By David Chalmers – @DAChalmers81
There were no real surprises in Round 16. While it wasn’t as one-sided as last week, only one match had a final margin of less than seven goals as the top four kept on winning and things pretty much “stuck to the script.” St Kevins and St Bedes/Mentone are both in ominous form and their run home involves the same two teams: bottom side Caulfield and fourth placed Old Brighton will both need to gird their loins and prepare for what’s to come in the final two rounds of the season.
Ajax went into their contest with the Tigers with a chance of making finals and walked away with a 96 point defeat. It conjured up images of one of those cartoons where a tough guy rolls up their sleeves and goes into a room ready to pick a fight, only to come out the other end battered and bruised. While finals are still mathematically possible for them if they have two huge wins and Old Brighton get thumped in both of their remaining matches, only the staunchest Ajax optimist would hold out much hope. This game also held some intrigue from a goalkicking perspective. Jackas spearhead Jake Lew (51 goals) was eight goals clear of the Tigers Luke Velluto (43). Like his team, Velluto came out on top, kicking six goals while Lew could only manage one, leaving a three goal gap with two games to play. It is scary to think what the margin could have been if the Tigers had kicked straight. They finished with 20.25, including 6.10 in the second quarter. Somehow the Jackas were within 10 goals at the final change, but the Tigers finished them off with a 6.5 to 0.3 final quarter. Ajax still has a good chance of finishing the season strongly, with winnable games against Hampton and Mazenod, while the Tigers face Old Brighton and Caulfield.
It was a happy day for Mazenod. After only managing one goal against St Kevins in an absolute shellacking, they bounced back with a 43-point win against Caulfield. The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak and also helped them jump out of the relegation zone for the time being. They are level on points with Parkdale but managed to edge slightly ahead on percentage. The Nodders made five changes to the side that was humiliated by St Kevins the week before, and were well served by their inclusions. Veteran Ben Phibbs returned to kick four goals and moved to 10th on the Premier B goal-kicking table. Liam Riley also returned after a few weeks off and had an impact, while Patrick Cincotta played his first game for the year and kicked two goals. There were some promising signs for the ‘Fields, who also made five changes and were without their main goal kicker Keegan Stewart. They led at quarter time and were within four goals at the final break but the Nodders just finished stronger, kicking four goals to one in the final term. James Shanahan doubled his season goal tally in one match by kicking five and Tom Small and Tim Nixon continued their excellent seasons. Mazenod finish their season with games against Old Melburnians and AJAX, while Caulfield cop the old “one-two punch,” fronting up to top sides St Kevins and St Bedes/Mentone.
A week is a long time in football. Last week Parkdale put up an excellent showing against in-form St Bedes/Mentone, but a week later they find themselves back in relegation territory after suffering an 80-point loss to ladder-leaders St Kevins. The Vultures only managed one goal to three-quarter time, but were able to avoid a repeat of Mazenod’s effort last week with a five goal final term. Troy McMaster kicked six for the SKOBs, Stephen Gilham chipped in with three and regular contributors Brad McCann and Ben Dowd were again very good. The Vultures were well served by Papatsanis, Everest, Stent-Powell and Tom Redmond, while Josh Manning has found some late-season form in front of goals. Charlie Dillon and Nathan Ng have had very good seasons but were well-held on this day. Parkdale finish with games against Fitzroy and Hampton, while St Kevins are away to bottom side Caulfield and finish at home against Old Brighton.
Old Melburnians consolidated third place with a solid 48 point victory over the Hampton Rovers. The margin was under four goals at three-quarter time and the OMs were plagued by inaccuracy all day. After kicking eight goals in three quarters, they kicked away with seven goals to three in the final term. The OMs went into the match without in-form contributors Nick Daish and Nick De Steiger but on this day there were plenty of teammates willing to step up and fill the gaps. Alex Carter and Ed De Fegeley continued their excellent form and George Hurley-Wellington and Stuart Watson both kicked three. For the Rovers, Ned Fallon and Daniel Corp were the standouts. Old Melburnians finish the season against Mazenod and Fitzroy, while the Rovers face Ajax and Parkdale, two games which could go either way.
Old Brighton and Fitzroy played out the close one of the round. It was a danger game for the Tonners who were coming off a narrow loss to the OMs and a shocking injury to one of their stars, while the Roys were riding on the wave of a 104-point belting of the Rovers. In captain Rory Angiolella’s 100th game, the Roys made four changes to their side and their ‘outs’ included Jack Dalton and Matthew Brown, both of whom have had good seasons. The Tonners got the jump in the first quarter, but by half time Fitzroy were back within four points. Inaccuracy cost the Roys in the third quarter, kicking 1.4 to the Tonners 2.2 and leaving them eight points adrift. The final quarter, with eleven goals kicked, was one of the more remarkable of the season and also probably the longest, running for an astonishing 35:45. The Tonners dominated early and led by 37 points halfway through the quarter. They kicked their last goal at the 25 minute mark, putting them 31 points up and that’s when Fitzroy made their move, adding three goals in five minutes through Sam Baker, Greg Hesse and Nathan Ligris in a frantic finish. The pressure got to everyone, including the umpires, one of whom did a ball-up over the top of a clearly injured and stricken Tonners player in the dying seconds. When the siren finally sounded, the Tonners finished 11 points in front. The Tonners were well-served by the ‘usual suspects’: Dan Anthony kicked four to consolidate third place in the goalkicking and King, Gunning, Marston and Gadsden all featured prominently. The lads from Old Brighton might be two games and 43 percent ahead of Ajax but they have a horror run home, playing the SKOBs and Tigers in the last two rounds. Fitzroy finish with Parkdale and Old Melburnians.
Hampton Rovers vs Ajax
Old Brighton Grammarians vs St Bedes/Mentone Tigers
Fitzroy vs Parkdale Vultures
Mazenod vs Old Melburnians
Caulfield Grammarians vs St Kevins