FIVE games you can’t afford to miss in 2023

Posted on - Premier Men's, Latest News, Featured

Joe Pignataro

I’m already salivating with the release of the 2023 William Buck Premier Men’s fixture. The footy is still 123 days away. Counting down to these five games will certainly help make the time feel a whole lot quicker: 

Round 1: Old Xaverians v Collegians – A long-standing rivalry 

What a way to open the season. 

Old Xaverians will be an intriguing watch throughout 2023. With Toorak Park being redeveloped and out of action, the club will play the majority of their home games at Xavier College in 2023, with five games scheduled at the school and the remaining four currently listed as TBC.

The red and black mafia open their season at the College, up against the purple army who took it all before them in 2022, against the odds. 10 wins in a row to book themselves a top two finish before injury got hold of their key players in the finals series. These sides are the two longest-serving sides in the VAFA’s top-flight. Old Xaverians have featured in every A-section season since 1992. In that time, Xav’s have played off in 16 Grand Finals, winning 13. Collegians since 2006 have stayed in William Buck Premier, playing in seven Grand Finals winning two. 

Both sides made up the top four in 2022 with St Kevin’s and Old Brighton. They are continuously around the mark and preach excellence from the top down. Their most recent encounter was a classic that put the run to the finals wide open. 

Old Xaverians have plenty riding on every season, but none may be bigger than what’s in store in 2023 – The club celebrates its Centenary season in style, with its opening two rounds being played at the College.

Round 2 – University Blues v University Blacks – The battle of the Uni Main

The battle of Melbourne University has been a long-time coming. The last chapter in this storied history was written in Round 11 of the 2017 season. When the ball is bounced for this match in Round 2 – 2,121 days will have elapsed since Blues and Blacks clashed at the Uni Main. 

Uni Blacks have completed the last three seasons to have been played in heartbreaking fashion. Losing Preliminary Finals in Premier B in 2018 and 2019, whilst falling short to Old Haileybury in this year’s Premier B Grand Final. All by less than a goal. To rub salt into the wounds, their cross-change room rivals claimed the William Buck Premier title in 2019 to take bragging rights at the Melbourne Uni. 

Ayce Cordy will face Josh Steadman in the battle of the big men. Marty Gleeson will be in defence aiming to stop Nick Hey. Dale Bower vs. Guy Martyn in the coaches box. Blues will come into the game having won the last six encounters. Blacks last tasted success over the Blues in Round 10 of 2013. They won’t want the losing drought to continue any longer. 

Round 3 – Old Scotch v University Blues – The Young Bucks against the Old Bulls

The 2022 season started in incredible fashion. Similar conditions on April 2 that we have on December 13. Mark Gnatt’s young Old Scotch brigade produced a final quarter blitz that ranks as one of the best final quarters we saw in 2022. Aidan Franetic put himself in the spotlight with the earliest contender for goal of the year, and a bomb that was only topped by Ryan Tily of Oakleigh in the Mecwacare Masters Grand Final. 

The return bout through the season came after the double bye, the first weekend of football since University Blues were stripped of Premiership points. The pre-game expectation of the Blues blowing the Cardinals away didn’t eventuate and again Mark Gnatt produced a coaching masterclass with his young troops. The Cardinals are trending in the right direction. They’re on a different recruiting path to the Blues, and no doubt an early season win against the 2019 Premiers will fill the young side with a world of confidence. 

 

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Round 3 – University Blacks v Old Haileybury – Premier B Grand Final rematch

Premier B Grand Final Day for 2022 is a memorable day. Not for reasons we’re particularly fond of. The best side during the home and away season, and an Old Haileybury side met at Elsternwick Park in treacherous conditions, not conducive to that of the standard these sides are capable of reaching. 

A week after facing their home ground rivals, they’ll chase redemption against the side that was able to hold on in the wet to claim the Premier B Trophy. 2021 saw these sides play out a cliffhanger at Melbourne Uni, and through the 2022 home and away season Old Haileybury were the only side to match it with Dale Bower’s Blacks at the Uni Main. 

This time around Jack Lonie won’t be there to provide assistance to the midfield of the Haileyburians. The Seccull boys will be a staple, coming up against the likes of Vescio, Bennett, Curnow and Mahon. Much like William Buck Premier, the previous three Premiership winners in Premier B have won the rematch the first time the sides have met again since the Grand Final. That won’t be part of the thinking in Dale Bower’s pre-game message, but putting on a true football show will no doubt be the order of the day. 

Round 6 – St Kevin’s v Old Brighton – William Buck Premier Grand Final rematch

The best two sides in William Buck Premier in 2022 found their way to the final weekend of the season with St Kevin’s completing a season like none other. Can they go back to the well again? 

With three titles in the past four seasons, history says yes. Old Brighton competed in their second A-section Grand Final across the club’s 65 year history. A side starving to get back to the last day. 

The Grand Final rematch is always one to watch. History favours the Premier in the first game since the Grand Final, St Kevin’s having won in 2017 and 2018 won the return home and away matches against Collegians. And, despite losing the 2019 Grand Final, and having to wait until 2022 to face off against University Blues, proved triumphant on that day. 

Round 6 at T H King the first time. Round 12 at Brighton Beach Oval, bookmark them both in the calendar. 

These sides play close games with three of the previous five meetings decided by less than a goal. Can the new Old Brighton coach Dan Donati crack the codes to the St Kevin’s defensive press, and buck the trend of beating St Kevin’s?  

Other games of note to watch: 

Round 1: Old Haileybury vs. St Kevin’s

  • The Premier B Premiers will unfurl their flag, facing off against last season’s Premiers

Round 2: St Kevin’s vs. Caulfield Grammarians

  • St Kevin’s will be unfurling their Premiership flag for the third time in four years

Round 2: Old Scotch vs. Collegians

  • The Cardinals will host the purple army in their annual Anzac Round Clash

Round 3: Collegians vs. Old Brighton

  • The Preliminary Final sides of 2022 meet at the Harry Trott Oval

Round 4: Old Melburnians vs. Old Scotch

  • The 101st meeting between, playing for the Australia Cup with OM’s the current cup holders

Round 4: University Blues vs. Old Xaverians

  • The second chapter of the Carmody Cup, Xaverians the current cup holders

Round 9: Old Brighton vs. Old Xaverians

  • Dan Donati will coach against the side he won Premierships for in the 90’s

For the full downloadable fixture, click here.