Closing the gap on The Great Divide

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Joe Pignataro

During the Saturday Warm-Up last weekend on RSN Carnival, President of Collegians, Michael Cove flagged “the great divide” in William Buck Premier. 

It’s not the great divide of angst between each of our competing clubs, even if it seemingly exists. It’s the great divide between the top five teams in the competition, split from the bottom five teams in the competition. And, this weekend that’s how the fixture plays itself out. 

This weekend, all eyes are on the one particular game in Collegians (4th) and University Blues (8th). We could come out of Round 16 with a gap wider than the grand canyon, between the best and the rest. 

Starting at Harry Trott Oval. Collegians are looking for eight wins in a row. Seven was a cakewalk for them at Elsternwick Park. It’s the best run of football they’ve put together since 2017 and 2018. Speed on the ball, winning clearances, defending boldly. They have the wood over University Blues with plenty at stake in the RSN Carnival Match of the Day. 

A win for Collegians, keeps Old Xaverians at bay (if only for the moment). And, a loss for Uni Blues again makes them vulnerable to the relegation zone. Sam Grimley will miss the following two games through suspension. The sharpshooter. Coming off the back of a nine goal haul last week. 

The Lions have plucked the defensive attitude right out of the St Kevin’s playbook. Conceding just 50 points on average in the seven straight victories. Matt Warren, Luke McCleary and Sam Sofrinidis can lay claim to being that trio in defence. Kenny Ong, Viv Michie and Sam Hibbins running rampant through the midfield. Whilst Ed Greene, Oli Jackson and Dave Mirra are the trio up forward that right now, can’t seem to be stopped. 

What does Guy Martyn have left in his bag of tricks? We’ll find out at 2pm on Saturday. 

Old Melburnians (3rd) must win at the Snakepit. There’s no two ways about it. Despite St Bernard’s (10th) lowly sitting on the ladder, they can’t afford for a moment to have their minds wander anywhere else but at the current moment. 

A couple of weeks ago, they looked locked in for a top two finish. Now, with the run to finish the season, they look to be the most vulnerable of the top four sides to miss out. A thought that hadn’t entered our minds until this week. Jackson Paine will come back into the side after missing the weekend through injury. Josh Freezer, after welcoming in a newborn before the first bounce last week will hopefully have had a few extra hours of sleep this week. 

Will Sandringham release Sam Dunell back to the OM’s? And, with Port Melbourne back in VFL action, Tom Cameron and Jeremy O’Sullivan are likely to go from opposition players to teammates again. The Snowdogs have got a free throw at the stumps this weekend. Paul Groves can experiment with the youth at his disposal. It would make for an interesting final fortnight if they walked off winners. 

Old Brighton (2nd) and Old Scotch (6th). No love lost here. The Tonners remain at home this weekend, after going win, loss for six weeks, they’ve steadied their ship winning the last two. A win this weekend against the Cardinals puts them in the box seat for a top two finish, but again, they can’t afford to think any further than Saturday. 

Old Scotch showed plenty against St Kevin’s, and while they’re in the middle of the table, unable to go up or down, they can wreak havoc with the top five. Six final quarter goals against SKOB gives them momentum rolling into Brighton. It’s hard to not be impressed with the showing each week from the youngsters in this team. With any young team, they’ll have ups and downs, but I would assume if you put it to Mark Gnatt right now, not for a moment have his troops thrown in the towel at any point this season. 

Will Lewis, hit the scoreboard last week. Max Kennedy was named best on ground, along with Quinten Montanaro, and Harry Hill. These are the guys that must stand up, and keep the Tonners ahead in the contest. Big game players, who thrive in big time moments. 

St Kevin’s (1st) can just about lock away the minor Premiership if they come away from Glen Huntly Oval with a win over Caulfield Grammarians (7th). They’ll have one hand on it with Old Brighton and St Bernard’s to come in the final fortnight. 

Shaun Kennedy has run himself into form with a big of six, Patty Kerr added five last week. The focus has been on the defence of the ladder leaders, but up front they’re just as potent. It was promising for fans of St Kevins, scary for opposition, to see the return of Sam Critchley through the reserves after battling injury and COVID. Jack Holden made his return after injury as well. 

The Fields have lost their last four matches coming into the weekend. They’re keeping Uni Blues at bay for the time being with an inferior percentage but an extra win. They’ve got to compete as best as they can on Saturday and hope results fall in their favour to avoid falling down the ladder.

Old Xaverians (5th) are 26% stronger than the purple army, that number could climb drastically this weekend if they get hold of Old Trinity (9th). Not only is it stronger than Collegians, it’s above Old Melburnians and Old Brighton. A win this week for the red and black mafia, sets up a grandstand finish in the final fortnight. 

Old Trinity walked off Melbourne Uni last week feeling aggrieved, and disappointed. They have fallen back into the bottom two and need a slice of magic to get out of the relegation zone in the final three games. 

While we’ve opened the column talking about the great divide between the top five and the bottom five. It’s a lot closer on the field than the breakaway suggests. 

The bottom five can disrupt the top five every which way this weekend. And, for some they can lock away William Buck Premier for 2023. For others, they can find themselves on shaky ground in the VAFA’s top flight. 

And as our great friend, Grumpy Brian Waldron will tell you “destiny is in their own hands.” 

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