Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
Three rounds in and just three sides remain undefeated in William Buck Premier. Collegians, St Kevin’s and Old Xaverians each powered to another four points, while University Blues and De La Salle round out the winners.
With the Lions, SKOB and Xavs holding the top three positions, it begs the question; who is the fourth most impressive side right now?
Uni Blues currently sit fourth after two impressive victories and technically hold claim to the title of fourth best after three rounds. Despite being outplayed to the tune of 42 points in their Round 1 loss to SKOB, the Blues have since hit back hard with strong wins against Beaumaris and University Blacks. Their most recent win over their arch rivals spoke volumes on how soundly they’ve clicked since that first loss, defeating the Blacks by 18 points in the Derby. Connor Lappin continued his outstanding start to the year and was named best afield for the Blues while Ross Young (two), Kieran Harper (two), Clayton Hinkley (two) and Tim Geappen (two) all found ways to impact the match again. The stars are shining and the second-tier players are stepping up early in the season, and it’s culminating in scores capable of winning games of football. Despite slumping to a 29-point deficit at the main break, the Blacks fought valiantly and worked their way back into the game with seven goals to four in the second half. After leading at half-time in their first two matches of the year, the Blacks are clearly capable of threatening opposition teams but currently unable to sustain the intensity for four quarters. Joel Ernest (three) and Jordan Quaile (two) stood tall and found the goals despite the Blues’ defenders negating the in-form Lochy Dornauf.
Undefeated prior to their bout with SKOB at TH King, Old Trinity sit fifth on the ladder and their claim to the fourth most impressive side right now is real. They accounted for Blacks and St Bedes/Mentone Tigers in the first two rounds and, despite a slip-up on the weekend, look every bit as threatening as the previous two years when they pull it together. Trailing by 36 at the half and with just eight behinds on the scoreboard, the T’s used the third term to remind everyone of their elite talent across the board. Anthony Scott and Luther Juric led from the front in the five-goal to one resurgence, with Scott booting 3.2 for the quarter and helping his side to within 12 points at three quarter time. However, SKOB reversed the Q3 goal tally in the fourth and powered to a 39-point win with Zac Ginies (five) top-scoring for the home side. Steven Salopek returned from retirement in peak condition and it showed as he racked up disposals at will. Gerard Gleeson and Nick Wood were at their best in and around the contest, while Thomas Jok impressed for the second time this year across half back. His ability to read the play and use his elite athleticism to move the ball out of defence is something opposition coaches will need to be increasingly aware of.
De La Salle registered their first win and moved from ninth to sixth on the ladder, but could argue they are the fourth most impressive side based on the strength of their opposition. They were faced with the arduous task of an Old Xaverians-St Kevin’s double in the first two weeks of the season and lost by 31 and 24, respectively. They faced Old Melburnians in Round 3 and a six-goal final term helped them secure those glorious first four points of the year. Jason Tutt continues to excel at his new club and produced a best-on ground performance, while Sam Haslem and the returning Sam Pickett (two) were standouts. The seventh-placed Old Melburnians stuck with the De La Sallians for three quarters but fell short of their first win for the year. Cam Banfield and Nick De Steiger starred while Tom Paule did his Woodrow chances no harm at all with a third successive outstanding display. De Steiger’s presence in the ruck is of the utmost importance to OMs, and the more games he can play while on Footscray’s VFL list in coming weeks, the more chance of getting off the mark.
Beaumaris were unable to claim their first win for the year when they faced off with Collegians, going down by 78 points at Banksia Reserve. The Sharks aren’t firing on all cylinders from a team perspective but you’d have to think it will turn around if Rob Cathcart (one) and Scott Braithwaite (two) continue to operate at such a high level. 2016 Spirit of the Big V recipient, Tom Dean (one), pieced together his strongest performance for the season but the Sharks will need to improve upon their average of 17 scoring shots per game as they search for their first win. In saying all this, they were up against the Lions who claimed top spot on the back of their most complete performance of the season. The recruits were once again at the forefront of the relentless display, with Corey Cassidy (three), Lachie Ferguson (three) and Kyle Emley dominating alongside Courtney Hylton.
St Bedes/Mentone Tigers currently sit at the bottom of the ladder but can lay claim to the hardest opening three rounds of the year. After falling short against the Lions and the T’s, the Tigers were outplayed by Xavs over the weekend and ended up going down by 48 points. Jaryd Robertson and Chris Richards did their utmost to stem the flow of goals from Xavs but inaccurate kicking put the result beyond doubt. After reasonably tidy goal kicking performances of 8.8 and 9.9 in the first two rounds, the Tigers struggled to convert, registering 9.19 and just four less shots than Xavs. Conversely, Xavs had their goal kicking boots on with 18.13 and Matt Handley (five) led all comers with his haul backing up three from last week. Nick Wynne and Dan Noonan were instrumental across half back and played a leading hand in the more direct style of play implemented by James McDonald this season. Seven goals in the first quarter made it the third straight match of such a tally in one term, giving serious warning to opposition sides about the strength of the Xavs’ attack when they need to turn it on.
The biggest game of the round is certainly the grand final rematch between the Xavs and T’s. Dependant on whether the T’s can make it two in a row on Toorak Park (def Xavs by 11 points in Round 18 last year), it will go a fair way to establishing the fourth most impressive side right now.