Round 16 brought with it some of the wetter conditions we have seen for the 2017 season, with almost 10mm of rain falling in the leadup to Saturday’s games. Critical premiership points were on the line for the teams duking it out to cement their places in the top four, with spots one, two and three likely locked in with two rounds remaining. The final spot is up for grabs for both Ajax and the Monash Blues, with losses to both sides this round keeping either side locked in equal fourth with eight wins apiece. Mazenod are still a mathematical chance after their win on the weekend, sitting one win behind the Jackers and Blues, whilst the struggling Peninsula are officially relegations bound after letting their final chance at redemption slip by the slimmest of margins against the Vultures.
The first game of the round saw Fitzroy FC travel to Camberwell to face Old Scotch on their home deck. It was always going to be a tough day from the outset for the Roys, with Old Scotch looking to find a brand of finals-ready footy. Old Scotch came out firing, kicking 6.5 in the opening term, with accurate work in front of goals netting the Roys a respectable three goals straight. The Cardinals kept the pedal down for the next two quarters however, and increased their margin at half and three-quarter time. Inaccuracy in front of goals prevented Old Scotch from truly blowing the game open, along with a five-goal-to-three last term in favour of Fitzroy FC. Old Scotch walked away 59-point winners, a convincing performance all round. Three Goals to Jonathan Daggian and a strong performance from Conor O’ Beirne were highlights for the Cardinals, whilst two goals each to Nino Lazzaro and Julian Turner kept the scoreboard ticking over for Fitzroy. Overall, it was a game which Fitzroy FC could have been forgiven for giving up on, but a mini surge in the last quarter shows that they kept their heads and played the game out. Old Scotch will look ahead to next week against similarly placed Mazenod as they prepare themselves for a finals tilt.
Over in Bulleen, Carey played host to Mazenod, in a game which would allow one of the two sides to remain a mathematical chance to still make the top four come seasons end. An arm-wrestle ensued, with the Nodders taking a small nine-point lead into the first change. Old Carey managed to drag the margin back to four points at the main change, and by all accounts we had a ripper game on our hands. The game see-sawed during the second half, but the Nodders would seal it in the final quarter and lock in an impressive 14-point win away from home. A well-balanced effort up forward saw the Nodders over the line with 11 individual goal scorers, whilst Jarrod Reid and Andrew Sloan booted three apiece for Old Carey. The Nodders have a difficult run home from here with Old Scotch and Old Brighton lying in wait, whilst Old Carey also have their work cut out for them with Old Brighton followed by the Monash Blues.
In what looked as if it could be one of the games of the week heading into Round 16, Monash Blues hosted the Snow Dogs on their home turf of Frearson Oval. A strong first half set the pace of the game, with the snow dogs booting seven goals to three in the first half to go into half time with a handy 27-point lead. The Blues held tough in a tight third quarter, winning the quarter by one point after kicking 3.3 to St Bernards 3.2. It would have taken a mighty effort to claw their way back into the game from there, and eventually the Snow Dogs proved too strong, booting an impressive 6.3 to the Blues 1.4 to come out 55-point victors. St Bernards’ Darren Colaco was promoted from the reserves for the first time this season, to the tune of four goals in an impressive senior’s debut, whilst Shaun Clarke slotted three for the Snow Dogs. Connor Riley worked hard all day to earn the BOG. The Snow Dogs would be happy with their final quarter form coming into finals, and should be looking to build on that ascendancy in the last two weeks before finals. They face top-four hopefuls Ajax at home next week, followed by relegation bound Peninsula in the penultimate round before finals. Monash Blues look forward to an easy week against the Pirates next week, before coming up against Old Carey in their final round. After round 16 the Blues sit equal fourth with the Jackers, so they cannot afford to become complacent even with the Pirates coming up next round. They will need both wins and every percentage point they can muster if they want to secure fourth place come September.
Down the Peninsula, the last placed Pirates were playing host to second-last placed Parkdale in what would be their last possible chance to avoid relegation. Just one win separated the two teams going into Round 16, and a fierce scrap was on the cards after some wet and wild weather down the coast. The Pirates came out of the blocks strongly to lead at the first change by 10 points, but inaccuracy in front of goals saw them hit the half time break leading by just 11 points, 4.9 to 3.4. A tight third term saw the Vultures outscore the Pirates two goals to one to bring the margin back to just five points at three quarter time, whilst a 2.3 to 3.3 final term proved just enough for the Vultures to claw their way back into the lead and claim just their fourth win of the season. The Pirates will rue missed chances after they kicked an errant 7.14 to the Vultures slightly more efficient 8.9. Matthew Bolands two goals for the Vultures brings his season tally to a respectable 32, whilst Thomas Felgden recorded his third best on for the Pirates in an otherwise forgettable season. Finally, safe from relegation, the Vultures can claw back respectability for the season with a winnable game against Fitzroy next week, followed by a tough clash against second place Old Scotch. Peninsula looked set for a tough finish their season with matches against top four hopefuls Monash Blues and St Bernards to round out a difficult 2017 season.
In Caulfied, another team unsuccessfully battled to secure their spot in the top four, with Ajax hosting ladder leaders Old Brighton. The Jackers knew coming into this game that a win could mean securing their top four spot (with the Monash Blues coming up against a rollicking St Bernards side), but it was not to be, even after an accurate start kept the Jackers in the hunt at quarter time. 13 points split the two sides at the first change, but from their Old Brighton only built on their lead, with the margin ballooning out from 25 at half time, to 50 at three quarter time and finally 66 points come the final siren. Jake Lew was once again impressive in front of goal for the Jackers, booting three of his team’s meagre six goal final score and taking him to the leader board of the Premier B goal scorers table with 43 for the season. For the Grammarians, Harry Hill and Michael Karayannis slotted four each, the latter now sitting just seven goals behind Jackers opponent Jake Lew with 36 majors for 2017. It was a run-of-the mill performance for Old Brighton, and one which should send a message to the rest of the Premier B competition – come and get us; we are here to win a flag. St Bernards poses the next big test for the Jackers next round, followed by Fitzroy FC in the final round. Old Brighton will look to continue their dominance against Old Carey and Mazenod before week one of finals.