You couldn’t have asked for a better script than this one

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

Joe Pignataro

After 90 home and away games, three finals, this is where it ends. 

Collegians vs. St Kevin’s. The VAFA’s modern-day rivals. 

Since 2017 these two sides have been on a trajectory through the home and away season, that’s then seen them reach the finals and come up against one another throughout September. 

2017 and 2018 are days remembered vividly by all supporters, for very different reasons. 

In 2017, At Trevor Barker Oval, St Kevin’s were able to break through for the clubs first ever William Buck Premier title holding off Collegians by three points. 

The following year, at Elsternwick Park, again they had to hold back the damn wall as Collegians came home with a flurry, only to fall short by five points. And SKOB goes back-to-back.

Collegians’ 2019 campaign ended at the hands of St Kevin’s in the first semi-final, 2022 was a day of carnage for the Lions as SKOB booked their place in their fourth straight Grand Final. 

This year, it’s a different Collegians outfit. This year, they’ve been the number one ranked side and rightfully finished the year as the minor premiers. Under Jared Rivers, the home and away record in their past 28 matches sits at 25-3, with opposition sides rarely able to find an answer to stopping the Lions. 

The last time the Lions claimed the minor premiership, they went on to win the whole thing in 2012. A handy Lions omen. 

Twice this year, they’ve beaten St Kevin’s. A first since 2006 when they were both running around in Premier B. 

The week off will do the Lions the world of good, an opportunity for Will Mayhood to fully recover from his Round 18 concussion. Daniel Orgill is available after Footscray’s VFL finals campaign concluded. The bumps and bruises felt by Scott Beilby in the second semi-final will have dissipated by now. 

St Kevin’s have had to go the long way to get to Grand Final day. In the last decade, three teams have come from fourth position to make the Grand Final – Old Brighton in 2022, St Kevin’s in 2019, and Collegians in 2014. All falling short on the big day, another handy Lions omen. 

Will playing on Saturday in the Preliminary Final help or hinder the SKOB train? 

Arguably the clubs best finals win came against University Blues. Illness to Cal Matheson, and Sam Cameron. A calf-injury in the warm-up to Tom Jok, and a hamstring tear to Phil Edgar in the first quarter. 

On a hot-day, off a six day break, SKOB were “running on top of the ground” throughout the final quarter. A fine time to produce the team’s highest scoring quarter of the season. 

Plugger Lynch has never felt more pride in a St Kevin’s team than how he felt Saturday evening. 

The September record is 12-2 since 2015. Against Collegians it’s 4-1. They hold no fears about the day itself, or the opposition. 

There will be a hard-luck story or two, with players putting their hand up to play this week, the toughest part of Grand Final week. Liam Gunson, the very late inclusion, acquitted himself well. Jack Darmody and Ben Mansfield were also brought into the team on Saturday morning. 

As mentioned, Collegians have left every side in their wake in 2023. St Kevin’s included. 

The back six are rock solid, the midfield brigade have some form of telekinesis as they share the ball by hand, and the forward line is sublime. Three pillars to choose from, and crafty smalls at the feet. 

The enigma Ed Greene for the Lions, mirrored by the excitement machine Shaun Kennedy at the other end for SKOB. 

For the third time in five completed seasons, this is our final chapter. Collegians and St Kevin’s. 

How exciting is this!? 

It’s one of the most dominant sides in the VAFA’s history against the VAFA’s oldest club. Which way will the third installment fall on Sunday? 

Find out with myself, Josh Heriot and the RSN Xtra2 commentary team on Sunday. Live coverage from 12:30 PM with the first bounce at 2:30 PM. You can also live stream the game on the VAFA website, Facebook & KommunityTV.

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GRAND FINAL TIP: St Kevin’s

MARGIN: 3 points

FIRST GOALKICKER: Harry Wardlaw (St Kevin’s)

JOCK NELSON MEDALLIST: Mitch Wallis (St Kevin’s)