Special K’s help St Kevin’s close the Scotch window for 2023

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ST KEVIN’S have booked their spot in the Preliminary Final in 2023 after an 18 point win over Old Scotch at Elsternwick Park on Sunday.

24 hours after Collegians advanced to the Grand Final, the University Blues fronted up to VAFA HQ to wait with bated breath as to who their opponent next weekend would be.

Winning the toss and kicking to the Glen Huntly Road end of the ground, St Kevin’s opened up a 21 point lead in the first quarter with four goals to one. It was a margin that stayed similar throughout the remainder of the afternoon.

Old Scotch competing in their first William Buck Premier finals series since 2014 had set themselves for this contest, news through yesterday morning that Charlie Cormack would be a late withdrawal with back spasms impacted the make up of the side for Mark Gnatt.

A prime ball winner, and mover out of the game. It allowed Cooper Harvey to earn a reprieve after being told he was out on Thursday night.

Billy Coates in the ruck started the game facing off against Tyler Sellers, the first surprise move of the afternoon, when all expected Sam Grant to start the day there. While the 4x premiership player couldn’t get Sellers for elevation, he got him in the grunt work, assisting Luke Winter, Cam Hodges and Tom Jok to send SKOB forward.

Apart from the odd chop-out from Shaun Kennedy and Paddy Kerr, Coates spent a majority of the day around the ball. At times, found himself down in defence, a position he initially made his name known to many, standing at full-back on the VAFA’s power forwards. His performance enough to give him the points as best man on the ground from the RSN Xtra commentary team.

The Cardinals throughout the second and third term were able to get hold of momentum, however were unable to capitalise fully on the contest. Missing gettable shots in front of goal that in the end proved to be costly. For every goal they managed to kick, St Kevin’s were able to respond within minutes.

The aforementioned Kerr and Kennedy, the Special K’s of the St Kevin’s forward line were inspired. The fast-track suited them both. Kennedy enjoyed every bit of the attention on him as he went on to kick three goals. The most telling was the goal right on the three quarter time siren to push the margin out to 26 points, in front of the St Kevin’s bench to send the crowd into raptures.

On Saturday, the stalwart of Collegians Lachie Ferguson put on a show as the Lions small forward. On Sunday, that role was played by the brilliant Phil Edgar. Three goals roaming the feet of Kennedy and Kerr, he’s a hard man to match up on, and Plugger Lynch has always been keen to have Edgar in his team for that very reason.

The pressure for spots in this side has never been greater, Jack Darmody and Ben Mansfield played in the Reserves on Saturday. They’ll be pushing hard for selection.

This side’s September record is the envy of the competition. They are now one win away from a fifth straight William Buck Premier Grand Final. After spending 2011-2014 in Premier B unable to win a final, the record since then is 11-2 in September. They are hungry for more. Next weekend, they’ll go again.

The Cardinals will naturally feel disappointed their 2023 campaign is over. There is plenty to be proud of, and plenty to take away from this year. Right now, they won’t be interested in the big picture way of thinking. This loss will sting.

However, when Mark Gnatt comes back to this column in a few weeks time to start looking towards the pre-season for 2024, he can point towards the on-field growth he’s seen in his playing squad. The four 19 year olds who took to the field this finals series, the countless others who will celebrate 21st and 22nd birthday’s in the coming months. The baby faced brashness of the Cardinals will be back stronger next year.

Ticking the boxes of beating the Old Xaverians twice, a 100+ point win over University Blues, within a kick of the minor premiers, a reclaiming of the Australia Cup over Old Melburnians. The St Kevin’s hurdle proved to be an elusive one, but their window is open. This is not a flash in the pan.