher were the pick of the bunch.
The Sunday feature at the Park between 2002 premiers St Bernard’s and 2008 premiers St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers was a much anticipated affair. The two teams had never met and while the Tiges fielded their strongest outfit for the year, they couldn’t go with the Snow Dogs after the first term. Jake Bevanda was best afield and he had plenty of help as the Bernies got away from the Seasiders and never looked back. The Tigers, who had enjoyed a good fortnight, looked unsure and lacked finishing skills. 
THIS WEEK: It’s a happy circumstance that sees the first half conclude with a clash for top spot. Collegians greet Xavs and while the visitors’ win last week was full of merit, it’s hard to see them repeating the dose. The Purples are strong and deep, but then again, they might not have faced opposition this strong in a while. The Tiges are back home to face Caulfield Grammarians and will go in as the heavy favourite. Old Scotch has a danger game against Old Carey. The Panthers will push the Red Birds, but the home team’s tall timber might be the difference. Uni Blues are desperate for a win and their eight-point clash with Old Trinity won’t be a place for faint hearts. The home ground is a fortuitous advantage for the Varsity. De La Salle travels to the Snakepit knowing that second spot is up for grabs. Bernies will be ready, but will they be good enough?

We’ve had a fortnight to reflect on the progress of the season and the chatter around the boardrooms, the halls of justice and the corridors of power, not to mention the fashionable saloons, is all about things being written in ink or set in cement. So try if you will, to pick them in finishing order from one to ten. Not easy, particularly as the next three weeks could see the cocktail stirred again. Prognosticate if you will, but there’s much unseen before R18.
Round 7 was played without Big V U23 representatives and some teams were minus more than others. Old Trinity has enjoyed a great record against Old Scotch in recent years and indications from the first bounce at Marles were that such fortune might continue. It lasted only until the second term, when the Reds first caught, then passed the Greens and played ‘catch me if you can’ for the afternoon. Will Strange and Adam Houlihan were in great touch again and Gene “The Dancing Machine” van den Broek showed again he won’t settle for being in the shadow of his taller and older brother. Trinity was far from disgraced, with Brett Barratt outstanding and some solid efforts from Ned Hunt and Rob Humann.
Caulfield Grammarians, spurred on by the announcement that this would be Ben Carboni’s last game, was fierce at the contest and better with the football. However, as had happened against De La Salle a fortnight prior, just when the Fieldsmen were on the verge of breaking their opponent, the retribution came hard and heavy. Xaverians found the ball and the space they had been craving, restoring their lead and then galloping away. Justin Perkins and Tom Sundberg were in good touch, Carboni showed for the final time what a grand competitor he has been, while Louis O’Keefe was strong up forward. The Red and Blacks got five from Matt Handley, while the steadiness of Brad Rogerson and Ollie Gidley were handy in an unusually inexperienced Xavs lineup.
Collegians had to fight to shake off St Bernard’s but did in the end to win comfortably. Cam Lee has hit a purple (pun entirely intended) and with Chris Blumfield, Barclay Dixon and James Jorgensen controlling it in the middle, the Lions accelerated and moved away. Mick Angel and the reliable Jake Bevanda were strong and Mitch Church chimed in with three. It would appear on recent form that the Snow Dogs have a problem with their second halves on the road. They conceded fourteen second half goals while kicking only four themselves. The Purples? It’s hard to see how they’ll be beaten at all, but watch this space.  
De La Salle managed to keep Old Carey at bay for the afternoon, with Matt Hine playing his best game yet for the Bellers. It’s a tough job to make the best players two weeks running at DLS because the team is laden with talent. Jack Vickers continued to shine, as did Luke Semmel, in a very solid team effort. The Panthers got another four from Damien Yze and were well served by Julian Rowe and Rob Josephs, along with Brett de Leijer, but just didn’t have the guns to battle the Blue and Golds.
The shock of the day came under the spires where the half-time score had the history buffs reaching for the record books to find University Blues biggest ever losing margin at home. Given they were seventy-nine points behind as the fans repaired to the sausage rolls and scones, it was no wonder. St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers, who had hinted at good form the previous Saturday, came out roaring. Nine in the first, eight in the second, a quieter three in the third and a happy six in the last brought joy to Brindisian hearts not felt since the Beveridge days. Shaun Glennen and George Rowlands played out of their skin, with fifteen between them and Michael Wintle was back to his very best. Jack Watts, again a tower of power, with Peter Summers and Marshall Rippon battled hard but blues conceded twenty-six and nobody wins with that happening. 
THIS WEEK: How the worm turns. Late last season, Uni Blues had the opportunity to end the Cardinals’ long stay in Premier section. Today, the sandshoe is on the other foot, as Old Scotch greets the Varsity, hoping to put it in further trouble. The Panthers will help Old Trinity across the road and will then hope to send them packing. Old Carey needs a win, but so too the Ts and this battle of Bulleen will be an intriguing affair. Caulfield Grammarians plays host to Collegians, a daunting prospect for any team. That it’s 7-0 versus 0-7 is a scary thought, top versus bottom, but nothing lasts forever. The clash at Toorak Park between Old Xavs and De La Salle has been eagerly anticipated all season. Last year, De La was down, nearly out, recovered, hit the front and was ahead until the last ten seconds. This season, De La has looked the more capable outfit, though we know too much to suggest that this game will decide no more than ladder position, and even that will be temporary. Still, it will be intense and fast and show all that is good about VAFA football. St Bernard’s from the north and the Brindisians from the south meet at the Wick on Sunday. It will be the first time these clubs have met and it is sure to be an interesting contest. After last week, one might favour the Seasiders, but who can be sure.
Friday’s severe weather cast a pall over expectations of fast and furious football, but Saturday dawned calm and brightly enough too and the grounds were sufficiently firm to promise some spectacles. 
Only at the Snakepit did the scoreboard not register 150 points, but the result there was a twin turnaround from last week. St Bernard’s, smashed last week and Uni Blues, close to their best , met in a struggle of wills. Regular combatants in practice matches over recent years, they met with four critical points on the line. The Varsity travelled without Nash and Caldow, who had kicked ten between them against Carey and the Snow Dogs kept their other scoring options sufficiently quiet. The Bernies booted six in the first term and that, as they say, was that. Andrew Merrington was strong for the Pitters and Tom and Simon Caven were ever reliable. Al Austin came up trumps for Blues and Llewyn Butler showed promise, but the help wanted for ruckmate to Jack Watts goes unanswered still. Where have you gone, Tim Muhlebach, Gil McLachlan, Mick Yeo, Tim Standish?
Xavs travelled to Brindisi Street and opened with six goals. Dominant from the outset all over the ground, they threatened to inflict some real damage on the Tiges. Beat them they did, but by the same margin that separated them at the first change. Pat Kean continued his fine form and Michael Curcio was a dangerous forward, while Luke Wintle, who would probably rather go forward, battled hard in the ruck. Michael Darvell was brilliant early, while Nicks Wynne and Dimattina gave the Red and Blacks plenty of dash from defence. When St Bede’s Mentone Tigers threatened to finally seize the initiative, it was Wynne who burst through the middle and slammed a long goal to put Xavs back on the rails.
Steve Lawrence returned to Camberwell but the result was not as friendly as the greeting. Old Scotch did his Caulfield Grammarian team no favours, inflicting on it a sixth successive loss. It is a new experience for a club that has won so many games over Lawrence’s previous three years. While the Fieldsmen have not plumbed such depths in a while, the Cards have not ridden as high for some time either. Lachie Hill, Al Pike and Will Strange proved valuable around the sticks and big Max van den Broek returned to add some height. At the other end, the Fieldsmen seem to be lacking that big target to keep the scoreboard ticking over. When it slowed Scotch in the third term, Caulfield was itself becalmed and while it took its chances in the fourth, so too did the Cards. Matt Kremmer was best for the visitors and Tom O’Sullivan and Louis O’Keefe strong contributors.
Collegians were missing key forwards but Carey had a casualty room full of stars too, with eight of its best twenty-two in bandages. The Panthers began the brighter and finished the stronger, but fell short by just a solitary point with the ball headed into their forward arc. A tough loss, their second in this young season by less than a goal, and it stung. Damien Yze kicked five and Jarrod Reid two, while Nick Richardson continued to impress. Still, whatever the makeup of the Lions lineup, they are hard to beat. Competition for spots promotes excellence and this day they had it from Chris Blumfield, Nick Ries and the much under-rated James Kondarovswkis, while Cam Lee is finding Premier football much to his liking. 
For the second week running, De La Salle’s kicking for goal was prodigal. It could hardly have blamed the conditions, given that Old Trinity didn’t miss at all, their only minor score being a rushed effort. The Blue and Golds showed more system, more run and more power, but as had happened last week, they trailed midway through the third term. Andrew Ramsden booted his sixth and then the Ts kicked another to see them go ahead by 18 points. Enough? Well it was for De La, who then unleashed a 77-1 point assault to smash the Greens to pieces. The efforts of Ts’ young guns Callum Pohl, Matt Brown and Eddie Weatherson, not to mention the aforementioned ageless colt at the goalfront went for nought as De La defended, repelled and linked like a team for whom September beckons. Sam Williams and his younger brother Jake were splendid and left-footed Lukes Jarvis and Semmel superb. Sam Pickett, Matt Moore and Nick Roberts were always dangerous and with Leigh Harrison and Brett Eddy not too far away, things are indeed looking up.
With the Queen’s Birthday bye next week, this is often the round where teams rest a few of dubious fitness. Nice chance, if you have that luxury: if not, you soldier on and hope the one-week break is enough. Then there is the Big V U23 team, which plays Sunday and will affect selection of many clubs. Old Trinity welcomes Old Scotch to renew their rivalry. The Cards have struggled at Marles but will likely get up here unless the Greens use the spaces, which they didn’t do well last week. Caulfield hosts Xavs and an upset here seems unlikely, with the Red and Blacks having too many options up forward and the meanest defence in the caper. St Bernard’s will be up and about but will find it tough going at the Trott against Collegians. Blues return home and St Bede’s Mentone Tigers come in. The Brindisians always get up for this one and will be tough. Should the Varsity fail here, the road ahead appears long, winding and all uphill. De La hosts Old Carey and with the Panthers’ list so thin, anything but a comfortable home win would surprise. Then again, VAFA football so often does.





The feature event over thirty-two hundred metres at Flemington last Saturday was named after Andrew Ramsden, who served 21 years on the committee of the VRC. As the field raced down past Chiquita Lodge, the other Andrew Ramsden, who has spent even longer in a green and gold footy jumper, was creating havoc at Bulleen. The Greens had an absorbing tussle with St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers, but in the end, beat them on the Daley for the second year on end. Gabe Hamilton again impressed for the Ts as did recruit Dan Chamberlain. But it was the Woodrow Medallist Brendan Iezzi who provided the midfield inspiration that allowed the oldest colt in the business, the big fella, Rambo plenty of opportunities. Given the chance, he rarely disappoints and he didn’t this day. The Brindisians’ trademark inaccuracy cost it in the first three terms and when Trinity rolled in the last, the efforts of Pat Kean, and youngsters Cam Hansen and Luke Hulse were not rewarded.

The other Jack Watts had to wait until after sundown to amass thirty-five touches while wandering like Moses in the desert, without opponent in the Demons’ backline. Earlier in the afternoon, under the spires, Jack Watts had a similar number of touches across half back, half forward and on the ball. Most of these were contested. While Jonno Nash and Josh Caldow were the scoring mainstays, it was again Jack Watts who powered the Varsity to a win over Old Carey.  The Panthers began brightly and established an early lead. They looked winners until mid way through the third term when Blues blasted back to lead by 21 points at the last turn. There may have been question marks about their ability to run out the fourth quarter, but not this day as they booted six goals in the stanza to post a big win. Ben Smithwick and Adam Josephs were again prominent for the vanquished and Damien Yze was a master converter despite the work of Al Austin and his fellow defenders.

On 3 July, 1863, Maj. Gen. George Pickett led a infantry charge on the Union Army of the Potomac’s II Corps near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It failed. Last Saturday, at Glenhuntly Oval, De La Salle’s Maj. Gen. Sam “Frankie” Pickett roamed the forward line for three quarters and picked up possessions at will. In the final term, he kicked six straight goals to put Caulfield Grammarians to the sword. The first half was a cracking affair, with DLS recruit John “1F” Grifiths booting six in a classic small forward effort. He was front and centre more times than Bert and Patti and it paid dividends. Nick Roberts has had a summer split between the gym and the dining room, or so it appears, yet his speed has suffered none. Despite their work, DLS led by just three goals at the long break, with James Shanahan, Tom O’Sullivan and Declan Reilly all prominent for the home team . After half-time, the Fieldsmen upped the ante big time, slamming on three goals in quick succession to take the lead and get the crowd buzzing again. Then it happened in a hurry.  “You call that a knife: This is a knife” came to mind as De La smashed the accelerator to the floor and smashed Caulfield to smithereens to restore the lead and up the ante again. Were it not for some wasteful kicking, it might have been ugly. That nightmare became a reality in the final term as De La straightened up and kicked another nine. It was a performance of remarkable brutality against a team that is 0 and 5 yet is still very capable.

Old Xaverians flexed its muscle at home against St Bernard’s.  The Red and Blacks were clinical in the first half, but ruthless in the third term, when it put the game beyond any doubt. With Michael Darvell dominant through the middle and an in-form forward trio of Pat Ambrose, Damian Lynch and Brendan Goss, the Snow Dogs couldn’t match it. When the visitors went forward, they hit the wall, with a talented and swarming defence blanketing goal threats Andrew Merrington and Brendon George.  Tom and Simon Caven plugged away with unflinching heart for the Bernies, but Xavs had too many winners. Several Xavs’ fans expressed pleasure at the debut of Dan Harangozo, who showed great promise. 

Sunday’s clash at the Ponderosa saw Collegians too strong for Old Scotch. Missing a few of its frontliners, the Cards were always going to find this a tough assignment. To be sure, the Lions fielded a few irregulars themselves, though their list runs deeper than most, if not all other clubs. Courtney Hylton again proved a strength across half-back and Cameron Lee showed effective dash all afternoon. The Redmen had drive from Shane Neaves and a strong showing from Will Strange, though he lost his partner in crime Mark Passador before the break. The reigning premier eschewed accuracy, the main culprit being Nick Sautner, who finished with 2.6 and ended his day in the hands of the physios. Jono Dixon was in fine touch, James Kondarovswkis and Lachlan Ferguson all dash. For the Cards, Sam Thompson was strong in defence, and young guns Gene “Dancing Machine” van den Broek and Nick Jamieson very effective players. Despite being headed at one stage after a Cardinal spurt, the Lions always looked comfortable and doubled their opponents’ shots on the afternoon.

THIS WEEK: The Panthers are at home to the Lions in an absolute must-win for Old Carey. It’s a very tough assignment, all or nothing at all for a club with finals’ aspirations. Old Scotch licks its wounds and gets a visit from the Fieldsmen in Steven Lawrence’s return to Camberwell. I can’t see the Cards showing their old mate any mercy, but they wouldn’t want to underestimate them either in this danger game. The Brindisians return home but know that one of the few times they have lost at home has been to the incoming Xaverians. The Red and Blacks should win here in a tough game, but will need to adapt to the smaller ground and the inevitable winter conditions. St Bernard’s take on Uni Blues in the “Bernie Angel/Boomer Baumgartner Cup”. This will be an engaging romp, with both teams desperate for the points. Who stops Jack Watts? The free-entry Sunday fixture features De La Salle and Old Trinity. The Greens customarily play well on the wick, but so too do their opponents. On last week’s form, the Bellers look too strong. Matt Moore, Leigh Harrison and Brett Eddy are going to be returning soon and the T’s will be a wishin’ and a hopin’ and a prayin’ it’s not this week.



That the walls of Brindisi were not only breached, but flattened, is either a measure of the changing fortunes of the Seasider ballclub or else a statement about the continued mastery of the Trotters. The two clubs played off in 2008 and again last season and each has worn laurels. I’m suspecting their next September meeting will have to wait another year. The Mentone faithful saw a typical contest in the first and a brave comeback in the third, but the rest of the way, particularly the last term, was plunder, pillage and sack that brought to mind William Tecumseh Sherman’s 1864 March to the Sea. This time, the general was Nicholas Alexander Ferdinand Sautner, who had five before the lemons and added another six in the final term. With Dan Strachan, Cam Lee and Lachy Ferguson in ripping form, the Lions had a midfield that created massive opportunities for the sharpshooter, who repaid their generosity in full.   George Rowlands booted three for the Tiges and Luke Wintle did all in his power to lift the team, though in the end, resistance was futile.

After looking impressive at times in its first three starts, Caulfield Grammarians might have believed it would break through for a much-needed win on the Daley. Then again, the Fieldsmen wouldn’t have seen too much of Andrew Ramsden in recent years and while the visitors looked better early, the day ended poorly with a forty point loss. The new boys on the block were sacrificed for another Rambo holiday. The Howells, Nick and Ben, were again excellent in Green and around the goals, while Tommy O’Sullivan continued to show his undoubted class with some help from defender turned attacker Dean Scheetz and Ben Hyland.

Old Scotch and St Bernard’s displayed contrasting styles in their game at the Snakepit. The home team might have done more with the first quarter wind, but otherwise kept pace and at one stage near the end threatened to make an unlikely theft of the premiership points. The new Cards responded and rapidly put those ideas to bed. Gus Gray and Scott Sherwen were bright sparks and Lachlan Hill a very effective forward for the Scotsmen, while the Snow Dogs were led by Toms Caven and Overman as well as Alex Singleton, whose left foot goal from the the pocket in the third term brought the house down.

No-one watching the game at Waverley Park seemed quite ready to call the result until the home team was well past the post. The game was a tense battle with a couple of very imposing figures – Jack Watts for the visitors, who has been in Woodrow form for three weeks and Frankie Pickett for De La, who will have his best-ever season if he can stay healthy. After a hard-hitting scrap in the first half, De La got its nose in front by the lemons, though some of its pessimistic partisans still dreaded defeat despite a fourth-term downhill downwind advantage. They needn’t have worried. The home team sent Blues to their third lost final term of the young year and their third loss overall. It was good to see De La’s Justin Baxter in fine form again after a shocking injury twelve months ago, while Ben McConnell is also enjoying top form for the Varsity.

Wind and rain greeted the teams in a Mothers’ Day matchup of Barkers’ Road alumni at headquarters. Given the conditions, it was a slick affair, with both teams possessing skillsters who can shine in any clime. Nick Wynne and Andy Biddlecombe were virtually impassable across half back – those balls that did get through were snaffled by Damien Yze, who got full value for his kicks. Missing the imposing Chopper Handley up front, Xavs found plenty through Brendan Goss, Damian Lynch and Paddy Ambrose. Ben Smithwick and Sam Cust showed class and poise for the Panthers, but once the Red and Blacks broke it open in the lengthy second stanza, they never looked like surrendering the lead.

THIS WEEK: DLS heads across the Princes to meet Caulfield Grammarians. Frankly, the Fieldsmen are a better team than results indicate, but there will be no mood for any more honourable losses at Glenthuntly. They’ll find this tough, but they’re all tough in Premier. The Greens welcome the Brindisians and will be confident of beating them again on the Daley. Still, no team can fiddle with form like the Ts do. Big bad Bernies head to Toorak Park for the first time in five years and longer term fans will be mindful of some of the great battles between these two ballclubs early last decade. This will be a tense battle and will go down to the wire. Blues are back under the spires to clash with Carey. It might be heavy under-foot, which will suit the home team. Both need a win and it will be close. On Sunday at 1:20, on another FREE Sunday at Sportcover, it’s Collegians versus Old Scotch. A big, big test for the Cards and I think they’ll come through with flying colours, though it may not mean the four points.




Santa, wearing red, arrives early.


It was Christmas in May as the Red Men’s “Jingle Bells” theme song echoed around Camberwell on Saturday afternoon, signalling the end of a long stretch of Xaverian dominance over the Cards. What all this means we will not know until later, but for now Scotch can look ahead with confidence and without fear. Its victory was convincing enough. It began well, pressed hard and withstood the inevitable challenge when it did come. Mark “El Condor” Passador played his best game for the club and Shane Neaves, who duelled with Cam Purss at the stoppages, did likewise. Sam Barnett returned to top speed and the defence did a great job of shutting down the Xavs forward setup. Only Brendan Goss, who booted four, reaped reward for his efforts, while Pat Ambrose again showed some form.  

St Bernard’s waited until after the long break to kick its first goal, but then added another four to climb back into the contest with Old Carey. Still, their hope was short-lived, as Ben Smithwick hurt the Snow Dogs and the goals came from Damian Yze and Julian Rowe and the classy duo of James Rimington and Carl Peterson got in on the act too. Andrew Merrington was a strong target for the Bernies and Toms Caven and Overman kept the flame burning on an otherwise dirty afternoon.    

Nick Sautner did not produce the prodigious numbers he did last time against the Ts and Collegians had to be satisfied with a hard-fought and slightly uncomfortable win. The Ts led at the half, though one sensed that inaccurate kicking had a bit to do with that, and it was not a surprise that the reigning premier stepped up the pressure in the third stanza. While Shura Taft and Nick Reis booted three for the Lions, the tireless and ageless Andrew Ramsden responded with six, a massive effort given that the Greens managed just eight for the day. Fergus Stewart and Luke Pacconi were in fine fettle for thevanquished, while Colls had plenty from Courtney Hylton, a worthy recipient of this week’s Rising Star award.   

At headquarters, Uni Blues looked quite comfortable for the first half and beyond but as the third quarter wound down, the Fieldsmen jumped back into the game and threatened to steal it. Sadly for them, the classy Tom O’Sullivan missed one he would regularly nail and the momentum disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived. Jack Watts was again best for Blues and he had some strong assistance from Will Cuningham and Charles Shaw, while Andrew Lowcock is still a constant threat. In the thin white hoops, Max Slonim and Dean Scheetz were solid allies for the aforementioned O’Sullivan, but the Gladiators of Glenhuntly went home still winless. The Varsity won its first points for the season and in doing so showed signs of really putting its game together.   

De La Salle hosted its La Sallian cousin St Bede’s/Mentone Tigers and showed it no mercy. Once again, the Seasiders were slower to begin and by the half, the game was well and truly over, given the conditions, which were described by one observer as “appalling”. Still, the condition of the ground did not seem to worry the home team, which kept the thumb on its opponent even after the result seemed certain. Sam Williams made a welcome return for the Blue and Golds and he and Jake Gotch seemed to enjoy chewing up the kilometres. Frankie Pickett booted three, Nick Roberts was again handy and the Brindisians could not find answers up forward.     

THIS WEEK: De La meets Uni Blues at Waverley and the conditions will be similar to last week’s.  The home team may make some forced changes but may be a bit stronger. The Varsity won well here last year but might find repeating that dose a tough ask. Old Trinity returns to Daley for its clash with Caulfield Grammarians. As it has sorted itself in the first three weeks, this becomes a must-win for each team. The heavier it is, the better chance for the home team. What will Rambo do this week? and will the Fieldsmen get a strong return from their talls? The Brindisians will defend the fortress against Collegians, who have not won at Mentone in this current epoch. Form and cast list would both indicate that the perfect record will be broken, though I have a funny feeling about this one. St Bernard’s head back to the Snakepit hoping to catch The Cards still celebrating their R3 win. Back in the day, St Bernard’s was about the toughest place to win in all of football and the cognoscenti are hoping for a return to those times. It’s a big game and the Cards will not tolerate dropping this one. On Sunday at headquarters, (where admission is free throughout the home-and-away season) Xavs and Carey celebrate Mothers’ Day with a match-up that both sides are desperate to win. Coming off a loss, one would expect the Red and Blacks to be very tough, particularly in the ruck. “Chopper” Handley will miss after pleading guilty before his appearance in front of the stipes and his influence will be missed on the Ponderosa. Old Carey has a lot of class, but will need its forwards to kick a score.

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