The Premier Data stats don’t lie on the 1st of July

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Joe Pignataro

What a weekend of footy we have in store in William Buck Premier. Football’s oldest rivalry, a Sunday setup, the chasers fighting to stay in touch with the top four, and a top of the table clash. 

The team at Premier Data have been working feverishly to keep across every kick, mark and handball to date. After Siri assisted me last week leading into Round 10, I’ve been trawling through the numbers ahead of Round 11 to give the readers a greater context of what could happen this weekend. 

In the first of the RSN Xtra Match of the Day broadcasts, the Harry Trott Oval will come to life as the top two sides on the table do battle. Collegians have not put a foot wrong since the shock loss to University Blues in Round 6. 

It’s the competition’s most prolific scoring side (97.5 points per game) at their home deck on a four game winning streak. Their last three matches at the Trott have seen the Purple Army outscore opponents by 232 points. 106 scoring shots to 44. 

University Blues, whilst not prolific scorers have been defensive heavyweights. Other than Old Scotch in Round 3, they have kept opponents to an average of 15 scoring shots a game. Only Old Scotch have gone beyond 75 points against the Blues. 

They have a defensive profile that stacks up; ranked number one for contested possessions and contested marks, top of the tree for hard ball gets, tackles, midfield tackles and defensive 50 tackles. 

Collegians are the kings of possession, led by the King himself Kenny Ong, Gentleman Jim, Mr Michie, and Hungry Hibbo. They lead all-comers for handball receives, and uncontested marks. 

In Round 6, Blues had a focus to not allow quick ball movement, and easy marks to be taken. Forcing the Lions into going long, easy pickings for Marty Gleeson, and Jack Stephens. 

It was the day Tom Young discovered his forward ability and hasn’t looked back since. Nine goals from the last five matches. 

Speaking of forward lines, Dave Mirra is hot to trot, 29 goals for the season. Will Pocknee (22), Ed Greene (19), and perhaps a recall coming for Alex Lukic (15 goals) this weekend. 

The weather may play into the hands of the Blues defensive game, but at the Harry Trott Oval they might have nightmares of Mirra’s magical final quarter from 2022.

In the words of Josh Heriot this promises to be a ding-dong battle, join us at 1:00 PM for the pre-game, before the first bounce at 2 o’clock. 

Football’s oldest clubs head to Scotch College. Old Scotch plays host to Old Melburnians. Paul Satterley and Mark Gnatt have already spent time together this week co-hosting For the Love of the Game. An insight that is must-listen for all coaches in the competition who ride the same emotional rollercoaster week-in, week-out. 

Round 4 this year saw the Cardinals take the points at Elsternwick Park. It was part of the experiment that saw Jackson Paine play in the middle of the ground. An inspired choice from Satts. The OM’s skipper is the #1 player in the competition for tackles, and smothers. 

Ben Harding is statistically the #1 player in the competition: Score involvements, contested possessions, disposals, handballs, clearances, inside 50’s – He has got an argument to be the recruit of the year. He is a fortnight away from wearing a Big V jumper against his mates from WA. 

The Cardinals went into the weekend as the #1 attacking, and #1 defensive side. Now second to Collegians. Inaccuracy let them down against Old Haileybury. They still remain one of the benchmark sides in 2023.

Round 10 and 11, 2022 was the last time Old Scotch lost two games in a row. This year the playing group has a steely resolve and won’t want to let that happen. 

The #1 kicking and marking side are able to absorb the pressure coming from opposition, maintaining possession of the footy. They can also change speeds and go quickly with the ball, working the angles as the number one side for blocks and hitting targets in space. 

When the footy gets inside 50, they can lock the ball in, underlined by the Sherrin living in the forward 50 arc in the final term on Saturday, despite the inaccuracy. This team works for one another, the forward six lead the competition goal assists and tackles inside 50. 

Paul Satterley has had to call on a mountain of troops in 2023 already. He’ll have to go back to the well again this weekend. With Tom Baker going out of the forward set up, Paine will return, but does he start in the centre circles or the forward line? 

The mind-games between the two VAFA favourites have already started. 

Old Haileybury asked for respect from the competition, through the words of Daniel Ward. They certainly have got it. This is not a side Old Brighton can afford to take lightly. 

At home this year, Wardy’s brigade have hit the right notes, pushing the reigning premiers to a point in the season opener, trailing Old Scotch by 2 goals at three quarter time, leading Old Melburnians into the final term, and level with the Uni Blues across three quarters of footy. 

It all came together last weekend, they were able to withstand an onslaught from the Cardinals to produce their second win of the season. 

Against Old Brighton in round 2 it was the slow start that cost them. They matched it after that. The Bloods have been doing a lot of learning this year, and on the back half of the season are ready to put first half learnings into practice. 

Josh Gasparini is in the top five for disposals, Lachie Treverton the top three for hitouts. The ruckman is likely to return this week. 

It’s all seemingly gone pear-shaped for the Tonners in the last month, an average losing margin of 41 points, the highest score they’ve managed is 60 points. 

Injuries and travel has hit Old Brighton, they still are #1 for ground ball gets, handball receives and clearances. They haven’t been able to turn those possession chains into effective inside 50’s and winning scores. 

With games against St Kevin’s and Old Scotch to come, this is a must-win game if they’re to have any chance of featuring in September. There’s no time to waste.

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It’s been an up and down 10 weeks for the Old Xaverians in 2023. The loss to St Kevin’s last week evened the ledger at 5-5. Smack bang in the middle of the table. 

They return to Xavier College with Caulfield Grammarians the travelling side. The nomads are 2-1 at the College in 2023, against the Fields earlier this year the red and black mafia put up their highest score of the season so far. 

A week after their best performance of the year against Old Brighton, St Kevin’s outwrestled them keeping Xav’s their lowest score of the season. 

James Byrne has churned through an incredible amount of players after 10 weeks, 44 to be exact. Charlie Whitehead and Jed Feneley, the only players to have played every game. Charlie MacIsaac and Fraser Pearce have played nine of the 10. 

Like Old Brighton, this is a must-win for the Xaverians if they want to have a fighting chance of seeing finals. The Fields have to win if they’re to have any chance of staying in the VAFA’s top-flight in 2024. 

Darcy Twist and Conor Cooke lead the way for Caulfield from a pressure act point of view. Oscar Roberts will have a task stopping Julian Soccio and Grant Valles on their home track. 

Four games into his year, Marcus Stavrou is averaging 25 disposals, of those 13 are contested possessions. It’s a similar story for Dan Robinson floating through the midfield. When they have the footy in hand, things happen in the positive for Xav’s, and that’s what is going to be needed.

The round of footy will continue on Sunday this weekend. A doubleheader in the RSN Xtra Match of the Day space. 

University Blacks will take on the reigning premiers St Kevin’s in the clubs annual NAIDOC Round match. 

Both clubs will come together and proudly wear their indigenous guernseys and ahead of the match there will be a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony signifying the importance of the day. 

St Kevin’s went a long way to re-establishing themselves last weekend as the team to beat, putting Old Xaverians to the sword by 46 points. 

Whilst it was terrific to see Lachie Sullivan accumulate 37 disposals as the dominant midfielder on the ground. Plugger Lynch would have been equally as pleased to see Tom Jok pull through the game unscathed. 

While Ben Harding can take the wrap as the best midfielder statistically in the competition. Campbell Moorfield can lay claim to the best defender. #1 for intercept marks, 11 ahead of the next best Marty Gleeson. #1 for intercept possessions, 17 ahead of the next best. #1 for kicks, 33 ahead of the next best. #1 for effective kick-in’s. #1 for Rebound 50’s. 

The challenge for Moorfield, Joel Ernest and the Blacks defence will be to curtail the presence of the SKOB forwards – Seven goals between Paddy Kerr and Josh Wallis last weekend. Mitch Wallis is the #1 player for goal assists. And, Shaun Kennedy remains a focal point in the forward line. 

For all of Siri’s assistance last week, and the Premier Data assistance this week. The one thing stats, and AI doesn’t take into account. 

The human element. 

It doesn’t factor European travel, it doesn’t account for Melbourne’s 4-seasons in one day weather, the evenness of the VAFA’s Premier competition is not in its robotic thinking. Potential scores, and potential victories are just that, potential. 

Statistics show a breakaway top four after 10 weeks, however, only twice in 12 seasons has the top four to this point of the year remained the final four in September. 

Clubs, coaches and players alike are the only ones in control of the outcomes this weekend. The first weekend of July. 

Photos: Bruce Tobin; Collegians FC & Old Xaverians FC