A weekend to move it on up, or move it on out

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Joe Pignataro

The final month of the home and away season is on our doorstep. Round 15 will be known, in my mind anyway, as moving weekend. 

Even though three weeks remain beyond this one, as far as I’m concerned a top four battle this Saturday will determine finishing orders. 

The sides in the middle of the table have one last chance to stay in touch with the top four, and at the bottom end of the ladder, this weekend could seal the fate of the season for two of our clubs. 

There’s only one place to start, the RSN Xtra2 Match of the Day is shaping up to be the biggest game of the season to date. Second placed, Old Scotch playing host to fourth-placed St Kevin’s

I am in the camp of believing the winner of this match will finish second on the ladder and earn the right to a double chance in September. 

In saying that, the reigning premiers are the one side that won’t be fussed with where they finish, so long as it’s inside the top four. When St Kevin’s make the finals, they formline has them making the Grand Final. 

The formline of the last five weeks leaves a question mark over SKOB; win, loss, win, loss, win.  The two losses to the University sides. The three wins against Old Xaverians, Old Brighton and Caulfield Grammarians. Last week against the Fields, as convincing as we’ve seen. Shaun Kennedy with seven has a September glint in his eye. 

Taking a look at the overall squad used in 2023 by St Kevin’s, they’re almost at full-strength. Sam Critchley, Jack Darmody and Nick Sing are the trio that is missing. With the skippers plane touching back down at Melbourne airport this week, he is in line to toss the coin on Saturday. 

Since the Round 9 encounter with St Kevin’s, the Cardinals formline has been on an indifferent trajectory. Between Round 1-8, Old Scotch were kept below 90 points in a game once. During Round’s 9-12 they were held to scores of 64, 34 and 26. 

The last fortnight is looking more like the Scotch we now know them to be. 2023 has been a year of box ticking exercises, beating OM’s for the Australia Cup. Beat Old Xaverians to stop the drought, then beat them again. 

It’s been 18 years since the Cardinals tasted success over St Kevin’s; Round 17, 2005. Fittingly enough, the only man left at Old Scotch who was involved on that day; Mark Gnatt. Tick that box and they can’t be ignored as a genuine premiership contender. 

Old Scotch final three games: University Blacks (Away), Caulfield Grammarians (Home), Collegians (Away) 

St Kevin’s final three games: Old Melburnians (Home), Collegians (Home), Old Haileybury (Home)

The pre-season premiership selection of Old Brighton has come off the rails. From 4-0 to start the year, the Tonners have gone 3-7 from the next 10 matches to sit in the middle of the table. 

The final three weeks of the season is favourable to the Tonners, but it might be a case of too little too late in 2023. Injuries have been compounded with travel plans, and amplified by the best players that are in Melbourne, being used in fits and spurts across VFL sides Coburg, Port Melbourne, and Sandringham. 

Collegians are 22-2 from their previous 24 home and away matches. The depth of the squad, unmatched. With Dave Mirra out injured, Ed Greene and Will Pocknee have demanded more of the ball. Three players in the top four on the sharpshooters list come from the Lions.

What a luxury for Jared Rivers to have nearly 100 goals come from the triple threat in the forward line. 

While nothing is seemingly a cause for concern, perhaps Jared Rivers may be sleeping a little uneasily this week knowing the one side the Lions have struggled to overcome is Brighton. Four of the last five have gone the way of the Tonners, including the Preliminary Final in 2022, and Round 2 at the Trott this year. 

A red and blue victory leaves the Tonners with the smallest of pulses in the season. A Collegians win almost assures them of the minor premiership. Despite being two games and significant percentage clear, it’s a must win game for the Lions given the run into September. 

You’ll be able to watch this one unfold on KommunityTV from 2:00 PM. 

Old Brighton final three games: Caulfield (Away), University Blacks (Home), Old Xaverians (Away)

Collegians final three games: Old Haileybury (Home), St Kevin’s (Away), Old Scotch (Home)

While the Old Xaverians haven’t had much to celebrate in their Centenary season on the field, they head to Elsternwick Park hellbent on not losing a fourth straight game. 

They’ve managed to avoid dropping four games in a row each time they’ve been confronted with the unwanted record. Round 1-4, 2018 the last time the red and black mafia went a month of Saturday’s without a win. 

Everything that could go wrong at Old Melburnians has gone wrong. A 0-5 start to the year, turned to 4-5 now back to 4-10 on the back of another five game losing streak. 

First quarters have been a significant focus (0/14), beyond the opening stanza of a game, scoring overall is an issue, averaging 34.6 points per game between Round 10-14. 

While Ben Harding has been an inspired find, and arguably the recruit of the year. He has carried a heavy load through the midfield without the 2022 Woodrow Medallist Gus Borthwick riding shotgun. 

Both of these sides sit in the top spots on the most players used for 2023, the inability to be consistent with their selections has been shown through the inconsistent results of the season. 

A loss to the Old Xaverians leaves the OM’s sitting in ninth spot with three matches remaining. 

If Old Haileybury are to triumph against University Blacks, the hope of remaining in William Buck Premier is all but over. 

Old Xaverians final three games: University Blues (Home), Old Haileybury (Away), Old Brighton (Como Park) 

Old Melburnians final three games: St Kevin’s (Away), University Blues (Away), Caulfield (Home)

The rematch of the two sides that featured in the Premier B Grand Final in 2022 makes up a significant part of this weekend. 

Old Haileybury and University Blacks have combined for 11 wins in their return to William Buck Premier thus far. 

It’s been an impressive five weeks with both sides boasting a 4-1 record. While the Xaverians and Melburnians have used over 100 players combined. These sides have called upon 36 and 37 respectively. 

Old Haileybury have had the better of University Blacks in recent times. Can they do so again for the fourth straight time this Saturday? 

As mentioned above, barring catastrophe, victory for Daniel Ward’s side and a loss to the OM’s will almost secure a spot in William Buck Premier in 2024. It’s a tough few weeks from here for them, so four points this weekend is critical. 

Dale Bower won’t care too much for machinations of opposition sides. He’d like to get back on the winners list after last week’s loss to Collegians. And, would like to end this run of dominance the Bloods have over his side. 

Blacks can finish this season with an equal or positive win-loss record in the final month, and that would be pleasing to many at the Melbourne Uni given the way they’ve played out the second half of the season. 

Old Haileybury final three games: Collegians (Away), Old Xaverians (Home), St Kevin’s (Away)

University Blacks final three games: Old Scotch (Home), Old Brighton (Away), University Blues (Home)

For all the talk about Collegians in first, and the matchup between Old Scotch and St Kevin’s. The University Blues are listening to VAFA Media, and reading this column screaming “don’t forget about us!”

The side is sitting third on the table, and could have entered this weekend in second spot had it not fallen over last weekend. Facing off against a depleted Caulfield Grammarians this weekend, this is the clubs chance to get back on the winners list and to grow the percentage they will desperately need. 

109% is healthy. In comparison to the fellow sides in the top four, it’s a long way off. This is one of the key reasons they have to win every game and win them well if they want the double chance. 

The draw is kind to them but they can’t rely solely on other results to lend them a hand. 

Jeremy Goddard and Eddie Ziebarth are still out of the midfield mix. Jack Stephens is still out of the defensive line up. Will Carrington 2-2 in the last month. 

The Fields are looking for the finish line in 2023. And, start to regroup ahead of 2024. Guy McKenna is locked in for next season, the 19’s are pushing towards a strong finals campaign. 

While it’s been a nightmare of a year, there’s been moments throughout that will have fans of Glen Huntly Oval buoyed for the future. 

University Blues final three games: Old Xaverians (Away), Old Melburnians (Home), University Blacks (Home)

Caulfield Grammarians final three games: Old Brighton (Home), Old Scotch (Away), Old Melburnians (Away)

This is going to be a season defining weekend. Moving weekend across William Buck Premier. With three weeks to go afterwards, this is the chance to set up your club’s destiny for the year. 

Photo’s: Old Xaverians FC & Old Brighton FC