Back to school, the old-fashioned way

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Joe Pignataro

Three of the five games in William Buck Premier this Saturday will be played on the humble surfaces that our clubs were established, created and for a majority of the players in the old boys sides, where they started their football journey.

So as we dust off the old blazer jackets, knot up the tie, tuck the shirt in and get that top button done up. What can you pack in your school lunch for this weekend’s action?

The two oldest schools who are credited with playing the first game of Australian Rules Football, Scotch College (Old Scotch) and Melbourne Grammar (Old Melburnians) will head to the College for their 101st head-to-head meeting.

While OM’s reigned supreme in the battle for the Australian Cup in Round 7, Paul Satterley’s team are out to atone for their Round 10 loss to St Kevin’s with the aim of being in the top two ahead of the double bye.

An even spread of goalkickers and an unpredictability in front of goal has been the modus operandi for OM’s this year. Whispers are growing into roars that Jackson Paine and Sam Dunell could return to the forward line of the Navy Blue making the Cardinals challenge even tougher.

It’s been a long time since Old Scotch have been beaten when they return back to the College with an average winning margin in recent years sitting at 61 points. They’re a different side than the pre-season predictions, a different side at Camberwell Sports Park, and, clearly, an even stronger force at the school.

Pack yourself some paper towels or napkins in the lunchbox because there’ll be sure to be some rough and tumble spillages that need cleaning up with the Cardinals not taking a backward step in this one.

Two years ago, the former voice and face of the VAFA Nick Armistead wrote about getting the ties and blazers out for St Kevin’s and the Claret and Stout. A headline he couldn’t have been any more prouder of. And, it seems fitting to again put the call out to the proud members of both St Kevin’s and Old Xaverians to join the RSN Carnival Match of the Day commentary team at St Kevin’s College.

The 90’s powerhouse travel out to the modern-day powerhouse with the latter doing everything they can to emulate that of the former. Like a year 12 in his final assignments taking a peak over the desk to copy the work of his or her classmate.

Can Xavier emulate what they did in Round 7? If that game is the precursor to this one, you will not want to miss this. St Kevin’s are back on top. Xav’s are sitting in fourth. Angus Hart, Tom Jok, Cam Hodges face up against Ed Delany, Will Gowers, Marcus Stavrou.

The biggest task will fall on the St Kevin’s defence in stopping Xavier Richards who is averaging four goals a game in his senior career in red and black. Xav’s have kicked the highest score against SKOB this year, the 18-man press was broken down.

Pack yourself a couple of cold bottles of water, you’ll need it to cool yourself down because it’s sure to get hot, heated and spicy in the contest.

The third of our College games heads the way of the Snakepit where St Bernard’s will face University Blues. The on-field issues at Blues is highlighted in their scoring. Despite Sam Grimley leading the sharpshooters, around him, the output and return on the scoreboard isn’t there as Guy Martyn would like.

It’s been over 12 months since they kicked 100 points in a game. They may see this as the game they break that drought as the Snowdogs are in a world of hurt. Inaccuracy hurt them in Round 10 against Old Trinity, kicking winning scores has been even more of an issue for Paul Groves’ men in 2022.

If St Bernard’s fans are looking for something to cling to, they haven’t lost to University Blues at the Snakepit since 2016. But even then, the most passionate of fans will know this is clutching at straws. Blues welcomed back skipper Ayce Cordy last weekend, and after 5 weeks of watching the come-from-behind wins on the sidelines, then experiencing a loss last week. He won’t want to go into the double bye with 21 days to think about how their season could well be over if they drop this game.

Pack yourself the Uncle Toby’s muesli bar. A staple in everyone’s lunch box, because this should be a staple victory for the University Blues.

It’s not Brighton Grammar but Brighton Beach Oval where Old Brighton are flexing their muscles and making the trip uncomfortable (like always) for opposition sides.

The Tonners have won their last 6 matches at home and last week’s win over Uni Blues pushed them back into the top two. Collegians are 3-2 away from home, and won’t be a pushover, Jared Rivers has been fortunate to have a couple of players back available for selection. Ed Greene this week should come back in and compliment Dave Mirra in the forward line.

How the Purple Army curbs the influence of Harry Hill will be worth keeping an eye on. It may be a case of him and Sam Hibbins shaking hands at the start of the game and saying “I’ll see you at the end.” They may be opposed to one another  but be the burst player away from the stoppage.

Pack yourself an umbrella, not just because you’re bayside but because it may well be raining goals if either side gets on a roll with momentum.

Glen Huntly Oval plays host to the final game of the round, and it’s got “classic 8-point game” written all over it.

Caulfield are one of the three scalps Old Trinity has claimed this year and after their Round 10 win over St Bernard’s they’ve walked away believing they can scalp the Fields again. They’re 2-2 in the last month, and have set themselves for back-to-back wins in this fortnight between Queen’s Birthday and the double bye. Ed Weatherson hit the scoreboard last week, Alex Polidoris is expected to join him this weekend, while the synergy Harry Thompson has with Harris Mastras and Tom Paidoussis at his feet is growing every game.

Perhaps the QB bye came at the wrong time for Caulfield who gathered all the momentum with a terrific win over Old Scotch was swallowed by Collegians. Matt Buntine and Tom Bugg were key inclusions for the Fields, but couldn’t get the ascendancy or the game on their terms for the afternoon.

There is an opportunity to do so this weekend, one area that has let the Fields down has been the inaccuracy in front of goal and the inability to capitalise when in possession of the footy.

Pack yourself a stress ball because this one is set to go down to the wire.

Whichever ground you’re at this weekend, be it a College game, bayside or over the fence from the racecourse be prepared to see the 220 names players having a red hot crack, because with “school holidays” (a double bye) on the horizon they’ll want to leave nothing on the table.