It’s game on in William Buck Premier Men’s

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Jason Bennett

Round 1 of 2024 William Buck Premier Men’s was as competitive and unpredictable as anticipated, with the reigning champs toppled and the two newcomers playing a classic nailbiter.

OLD MELBURNIANS              15.13 (103)
COLLEGIANS                          12.10 (82)

OLD MELBURNIANS were the headline act in Round 1, coming from 19 points down at the first change against reigning champions COLLEGIANS to lead by a point at three-quarter time.

OMs then kicked the first 4 goals of the final term to open up a match-winning lead – 5 goals to 2 in the final quarter handing them a gritty 21pt win.

Sam LAUBE – who played 15 games for Uni Blacks Under 19s in 2018 – impressed after crossing from Adelaide’s Sacred Heart OC over the summer, booting 3 goals. He was amongst OM’s best, alongside Lachie & Ben Haysman, while Ed GREENE kicked 3 goals for the Lions.

Best:    OLD MELBURNIANS –              Lachie HAYSMAN, Ben HAYSMAN, Sam LAUBE
              COLLEGIANS –                         Nick CANNY, Scott BEILBY, Jordan CARROLL

Paul SATTERLEY (Old Melburnians): “We had built this game up for some time – they humiliated us last year on two occasions by a combined total of 183 points. Our form in the practice games had been encouraging, so we were quietly confident we would be very competitive.

This win will give us enormous confidence, as we felt that all our players contributed. Our debutants in Sam LAUBE, Sam WUNDKE, Jimmy HARROLD & Lachie SWANEY all made a big difference.”

Jordie McKENZIE (Collegians): “We started well and brought a good intensity and pressure level. As the day went on, we lost the contested battle which ultimately hurt us on the scoreboard. Full credit to OM’s, who got on top from quarter time.

Nick CANNY was terrific down back alongside one of our young boys, Jasper DAVY. Ed GREENE was potent up forward, posing a constant threat. And a shout out to Josh WALKER who made his debut and has a bright future at the club.

We look forward to taking on St Kevin’s and bouncing back.”

ST BERNARDS                11.12 (78)
FITZROY                          11.10 (76)          

FITZROY’s first ever Premier Men’s match turned out to be an absolute thriller at ST BERNARD’S.

In a rematch of last season’s Premier B Grand Final, these two teams went at it all afternoon in yet another compelling chapter in Premier Men’s newest rivalry.

FITZROY got the early jump, holding the Snowdogs goalless in the opening quarter to lead by 22pts at the first change. But ST BERNARDS dug in & fought back strongly, closing to within a kick at the half.

The Roys led by 3pts at the last change & clung desperately to a late lead before Mitch BATEMAN snapped the winner for St Bernards at the 31-minute mark.

Best:    ST BERNARDS –            Charlie VAGUE, Mitch HUGHES, Ben OVERMAN
             FITZROY –                      Darcy LOWRIE, Laird RAMSHAW, Luke MINAHAN 

Steve ALESSIO (St Bernards): “It was another entertaining contest between these two proud clubs in what is fast becoming a great rivalry. We struggled to counter the Fitzroy stoppage contest and structure in the first quarter. I was really pleased that we kept our composure and chipped away at the scoreboard, winning the last three quarters as we did in last year’s Grand Final.

The continued development of this young team is exciting to watch. They were led well by our Captain Mitch HUGHES, in one of his best games since I’ve been at the club. Charlie VAGUE put in a performance full of heart after the passing of his uncle recently, kicking 3 goals from the midfield.

Our return to Premier will mean we need to be more consistent than ever with our approach and endeavour during all 4 quarters of the game.”

Travis RONALDSON (Fitzroy): “Really pleased with our first-up effort in Premier Mens. Our effort, work rate & intent were all outstanding. Our pressure around the contest was good all day and needs to be a feature of our game moving forward.

There were some periods where we played some really exciting footy and moved the ball well. The next step for us is to be able to do that consistently for the full four quarters.

Our backline was outstanding all day, led by Darcy LOWRIE and Max ELLIS and stood up well late in the game under immense pressure. Our younger players such as STAPLES, JOHNSON & LAIDLAW will be better for the run and we’ll be looking for improvement from them week to week.

The most important thing for us is to use that performance as our baseline. We must continue to get better and build on that. A big theme for our group is to be hungry to keep improving and take our game to a higher level every week.”

ST KEVINS                          12.10 (82)
OLD XAVERIANS                9.8 (62)          

A massive crowd flocked to TH King Oval for what turned out to be the fierce and physical contest we were all expecting in the SEN Match of the Day.

There was very little between the two sides all afternoon, with the home team leading by 10 & 11pts at the first two breaks.

OLD XAVERIANS slammed on 3 goals in 3.5 minutes early in the third term to hit the front for the first time, but ST KEVINS responded superbly, kicking the next 3 to ultimately set up a hard-fought 20pt win.

Elliott MAHONEY finished with 3 goals & was named the SKINS PLAYER OF THE DAY by our VAFA SEN commentary team. Patrick KERR & Sam TUCKER also chipped in with 3 apiece as they shared the load up forward.

Charlie MacISAAC was a handful all afternoon & booted 3 for Xavs, while Oscar DUNCAN slotted a couple.

Best:    ST KEVINS –    Alastair RICHARDS, Sam TUCKER, Cam HODGES
             OLD XAVS –      Sam RALPH, Alex TRIGAR, Charlie MacISAAC

Anthony LYNCH (St Kevins): “The game was always up for grabs, so we take huge belief from being able to grind our way to a win.

The most pleasing component was our ability to stay calm and wrestle back momentum through the last 15 minutes of the 3rd quarter after Xavier kicked 3 in a row and took the lead for the first time. Our maturity and calmness during that time set up the last quarter win.

We debuted 4 new players (all schoolboys) and 3 of the 4 were from the class of 2023 – WALTERS, GALIMBERTI & MAHONEY. All made fantastic contributions to the win and our future looks bright with those boys all still only 18 years of age.

The 4-quarter efforts from Al RICHARDS, Sam TUCKER & Cam HODGES had the most significant influence over the result, with an even team performance beyond those 3.

Early wins are always important and we are very happy to get the points against the arch-rival and move on to the next challenge in Collegians.”

Dan DONATI (Old Xavs): “For a Round 1 clash, I thought it was a really good spectacle for local footy. Both sides brought 4 quarters of effort and it was one of the better games to watch and coach.

Full credit to SKOBS who were a little more clinical when required and, in the end, deserved the 4 points. We trailed all game but pushed and probed and continued to ask questions right up until the end. Disappointed not to get the W, but was pleased with those aspects.

I thought Sammy RALPH’s work rate stood out with Alex TRIGAR’S efforts at both ends of the ground, and our forwards – who are still learning about one another – also gave us plenty of looks.

Another big challenge awaits us next vs OMs who have come off a great win themselves in Rd 1.”

UNIVERSITY BLACKS                7.7 (49)
OLD SCOTCH                             9.4 (58) 

UNI BLACKS got away to the ideal start, holding OLD SCOTCH goalless in the opening term to lead by 17 points at quarter time & extended that to 19 at the main break – the Cardinals with just one solitary goal to show for their first-half endeavours.

But they got their game going in the third term, kicking 4 goals in 5.5 minutes to close within a point entering time on, before a late goal to Angus RANA gave Uni Blacks an 8-point lead at the final change.

The final term turned out to be an arm-wrestle, with just 2 goals in the opening 21 minutes – both to Old Scotch. They would add 2 more in time-on, before a late one to Blacks reduced the final margin to 9 points.

Aidan FRANETIC & Angus SYMONS kicked 2 goals apiece for the winners, while Ayui MAKIENG finished with 2 for the home team.

Best:    UNI BLACKS –                 Sam McKENZIE, James CLARK, Campbell MOORFIELD
              OLD SCOTCH –              Isaac CONWAY, Aidan FRANETIC, Charlie CORMACK

Mark GNATT (Old Scotch): “We welcomed 3 debutants – James BRADDY, Isaac CONWAY & Lachie JOHNSON – and all 3 played well. James was brilliant down back, holding his own very well.

Uni Blacks had the momentum in the first half and our defenders held up strongly – Braddy, Charlie CORMACK & Jack BROWN won several 1-v-1 contests.

Our midfield included Conway, Aidan FRANETIC & Andy JELBART and it performed really well across all 4 quarters, and this allowed us to kick 8 goals in the second half.

Overall, a tough match. Both sides had their opportunities, and we were able to maximise our chances.”

Dale BOWER (Uni Blacks): “We challenged Old Scotch early in the game by applying strong pressure and competing well in ground and aerial contests.

Unfortunately, in the second half they started to win crucial ground balls and stoppage contests – this put us on the back foot and Old Scotch deservedly took home the 4 points. We will look to learn from this one and improve each week.”

OLD BRIGHTON                           14.16 (100)
UNIVERSITY BLUES                    11.4 (70)             

OLD BRIGHTON got their season off to a bright start with a dominant first-half performance that set up a 5-goal win. Their 5-goal-to-2 second term could have been even more damaging had they kicked straight – the half-time score of 8.16 to 3.3 told the true story: 24 scoring shots to 6.

UNIVERSITY BLUES came out looking like a different team after half-time, booting 4 goals to 1 in the third term & closing within 12 points early in the last as a comeback win started to look like a possibility.

But 3 goals in 5 minutes from Old Brighton restored control – the Tonners kicking off 2024 with an impressive 30-point win.

James HOPE finished with 5 goals on debut & shapes as a Player to Watch in 2024. He was well supported by Ben PRYOR with 4 and Sam COLLINS with 3.

Sam GRIMLEY was outstanding for Uni Blues, booting 7 goals to take the opening-round lead in the League goalkicking race, while James STEWART kicked 2 on debut for the Blues. It’s a forward pairing that will cause sleepless nights for opposition coaches and defenders throughout the season.

             UNI BLUES –                Tom CUTLER, Dane CROGNALE, Marty GLEESON

Marcel BRUIN (Old Brighton): “The level of fitness our group has worked on enabled us to maintain high levels of pressure at the contest and around the ground to try and impact Uni’s ball movement.

Uni’s got some very talented talls, so we had a big focus on affecting their execution up the ground so we could support in the air and bring the ball to ground. As we weren’t overly tall across the three lines, we thought our greatest strength was going to be at stoppage and contest which needed a massive work rate.

It has been a while since we have kicked 100 points, so work rate then ball movement gave us opportunities – we were a little inefficient but I’m really happy with generating the volume of shots on goal.

We lost a ruckman on Thursday night, which meant we had to rely on young Sam FLOCKHART for most of the day against a high-quality ex-AFL ruckman. His efforts to halve and often win contests were really impressive.”

Photo: Bruce Tobin