Gulf closing as relegation heats up

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

Only in VAFA football could a team sit ninth on the ladder with a percentage of 75.18% after Round 14 on the back of five straight losses yet remain just a game and a half and less than 12% out of the four.

However, that is exactly the case for Old Melburnians after they fell to Old Xaverians by 66 points at Toorak Park on Saturday. Such is the tight-knit nature of the William Buck Premier season, OMs have lost their past five by an average of 57.2 points but sit on the same number of wins as Scotch, De La and Xavs, and just half a game behind Uni Blues. Trinity remain six premiership points ahead of OMs but have a percentage of just 87.05%. OMs impressed in the first term as they countered the Xavs’ physicality and entered the first break 26 points apiece, before the home side kicked away with 12 goals to two thereafter. Cauley Beetham is arguably the number one run-with player in the competition and this week’s performance only enhanced his reputation after he stifled Tom Paule’s influence before the star OM’s midfielder left the field with an eye injury prior to the final term. Alex Browne kicked three goals in his first senior game for the club alongside a season-high hat-trick from Tim Golds. While it’s a relatively new-look set-up for Xavs this season, Dan Noonan reminded everyone he is one of the pre-eminent defenders in the competition with a vintage BOG performance. Xavs have now won two of their past four and sit sixth, with those two losses by an average of just five points.

An Anthony Zimmerman piece of magic at the 28m mark of the fourth quarter secured Old Brighton’s 10th win of the season, defeating De La Salle by 12 points at Waverly Oval. The Round 7 Grill’d Rising Star nominee followed teammate Michael Karayannis with a goal in the first three minutes of the final term but iced the game with his late running banana from 40m on the boundary. Do yourself a favour and check it out on the VAFA Facebook page. The Tonners have now won two in a row against teams fighting to avoid relegation (DLS & OMs), so this week’s match-up against Old Trinity will provide a different challenge as they look ahead to finals. Coming off two impressive wins against Scotch and OMs, De La led by seven points at half time but squandered opportunities to apply scoreboard pressure in the fourth term. 67 points is six less than their season average and more than five goals less than the previous two games; however, it was the fourth time from their past five games they kept the opposition below their season-average of 82 points against.

Despite sitting in 10th spot on the ladder and one game behind the four teams directly above them, SBMT are arguably the form side of the lot. They had won three games in a row prior to the weekend’s 21-point loss to SKOB, but eight losses from their first nine games was never going to be an easy hole to dig themselves out of. Their quest to avoid relegation starts this weekend with a blockbuster clash against OMs at EP, before facing Blues, Scotch & De La. They need to win three of those games at a minimum and could not have asked for a better run with three of those teams 7-9 on the ladder. Like most sides, SKOB are battling their fair share of unavailability’s at present but continue to accumulate W’s through dominant patches of play. Talented youngsters Ned Reeves, Lachlan Farrugia and Michael Romero impressed, while Anthony Lynch and Mitch Brown led from the front. There is a feeling this is the calm before the storm for SKOB as they look to welcome back players the ilk of Nick Wood and James Strauss.

Collegians retained top spot on the ladder with a five-point victory over Uni Blues at Harry Trott Oval. The Blues hit the front when they kicked the first two goals of the fourth term but were unable to hold on as Will Johnson converted his first for the day half way through the quarter. It was the second consecutive win by the Lions by nine points or less, but an outstanding achievement given their lack of quality ruckman since Tom Penberthy’s absence over the past three matches. It was the Blues’ eighth loss for the season and fifth by five points or less. In fact, their past three losses have been by a total of 14 points against teams currently in the four. Close losses hurt, but five devastates. Fourth spot is theirs for the taking given Trinity’s current form but, despite the best efforts of Ayce Cordy & Jeremy Taylor et al, the Blues refuse to take it. They have four winnable games over the next month against teams below them – Xavs, SBMT, OMs and Scotch – so finals is there if they want it.

Old Scotch returned to form with a much-needed eight-point victory over Old Trinity at the Daley Oval. Port Melbourne ruckman, Lachlan Waddell, impressed in his first two games for the Cardinals but went next level over the weekend with five of his side’s nine goals. The Cardinals are proving unpredictable with their previous two losses against teams fighting relegation (OX and DLS), yet their past two wins were against Brighton & Trinity. They currently sit seventh but face Collegians & SKOB over the next two games. Callum Pohl and Seb Nicolosi stood up for the T’s with standout performances, but they’ve now lost three of their past four and won just two since Round 5. Several senior players found themselves in the reserves, so the T’s can look forward to welcoming back players the ilk of Luther Juric, Sam Joyce, Alex Hasiotis and Kris Spassopoulos in a bid to revive their season and solidify a top four spot.

Photo: Ari Hatzis

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