Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
St Kevin’s gave the competition a stern reminder they are the team to beat 10 rounds into the season, defeating Old Xaverians by 15 points at Xavier College. SKOB controlled the match for all but half of the third term when the Xavs made a brief comeback and gave the home crowd a glimmer of hope heading into the final quarter. Gerard Gleeson’s form this season has been outstanding and his hand is firmly in the air for a Big V spot on July 8 after dominating the contested ball and finishing with two goals; including, an explosive bit of play through congestion late in the first term (watch the magic on VAFA’s Facebook page). Sam Critchley, 200-gamer Ben Dowd and Nick Wood each impressed for SKOB, while the hero of the game were their defensive structures and the way they set up behind the ball. They use the loose man in defence better than any side and their pressure on the ball carrier encourages sides to bomb the ball in long – even sides as well-drilled as Xavs – whereby SKOB clean up and attack the other way through players the ilk of Critchley and Thomas Jok. Denis Symeopoulos, Dan Noonan & Tim Golds impressed for Xavs, but they will miss Marc Johnston who received a devastating compound fracture of the jaw when he accidentally collided with Wood. In addition to Johnston’s injury, Xavs will lose Brendan Goss, John Shaw and in-form youngster Hayden Troiani for a period of time, but their depth and strong start to he year should hold them in good stead during the next month.
University Blues made it four wins from five outings after they defeated Old Melburnians by 59 points at Uni Oval. While OMs don’t possess the strongest record at the main, they are a formidable unit with a top echelon as strong as any side, but the Blues had little trouble putting them away early with 10 goals to two in the first half. Jamie Mugavin and Tim Geappen kicked four goals each, with the latter having kicked multiple goals seven times in 2017 and at least one major in every game. Despite Kieran Harper and Jeremy Mugavin’s absence, the Blues’ engine room of Ross Young, Marshall Rippon and the Hinkley’s gave their two key pillars up forward every opportunity to kick a winning score. OMs were in strong form having won four of their past five, but will need to regroup after suffering their largest losing margin of the year. Tom Paule has found himself in these articles more often than any player this year (or at least as often as Nick Wood) as he continues to operate at an elite level week in, week out. They remain a game and a half outside the four and the next two weeks against Beaumaris and University Blacks are must wins if they hope to feature in finals.
For the first time since Round 5 2015, University Blacks defeated Old Trinity at Daley Oval. The third term was where the Blacks won the game, kicking four unanswered goals after scores were level at the half. Alastair Robbins returned for the Blacks and provided a key target throughout the match, while John Vrodos, Lachie Huntington and Big V hopeful, Lochie Dornauf, kicked three goals each. After a lean patch between Rounds 3 and 5 which didn’t produce a goal, Dornauf has returned to form with 10 goals over the past five matches while Huntington has kicked nine in the past two wins. The T’s have now lost four in a row, something they haven’t done since losing six straight from Rounds 11 to 16 in 2014. However, their top-tier stars are performing with Anthony Scott, Brendan Iezzi and Luke Pacconi amongst their best players. Both Scott and Iezzi have been in the best for the past four games, while defender Pacconi has done so on three occasions during that time. The task of returning to form doesn’t necessarily get easier for the T’s who face the Tigers at Brindisi, SKOB and the Blues over the next three weeks.
De La Salle returned to winning form as quickly as you could say ‘the Blues have re-taken your top four spot’ via a 35-point victory against Beaumaris. While they remain fifth due to an incredible Blues’ percentage of 127.98, De La have won three of their past four and will continue to knock on the four until a position opens up. Jason Tutt was best on ground for the second consecutive week and for the fourth time this season, while Sam Williams, Tom Humphrey and Matt Fieldsend were alongside him every step of the way as the De La leaders shone. Sam Pickett is beginning to hit consistent form up forward for De La with goals in his past four matches and his scoring presence up forward will be instrumental to De La’s finals hopes/campaign. After falling to a 17-point deficit at half time, the Sharks showcased their ability to negate top four aspirants with five goals to two in the third quarter and gave themselves a chance to claim their first win of the year with a two-point lead at the last break. In just his second senior game this year after two matches in U19 Premier and one in Sandringham’s TAC Cup side, young gun Jak Nardino starred for the Sharks and will provide ample support for Scott Braithwaite et al in their quest for their first win.
Collegians’ were pushed all the way in Round 10, holding off St Bedes/Mentone Tigers by just 10 points at Harry Trott Oval. The Lions were too strong in the first three quarters and led by as much as 33 points at the last break, before the Tigers came home with four unanswered in an exciting fourth term. Lachie Ferguson, Sam Hibbins and Corey Cassidy maintained the trend of senior Big V squad members dominating for their respective sides, while Courtney Hylton continued his outstanding 2017 form as he was named in the Lions’ best for the seventh time. Over the past four matches, the Lions have won two by just 10 points each, lost one and drawn an abandoned match as they prepare for an assault on the second half of the year after such an unbeaten start in the first six rounds. George Rowlands starred for the Tigers with four goals while Michael Barnes and Jaryd Robertson (2) continue to do exactly what Ferguson, Hibbins and Cassidy are doing. Seven goals to four in the second half against the Lions at the Trott is an impressive feat, but three losses and a tie from their past four matches is something the Tigers will look to rectify when they host the T’s this weekend.