The biggest VAFA rivalry headlines this weekend’s action

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Joe Pignataro

Rivalry: competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

That is the official definition in the dictionary. This Saturday, after 2,121 days, we get to see the VAFA’s biggest rivalry play out at Melbourne University between University Blues and University Blacks.

The last chapter in this storied history was written in Round 11 of the 2017 season. 

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. 

Last week in their return to William Buck Premier, Blacks got the jump on Old Brighton before being pegged back as the afternoon unfolded. University Blues opened up with a victory at Elsternwick Park. 

Ayce Cordy will face Josh Steadman in the battle of the big men. Marty Gleeson will be in defence aiming to stop Nick Hey. Don’t discount the match ups of Vescio and Bennett, against Furphy and Ziebart, while I’m sure Lachie Knight and Dane Crognale will cross paths throughout the afternoon.

Dale Bower vs. Guy Martyn in the coaches box, Marto thrives in big contests with all eyes on his side, Bower is a defensive master and his team will be up for this challenge. 

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.

UNI BLUES vs. UNI BLACKS – LIVE ON RSN XTRA2 & KOMMUNITYTV

A much more “respectful” rivalry will take place at Camberwell Sports Ground. Old Scotch play host to Collegians in their annual Anzac weekend match. The traditional pre-game ceremony, with the Cardinals in their Anzac jumpers, will be looking to turn the tables on the Lions who walked away winners at The Cave in 2022. 

Should Ben Woodful not be elevated to the VFL this week for Williamstown, he will face off against Sam Grant, 201cm tall made his senior debut in the opening round and was pivotal in Old Scotch’s opening round victory. 

Jack Polkinghorne, Henry Brown and Jack McCorkle are three faces to look out for outside Andy Jelbart, Aidan Franetic, and James Tarrant who regularly perform week-in, week-out. 

Mark Gnatt may have a sleepless night on Friday leading into the contest. Firstly, for the excitement he’ll have about this game, secondly, with questions swirling around to stop the King. Kenny Ong, was a cut above at Xavier College in the wet. He needed only a metre of space and was able to produce high quality disposals. Supported by Daniel Orgill, and Gentleman Jim Bazzani. It’s set to be a ding-dong battle in the midfield. 

Teigan Otter, the Anytime Fitness Round 1 Rising Star nominee will almost certainly become the third tall option in the forward line with co-captain Dave Mirra set to be available and come back in. Mirra, Greene and Otter. One thing we know for sure, Old Scotch won’t take a backward step, or be overawed by the challenge that awaits. 

Old Xaverians and Old Melburnians can battle it out for the unofficial ‘longevity cup’ on Saturday at Xavier College. 

Xav’s in their 100th year, OM’s in their current form, joined the competition 103 years ago. To add a bit of extra spice to the contest, for us media types to discuss in the Saturday Warm-Up and on For the Love of the Game. 

Current OM’s coach Paul Satterley comes up against the side he coached in 2019, Old Xaverians. It will mean nothing to Satts, or to Old Xav’s. But, what will mean more, is the four points on the line. 

With the competition so even, the loser of this game falls to 0-2 and by default part of the chasing pack. It’s not a position you want to be in. 

The red and black mafia debuted five players in the opening round, barring 40 minutes during the second and third terms, they held their own. Tommy McCrae is a handy talent, Harrison Bell was busy in the forward line, Ned Niall did some nice things with the ball in hand. Harry Woodhouse kicked two goals, and Darcy Feutrill put his head in the hole without needing to be prompted. 

In the old dark navy blues camp, Jackson Paine will be a focal point alongside Ed Michelmore and Tom Baker. Jacob Thompson will be better for the opening round run, while the Haysman boys, and Nichols brothers are more likely to use the corridor of the College given the narrow wings in comparison to Elsternwick Park. 

In Round 13 of 2011, Caulfield Grammarians turned up to T H King against St Kevin’s and claimed victory by a solitary point. The victory seemingly displaced SKOB from finishing that year on top of the ladder. 

Since then the sides have met 11 times. St Kevin’s have won all 11. Perhaps there were discussions like Geelong had after Jeff Kennett accused them of not having the psychological drive, and losing when it matters. 

Heart-to-heart discussions may have followed? And from that moment on, until now the reigning Premiers haven’t faulted against the Fields. 

Old Haileybury served it up to Plugger Lynch’s men on Saturday. A very early season scare to show how even William Buck Premier is may jolt the Kings of the T H King into action. Saturday will be a festival of fun for the club, unveiling both Senior men and Women premiership flags, plus the Women’s thirds pennant. 

The midfield duo of Tom Jok and Luke Winter, who performed strongly through 2022 were at it again, as well as Cal Matheson, Harry Wardlaw and Josh Wallis in his first game back with the club since 2021. 

Caulfield Grammarians had patches of strong footy against Old Scotch. Jack Webster (2 goals) and was named amongst the best. Tom O’Sullivan, Will Kennedy and Oscar Roberts all had moments throughout the game. 

Guy McKenna and the Fields will need to be at their very best if they are to challenge St Kevin’s on Saturday. 

The last time Old Brighton and Old Haileybury met in the VAFA’s topflight was in 2007. This contest is 16 years in the making. The year after Old Haileybury won their most recent A-Section title. 

It’s been a long time between drinks, having met throughout the years since in Premier B. Hostilities will be renewed at Brighton Beach Oval with the Tonners looking to inflict another loss on the 2022 Premier B champions. 

Dan Donati had to scrap his way to victory after Uni Blacks got the jump on the Tonners in week one. They’ll be looking for a faster start at home. Daniel Ward’s men finished strongly against St Kevin’s, this time around, they’re on the road and will want to make an impact early. 

Without Will Lewis on Saturday, Jamie Hope led the charge with three goals, the rest were a spread of seven goalkickers. Harry Hill and Alfie Jarnestrom from the midfield were part of the best players and Tom Yorgey across half back was pivotal. 

Anthony “Plugger” Lynch paid credit to Old Haileybury on For the Love of the Game this week “They were really impressive, their work rate, they worked incredibly hard and they worked for each other” he said, and feels like they’ll be strong in challenging the best sides in the competition. 

Having just fallen short of the reigning Premiers in week one, can they go one step further against the runners up in week two?

Whichever way you want to slice it this weekend in William Buck Premier, the rivalries are there for all to see. The way the contests fall, is anyone’s guess.