Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
Round 1 brought about mixed results in William Buck Premier with three games decided by eight points or less, while two were a pair of grand finalists making a serious statement and showing few signs of complacency.
After unfurling their inaugural William Buck Premier flag, St Kevin’s OB went on to defeat University Blues by 52 points at TH King. From the warm-up through quarter time, Blues were switched on, full of energy and keen to showcase the fruits of their off-season campaign. Led by Ross Young and Ryan Eade, the Blues attacked early but were met with a defensive masterclass, led by Sam Critchley, and thus entered the first break just one point ahead. SKOB’s harassment of the ball carrier improved as the first term went on, with Anthony Lynch and Nick Wood laying a barrage of tackles and imparting their physical pressure. Wood’s performance comes after reports he entered the season under an injury cloud, but if he is the least bit underdone in any way, god help the opposition when he returns to full fitness. He, Jack Holden and Tom Jok starred in the second term as the home side kicked six unanswered goals and controlled the remainder of the match. Billy Kanakis (4) led a high pressure forward 50 for SKOB alongside recruits Pele Manivong and Michael Romero (1). Tom Quinn and Kieran Harper kicked three goals each for the Blues, with Quinn particularly impressive both forward and through the midfield. Ayce Cordy’s inclusion meant the Blues entered the game with a trilogy of talls – Cordy, Cam Williams and Angus Milham – and it will be interesting to see if they enter a similar line-up against the fast-paced ball movement of Collegians.
32 scoring shots to 15 illustrated Collegians’ dominance in their Round 1 opener against De La Salle, running out 76-point winners at Harry Trott. Leading by 16 points at quarter time, the 2017 grand finalists exploded and kicked 16 of the next 23 goals. Will Johnson is one of the most talented defenders in the competition but just as effective when swung forward as he top-scored for the Lions with five goals. After playing just one game of Premier Reserve and taking the remainder of the year off in 2017, Julian Eimutis returned to the Lions’ senior line-up with three goals and a best-on-ground performance, while Viv Michie and Courtney Hylton continued their strong form from last year. Few would have envisaged such a significant loss from De La’s end given their strong off-season, but standout performances from Antony Forato and Jason Tutt offer solace on an otherwise disappointing weekend. They return to the Dairy Bell this weekend against Old Xaverians as both sides look to claim their first win for the year.
Xavs will be chasing that first win against De La after they fell to Old Trinity by eight points at Toorak Park. It was the perfect start to Bernie Dinneen’s coaching career at the T’s, albeit stressful, with the lead changing hands at every break. The T’s trailed by eight at three quarter time but managed three goals to one in a thrilling final term. Anthony Scott and Harry Tinney were standouts for the T’s with their elite ball use giving forwards Seb Nicolosi (3) and Sam Joyce (3) every chance inside 50. Liam Whelan’s inclusion offers the T’s coaching staff options they weren’t afforded in 2017 with the former Aquinas goal kicker starting the game down back but moving forward and kicking an important goal in the fourth term. Despite the loss, Xavs will be buoyed by Jason Holmes’ first game as the number one ruck, while Matt Handley (3) and Brendan Goss (3) reignited their relationship in the forward 50.
It was a facet of their game that needed to be rectified to ensure sustained success and St Bedes/Mentone Tigers kick-started their path to re-creating a cauldron at Brindisi St Oval perfectly, defeating Old Melburnians by seven points. The Tigers won just three of nine at home in 2017 and made their intentions clear with 10 of the first 14 goals and a lead of 35 points at three quarter time. OMs hit back with seven goals to two in the final quarter, but the damage had been done thanks in large to standout performances from Jaryd Robertson and Dan Garside. Matt Thomas and Cam Banfield led the OMs charge in the fourth, while former Port Adelaide midfielder Mitch Banner – who was only cleared to play on Friday – kicked three goals.
The Premier B Grand Final replay was everything we envisaged as Old Brighton held on by just five points against a fast-finishing Old Scotch at Brighton Beach Oval. Leading by 20 points at three quarter time, the Tonners gave up four goals to two, including a pair of majors to Cardinals livewire Jono Daggian in the final 10 minutes. Edward Tait and Thomas King were named best afield for the Tonners, while Gene Van Den Broek was outstanding for Scotch. It’s always difficult establishing just where former Premier B clubs sit in terms of the jump between sections, so we should know a lot more when the Tonners travel to Brindisi and the Cardinals host the T’s this weekend.