By Andrew Leonard – @Lennytalk
First to the fairytale. De La Salle was 1-8 at the halfway point of the year and destined for Premier B. They have effectively played nine sudden death finals in a row and now they get the privilege of playing a 10th. Congratulations, it is one of the great narratives of the year. Clubs in similar predicaments will reference the De La scenario for years to come. De La booked an unlikely September date with a win over Beaumaris. The nightmare could have occurred for any of three clubs. Old Scotch were the ones to realise it though. Falling to rival Old Xaverians any time is worn poorly by the Cardinal faithful. However, that it was the Xavs that sent them packing back to Premier B for the first time in 35 seasons will make the pill all the more bitter to swallow.
Mark Passador said on Inner FM on Saturday morning that the first port of call was to win and trying to win by a certain margin was fruitless unless they could secure the four points. Alas Old Scotch was never in a winning position throughout the 120 minutes. They kicked the first goal of the game, but home supporters had little to get excited about from there on. Xavs brought their A-Game or rather a modified version of a game plan that has served them so well over the past two decades. Contested football, multiple repeat stoppages and then finally once the battle of attrition was won, quick ball movement that resulted in a goal seemingly against the play. The good news is that Passador has been re-signed. The re-build for the Cardinals should be a positive experience. They are certainly not a Premier B side, but bouncing straight back can be a challenge if everyone is not on board. Old Xaverians will have their own re-build. Mercuri, Cadyn Beetham, Larkins and Ball are all on the wrong side of 30, Allan and Handley will join that group next year. Premierships are hard to win with that age profile. What’s more three of those names were in the Xavs’ best last week.
If you didn’t have a good week, check out the vision at the final siren of last week’s game between Uni Blacks and Collegians. The scenes of jubilation and emotion shown from the Collegians players on the realisation they had avoided relegation is what makes this competition so great. Blacks players too looked crestfallen, clearly oblivious to the fact De La Salle had already ensured they wouldn’t play finals. The Gay, that’s OK! Game was both a celebration and a serious contest for both sides and Blacks (or rainbows as they were for the day) took the game by the scruff of the neck early. Blacks had the game under control before Collegians stormed home with 7 straight final quarter goals. Every one of them celebrated like they were on the way to another premiership. It was heart-warming stuff. Congratulations to both clubs for the support they gave the day. Collegians live to breath another day, whilst Blacks’ premiership defence is over.
De La Salle didn’t play at their best but given the plight of Beaumaris in recent weeks, they didn’t have to. Beauy – as they have done often this year – matched their opponents in the early going before gradually losing control. Hugh Nicholson added another good game to his bulging CV, whilst Leigh Harrison was still fresh enough to boot four goals in a solid outing. Beaumaris bid farewell from Premier and let’s hope they return soon.
University Blues have put together a solid run into September. After being decimated by injuries early, the Blues have gradually found their form as players returned. Their one point win over Old Trinity demonstrated again they can match it with the best. The T’s lost top spot, but few friends as they mounted yet another last quarter comeback. Again a slow start was a concern for Adam Andrews, look out for a fiery opening in the second semi.
St Bernard’s will wear their blue shorts in the second semi final after they stole top spot from Old Trinity courtesy of their comfortable win over Old Carey. The Panthers were in the running early before the dam wall broke in the third term. Tom Sullivan was everywhere and kicked four goals whilst ten other Bernard’s players split the middle at some point during the match. Old Carey signs off on a season of promise, but were set back by loss of both players and confidence in the second half of the year.
It seems like an eternity ago that we first confirmed that St Bernard’s would meet Old Trinity in the second semi final. A week’s rest and Grand Final berth is on the line but so too is a mental edge. The sides traded thrilling home wins this year so the match at Highgate (in Cragieburn for the uninitiated) could be a major coup should they meet again. Old Trinity have never played in a William Buck Premier Grand Final, but you get the feeling that won’t bother this young brigade. Anthony Rock’s men know that it’s a long time before you get this opportunity again; they were here 12 months ago. St Bernard’s exited in straight sets last year so will have retribution on their minds. Neither side is in blistering form, but they have both been passing time waiting for the real stuff. Adjust early and keep your heads, will be the message. It’s a toss of the coin but I am going with the T’s to pinch this one by 7 points.
It’s a shame one of De La Salle or University Blues has to leave the competition at this point. Both are wonderful stories. Blues were relegated in 2013, then recovered in devastating fashion in Premier B and are now chasing back-to-back flags. Whilst these pages have been filled with superlatives for De La Salle in recent weeks about where they have come from in the past nine rounds. For the neutral, this clash at Sportscover holds great appeal. De La beat Blues at the Uni on their back nine hot streak and I don’t think they have spent all their tickets yet. De La Salle to keep the rags to riches story going and salute by 11 points.
St Bernards v Old Trinity
University Blues v De La Salle