William Buck Premier confirmed

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By Nick Armistead

After 17 rounds of William Buck Premier, three separate ladder leaders, many hot streaks and even more form slumps, the finals and relegation has been decided.

Congratulations to Old Trinity, Old Xaverians, University Blues and University Blacks on combating one of the most even seasons to date and booking their spot at the business end.

Unfortunately, the weekend’s results confirmed St Bernard’s will join Old Carey in Premier B next year as they now fall two games behind Collegians and St Kevin’s one round from the home and away season’s end. The reigning premiers are the first side since Old Haileybury in 2006-07 to taste glory in the VAFA’s top tier and suffer relegation just 12 months later.

Collegians staved off relegation with four dominant quarters against Old Carey helping them run out 107-point winners at Carey Sports Complex. They could not have been more impressive or emphatic in the way they went about their football.  Matt Singleton kicked three in the first term as the hard-bodied Lions’ midfielders won plenty of the ball through the middle of the ground, giving their forwards consistent delivery for a 38-point lead at quarter time. While the young Panthers toiled away, they were no match for the new-look offensive Lions as they registered 16 scoring shots to 43. It was the first time they’d registered a score over 96 this year and was one goal less than their previous three games combined (23-24). Will Johnson has been a revelation over the past few weeks up forward as he kicked seven majors and made it 13 from his past three games. This is a man who was named in the defensive 50 against the SAAFL and in a back pocket for the William Buck Premier mid-season team of the year; utility is a gross understatement. The Panthers were willing enough at the contest with James Gaff, Ben Smithwick and Jack Harris showing plenty of fight, but it was disposal errors on the outside which ultimately let them down. Averaging 118 points against will set any team on the path to relegation, but expect the Panthers to bounce back with a successful season in Premier B.

Old Xaverians made it eight consecutive wins as they defeated University Blues by 43 points at Ransford Oval and placed themselves in second position on the ladder. Arguably the most interesting match-up of Round 17, the venue was changed in the week leading up to the round after an independent assessor found Uni Oval’s surface to be in an unplayable condition and a risk to player safety. As such, Ransford Oval got the nod and the Blues suffered just their second ‘home’ loss of the season as Xavs gradually increased their lead at every break. Matt Handley starred up forward with five goals, while Nick Serafini continued his rich vein of form for Xavs. Handley (51) is now six goals ahead of teammate, Brendan Goss (45), on the goal kicking leader board and the pair are just four from reaching the combined ton. George Cameron and Cameron Williams stood tall for the Blues as they fell from first to third and now require a win against Blacks in this weekend’s Round 18 derby to ensure the double chance.

I declared the T’s back three weeks ago now but their return to the top of the table is concrete evidence they’re a genuine premiership chance. They accounted for St Kevin’s by 28 points at Daley Oval for their sixth successive victory, with Seb Nicolosi bagging four goals and making it eight since his return to the line-up two weeks ago. Jack Hunt featured in the best for the 10th time this season and looms as a key cog of the T’s success over the next month. James Strauss and Billy Kanakis were outstanding for SKOB, while Tim Bourke snagged two majors and showed why he belongs at the top level.

De La Salle’s hopes of regaining a spot in the top four were shattered at Sportscover Arena as Old Melburnians held on for a four-point win.  Despite nailing six goals in the fourth term, De La allowed five to OMs as Tom Paule, Theo Rosenthal and Justin De Steiger (three goals) ran riot. De La were up against it if they were to feature in September but the ongoing absenteeism of Leigh Harrison and Adrian Indovino hurt their structures forward of centre, despite standout performances from Sam Williams and Xavier Murphy. It’s a disappointing end for the blue and gold as they are, without doubt, one of the most entertaining team to watch when they’re on.

As mentioned earlier, the Snow Dogs are now consigned to Premier B in 2017 after they went down to Uni Blacks by 10 points at the Snakepit. Trailing by 32 points at the last break, the Snow Dogs broke loose in the final term and piled on seven goals to three as they fought to salvage their season. Unsurprisingly, Adam Bentick, Tom Caven, Tom Sullivan and Nathan Kazuro were at the forefront of the Snow Dog’s fight back, while Brent Sheahan continued his blistering form as the clear best on ground.

Round 18 Tips

University Blacks vs University Blues

St Kevin’s vs St Bernard’s

Old Xaverians vs Old Trinity

De La Salle vs Old Carey

Collegians vs Old Melburnians