Tonners will & T’s can in William Buck Premier

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

Round 10 of VAFA football confirmed four things:

1) Old Brighton will play finals football

2) Old Trinity can play finals football

3) The Cardinals are officially back

4) Relegation is wide open

For months, questions marks remained over the Tonners’ ability to sustain their amazing run of form since coming into William Buck Premier following last year’s flag, but a Round 10 victory over Uni Blues confirmed they’re in the four and they’re here to stay. Sitting third with an 8-2 record and three games ahead of Old Melburnians in fifth, the Tonners’ safety looks all but assured with three wins needed from their last eight games. We keep hearing about the players heading overseas at different stages through the back half of the year as the dreaded European summer strikes the Amateurs, but the truth is they’ve lost just two games for the season against the top two sides and have one of the most exciting and unrelenting line-ups in the competition. Leading by 14 points at three quarter time, the Tonners were threatened when Tom Batarilo and Tom Quinn booted successive goals in the first 10 minutes of the fourth, but Anthony Zimmerman decided to embody the World Cup soccer stars he’d been watching over the past few days and launch one from mid air to give the Tonners some breathing space and ultimately the four points. As for the Blues, Ayce Cordy continued his outstanding form and Tim Geappen kicked three goals for the second time in three games. It was the fourth time they’d failed to secure the full premiership points in games decided by five points or less this year. Despite having a reasonable percentage of 94.68%, the Blues sit just half a game above De La in ninth but only two games outside the four.

Old Trinity returned to the top four with a thrilling six-point come-from-behind victory over De La Salle. The T’s trailed the FightMND Cup all day, before clawing their way back and taking a six-point lead via a Jake Steinhart bomb at the 26m mark of the fourth. Young gun and Grill’d Rising Star favourite, Liam Murphy, showcased poised beyond his years when he levelled for De La three minutes later before T’s forward, Alex Polidoros, snapped his third goal for the day with six seconds remaining on the clock. The win, albeit nerve-racking for T’s fans, showcased the team’s resolve and willingness to play the percentages when under pressure. Harry Tinney, Ed Weatherson and Alex Hasitotis returned, each having an impact either on the scoreboard (Hasiotis & Weatherson) or as the best player on the ground (Tinney). De La fall to ninth on the ladder following their third loss in a row. Outside of their Round 6 victory over SBMT, De La hasn’t kicked more than 10 goals once as they struggle to find a consistent target forward of centre. Tom Humphrey continues to fill the void out of necessity but, as a three-time William Buck Premier TOTY defender, they’re losing one of the most influential players in the competition from their defensive 50. On the flip side, if the T’s are currently the fourth best side in the competition, De La is certainly not far away.

The week’s rest did little to slow down Old Scotch’s current run of form as they secured their third straight win, defeating Old Melburnians by 37 points at Camberwell Sports Ground. While they’ve remained strong defensively, the difference for the Cardinals over the past three rounds seems to have come from their offensive output. Averaging 66.6ppg over the first seven rounds, the Cardinals have kicked their three highest scores for the year from Rounds 8-10 (102, 87 & 101) and increased their average points for to 96.7. Yep, five goals. As such, the Cardinals have now moved into seventh spot on the ladder and those close losses over the first two months now seem to have worked in their favour as they boast a higher percentage (97.17%) than all but the top three sides. Old Melburnians missed an opportunity to solidify a top four position and now fall back into fifth. Nick Daish and Tom Paule maintained their sensational current form and Tom Hywood kicked three. OMs rank third overall for points against (77ppg) as Josh Freezer leads a miserly defence but are eighth for points scored (71.7ppg), kicking more than just the bottom two sides De La (9th) and SBMT (10th).

Seven goals to one in the opening term led Collegians to a comfortable 74-point victory over St Bedes/Mentone Tigers at Harry Trott Oval. Despite missing Big V captain, George Burbury, the Lions found goals through Xander Croft (4), Campbell Walker (4) and Matt Singleton (4), while Sam Hibbins kicked three and dished out what will likely end up a three-vote performance. After going goalless in his first two games this season, Croft has found his range with three consecutive hauls of four. Defensively, it was the sixth time this season the Lions kept their opponents to 56 points or less. The Tigers, who were led admirably by Dean Porter and Michael Barnes, are now two games behind their closest opponents in 10th spot on the ladder. However, you could never discount them against Old Xaverians in front of the home fans at Brindisi St Oval this weekend as they fight to keep their season alive. No team has more to play for on Saturday than the Tigers.

Finally, St Kevin’s OB celebrated Anthony Lynch’s 250th game in style, running over Old Xaverians by 61 points at TH King Oval. SKOB led by 21 points at half time and were pressured early in the third; however, through missed opportunities and SKOB’s ability to absorb pressure and launch a counter attack themselves, they piled on 11 goals to four in the second half. Lachie Sullivan was unrelenting and at his physical prime, kicking four goals and lifting when the run of play was seemingly going the way of Xavs midway through the third. Jack Holden was operating at a v10 level of class with his ability to handle the wet ball unmatched, while the man of the moment booted two goals and was named best for SKOB for his own standout display. Tomi Johnston was the best for Xavs alongside Dan Noonan – who continues to ooze class along half back. Xavs sit eighth and, as mentioned above, will partake in the match of the round this weekend when they face off with SBMT.