Mitch op’t Hoog – @mitch_toog
What is happening in Premier C? In many other sections across the VAFA, after five rounds we are seeing gaps widen between the top teams and the bottom teams. For example, in Premier B there seems to be three clear-cut teams at the top, Old Scotch, St Bernards and Old Brighton Grammarians. Meanwhile, in William Buck Premier, there are still three teams who remain undefeated atop the ladder, Collegians, St Kevins and Xavs. Yet somehow, while all this is going on around our competition, Premier C could not be more different. Round 4, yet again, has proven to be a tipsters’ nightmare and we have seen some unexpected results come through. As we look forward towards Round 5, the competition becomes ever more murkier and harder to understand.
Currently, Premier C has three teams sitting at 3-1, Old Haileybury, Caulfield Grammarians and Old Mentonians, with the next five teams below them, Marcellin, Williamstown, Old Geelong, Hampton and Old Camberwell, all sitting on 2-2. At this stage of the competition, top four spots are still very much up for grabs!
Old Camberwell, who started the year at 2-0, have taken two losses in as many weeks to slide down to eighth spot on the ladder and leaving some work ahead of them if they’re to make finals in 2017. Caulfield got off to a strong start and held a three-goal lead at the first break. The second quarter saw Old Camberwell come back at the Fields but fail to make any significant inroads. The margin at halftime stood at 15-points in favour of Caulfield. Unfortunately, for Old Camberwell, after halftime, Caulfield came out firing and the score line did not improve. A 16-goal second half allowed Caulfield Grammarians to run over the top of Old Camberwell and record a resounding 89-point victory at Glenhuntly Oval. Declan Reilley with seven majors was a clear standout for the Fields while Thomas Small kicked three. The remaining 10 Caulfield goals were spread among 10 individual players which says something about the depth, strength and attacking prowess of this Caulfield team. For Old Camberwell, it was the ever-reliable Simon Bennett who was the best, nailing three goals and taking his tally for the year to 12 on what was a disappointing day for the Wellers’.
Possibly the most disappointing of all the teams to lose in Round 4 was Old Ivanhoe, who on paper, have such a strong team. The Hoers were coming off a tremendous victory over the ladder leaders, Old Haileybury, yet they failed to get off to a strong start in Round 4 and fell to a solid Hampton Rovers who recorded a 38-point win. For mine, the Hoes entered the match as clear favourites, given their hard-fought win the previous week. However, the Hoers failed to fire shots early in the match and were left to pay as the Rovers kicked it up a notch in the second half. Two goals was the lead in favour of the Rovers at halftime, and by three quarter time, the lead had extended to three goals, meaning the Hoers would need to double their goal tally in the last quarter to see out the game victorious. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for Ivanhoe and the final quarter was where the Rovers hit their straps, sprinting home to claim the 38-point victory. Rovers star, Roland De Biase put in a best-on-ground performance for the winning team, while Richard Skok can hold his head high after kicking all three of the Hoes’ goals. The Hoes will look to bounce back next week against the Panthers who will be coming off their first loss of the year.
Despite their home ground advantage, Kew will continue to search for their opening win in 2017 after Old Geelong handed the Bears a comfortable 44-point defeat – their smallest losing margin for the year. Old Geelong will be happy with their second consecutive win, as they start to look more comfortable among the ranks of Premier C teams. It was four unanswered goals in the second term that gave the Ogs a 32-point lead at the half. The Bears outscored Geelong in the third quarter, but were unable to make any big leaps towards achieving closing the gap. In the last quarter, Old Geelong dominated the ball and has a 10 scoring shots for the quarter, only managing to convert on two occasion. Were it not for the Ogs inaccuracy, the Bears may have gone down by a much greater margin. Will Sloss and John Simpson stood out for the Ogs while Sam Glover and Brin Duggan did their utmost to keep the Bears in the game. Again it was Andrew Brazzale who stood out up forward for the Bears kicking two goals and taking his personal tally to 11 in the only Premier C team yet to record a win in 2017.
In a victory that further complicates my comprehension of Premier C, Old Haileybury have returned to the winners’ list in style and knocked off former top-of-table and previously undefeated Old Mentonians. The first half was a tightly contested ball game between two teams who will be looking to make an impact come the pointy end of the season. The Panthers lead by two points at the long break, however, were it not for inaccuracy that scoreline would have been very different. Old Haileybury had kicked only five goals from 17 attempts, while the Panthers had managed seven majors from just nine attempts. The second half saw Haileybury clean up their errant kicking and start converting in front of the big sticks. At three quarter time, Haileybury had blown past Mentonians slender lead and extended their margin out to 17-points. The Bloods continued to rally in the final term and they ran out the game as 26-point winners at Princes Park, Caulfield. Nathan Waite returned to form with four goals and Corey Connelly nailed three for the Bloods. Comrey Edgeworth was outstanding for the Panthers while Jack Davis top scored with four goals, bringing his yearly tally to 15. The win will see the Bloods rise to pole position and the Panthers fall to third place. The win was a big one for Old Haileybury who continue to impress in 2017, with their only loss coming on the back of some poor kicking. At the moment, Haileybury are looking to be favourites for 2017, with the Panthers not too far behind.
Williamstown CYMS have recorded their second win for the season accounting for Marcellin at Altona Green Park after a tense battle. The first three quarters were evenly contested with neither team managing to kick clear of the other at any stage. The first break saw Williamstown up by four points, during the halftime break it was Marcellin up by one point and three quarter time it was again Williamstown who had snatched back the lead and led by seven. The see-sawing affair was well and truly settled in the last quarter with Williamstown slamming home five unanswered goals to claim a 39-point victory. When the CYs flicked the switch in the final quarter, they looked like a high-quality, top-four side. The CYs were led by Jack Gray who kicked four goals while Samuel Callard and Nick Blackney were important across all four quarters. For the Eagles, it was Jono Blanch who was considered the best. On the back of this tight contest, the Eagles remain in fourth spot while the CYs, hot on their heels, move up to claim fifth.
To my own detriment, I will attempt to pick some winners in this confusing section that is Premier C. At Victoria Park, Kew will take on Caulfield Grammarians who should account for the Bears comfortably. Old Camberwell will try to bounce back after two losses in a row as they invite Old Haileybury to Gordon Barnard Reserve. Old Haileybury should be able to account for the Wellers, though they might have some trouble slowing down Simon Bennett. Old Geelong at home will look for their third win on the trot as fourth placed Marcellin will be hungry for their third of the season. I think this should be match of the week, but the away side should be able to claim a victory. Old Ivanhoe will return home to Chelsworth Park to take on the recently defeated Panthers. Old Ivanhoe will need to draw on some of the Mitris magic that saw them take down Haileybury two weeks ago to get this one, although, I’m tipping the away team should be able to bounce back and claim a win over the Hoers. Williamstown CY’s and Hampton Rovers will look to build on their decent Round 4 wins as they face off at Fearon Reserve. Using their home ground advantage, I’m tipping the CYs to take this one out.
Feature photo: Old Mentonians