Finals fever hits William Buck Premier a week early

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

Joe Pignataro

For the final time in the home and away season, this is it. 

Our top four sides have been confirmed, the final finishing order is still anyone’s guess. At the bottom end of the table, Old Melburnians and Old Haileybury will have one eye on their respective games, and the other on what’s going on over the fence. 

Fitting that a finals type atmosphere will follow both those games as we enter the first weekend of spring. 

The RSN Xtra Match of the Day will also be accompanied by a finals like atmosphere at the Harry Trott Oval.

Collegians are the minor premiers in 2023. A professional, aggressive display against St Kevin’s last weekend sealed the spot at the top of the ladder. Although it’s fair to argue that they’ve been in this position from a long way out, it was only a matter of time. 

Old Scotch will enter this match up in second spot. A fortnight of high scoring has put them back into the top echelon in 2023. This is setup to be a grandstand finish. 

The Cardinals finished the 2022 season in sixth spot with eight wins. It was enough of a leverage for former host of the VAFA’s For the Love of the Game podcast Brian Waldron to commit to them being “in the window” in 2023. 

Mark Gnatt has a worthy nomination form when it comes to discussing the coach of the year throughout the home and away season. He has boosted the confidence of his young brigade, confirmed the inner-belief of the senior members of the side, never shied away from poor performances and tough conversations with his players throughout the year. 

In Round 15 they failed in the “big moments” against St Kevin’s. The opportunity that awaits the Cardinals on Saturday with similar moments set to unfold is a chance at redemption. A win at the Harry Trott Oval, against the odds, would give the Cardinals a double chance and a springboard for a big tilt in September.

Whether both sides show their full hand, or hold back a couple of aces in the pack will be revealed at 1:00pm on Saturday. 

The intrigue around the final finishing positions of the top four, is only outweighed by the amount of discussion that’s focused on the bottom places of the ladder.

Old Haileybury put themselves in the box seat to remain in William Buck Premier beyond this year after beating the Old Xaverians on the weekend. 

If they want to completely assure themselves of partaking in the VAFA’s topflight in 2024, a win at all cost mentality must come into play against St Kevin’s this Saturday. 

St Kevin’s are still a mathematical chance of finishing second, but will most likely finish in a spot that becomes a cut-throat final. Entering this finals series, winning form is the only form Plugger Lynch is interested in. 

Seven changes to the line-up last weekend, perhaps an imbalance after having a steady side for a month. Second week for those inclusions, one week out from finals, at TH King Oval is a promising prospect for SKOB. 

In Round 1, Old Haileybury took St Kevin’s to within a point to open the season. If they do the same here, the percentage gap to OM’s will remain a factor, however with Paul Satterley’s men taking on Caulfield, that gap will likely close quickly. 

The travelling fans of the Bloods will be barracking hard, and out in full force. 

They have experience of playing in September with their backs against the wall, the 2022 Premier B campaign has the unlikely winners from half-time of the first semi-final vs. Fitzroy, right through to the final siren on Grand Final day. 

Can they produce a historic victory for the club at a ground that will give them no favours? 

Old Melburnians know the first part of the assignment. WIN. There’s no two ways about it. If Caulfield Grammarians produce an upset, both sides will be heading to Premier B in 2024. 

The next phase of the assignment for OM’s is to win well. They need to make up one game and 4% on Old Haileybury. 

The last month, the Fields average losing margin sits at 138 points. However, Old Melburnians can’t afford to expect this to just happen for them. The Fields have run into St Kevin’s (fourth), Uni Blues (third), Old Brighton (fifth) and Old Scotch (second) in that month. 

It will take the best performance of the year from OM’s in their final one. Paul Satterley knows the atmosphere that a game like this will bring, and what’s in store should victory come to fruition. OM’s haven’t been to Premier B since 2015, he’ll be hellbent on keeping it that way.

Caulfield will be heading back, regardless of the result. It’s been a year of uphill battles for the Fields. The return to Premier B, for the first time since 2019 will see the side reset, regroup, and build again for a fresh tilt at William Buck Premier in 12 months time. 

Guy McKenna has had a look under the bonnet throughout the year, this summer he’ll go about looking for fresh parts to rebuild the Caulfield car. 

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Como Park will be the final makeshift home ground for the Old Xaverians in 2023. Playing host to Old Brighton in a match that will determine the finishing order in the middle of the table.

The red and black mafia will be seeing off James Byrne after this contest, with the intention to finish the game in style and with a win. The Centenary season hasn’t played out the way anyone at Xav’s would’ve hoped it to. 

Old Brighton went into the year headstrong on reclimbing the mountain to go one better than runners up in 2022. When Dan Donati joined the club as the coach leading into the pre-season, the excitement to get back there was palpable. 

After Round 6, the Tonners sat 5-1 having beaten St Kevin’s at TH King Oval. They’re sitting fifth with 9-8 next to their name now. Four wins from the past 11 weeks. Injuries, travel, VFL exclusions haven’t helped the cause in the slightest. 

These two sides finished inside the top four last year, both sides will feel disappointed they’re not back there again this year. 

When the previous two Woodrow Medallist meet in the middle of the ground to toss the coin and shake hands, maybe they’ll agree on a shootout of sorts, a bruise-free encounter and put on a high-scoring show for the fans that make their way out. 

But then again, Harry Hill & Marcus Stavrou are the ultimate competitors so the aforementioned line might just be wishful thinking. 

After 89 home and away games, the final one to preview belongs to the long-standing rivalry of University Blues and University Blacks

In the second week of the season, it was billed as a ding-dong battle. Heading into Round 18, it’s a killer-diller. This is not just a run of the mill Saturday afternoon stroll before the finals for Blues. Nor is it for Blacks. 

There’s an underlying spice between these two sides. Blacks can relegate the Blues to a knockout final against the reigning premiers next week if they get over the top of the cross changeroom rivals. 

A Blues victory, with an eye on Collegians beating Scotch will see Guy Martyn’s men finish second, and a double chance in September. 

Not much will need to be said in the lead-up to motivate either Uni side. Dale Bower can complete a 50% winning record in 2023 with victory. Nine wins, nine losses. A side promoted to William Buck Premier from Premier B in the opening season, you’d take that 99 times out of 100. 

This is the one game that will be won at the contest. Dual Woodrow Medallist Ayce Cordy, against the Big V powerhouse Josh Steadman. If you’re in the Parkville area on Saturday, get down to this one. 

September. The best month of the year. The grounds are a little firmer, the sun stays out a little longer, and the footy is played between the best of the best.

Finals have come early for us in William Buck Premier. Each club will taste September action, with their own little storyline that will determine their future beyond this weekend. 

Whether it be the fight for survival, the fight for a double chance, or the fight for the individual accolades this weekend, it’s been a season like no other and we’re only getting started.