Blues go into the bye as the Giant Killers

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The University Blues will go into the Kings Birthday weekend bye brimming with confidence after holding out a fast-finishing St Kevin’s by three points.

Going into the match without the 2022 best and fairest, Marty Gleeson. Guy Martyn flipped the magnets again using Tom Cutler in the full-back position. Marto had us all fooled in the early part of the year when he declared Tom Young back in his ‘natural habitat’ of the backline. For the third week in a row he hit the scoreboard and was pivotal in the forward line with three goals. He has now kicked six goals across the past three matches.

Since going down to the Old Xaverians in Round 4, the Blues have skittled Old Brighton (2022 grand finalists), Collegians (after back-to-back 100 point wins), and now St Kevin’s (reigning premiers). The club has rediscovered the form that took them to the 2019 Premiership. A scary prospect for opposition sides.

St Kevin’s have slumped to a 7-year low. Having now lost three games in a row, they are now outside the top four. A spot that’s foreign to this side. Without #1 ruckman Will Coates to contend with Ayce Cordy, it was up to debutant Hamish Reimers to contend with the dual Woodrow Medallists at different times throughout the day. The return of Josh Wallis to the side from concussion, a handy inclusion and a positive one given the serious nature of head injuries. Paddy Kerr kicked two goals as the SKOB freight train got moving in the final quarter.

Inaccuracy ended up being the enemy of the SKOB during the third term, with momentum swaying back and forth, four behinds registered and unable to capitalise in front of the sticks. A week off to regroup, before the next biggest challenge in William Buck Premier awaits, the ladder leaders – Old Scotch.

The performance of the Cardinals was emphatic after quarter time. Credit to the University Blacks who certainly ‘came to play’ and served it up to the much-fancied home side. Within the opening quarter, and three minutes of the second term, the Cardinals had turned the footy over in their defensive fifty arc on five occasions resulting in three goals sailing over their heads.

There was little panic however, 17 goals to seven from that point of the contest. Hugo Bromell was enormous in the midfield, Brodie Easton put on a clinic with four goals, each one better than the next. Henry Brown continued his great start to the year with a hat-trick of goals, his final one right in front of the faithful who gathered and roared as one.

The only sour point Mark Gnatt will have out of the game is the injuries to Cooper Harvey (right hip), Andrew Jelbart (right arm) and Tom Blenheim (ribs). The positive, the competition has a bye this weekend coming, a week off might be the cure for all three.

The last month of football for the Blacks has them on a 2-2 scoreline, but the trajectory is pointing upwards. Louis Vescio, Hugh Curnow and Lachie Knight didn’t stop trying through the midfield. Nick Hey and Matt Grocott continued to present in the forward line, Campbell Moorfield marked everything that came his way and Austin ‘candyman’ Steere put in his nomination for goal of the year. When the footy resumes they’ll face Collegians at Melbourne Uni Oval, another opportunity for Dale Bower to find out what his team is made of.

Collegians may not have been tipped on the VAFA podcast this week, and maybe that was the fire in the belly they needed to make sure they didn’t take Caulfield Grammarians lying down. It did take until after quarter time for the Lions to get moving as they were jumped by the Fields in the opening term to trail by 11 points.

A 10-goal second quarter was emphatic enough from Collegians, the side without Mirra, King Kenny, Corey Cassidy, Alex Lukic, Teigan Otter and Jordan Carroll. Will Pocknee did return and kicked three goals, along with Will Pewtress.

A victory described in the post-game as a professional performance from the Lions, Viv Michie and Sam Sofrinidis were at their brilliant best. Luke McCleary across the half-back line regularly finds the footy and barely wastes a disposal.

The Fields played well in patches, and glimpes of a bright future shone through. For the third week in a row they started brightly in opening quarters. Again Conor Cooke and Darcy Twist featured amongst the best players for Guy McKenna. In Round 9 they head back to Glen Huntly Oval to face off against the Old Melburnians.

Three weeks ago Paul Satterley left the Harry Trott Oval as flat as VAFA media has ever seen the usually positive and spritely man. OM’s 0-5, a lengthy injury list and a side that looked down and out. Round 6 saw them eek out a victory over Uni Blacks, a follow up victory in Round 7 over Old Haileybury in a shootout, and yesterday proved to be the pick of the bunch knocking over Old Brighton.

Good things are happening at Elsternwick Park for Satts’ troops. Tom Baker again kicked three, taking his season tally to 23 goals. Ed Nicholls kicked two. Right now it would be a face-off between the 2021 rising star, and the 2023 captain Jackson Paine as to who would be leading the OM’s best and fairest after eight weeks.

Harry Cooper, made his senior debut in Round 1, hasn’t missed a game. Put in his best performance for the club. The pressure around the ball was a feature for the home side, led by the number one tackler in the game Jackson Paine. The barometer of the team, led from the front when it mattered.

Much like St Kevin’s, the last month at the Tonners has got Dan Donati with a fascinating challenge in front of him. Beaten by University Blues, Old Scotch and now OM’s. The one win they’ve had in that month was against St Kevin’s. The bye has come at the right time, one deep breath and they can go again. Old Xaverians await them when they return.

The most glaring concern is the run in the young legs of the Old Brighton side. Much has been made about Old Scotch running out the full 120 minutes, they’ve outscored opponents by 23 goals in final terms. In the last month, the Tonners have gone at -73 points in final quarters.

The Old Xaverians found their way back onto the winners list against Old Haileybury at Xavier College on Sunday.

After a competitive low-scoring opening term, the red and black mafia were able to extend the lead to 26 points at the main change while holding Old Haileybury to just one major for the opening half.

Marcus Stavrou’s return last week was an important inclusion, he followed up his opening run with another strong gallop. A performance that saw him part of the best players on the ground. The three votes surely goes the way of Charlie MacIsaac who has been threatening for most of this year to rip a game apart. Five majors for the third time in his senior career. He is mounting a case for Big V, and team of the year honours as we approach the halfway point of the year.

Durras Seccull finished with three goals for Old Haileybury, as Will Paul and Corey Rich fought valiantly for Daniel Ward’s side.

A fortnight for Xav’s to get to Brighton Beach Oval and gain a little piece of redemption from last years semi-final defeat, and keep this momentum rolling into the back half of the season. Old Haileybury return home with the eyes to bring down the giant killers, the University Blues.

Photo: Bruce Tobin, Collegians FC