Pull out the one-wood and swing for the fences this weekend

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Joe Pignataro

At the beginning of every pre-season, usually a club will sit down as a whole and openly discuss the following question; What do we want to stand for next season? 

Six weeks into the home and away season, some clubs will look back on those initial pre-season meetings and happily tick the box that says ‘yes, we’re where we set out to be’. Others will be kicking, fighting and screaming to get back to the standards they set themselves in the pre-season. 

Heading into this weekend, for the second week in a row, as the top four face off against one another again, the DNA of William Buck Premier clubs will be on show for all to see. 

Old Scotch are in a position to move into premiership favouritism if they’re to walk off Brighton Beach Oval victorious. 

Considering they’ve beaten Old Brighton the last three match ups, they will fancy themselves against the Tonners. 

The DNA the Cardinals have shown in 2023, youthful exuberance that requires the opposition to play the full four quarters if they want to win. Old Scotch have blown their opponents away in the final quarters. 115 points in the positive. Last weekend, it was Old Xaverians to feel the brunt, previously Old Haileybury, Uni Blues and Caulfield have all seen it first hand. 

This weekend is not a walk-up start for Mark Gnatt’s men. The one-wood of the Tonners was on full display in the first half against St Kevin’s, contested, congested, gritty and lippy. Before busting it open in the third term. 

Felix Flockhart poses as a threat in the middle of the ground. Ben Pryor is in a rich vein of form in the forward line, and Sam Collins is proving to be pivotal to the back six. 

Everything about this contest is mouthwatering. Old Brighton are a genuine contender for this year’s title. Old Scotch have been building since midway through 2022, and are posing as the side ready to take St Kevin’s mantle. This is a genuine toss of the coin battle. 

The RSN Xtra Match of the Day sees Caulfield Grammarians meet University Blues

In the coaches box, it’s the battle of the Guy’s. McKenna vs. Martyn. Both with their own unique styles. 

Uni Blues have claimed two big scalps in two weeks. Old Brighton, and Collegians. Without Sam Grimley, Dane Crognale and Tom Cutler. These three players again will not be available for selection this weekend. 

The Fields walked off the ground with their first win of the season last week against Old Haileybury. A contest they’ve been building towards. 

Under ‘Bluey’, the Fields have been gritty, gutsy and determined. Wholesale changes over the pre-season has forced the hand of the club to try new styles, and play new players. Four points last week will go a long way to the internal belief that what they’re implementing, is working. 

‘Marto’ has a plethora of talent available at his disposal. He’s become somewhat of a magnet flipper throughout the early phases of the year. The most recent move has seen Tom Young spending time in the forward line. 

It’s been nine long years since Caulfield have beaten the Uni Blues at their home ground. This weekend is a perfect opportunity for the club to rewrite that unwanted piece of history. 

Off the back of the 2017 and 2018 Grand Finals, the modern-day rivalry that gets put in the calendar at the start of every season is Collegians and St Kevins

Jared Rivers told the RSN Xtra Commentary Team last weekend the fabric of his side is to play fun, fast, attacking footy. 10 minutes into the contest on Sunday, it was hard to argue with that. 

From there, the attacking brand was swamped by the University Blues and ‘Riv’ has a new set of questions to ask his troops this week ahead of the clubs biggest game of the season. Injuries have hit for the first time this year, Dave Mirra (groin) and Brayden Fleming (hamstring). 

Will the opening round rising star Teigan Otter be recalled? Selection will be interesting for the Lions. 

SKOB suffered their first loss of the year last weekend. The streak of 13 finishes. The last time they did lose was at the hands of Collegians. But, there wouldn’t be too much panic from the reigning premiers camp. 

Six key changes last week have stretched the depth. Expect one, two, maybe three or four of those players to be recalled this weekend. 

St Kevin’s are unified, structured and system based. The 18-man press is almost impossible to penetrate. If they implement their fabric early, it will make it tough for the Lions to get their fun free-flowing football going. 

On the flipside, when SKOB hit the go button to attack, it’s the likes of Al Richards, Luke Winter, Liam Gunson, and Cam Hodges ready to surge. 

Old Melburnians will head to Princes Park facing off against Old Haileybury with a little bit of emotional nourishment on the back of their first win last weekend. 

Old Haileybury will be ruing missed opportunities in front of goal against Caulfield. The scoring has been stifled. Going into the Premier B finals series in 2022, Daniel Ward’s men were scoring at an average of 92 points per game. So far this year that’s down to 53. 

While statistically it doesn’t read as promising. This club plays with pride, they compete and don’t go away. Pushing St Kevin’s to within a point, giving Old Scotch a shake, running all over the University Blacks. 

Going into the weekend, Daniel Ward has used the least amount of players so far – 27. Meaning he’s keeping the faith with the guys every week. Not chopping and changing at the first signs of panic. 

The Navy Blue will be buoyed by last week’s victory. They still had moments in the game that saw parts of the OM’s that have let them down so far this year, trailing by 25 points. But, equally the best. Being able to work their way back into the game, and hold on at the finish. 

Jackson Paine stood tall and delivered. Arthur Rush put in his nomination for goal of the year. 

Paul Satterley is a student of the game and absorbs it all. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he encourages his team to play with the same passion he holds for the game. The side has the ability to be steady, composed and classy. Injuries and constant change to the line-up has been a factor. 

The ramifications for the loser of this contest are big. While the winner won’t be completely out of danger, missing out on these four points could start the rattle and rumblings of the unwanted R-word. 

For the first time since Round 17, 2017 – Old Xaverians will travel out to Melbourne University Oval to face off against University Blacks

That day, much like last Saturday afternoon. Both games the red and black mafia would rather forget. The loss all but sealed the end of their 2017 finals dreams. A loss again this weekend will split the Xaverians further away from the top five sides and the dream of playing finals in the clubs centenary year.

The aura around Xav’s for as long as I can recall has always been ‘powerhouse’. The most dominant side in the VAFA, although St Kevin’s are starting to mount a genuine case. 

This Xaverians side has run through 11 debutants in 2023, earlier this week vice-captain Billy Gowers put in a request to change leagues, and unfortunately Dan Hannebery is recovering from a broken jaw. To make the challenge tougher, the skipper is still a week or two away. 

The past fortnight for the Uni Blacks has seen significant improvement from the scoresheet. A thumping win over Caulfield, followed up by a close loss to Old Melburnians. 

Josh Steadman is the best player in this side who’s pushing for the #1 ruck spot in the Big V side later this year. 

Campbell Moorfield, and Joel Ernest are the regular names across the backline who’ve also thrown their hands up. Nick Hey in the forward line is proving to be a threat. 

Dale Bower believes he has the side to challenge, and compete in William Buck Premier. The last fortnight has shown the club walking the walk out on the field. 

All coaches will be looking to their players this weekend and reminding them of the clubs fabric, the clubs DNA, imploring them to bring out the clubs one-wood and give it one big swing for the fences. 

With so much on the line in Round 7, there’s no time to waste.