Round 13, lucky for some. Who will benefit from the Big V bye?

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Joe Pignataro

Here we go. Lucky, or unlucky (round) number 13. Off the back of the representative bye round this weekend has the potential to lock away or open up the top four, and to spice up the relegation battle.

22 VAFA representatives willed themselves to every contest on Saturday. For the 19 playing in William Buck Premier their coaches watched on with pride, but similarly through the gaps of their fingers as the contest became tighter and tighter and then longer (extra time) as the afternoon went on. 

Will these VAFA warriors back up again this weekend? 

The Old Xaverians will be without their captain in Marcus Stavrou as they face the ladder leaders, Collegians

Landing awkwardly on his shoulder in the rock hard centre of Elsternwick Park on Saturday will see him on the sidelines. The red and black mafia will be cutting the phone line that connects Footscray VFL to Charlie MacIsaac after his six goal haul in the Big V. 

Through injuries, and travel the Xaverians haven’t been able to get their midfield trio of Stavrou, Robinson and Symeopoulos on the park at the same time this year. A fortnight ago they were held to five goals for the day against University Blacks. 

Collegians can just about shut the door on the Old Xaverians season. Six wins in a row by an average of 58 points. 

A minimal injury list, a strong formline at home, Dave Mirra missed against Caulfield, rested himself from the Big V game and has primed his body for a big tilt in the final six weeks of the season. Luke McCleary made the bold decision to pull himself from the Big V team to get his own body right. Sam Sofrinidis and Kenny Ong will spend the week in the recovery chamber. 

Sofrinidis excited to get back into a long-sleeve, while the King is set to get back to his version of Buckingham Palace – The Harry Trott Oval. 

Jared Rivers’ side will leave no stone unturned in their chase for the premiership. It’s been 11 years since the Lions tasted success, ironically against the Old Xaverians. 

If Old Scotch follow suit of Collegians, then they too can end the season for Old Brighton and shut the door on anyone from outside the top four sneaking their way in. 

However, as raised on this weeks For the Love of the Game podcast by our esteemed co-hosts (namingly Presidents of opposition clubs), the Cardinals had six representatives playing the minutes in the Big V. Old Brighton had none. 

Ryan Valentine, James Tarrant, Henry Brown, Aiden Franetic, Brodie Easton and Charlie Cormack all were significant in the Vics pulling off the great escape. Can they back up again this weekend? 

A lot of the energy will be focused on them, but overall for Old Scotch, the last month has been tough reading. One win from four matches, two games totalling six goals. Mark Gnatt has had the bye to identify the areas they need to focus on. The next three matches will determine the lay of the land for the Cardinals. 

Dan Donati, the master coach has remained positive in his outlook, knowing the nature of VAFA footy from his playing days with the Old Xaverians. That positivity may noticeably diminish further if another from the Tonners even considers suggesting unavailability because of Europe. 

There’s no two ways about it for the side that reached last year’s Grand Final, this is a must win game. They all are from here. Having lost five of the last six matches, they’re in the middle of the table. 

It’s a favourable run home for the Tonners, but relying on that alone won’t be enough. 

Everytime St Kevin’s and University Blues meet, it always feels like there’s more than four points on the line. 

In 2019 it was Grand Final day, it took until 2022 for a Grand Final rematch. On that day Guy Martyn had Uni Blues colours on. Earlier this year, the Blues held on for a gutsy three point win. 

This weekend is a genuine 8-point game. A Blues win puts a two game gap on the reigning premiers. A St Kevin’s win gives both sides nine wins each. 

The last time the Uni Blues won at the TH King Oval, Round 15, 2016. But, the formline suggests they’re better placed to compete at a venue that’s proven questionable in the past. The 94 point loss to Collegians, amongst a smattering of strong performances indicates an aberration more than a genuine form issue. 

Marty Gleeson has twice left the ground in three weeks, limping and wincing in pain on his right knee. Twice returned to the field minutes later as if nothing had happened. He is a miraculous healer and will need to be at his miraculous best stopping Mitch Wallis, Paddy Kerr and Shaun Kennedy. 

The midfield may have its work cut out for them, Luke Winter is hotter than the sun. There’s a plethora of brilliant midfielders in William Buck Premier. This young man is a cut above. His performance on Saturday in the Big V elevated his standing even further. Going forward and kicking goals. 

The fight for relegation goes to new heights this weekend as Old Haileybury welcome Caulfield Grammarians around the corner to Princes Park. 

Daniel Ward’s last month has been brilliant to watch. Buoyed by the performance of Brodie Steele in the Big V, likewise the return of Brede Seccull, it’s starting to turn in the right direction for the Bloods. 

In the RSN Xtra2 Match of the Day, Old Haileybury will be looking to make it three from their last four matches. If they win, and Old Melburnians fall at the hands of University Blacks, they will move up to eighth spot on the table with five weeks to go. 

Wardy’s men have the opportunity to seal the fate of Caulfield with victory. Whilst sitting with one win next to their name, a three game gap will feel almost insurmountable in the race of relegation.

They will come into the game with confidence knowing they beat them earlier in the year, Julian Dobosz is as tough a match up as any. Jack Ellwood and Jonno Nash will give four quarters of effort, and Oscar Roberts is down in defence marshalling the troops.

University Blacks are staring at four wins in a row this weekend against Old Melburnians who are looking at four losses in a row. 

The Blacks have been building into the season, chipping away each week. It was forecast heading into the second week of the season, Dale Bower has a team that can compete in William Buck Premier. 

Competing is what they were doing, winning is now becoming a habit. Twice they’ve beaten the Old Xaverians, a Sunday victory against St Kevin’s. Josh Steadman and Campbell Moorfield back from Big V duties, the two co-captains couldn’t be in any better touch. 

Ben Harding will go from roving to Steadman as teammates, to roving to Steadman as the opposition. Maybe that will prove handy for Paul Satterley and the OM’s midfield. 

First quarters have been an issue for OM’s, none from 12 in 2023. University Blacks have gone onto win every first quarter they’ve won. The last fortnight, they’ve kept the opposition goalless in the opening term. 

This weekend pins the top six sides of the ladder against one another, the bottom four going toe-to-toe. 

Should Uni Blacks win, Old Brighton and Old Xaverians both lose. Three teams will be locked in the middle of the table on six wins. The bottom three sides will be in a fight for their footballing lives, and the top four will almost be competing for the colour of their competing shorts in September. 

Some teams and players will consider themselves lucky, others unlucky. That’s the beauty of Amateur footy.

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