Brace yourselves, the winter grind is coming

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

Joe Pignataro

Heading into the first weekend of winter in Melbourne our William Buck Premier clubs are juggling injury lists, and the upcoming European sojourns to chase the sun. 

The RSN Xtra commentary team is not alone in this as Josh Heriot follows suit, excited to eat the strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, trying to pick the quaddie at Royal Ascot, see the Aussies knock over the Poms and take plenty of photos of old buildings. 

For the rest of us, who are lucky enough to be staying in the city of footy, we’ll no doubt be treated to high pressure, high octane contests with this next block of the season determining the lay of the land in the run to the finals. 

Shop early, and avoid the rush. Wins, and strong form here is equally as important as the final month of the home and away season. 

The reigning premiers St Kevin’s have done that and wouldn’t be too fazed about having lost two games in a row. However, the margin and inability to stop the momentum of Collegians has left Plugger Lynch scratching his head, at the same time embracing this challenge. They wouldn’t want to make it three in a row when they face the in-form University Blues at the Melbourne Uni Oval. 

The last time they did lose three in a row, rounds 15, 16 and 17 of 2016. The only season since 2011 where the club hasn’t reached the finals series in Premier B or the VAFA’s top-flight.

This is a genuine toss of the coin battle, the Blues have put up three straight wins beating Old Brighton, Collegians and Caulfield. Familiar names Ayce Cordy, Tom Young, Cam O’Shea are playing as well as ever. 

Marty Gleeson, the best player at the Uni Blues is more unlikely than likely to take his place having finished last week’s game on crutches with ice on his knee. Guy Martyn has told VAFA Media Sam Grimley and Dane Crognale won’t return before the mid-season bye. 

The midfield match up of Ed Ziebath and Luke Winter, two young guns will excite those watching on. Al Richards running one way, Charlie Furphy running the other. And, James Paterson in front of the Blues goal, while Paddy Kerr is threatening to bust a game open. 

The RSN Xtra Match of the Day heads to Camberwell Sports Park. Old Scotch has stunned everyone who is on the outside of the Cardinals. Internally this is what they’ve been building towards since promotion after the 2019 B-Grade Grand Final. 

Five wins in a row. The one loss they’ve experienced, against Collegians by 10 points. University Blacks have had patches of their best footy across the first seven rounds. Last weekend it all came together. 

While Josh Steadman is capable of exposing the Cardinals in the ruck division, the midfield under Mark Gnatt will be at his feet waiting to scoop up every crumb. With so much focus on the youth at Old Scotch, this is a battle of the wise heads, Andrew Jelbart and Aiden Franetic against Louis Vescio and Lachie Knight. 

Campbell Moorfield and Joel Ernest have been enormous for the Blacks in their rise into William Buck Premier. One of them will have the tough task of clamping an in-form James Tarrant. 21 goals for the year, averaging three goals a game. 

Blacks cannot afford to let the impressive work of last week go to waste, this is a prime opportunity to keep the momentum going and knock the current ladder leaders off their perch. 

These two sides are renewing hostilities for the first time since the 2019 B-Grade Preliminary Final, a classic at Elsternwick Park. On that day, much like this season, the Cardinals ran out the full 120 minutes. If Uni Blacks are to walk off the ground winners, they’ll have to do exactly that this Saturday. 

I’m excited for what’s to come at Elsternwick Park. Old Melburnians have won two games in a row and the tables are starting to turn. Old Brighton have experienced the high of beating St Kevin’s at the TH King Oval, before going down to Old Scotch seven days ago. 

Dan Donati is balancing the European trips, the injury list and the ebbs and flows of VAFA footy that he knows so well. Paul Satterley’s OM’s are working their way back into the season, one weekend at a time. 

Jackson Paine is the club’s barometer. This year he is proving he doesn’t need to kick a magical goal to lift the side, he can do so with a big pack mark, a centre clearance or a bone-crunching tackle. His teammates thrive off ‘Jacko’ and they’ll need to feed off his energy if they’re to knock off the Tonners. 

Sam Collins will have the job nullifying the influence of Tom Baker who kicked eight goals against Old Haileybury. Tom Blamires was back in the side last week for his second appearance of the season. As was Max Lohan who will add further strength to the backline of the Tonners. 

Both sides are missing key personnel – Harry Hill, Hamish Dick are the obvious two for Brighton, Ed Nicholls and Charles Dowling have been the playmakers for OM’s throughout the first part of the season. 

OM’s have used the turnover game to their advantage in the past fortnight. If they’re to keep on that trajectory it will go a long way to making it three wins on the bounce. Old Brighton will be hell bent on turning the tables from last week’s performance. 

Collegians, there was so much to like about the performance against St Kevin’s. Jared Rivers’ men showing the round six performance against Uni Blues was an aberration. They were clinical from the opening bounce, and didn’t let up. 

Sam Hibbins put in his best game of the season, owning the midfield. Supported by Viv Michie, King Kenny Ong and Gentleman Jim Bazzani. Irrepressible. And, while handing out praise to the Lions midfield, Will Mayhood has been exceptional in the ruck. 

He is undersized compared to his opponents, without Ben Woodful he has given everything he has to every contest and if you’re Greg Hutchison, looking for a back-up ruckman who can play other positions around the ground, strongly consider the Bear in the Collegians centre square. 

Caulfield Grammarians by their own admission are in a transition year. Will Bowes, the club President said as much to VAFA Media last Saturday. However, there’s always something you can take from these games, while the transition occurs. 

Oscar Roberts will have his work cut out for him at the Harry Trott Oval against the likes of Ed Greene, Alex Lukic, Teigan Otter and Will Pocknee. He won’t die wondering. Oscar Ursini can present as a ‘nuisance’ for the Collegians defence. Julian Dobosz, if he gets it within 60 metres of goal, let him launch. 

The expectation is that Collegians win. And, they should. It’s an opportunity for them to put another side in the bottom four to the sword, being one of four teams going into this weekend with five wins, and two losses, another boost of the percentage to stay ahead of that pack will be pivotal in the run home. 

Old Xaverians will welcome Old Haileybury to Xavier College on Sunday this weekend. Due to ground availability, James Byrnes’ side has an extra day to prepare for the bounce back after last week’s loss to Uni Blacks. 

Old Haileybury went goal-for-goal with the OM’s last weekend. In the past fortnight, Daniel Ward’s side haven’t had a problem getting the ball inside 50 and having enough looks at goal. Lachie Treverton, the lynch-pin from clearances to assist in getting the ball moving their way. 

Not all seems right at the moment with the Old Xaverians, the opening month of 2018 was the last time the red and black mafia dropped four games in a row. A win this weekend won’t wallpaper over the cracks, but it will go a long way to rectifying this season and putting them to an equal win-loss ratio. 

Marcus Stavrou’s return last week is an important inclusion, three goals and part of the best, he will be even better for the run coming into this week. 

Charlie MacIsaac and Ben Bilston-McGillen may hold the key to unlocking the Xav’s forward line, five goals between them last weekend. Both capable of being fire-starters and momentum builders. 

These two sides haven’t met since 2011. It’s been a long time between drinks. And they’ll have to wait an extra day for their meeting to occur. 

The winter grind is about to kick in, Saturday (and Sunday) afternoon around the grounds with a scarf, old coat, a beanie and a hot chocolate to keep warm while watching the best 10 teams in the competition battle it out. 

Where else would you want to be?