SKOB, Xavs, Blues: Who is the front-runner?

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Nick Armistead

After six rounds of William Buck Premier football, three teams have been bandied around as the early season ‘front-runner’ and best equipped to claim the 2019 premiership; University Blues, Old Xaverians and St Kevin’s OB.

Occupying the top three spots on the ladder, each team has given a multitude of reasons as to why they deserve favouritism one-third into the season.

St Kevin’s OB

Based on what they achieved over the past two years, SKOB could and should be considered a genuine chance for a third consecutive premiership.

The two-time premiers lost Tom Jok (Essendon) and Ned Reeves (Hawthorn) prior to the season, while last year’s competition leading goal kicker, Billy Kanakis, is one of several players giving VFL a tilt having played just the one game for SKOB.

However, as referred to in last week’s William Buck Premier Report, SKOB cover personnel losses better than any side due to their depth of talent and structures that continually hold up irrespective of who’s playing. I mean, Mitch Brown has only played one game! Further to this, their management of VFL-listed players (of which they have 14) in the back half of the season will be of the utmost importance but it’s just another area where they’ve excelled and we’ve no reason to doubt them this year.

Brown is set to return soon after completing the Great Ocean Road Marathon last weekend and he’ll re-enter a midfield group consisting of an in-form Nick Wood, Gerard Gleeson, Lachie Sullivan, Jack Holden and Anthony Lynch.

Big V defenders Sam Critchley and Will Coates are rarely beaten while Jarrad Waite is equal-first in the goal kicking with 20 from his six games. Many questioned Waite’s fitness upon joining SKOB over the pre-season but it’s clear the reduced training load from AFL to Amateurs is working well for the star forward.

University Blues

When the topic was raised on this week’s FTLOTG Podcast, former De La Salle President Brian Waldron was categorical in his assertion of Uni Blues, referring to them as the “best team ever put together” in Amateur football.

“Go and watch the second quarter of Xavs and Blues on the weekend, Blues belted the suitcase out of them. They physically intimidated them,” he said.

“The one thing we know about Blues is they’re old. They’re an old bunch of experienced players that are right in that (premiership) window that we’ve said many times so they’re going to do that to a number of teams. I think they’re clearly the favourites.”

Under the guidance of three-time St Joseph’s premiership coach, Heath Jamieson, the star-studded Blues line-up have cruised to five wins from their six games and most recently defeated Xavs by 35 points.

2018 Woodrow Medallist, Ayce Cordy, leads a host of former AFL-listed talent; including, Cam O’Shea, Jeremy Taylor, Josh Green, Tom Young, Piers Flanagan, Kieran Harper and Clayton Hinkley. The Blues’ top tier has been a cut above due to their buy-in of Jamieson’s style and coaching philosophies, but the most impressive aspect of their rise has been the improvement of Tom Quinn, Marshall Rippon and Connor Lappin.

Quinn and Rippon, Big V players prior to this season, have both excelled in new roles through the midfield and down back, respectively, while Lappin is widely considered a strong chance for representative selection based on early-season form. His 22-disposal performance against Old Melburnians was an exhibition of intercept marking and composure as he continues to impress in the Blues’ defensive 50.

Old Xaverians

After failing to make the four since winning the 2016 premiership, the current ladder leaders appointed former De La Sallian, Paul Satterley, as senior coach during the off-season. And he has the boys humming!

To re-use a line I wrote after their 86-point victory over De La Salle in Round 3, Xavs are transitioning from defence as cleanly and quickly as Collegians, they’re harassing the ball carrier as ruthlessly as SKOB and they’re entering 50 with flawless precision. And when you’ve got Matt Handley (16), Brendan Goss (10), Matt Margin (13) and Rohan Bewick (12) roaming the forward 50, pristine delivery will go a long way to ensuring victory more often than not.

Despite having captain Dan Noonan for just two games so far in 2019, the Xavs defence is ranked first after giving up just 70ppg while they’re also leading the competition in attack with 112ppg. Impressively, Jason Holmes is yet to lose a ruck dual with an average of 56.6 hit outs.

Bewick is a deadest star and they haven’t even seen former Bomber Will Hams yet…

What statistics and numbers can’t explain is the confidence Xavs, Blues and SKOB each possess, knowing full well they can defeat any opponent on any given day.

Listen to this week’s FTLOTG Podcast: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode/375171

Watch this week’s VAFA Tragics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeBBP-zrZGk