Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
Should we have ever doubted De La Salle given the past three rounds of William Buck Premier football?
Let’s break it down:
Round 4: Old Xaverians defeated Old Trinity by three points in the ‘grand final re-match’ after trailing by 20 at the last break.
Round 5: St Kevin’s overran Old Xaverians with six unanswered goals in Q4 in a heavyweight bout some called the greatest Amateur game in recent years.
Round 6: Collegians dismantled St Kevin’s by 90 points at the Trott; including seven unanswered goals in Q2.
Round 7: De La Salle stifled Collegians’ new-found run and carry, defeating them by 25 points at Waverley Oval.
The form is clear and the ‘Match of the Round’ is proving tough for side’s to mentally and physically recover from, losing the following week in all instances.
By no means is it a knock on any team, but instead a reflection of how strong the top tier of VAFA football is across the board and how difficult it is to maintain the mental edge required to compete at a high level week in, week out.
De La were outstanding and, despite missed opportunities in front of goal in the first term, settled for a 17-point lead at the first break. The second term was where De La proved to have the answers as they kept the Lions goalless while extending the margin to 22 points at the other end. Tom Humphrey and Brendan Close worked tirelessly in the defensive 50 to repel the Lions’ forward thrusts, with the latter keeping in-form star forward Lachie Ferguson without a major for the day. Humphrey is a top two key defender in the competition and highly respected by both Paul Satterley and opposition coaches, finishing second in the Premier Coaches MVP Award three years in a row. For as long as he is patrolling the back 50, De La will have an elite on-field general in defence. Adrian Indovino top-scored with three majors and now sits third on the goal-kicking leader board with 18, while Ed Clinch kicked two and another stunner from the pocket (check Plays of the Week on VAFA TV). Courtney Hylton, Nick Dixon and Viv Michie were impressive for the Lions, while Kenny Ong showcased his skill and poise on both sides of the body. The Lions have a poor record at Waverley Oval and won’t be deterred by their first loss of the year, with Kalem Post, Matt Singleton, Will Johnson and Corey Cassidy still to return to their line-up.
Suddenly, Old Melburnians are just half a game outside the four after they recorded their third consecutive win, defeating St Bedes/Mentone Tigers on Brindisi Street Oval. With scores locked at 41-apiece going into the last quarter, OMs registered two quick goals via Justin De Steiger and Ted De Fegely and held the Tigers off for the remainder of the match. Woodrow Medal fancy, Tom Paule, was at his very best through OMs’ midfield, while one of Country Road’s newest fashion icons, Oscar Hosking, impressed across all four quarters. The Tigers, who have now lost two of their past three, would have liked their chances on home soil, with Michael Barnes and George Rowlands continuing their hot form with three goals each. Brindisi has historically been a fortress for the Tigers, losing just twice there last year later in the season. However, they’ve now lost five of their past seven; including, three of their four home matches in 2017. Conversely, they’ve won two of their three away games this year and will look to improve that record at Banksia Reserve this weekend.
University Blues staved off De La’s push for a top four position with a comprehensive 41-point victory over Old Trinity at Daley Oval. Leading by just two points at the first break, the Blues piled on seven unanswered goals in the second term as they took control of the match. Marc James (two) and Dan Batarilo (one) were the standout performers for the Blues, while Ross Young top-scored with four goals and took his season tally to 13 from seven games. Young’s 13 goals are the highest of any midfielder except teammate Kieran Harper who leads alongside Matt Handley on 19. The spread of goal kickers at the Blues is most impressive, with Young, James, Harper and Jeremy Mugavin hitting the scoreboard alongside forwards Tim Gaeppen, Tom Quinn, Jamie Mugavin and Batarilo. Luke Pacconi was at his negating best in the defensive 50 for the T’s while Harry Tinney and Harry Thompson continued their outstanding individual seasons. The T’s are currently allowing an average of 76 points against per match after averaging just 66 at the same time last year, and 62 for the entire 2016 season. Their run over the past five rounds has been absurd, with games against the current top four sides and a healthy win against Beaumaris. They face the fifth-placed De La this weekend but if they can strengthen their overall team defence, the T’s should start a month-long winning run.
10 goals from Matt Handley (six) and Brendan Goss (four) helped Old Xaverians overcome a 22-point half-time deficit and run out nine-point winner against Beaumaris at Toorak Park. The offensive duo, who finished first and second in last year’s goal kicking, were unstoppable as Tomi and Clay Johnston provided plenty of drive into the forward 50. The Sharks were outstanding for most of the match and they kicked a higher score in the first half (10.7 – 67) than any full game this year. Sam Gibbins kicked four and Nick Dickinson (two) had his best game for the year. The grand final re-match this weekend is a different kettle of fish all together as the Sharks look to maintain a winning record over the Tigers and claim their first of the year.
St Kevin’s recovered from their 90-point loss to the Lions in emphatic fashion, defeating University Blacks by 80 at Uni Oval. Led by a six-goal haul from Jay Schulz, SKOB were unrelenting as they hit the scoreboard 39 times in comparison to the Blacks’ nine. Lachlan Sullivan did his Rising Star chances no harm with a BOG performance for SKOB, while Thomas Jok continued his outstanding form across half back. Charlie Richardson and Bede Mahon dug deep for the Blacks on an otherwise special day in the club’s history, hosting the first-ever Indigenous Round clash with specialised guernseys and a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony prior to the match. The Blacks sit ninth with just one win from the first seven rounds, but after winning just one of their first four in 2016, proved they have the capacity to hit a hot streak when necessary.