Blacks hold the key to change

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

There was an air of uncertainty surrounding the final make-up of both the four and relegation heading into last week but the dream Round 18 fixture for unbiased William Buck Premier supporters will not take place this weekend after De La Salle ensured a finals berth & Beaumaris were unable to hold on against the Blues, resigning them to relegation.

The only position with potential change is the second side in relegation territory, with Uni Blacks possibly avoiding a trip down to Premier B should they cause the upset of all upsets and defeat St Kevin’s at TH King Oval on Saturday. After their performance against Old Xaverians showcasing their late-season improvement, surely it could happen. Maybe.

In any case, the game with the most interest this weekend will certainly be SKOB & Uni Blacks as there will be no change to the bottom two should the Blacks lose. Cam Roberts, Bede Mahon and their chargers will do their utmost to claim victory while hoping either Beaumaris can defeat St Bedes/Mentone Tigers or OM’s bounce back against Trinity.

The Blacks were phenomenal throughout their 71-point win over Old Xaverians at Uni Oval, ending a six-game losing streak. Trailing by 12 points at the first break, the Blacks exploded with eight goals to one in the second term and followed it up with another 12 to six in the second half. After kicking 10 goals through his first 16 games this season, Joel Ernest was a large part of the Blacks’ unforeseen explosion as he registered six majors alongside four from swingman Lachlan Huntington. Bede Mahon should poll Woodrow votes after an outstanding display in the midfield and Harry Lahy was named BOG with two goals. If they can continue their form from Round 17 and SKOB rest stars, the task ahead is not impossible. Back-to-back is officially off the table for Xavs as they now fall two and a half games behind De La. For a large majority of the year, there was little given to the thought of Xavs missing finals after they won six of their first eight matches. However, injuries, overseas trips, a forced tie against Collegians & five losses by an average of just three goals curtailed their season. They can still play a role in shaping the top four as they face a Lions outfit keen on solidifying the double chance.

St Bedes/Mentone Tigers will be looking to turn their recent form around when they clash with Beaumaris in the return Bayside Derby at Brindisi St Oval. The Tigers have remained on 18 premiership points for over a month now, having lost their past four matches by an average of 88 points. Injuries to key personnel the ilk of Dean Porter and Chris Richards hurt, while the Tigers’ confidence is at a season low, culminating in a 157-point loss to SKOB at TH King on the weekend whereby they fell to a 102-point deficit by the half. The Tigers remain half a game clear of the Blacks in eighth spot on the ladder but their form is at a lower ebb than the Sharks’. At the other end of the form spectrum is SKOB who emphatically bounced back from their Round 16 loss to Blues with 13 goal kickers and another standout display from Lachie Sullivan. Sullivan has elevated his game each week under Shannon Grant and is primed to take home the Men’s Rising Star Award on the back of phenomenal numbers – 11 TIB & 20 goals as a starting midfielder in the number one ranked side in the VAFA. They face the age-old decision of all first-placed sides when they face Blacks this weekend; how many players take the week’s rest heading into finals?

Old Trinity went one step closer to retaining their position in William Buck Premier with an 18-point come-from-behind win against Collegians. Trailing by eight points at the last break, the T’s finished out the game in superb form with Alex Polidoros top-scoring with four goals and 100-game star Harry Tinney check-siding a goal of the year contender in the fourth. While the T’s have won two in a row and come up against an OM’s unit unable to push for finals, the threat of relegation still lingers should both Blacks and Bedes record wins this weekend. All will be made easier should they continue their recent form and claim a third consecutive victory. The loss was just the Lions’ first in six outings – Round 14 draw against Blues included. They face the Xavs at Toorak Park this weekend and could still potentially lose the double chance should the Blues get over De La and they fall to Xavs. Given De La have little to gain this weekend and the Blues do, the Lions will be keen to finish the home and away season strongly and secure the double chance.

De La were relentless in their pursuit of a finals berth as they defeated Old Melburnians by 48 points at Waverly Oval. A five-goal haul from Ed Clinch and a best-on-ground performance from Big V defender, Tom Humphrey, led the way for De La as they piled on 29 scoring shots to 15 and kicked more goals than behinds for the first time in five matches. Now they’ve secured finals berth, De La will get a good look at Blues when they clash at Uni Oval this weekend. However, with William Buck Premier finals to be played at Trevor Barker Oval, De La will be eyeing off the elite deck at Sandringham and fancy their chances of a first semi-final victory. OM’s will be disappointed with their output but they came face-to-face with an unrelenting De La unit and still sit fifth on the ladder. Barring the first 10 minutes of the third when they kicked three goals, OM’s were rarely in the game as De La’s big names – Tutt, Humphrey, S. Williams and J. Williams – all stood up. George Hurley-Wellington and Josh freezer stood tall but they now end their season against an in-form T’s.

The Blues have a double chance up for grabs after they came within half a game of the Lions following their 20-point win over Beaumaris. The Sharks were outstanding against the form side of the competition and led by 10 points at three quarter time before the Blues kicked into gear with six goals to one in the fourth term thanks to the successful return of Tim Gaeppen and his five majors. While De La have little to gain from this week’s fixture, the Blues will be keen to secure a double chance so expect an impressive Round 18 display from James Walker’s men. The loss for the Sharks means they will officially head down to Premier B in 2018 but, if the confidence from their past month of football is retained, they will return to the top section sooner rather than later. Joel Cusack shone with three goals alongside Stephen Milne who was named best with two. The Sharks will want to finish off the season on a high and a Bayside Derby is the perfect motivation to give it one last crack.